Footwear for the Boundary Waters

Review by Dan Schlegel, Great Miami Outfitters

“I think I found the perfect footwear for my canoe trips in the Boundary Waters.”

Every September, we load up the canoes and head to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota. It’s a beautiful time of year – cooler weather, less insects, and less people (usually, though this year due to Covid-19 we saw more people than ever).

Here is an easy portage trail just outside the BWCA boundary.

For those that don’t know, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area consists of thousands of lakes, where you can paddle, then portage (carry your canoe and gear on trails between lakes) to get further into the wilderness. So you are stepping into the water when you unload and reload your canoe, then you are hiking on the trails between the lakes. The trail conditions vary from flat to hilly, from gravel to boulder-strewn mazes.

You don’t need special footwear but it helps. The issue arises that your feet are going to get wet, then you have to hike in wet footwear, many times on slippery surfaces, while also carrying your gear and canoe. I’ve tried many combinations of footwear and socks, as have other folks in our group.

This year, I tried the NEW Astral Designs TR1 Merge Water Boot, with a pair of calf-high neoprene socks.

The boots are lightweight and designed to drain water quickly. The soles have super traction G© rubber providing excellent grip on slick surfaces. And, when you get to camp and switch out to your camp shoes/slippers, the boots will dry out quickly so you don’t have to put on wet boots the next morning.

The neoprene socks worked great as long as you don’t step into water that was deeper than the height of your sock. In the case where you step into deeper water, it defeats the purpose as your sock fills with water and doesn’t drain, meaning you have to hike with squishy feet inside your dry boot. So the lesson is: don’t step in water deeper that your sock, or don’t wear neoprene socks, just a good pair of wool socks.

I was very impressed with the boot. They held up well, provided the traction I needed, and dried really quick. If you are searching for great multi-functional footwear for your canoe trips, I highly recommend the TR1 Merge Boots by Astral Designs.


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