BWCA Footwear

I’ve done 6 BWCA trips (and numerous similar trips) and have everything figured out except for footwear for during the day!! I’ve tried old tennis shoes, rubber boots, hiking boots, water shoes, etc… The new type of water shoes with a real sole are nice but I seem to get lots of dirt and sand in the shoe which rubs on my feet during portaging… Wearing socks I guess would help that but then it’s no different then wearing old tennis shoes. I am interest in the Chota products. I like everything about the breathable mukluk but wonder if it has enough foot support for long rocky portages. Has anyone tried these or have any other suggestions??

Chota Mukluks

– Last Updated: Aug-09-07 5:49 PM EST –

are pretty hot and no, while they offer more support than an neoprene bootie, they dont have the arch support you will need for portaging.

Try the Merrell Waterpro or Salomon Techphibians.
Perfect footwear is an elusive thing for paddlers. I have used both the Merrells and Salomons for canoe trips for the last two years.(they are the only shoes I take and I alternate them) My trips last a month in the boreal forest and trails are not often maintained..I can trip very well in bulky boots while clambering over downed trees!
The Keen closed toe Newports have excellent support yet let in way too much gravel to be useful.
What you dont say is the condition of the landings...and portage trails..I usually canoe in Wabakimi which has about 30 percent of the forest horizontal at any one time..also the landings are about a foot wide..this necessitates unloading in the water and gunwale walking to move things to the unload point...So I have to plan on getting feet wet and them staying wet all day.

BWCA in comparison is a walk in NYC most of the time..a rocky hard walk to be sure! When I last went to Quetico two years ago I could have a place to change to hiking boots. I like to kneel in the canoe so I dont wear them in the boat
Plus footwear absolutely has to NOT pull off and be extractable from waist deep loonshit.

I love my Chota Mukluks for May paddling just after ice out on Maine rivers..Portaging is minimal there though.

Different shoes for different places I have found. I suspect I wouldnt like my Merrell or Salomon "adventure shoes" (canyoneering is the market) for those 3000 meter sharp rock portages that you find in Algonquin as much. But for the boggy and slippery environment up North, the Merrels in particular are very sure footed. They have a true Vibram sole and do not slip on lichen, even the dreaded wet black lichen or the brown leather leaf lichen.

Skip it
Not worth it. No support. Don’t fit that great.

My shoe of choice lately for the BWCA are Crocs. I did Tevas for a couple years of paddling. In fall, I use light weight hikers covered by rubber overboots. I’ve used leather Steger Mocs and rubber overboots on some trips, which is nice for low portage routes. I really like the Crocs.

Boots for BWCA / Quetico

– Last Updated: Aug-09-07 7:51 AM EST –

I carry between 100 to 120 lbs on a portage and footwear with excellent ankle and arch support and excellent grip on wet bedrock is mandatory for me. For the rough trails in the interior of the Quetico, I wouldn't consider wearing sandals or low cuts as adequate footwear for me. For years and years I used well snow-sealed leather field boots. I still have the same pair of Herter's 7" leather boots I used for over 20 years. In my quest to find the perfect canoe trail boot, I wore out 2 pair of Chota Quetico trekkers. I really liked the light weight, the support I got from them, and great grip on rock; but they wouldn't stand up to more than 3 weeks of pounding on the portage trails with my weight. Your mileage may vary. The last 4 seasons I have used a pair of Corker's wading boots with the changable soles. I use their lug sole and it has been very good. So far they are holding up well to the task, but they are very heavy; heavier than a field boot. When they wear out I'll probably go back to leather field boots. I always use socks (how can you stand the stable flies without socks??) so my feet have been just as wet in drainable Chotas or Corkers all day long as in leather field boots that don't drain. If you do the boot thing, be sure to bring a pair of light hiker type camp shoes to change into at the end of the travel day.

Why not just change shoes for portaging?
Comfortable water shoes for paddling and getting in and out of the water, and dry hikers for portaging?

'Have never done any tripping, so I don’t have any experience, but it seems like the way to go for any length of portage at all. I use Teva Gammas to paddle in and when I get in and out or wade much at all for fishing, they always get sand in them. Major irritation. If I was portaging, I’d carry a change of dry hikers, I would think.

In spring and fall I wear Chota Mukluks. I do fine with them even on long portages. My buddy, however, wears them for paddling, entering/exiting the canoe, and for short portages. However, for portages 100 rods or more he changes into hiking boots. It only takes a minutes and it works for him.

For summer trips I had a pair of LL Bean canoe shoes. There are no longer made and mine died on my July trip. I have to find something similar like a wading shoe, maybe Chota Trekkers or Salomon Amphibian shoes, something like that.

BTW, I like Crocs, too, but use them as camp shoes and not as paddling&portaging shoes.

I just finished a pretty rugged trip in the ADKs and wore nothing but Keen water shoes-the ones with the protected toe.Some 2= mile carries with rocks and branches.I was goung ultra light,so they were my only footware.When I got to camp I would dry them as best I could and then put on socks under them and rotate the socks to a clothsline to dry them all the way.Had dry warm feet till the next morning.I’d do it again.This is only a warm weather/water option however.


Chotas/NRS and Keens

– Last Updated: Aug-21-07 1:59 PM EST –

I've found the NRS Boundary boot to have slightly more support than the Chotas, but for portaging, I've recently adopted the new Keen Taos.
Though because I've developed blisters in the Keens when barefoot, I'm going to try the NRS hydroskin socks with the Keens. They are a wetsock meant to keep you warm and are about the only neoprene socks you can get that will not require you to increase your shoe size. They should also should keep the BW leeches out.

NRS wetsocks
Are the way to go IMO . As the poster above said, they are thin enough so as to keep your normal shoe size - think a pair of wool socks . They also prevent any gravel from rubbing you raw . I have used them w/an older pair of Teva Guide Raptor sandals in the ADKs, Temagami, BWCA and never had a problem . Could also use them with hybrid shoes like the Keen Taos / Tech amphibian.

I wear hiking boots. I’ve got a pair of Chot… I use a bbit in cold weather near home, but for the BW I wet foot portage landings and hike the portages with a lot of ankle support not worrying about rocks, sand, whatever with hiking boots and Smartwool socks. It’s a freedom to just jump into it. It’s worked for me a long time and many trips (1-3 a year since 1969). I don’t have to worry about my feet. All the gimmicks (sandles, neo boots, etc) are nice, new and have a good sales pitch, but boots are the real answer.

I concur!
I have used Keen H20’s for the last 3 years and LOVE THEM! Good traction. Dry quickly. Comfortable. I practice “wet-foot-policy” when canoeing at all times.

Hiking Boots
I just keep a pair of lightweight hiking boots in a small dry bag and use them for portaging.

When I’m in the boat I have an old pair of LL Bean canoe shoes that work fine.

foot wear





paddling footwear
I wear Bean Boots from L.L.Bean. They’re comfortable, keep my feet dry, and I can hike in them. I also take sandals or sneakers to wear around camp.

LL Bean is the solution
I also wear the LL Bean 10" Bean Boot.

I don’t mind occasionally getting my feet wet, but spending all day with soaking wet socks and feet is a very big morale-sapper for me. Plus we go in September, when it can be a bit cooler. The first time I did BWCA, I decided that I wanted the support of my hiking boots. But… I’m the bigger person in my canoe, so that always means I’m the last in and the first out… so that also means I get the wet feet. So, my hiking boots, while providing me with adequate support, did nothing to keep the water out of my shoes.

I did some research and found the 10" Bean Boot, with goretex and thinsulate. They’re very comfortable, provide good ankle support, and just enough sole support to make the portaged doable. But the most important part is that the last trip to BW, my feet stayed dry the entire time, even though it rained most of the entire 5 days. So, despite the rainy weather, my morale stayed much higher with the Bean Boots. I can’t recommend them enough.

only the upper on the Bean boots
are “breathable”. (boots do not have lungs…how one can say they breathe is beyond me)

I have a hard time keeping feet from sweating in them…If you are prone to that, Bean boots are not for you. Talcum powder is your best friend for keeping feet dry…

They are wicked hard to kneel in…I hardly ever sit a canoe. But I am also a soloist and often have to push my boat out far enough to completely float it too so wet feet during the day are just going to happen… Again talcum powder guards against trench foot.

Quetico Trekkers
Last year I wore a pair of Chota Quetico Trekker boots in teh BWCA. I planned on wet-footing it (solo canoe) and they were MOSTLY ok. Even with wool sox, having wet feet all day was a bummer. And I discovered that the cheap, thin foot bed would slide forward while portaging.

So I broke down and bought a pair of Brookie Waders to go with them. So comfy! Probably too warm for summer heat, but for shoulder seasons they are great.


Barbour Equestrian knee boots
Most every trip I’ve made into Ontario, and 1 into Saskatchewan has been in early May or late fall, and I’ve always worn a pair of high quality rubber Barbour Equestrain paddock knee boots. They are very form fitting, come up to right below my knees, and seem to offer great support and traction on portages, and I can load/unload in 16"+ deep H20. At first I had persperation issues, but took to using an anti-persperant dry stick on my feet, and never had another issue. I usually wore a thin liner, coolmax or thermax depending on the season, under a mid-calf Patagonia or Smartwool sock. I went to sandals once in Quetico, till a hidden stick made its way between the straps, painfully deep INTO the side of my foot, while portaging through some calf deep muck. Since that episode, I gave up on the idea of sandals on portages. I use those Barbour knee boots from fall through spring in my kayak also. They aren’t cheap, but I’ve been getting around 6-10 years a pair out of them, using them solely for paddling. After checking out a pair pf my buds Choatas, I can assure you the Barbour boots offer MUCH more support and durability as far as canoeing/portaging goes, still entertaining the idea of the Choatas for kayak use as I usually won’t be scrambling/portaging in them. My bud has chipped/torn the neoprene on his Choatas while hiking around the woods/shore looking for firewood on our winter night paddles.

Chota Breathables

– Last Updated: Mar-31-08 4:50 AM EST –

Since your question was about the Chota Breathables, and since none of the other posters have ever worn them, perhaps I can answer your question. I have the Chota Breathables and they work fine. These are not the heavy neoprene like the mukluks. No, the Breathables don't "breath" underwater, they aren't supposed to and neither does anything else. You aren't underwater more than a few minutes each day. When it's hot just roll the tops down while in the canoe, or even slip them off and just wear socks in the canoe. On portages they keep the bugs off my lower legs and they repel branches, twigs, rocks, sand, gravel and give enough foot and ankle support to be safe on normal portages like 90 percent of the portages in the BWCA. On rougher portages I use hiking shoes. IMHO sandals are dangerous in the woods and rivers. I don't allow them on any of the trips I lead, even in hot weather. You're in an environment where a foot injury or a twisted ankle is a real possibility. They are needlessly uncomfortable when sand and grit gets in. The sand and grit will work right through socks, and your feet are wet and uncomfortable most of the day. I carry a pair of lightweight hiking shoes for longer portages and for wearing in camp at night.

“Has anyone tried these
or have any other suggestions?”