Chat Rooms (0 Chatting)  |  Search  |   Login/Join
* For the benefit of the community, commercial posting is not allowed.
Boundary Waters Quetico Forum
   Gear Forum
      Shoe Quandry     
 Forum Sponsor



Guest Paddler
04/12/2006 06:51AM
After reading the thread on "socks" I am in a bit of a quandry about what type of shoes I should be planning for our May 29 - Jun 3 trip?

Hip boots, knee boots, water shoes, tennis shoes....? Just a bit confused.

Thanks again.

Reply    Reply with Quote    Print Top Bottom Previous Next
04/12/2006 07:05AM
Dean-I would recommend a shoe or boot that has some ankle support for on portage trails and a shoe you can be comofrtable in at camp.

Here are what I use-and it depends on time of year and water and air temps-mainly water temps.

Portage boots:

Early and late year when water temps are cold and air temps are not real warm yet I use a Chota Nunavut Mukluk. This is a neoprene lined boot that goes more than half way up your calf allowing you to go into water a little over a foot deep without getting wet. It alse seals fairly well around your leg so even if you go over top of boot not much water gets in. I tend to use these in colder months as they are hot and in warmer weather your feet will get wet from sweating.

In warmer months I use a Merrill Hiking boot and I expect to have wet feet. This time of year its not a big deal as many nights the boots will come close to drying by morning and they are not as hot.

Camp Shoes

Used to bring a pair of tennis shoes, but last year bought a pair of Keen sandals. These are very comfortable and work even in cold weather for me. They would not be good in snow, but with a good pair of socks they are fine in cold temps.

Good Luck-Your portage boots are way more important than camp shoes. Bring what you have for camp shoes and with the time of year you are going a nice Hiking boot will be plenty.
04/12/2006 07:31AM
Bogs is spot on. Ankle support, traction and warmth are all very important for your trip. You will face sucking mud, cold water and slippery portages.

marc bates
distinguished member(1030)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/12/2006 12:39PM
I agree with Bog. If it is warm when you are going some of the water shoes can be used. I have an ocean pair that have a rugged bottom with traction and they are comfortable when wet and can handle the portages. But this depends on temps.
member (14)member
04/14/2006 04:52PM
I just bought some NRS ATB wetshoes at a sporting goods store at a deep discount - could not pass them up. Neoprene upper with good traction. The only things that concern me is ankle support (medium) and no water drainage holes, so when water gets in, it stays until I take off the boot. Retail is $60, mine were for $20. Website is:

04/17/2006 09:23AM
Hip boots - no.
Knee boots (if you mean rubber "barn" boots) - no.
Water shoes - no.
Tennis shoes - yes, but just for changing into in camp.

Your travel (canoe and portage) shoe/boot should be water proof (or nearly so) and high enough that the water won't be above them. This can mean fairly low if you ram your canoe onto shore and get out without standing in the water and you avoid walking through puddles on the portages, etc. Most people will be better off with something that goes to calf or knee.

Remember to check the tongue. The boot will be water proof/resistant only as high as to where the tongue is attached to the shoe/boot. So a boot may be 12" but if the tongue is open the upper 4" it is really only water proof 8".

You'll be good with a 12" boot with the tongue sewn in to near the top. Use mink oil or Sno Seal to treat any leather parts. Don't stand in the water too long and don't let the water go over the tops. That should work for ya.
04/17/2006 09:53AM
This can mean fairly low if you ram your canoe onto shore and get out without standing in the water and you avoid walking through puddles on the portages, etc.


Please do this only if the name on the canoe is Grumman or Alumnicraft... and even then you'll be signaling your arrival to folks within a 1/2 mile radius.
distinguished member (321)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/27/2006 02:16PM
I may be risking it, but I've done fine with TEVA sandals and old Nike gym shoes on my four trips in. Have only been on easy to moderate portages, though, and understand where tougher vertical climbs would demand more ankle support.
04/27/2006 03:49PM
Personally I bring, one pair of Tennis shoes, one pair of sandals, and one pair water socks(or whatever they are called)

this has done me fine for the last god knows how many years, on both short and easy trips and long and arduous trips. Although I have to add I have only been there once outside of mid-June to Mid-August so warmth is rarely an issue with me

but, thats just me, someday I may pay the price but until then thats what I bring
member (23)member
04/28/2006 11:12AM
Personally, I bring one pair of tennis shoes and one pair of hiking boots. I hear a lot of people talk about getting their feet wet on portages. Either I am extremely lucky or extremely hard on my canoe (which I don't think I am) but I like to pull at least up to shore to get out.

Last year I watched bunch of girlscouts get out of their canoes in waist high water and unload. It looked miserable.

If you take your time and be careful, I really do not think you will need knee high boots and the like.
04/28/2006 02:28PM
I am an Anti-Boot person!
There is nothing worse than being stuck with wet boots day after day on a long trip. And paddling with a Kevlar means you will get wet, no matter what. I used to wear tennis shoes, but have switched to "Salomon Tech Amphibian Water Shoes ". They are great...the water drains out instantly. All the hype about "Ankle Support" has no meaning for me, I have never spained an ankle on a canoe trip. The worst ankle sprain I ever had was while wearing High top football
Check them out!

04/28/2006 03:05PM
Opps! try this address for the Salonam Water shoes

distinguished member(599)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/29/2006 10:49AM
I like my Salomon Tech Amphibians too, at least for summer. If I was doing a May or September trip, I might look for something warmer.
distinguished member (239)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/29/2006 12:37PM
I bought a pair of $20 rubber boots for my May trip. I think chotas or something similar would be great, but since I have spent hundreds of dollars on other gear this year I must be conservative on some things. I think some people underestimate how comfortable and warm a pair of these can be. I use them in very cold temps while walking miles upland hunting. Buy them big enough that you can wear two pair of sox. I like them for hunting because I just walk right through the cricks instead of looking for a narrow crossing. If you do happen to get water in them just dump it out and dry with a rag.
member (18)member
06/02/2006 07:47PM
I can't help but to advise on what NOT to do. Before my first trip I took some (bad) advice to just buy some "cheap" "aqua" shoes for portaging. Unfortunately I took that advice. By the time I finished my first five(?) portages from Birch to Knife, the insoles were gone, and all the poor, uncovered stitching inside the shoe had worn through (with the help of sand mud and gravel in the shoes) several layers of skin in several areas of my feet. Not having any alternatives, I was forced to wear socks with these pathetic shoes for the balance of the trip (not without significant discomfort). My advice is to spend money on decent footwear (as everyone here has stated) - skip the cheap stuff. Your feet will thank you.
Guest Paddler
06/24/2006 04:49PM
I bring 2 kinds of shoes:

1 pair of real hiking boots for portaging. I need the ankle support, and I rarely get me feet wet getting into or out of a canoe. Gortex socks will keep your feet dry if you do get your boots wet. Store them in a Duluth pack at night.

1 pair of tevas. I wear them into the water, and around camp at night with socks. They can be velcroed or buckled to the thwarts of the canoe when they are too wet to pack, but mine dry instantly.
distinguished member(659)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/25/2006 10:55PM
I have to admit that I am a solid TEVA guy myself. I haven't been up in the BWCA in any month but July or August though. So that negates the cold weather gear. As for ankle support, I think that is a personal issue. I went up with a friend a couple years back and he insisted on the traditional leather hiking boots. They were wet from the first time we had to get in the canoe and he twisted his ankle twice, neither bad enough to ruin the trip, but both times he slowed us down.

I think it is more important to find something that fits your style well and keeps you happy. I love the teva's the dry fast are fine in the water and when I take my time and portage with care, they are great portage shoes.

I always bring a pair of flip flops or tennis shoes for camp.

Hope that helps some people out
distinguished member (360)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/26/2006 08:27AM
For traveling, lightweight tennis shoes are my footwear of choice. The solomon amphibians look pretty sweet, too. I just use the tennis shoes since I usually have a disposable pair lying around the house after gym usage.

I use generic sandals that rip-off the waldies design for in camp and nightly fishing excursions. They are really nice, cause they let your feet breathe, are lightweight, and have protection for the toe box when you are stumbling to the privy in the dark.
member (10)member
07/28/2006 10:17AM
In my opinion, there is nothing worse than wearing wet shoes all day. In the 14 trips I've made to the BWCA I've never come across a portage that is so bad as to require heavy duty boots. The last two years I've been to the BWCA I've worn Chaco sandals the entire time and I can't imagine wearing anything else. They are definitely the best sandal out there for BWCA type travel. I probably should also say that not once in my life have I sprained an ankle, so I must have unusually strong ankles. Just my two cents...
07/28/2006 10:30AM
Some people are phobic about wet shoes.

The 'wetfoot feeling' doesn't bother me, but perhaps because I always wear Smartwool or similar REI or Woolrich wool blend socks in my boots. Comfortable when cool or warm when wet.

I agree that many BWCA portages are easy, and I'll also point out that many Quetico portages are decidedly not.

My youngest son insisted on wearing sandals on a 100 mile Quetico trip, and though he didn't twist an ankle, he did get some chaffing, bleeding and blisters from his Tevas sandals. (After the second day he wore my Smartwools in the sandals, even though he viewed this as a very serious wilderness fashion infraction.)

Yum-Yum or Have-a-Smoke will do that to any sandal wearing portager, they will rip your unprotected feet to shreads.
Guest Paddler
07/28/2006 11:40AM

How can anyone hate having wet feet in the BWCA? It's practically one giant puddle... I mean, you have no choice but to step into water at some landings. Additionally, it's really annoying to have the bow or stern position be concerned with the wetness of his/her partner's feet. If it's your wife, girlfriend, fiance, or child, go ahead and help them keep their feet dry if they have a phobia. If it's just a partner, tell them to suck it up. Bring two pairs of shoes. One should be used for canoeing and portaging. These should drain well and have, if you really need it, support. Sandals and aqua socks aren't the best idea, but I've done it and survived. The other pair of shoes should be kept dry so you don't get some sort of WWII era fungal infestation. That's just gross, although highly unlikely.

Regardless, you're going to have a great trip if that's what you set out to have.

Love, peace, and chicken grease,

I have one more thought. I always wear shoes when swimming or cliff jumping to avoid sharp rocks or nasty, hidden things. Yep, those are the same as my portaging/paddling shoes.
distinguished member(1565)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/03/2008 09:15PM
With the late ice out, the water will be much colder than I expected. What do folks wear in very cold conditions?

One option:
- portaging: neoprene socks and old hiking boots that will drain
- camp: dry boots or shoes that will stay dry

Another option:
- portaging: good, 8-10" waterproof boots. Work to keep water from going over the top.
- camp: use the same boots as portaging

Other options:
senior member (80)senior membersenior member
05/03/2008 10:04PM
This is the combo I am going to go with on my upcoming trip.

For Portages:

For Camp:

A Goretex mid-Hiking boot....

I am overly cautious after the first day of a weeklong trip a few years ago I melted my hiking boots when trying to dry them on the fire.....the entire week it was rainy and very cold and I spent it in a poor pair of sandals....below is the result I am hoping to avoid

distinguished member(4392)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
05/04/2008 07:00AM
Search Chota Mukluk, NRS Boundary Shoe,for knee-high waterproofs. Fairly light but soled like a heavy moccasin imo. Once water gets over the top, the're dead weight for at least 2 days. Watershoes (not sandals) with sealskins,liner socks, and EXTRA MERINO wools are a good allround option imo. Even a spare pair of cheap light watershoes can double for camp with (sealskins if it rains). I love the boudaryshoe for camp, especially if it rains. Good rock grip, but thin soled for sharp baseball sized rocks. Chota Quetico Trekkers are probably one of the best potage/watershoes out there. Like a heavy hightop watershoe.If you don't like wet feet at all, then get knee high neoprene socks with liners and hope you dont step in too deep. With extra wool socks,however, you can remain fairly comfortable no matter what footwear imo. As soon as you reach camp, start drying wet stuff for ...........and alternate. Merino and clothesline with some sun will get through cheap ! (figure on wet feet while canoeing unless terribly careful and LUCKY!) ;)
distinguished member (257)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/04/2008 09:59AM
Lots of different thoughts.

I like my leather Red Wings with Merino Wool socks. I like the leather support and protection from sticks and rocks rubbing against ankles. They get wet and dry and get wet again. I will try to keep them dry, but if they get wet the socks are key. My 10 year old believes you have to have wet feet in a canoe :)

Camp shoes: are sandles, but I have been waiting for a sale or present, on Keens. I want shoes around camp that are light and I can walk around in the water at the shore, swim, and fish in. They dry quick and are light. Size 13-14 tennis shoes are kind of big and bulky to pack around and don't dry well.

Key Merino Wool Socks..
senior member (68)senior membersenior member
05/04/2008 07:53PM
I echo the fans of real hiking boots. A twisted ankle is far worse than a wet foot. I've only dunked my foot once in 23 years, but have lost my footing on many a muddy, wet, slippery portage. I waterproof my leather boots by warming them in the oven (120 degrees) and then use snow seal. I also portage in waterproof gortex socks.
distinguished member (180)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/04/2008 11:06PM
Hey Dean!
I think we've all been through the 'what's the right footwear for me' question.
For me, Keen water sandals work terrific. They have good drainage, comfort and toe protection- very important, take it from me on this one. I lost a big toenail second day out three years ago !
Couple them with sealskinz waterblockers (over the calf waterproof socks) with a liner sock and thin merino wools socks and you are good to go for warm, dry entry/exit and portaging.
If you watch your step and take your time, you'll do fine.
Now if you are into rock climbing while carrying a canoe, you may want to consider something with ankle support.
I take one pair of socks (wool, Smartwool- don't skimp) for every two days and that's worked out for me.
In camp this year I'm bringing in 'duck shoes' from Rural King.
They are a farmboy's version of what LL. Bean carries.
Good luck to ya!
distinguished member(522)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/05/2008 09:20AM
For the first twenty years, I wore nothing except sandals, and I don’t recall having any problems. After a motorcycle accident that left my lower leg shattered, I now wear jungle boots with smartwool socks. Still no complaints for the last eight years.
05/05/2008 09:34AM
I've responded to this general question on various threads before. It all depends on WHERE and WHEN YOU ARE GOING.

If you are staying in the BWCA in July and August - and plan easy trips, or base camp on Lake Three, and know your route - wear whatever is comfortable - the portages are short, easy, flat and well worn. Go barefoot if you want.

If you are venturing to points North.... Quetico, Wabakimi, Caribou or rivers that flow into Hudson Bay... or if you are travelling during the cold spring or fall in the BWCAW, you would be an idiot not to wear protective foorwear such as boots or even sneakers.

Sandals are not suggested for this portage.
distinguished member(2541)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/05/2008 11:40AM
We're going in early June. For that trip I will wear my Chota Trekkers with brookie waders. The trekkers have good wet surface traction and with the brookies keep the water out. Only downside is they keep sweat in. Smartwool liner is a must.

Trekkers in July too, but this time with the gaiter socks becuase the brookies are just too hot. I like the fit better with the neoprene liner. Smartwool again.
05/05/2008 09:29PM
I have always worn hunting type boots into the BWCA. I have 3 pairs, 600, 800 and 1200 gram thinsulate boots with goretex for the different weather conditions. As much as people try do downplay wet feet, nothing can ruin even a shorter trip than cold wet feet. This can even happen in the summer months. Again, this is personal preference, but watch the forecast before you go, then plan for at least 15 degrees colder. Last year we went the end of may when the forcast said 60 and got snowed on, add that to a fire ban and wet feet would mean chilly toes at the very least and possibly frostbite at the worst which could cut any trip short. Beyond weather protection, I feel a good pair of boots protects your ankles not only from sprains, but from sharp rocks, sticks and bugs.
member (18)member
05/06/2008 03:21PM
I wear waders , which some of you might think I am nuts but I like to fly fish and a breathable pair with the boots are qiut comfy and keep you dry and warm and with a water proof sock you could just wear the boots for day trips if you needed the warmth vrs the keens.
distinguished member(1565)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/06/2008 03:34PM
Waders? That is an interesting idea. I have a breathable pair of waders that I use for warm weather duck hunting. I have worn them many times as waterproof pants while goose hunting wet/muddy fields.

With the water being so very cold right now, the waders don't sound like a bad idea.

I'd have to work pretty hard to find a landing that I couldn't negotiate with my waders...

I'd definitely wear a good wading belt to keep from filling them up if the canoe flipped...
distinguished member(530)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/06/2008 04:13PM
I like to paddle wearing a cheap ($10) pair of water/beach "shoes" which are great for getting into and out of the canoe. When portaging, I unload and then change into a pair of socks and old running shoes till I get to the other side and then change back to the water shoes again. It takes a couple of minutes on either side of the portage but it's a light weight combo and cheap. If the portage is short and easy I just leave the water shoes on.
05/06/2008 04:20PM
Traveler - I'm scratching my head. This process would seem to take a lot of time....

I like to cover more than 8 miles a day!
distinguished member(530)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/06/2008 08:19PM
Well, I guess it does take a little time. It's just that I often get my feet wet both in the canoe and getting in and out. I don't like the weight of boots and I don't like to paddle in them either, I often tuck my feet under my seat. If I were going in cold weather, that would change things.
Guest Paddler
05/19/2008 09:22PM
I bought a pair of Columbia Cayman II's

we will see how they work this year, i plan on wearing them in the canoe and on portages and then have a pair of light hiking shoes for around camp and once most heavy traveling is done.

distinguished member(744)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/05/2013 11:46PM
distinguished member(6683)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
05/06/2013 07:49AM
:) Things haven't changed a bit in the past 7 years, eh?
05/06/2013 10:27AM

quote Merganser: "We're going in early June. For that trip I will wear my Chota Trekkers with brookie waders. The trekkers have good wet surface traction and with the brookies keep the water out. Only downside is they keep sweat in. Smartwool liner is a must.

Trekkers in July too, but this time with the gaiter socks becuase the brookies are just too hot. I like the fit better with the neoprene liner. Smartwool again."


The Chota Trekkers have great ankle support, and as Merganser stated, the wet surface traction is also very good.

My only complaint is that the insoles leave something to be desired. After one portage' with my new Trekkers, I yanked out the insoles and never used them again. Can't say I miss the insoles, but some users replace them with something else.

Hans Solo
senior member (98)senior membersenior member
05/06/2013 02:45PM
I go with a pair of Danner Pronghorn 8" boot for portaging and a pair of Keen sandles for camp, A few pairs of merino wool socks are a must
distinguished member (339)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/15/2013 01:04PM
I'll be bringing a pair of Teva Omnium closed toe water shoes (similar to the Salomon's mentioned above) and a pair of hiking boots. I did the same last year thinking I'd switch to the boots on portages for support but I never got around to it because the Tevas worked so well that drying off and changing into socks/hiking boots seemed like a waste of time. The water shoes did surprisingly well on slippery rocks, up steep and rocky portages and under load and completely justified the purchase to me (several years later!). Wound up saving the boots for tromping around camp unburdened by roots and possible snags at night. Nothing beats sticking your wet, cold wrinkly feet into wool socks and sturdy hiking boots after a long day of portaging!

Then again your mileage may vary depending on water temp and your setup. I had a kevlar canoe that made getting out in 1-2 feet of water mandatory but also did away with the need for serious ankle support. If you're in an 80+ lb Alumabeast that you can ram into shore or if you have weak ankles/are going on nasty portages you may want to reconsider.

distinguished member(1848)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/15/2013 05:57PM
quote fishguts: "I am an Anti-Boot person!

There is nothing worse than being stuck with wet boots day after day on a long trip. And paddling with a Kevlar means you will get wet, no matter what. I used to wear tennis shoes, but have switched to "Salomon Tech Amphibian Water Shoes ". They are great...the water drains out instantly. All the hype about "Ankle Support" has no meaning for me, I have never spained an ankle on a canoe trip. The worst ankle sprain I ever had was while wearing High top football

Check them out!



My footing slipped once and I came down odd, my ankle buckled, and because I was on a big slanted rock, my knee buckled. Twisted not only my ankle, but my knee too. Would have been much worse had I not had boots on. I was up on an outcropping elk hunting. I could be dead now, but because I had good boots, I was able to catch my footing and control my fall to the ledge below. In the BWCA, I stepped off a rock with a canoe on my head and landed on a smaller rock I didn't see. I had Chota mukluks on and the pain was intense, right from my heel to my knee. My ankle swelled that night and sore for a couple days. There's a reason the military isn't issued combat loafers. I'll stick to boots, thank you. In fact, I'm swearing off 6" boots, going for 8" minimum from now on.
Reply    Reply with Quote    Print Top Bottom Previous Next