So you’re about to head out on a killer multi-day packrafting trip. You’re all packed and ready to go. You’ve got a large, powerful packraft. The portable 4-piece paddle you need to propel yourself downriver. And the protective helmet that will protect your head when you find yourself in rapids. But you’re still missing one thing: packrafting shoes.
Just any old shoes won’t do. Sandals won’t cut it for portaging, or in cold climates. Waterproof hiking boots are great when you’re on dry land – but are too big and bulky for sitting in the raft.
Instead, you need to be equipped with a pair of packrafting-ready footwear. These 4 picks for Best Packrafting Shoes of 2019 will get you started. (Your feet will thank you).
What makes a pair of packrafting shoes different from regular kayak shoes – or hiking boots?
There aren’t, at this point in time, any shoes designed specifically for packrafting. But there are plenty of shoes designed for each of the two sports that packrafting combines – rafting and hiking.
Essentially, you’re looking for a shoe that can do both. Light and fast-drying enough to wear in water without becoming waterlogged, oftentimes with mesh and almost always with drainholes. But also sturdy and protective enough to wear when portaging, jumping out of the raft into rocky waters and hauling heavy kit over land. So look for something with a sturdy nylon upper and durable rubber sole.
If you’re more of a minimalist, you might be perfectly happy with the neoprene booties traditionally used in kayaking or rafting. This usually don’t provide the kind of stability and support, but add insulation in cold water and lightweight flexibility.
This casually styled water shoe works just as well on the water as off. It looks like a sneaker, but is 100% designed for water, with superlight air mesh upper that drains easily; polyester sidewalls with convenient drain ports; and Granite Grip outsoles that provide perfect traction on all kinds of slick surfaces. This all sits on top a Balanced Geometry EVA midsole. Slits and holes on the toes and heel let water drain super quickly.
If you like the feel and function of neoprene booties but want something bigger, more stable and more durable, you can go wrong with the Astral Hiyak. This kayak shoe has an “ultra-abrasion-resistant” Cordura upper for supreme durability and protection, bonded directly to the G.55 Super Sticky outsole to create a sealed, waterproof boot experience. And it uses airmesh insulation to trap air between your foot and the outer shell for warmth – the same way that neoprene booties and wetsuits do.
Stohlquist is a mainstay in hiking equipment, and their Tideline Boots are a go-to for rafters who want the sheer lightweight simplicity of nylon booties. They feature a 5mm thick Neoprene upper cut into an ergonomic shape that echoes the natural shape of the foot, creating the best possible fit and comfort. A vulcanized rubber outsole provides flexibility, grip and padding on wet ground. And the Ergo shape of the boot provides better overall warmth by eliminating water pockets but increasing trapped air. Rubber heel and toe caps keep you from stubbing your toe uncomfortably, while a non-corrosive #10 YKK zipper keeps the boots tightly wound up. Simple and inexpensive.
Resembling a pair of Vans more than a kayak shoe, the NRS Crush a superlight, technical shoe from a top name in kayak gear. They use a 1000D Cordura upper to protect against rocks and underwater hazards, coating it with a water-repellent material to keep light water from soaking through. Ubiquitous drainholes let water escape. Last but not least, the Crush get their name from the crushable heels that let you slide them on and off quickly and easily, wearing them like slip-ons.
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