Footware on Alaska canoe trip?

-- Last Updated: Mar-10-16 7:29 PM EST --

My daughter and i will be canoeing on the Noatak River in August. What should we wear on our feet? Rubber boots? What kind? Or something else? We'll be grateful for any advice.

Most wear rubber boots
but Chotas neoprene boots do not pull off as easily

For cold weather or water I like the military surplus N1B Extreme cold mukluk They are very light, soft,warm and flexible.

They work well in the canoe but you have to keep them sprayed with water proofing.

Make sure you get the stock wool liners. Very comfortable in a canoe.

and instead of a two hundred dollar heavy ice boot they are only ding ding ding 40 bucks!

military surplus boots
Interesting choice. What do you spray them with? And just how waterproof are they?

Is what the locals all wear

Canoe Noatak
I vote for Xtratuffs. Warmth is not necessarily the issue. You can buy insulated Xtratuffs, though. I have both. Arctic rivers can really flood if they get very much rain…which usually happens in early August.

Awesome !

– Last Updated: Mar-11-16 3:45 PM EST –

We did a two week trip on the Noatak.

If you are going to be hiking, bring goretex hiking boots.
Believe it or not regular old "chicken house boots" with "smart wool socks" is what was recommended and what we wore every day while paddling and around the camp site. (the locals called them "Juneau sneakers")
They were supplied by the outfitter.
If not, you can get them in Juneau in the hardware store.

When we mountain hiked, we wore them across the lower tussocks which have water and permafrost and carried our hiking boots, and when we started to climb, we changed to the hiking boots, and left the Juneau sneakers in a pile that we retrieved when we came back down.

On several other trips to Alaska, (glacier Bay) and British Columbia where we guided ourselves, we used our NRS Boundary shoes with smart wool socks and thin silk or poly pro liners.

And oh yes, our "Bills Bags" were with us on all those trips.

If you would like to read our Noatak trip report, I'll gladly e-mail it to you.

Jack L

boundary shoe vs. rubber boot?
Based on your experience, would you recommend the NRS boundary shoes or the rubber boots?

Three general categories:

– Last Updated: Mar-12-16 1:18 PM EST –

I've done the simple approach, rubber boots over shoes. The very best and lightest option was 18" Tingley boots over light hiking shoes or sneakers. That very excellent boot (in my opinion) has been removed from the Tingley website and from all the local stores in my area which once sold them, but p-netter "rpg38" recently posted that he found the boot listed on Amazon or some similar place online. If you choose the rubber-boot method, try to find the old-fashioned 18" Tingleys. They are surprisingly rugged, and every other pull-over rubber boot I've seen is much too heavy and inflexible to suit me, personally. I've used a LOT of different pull-over rubber boots, but only the Tingleys were suitable for canoeing, but that's because I always kneel, and a typical "farm boot" is no good in that case.

To me, an even better boot would be a dedicated paddling boot from Chota or NRS. I like the Chota lace-up neoprene boot a lot better than the equivalent NRS model, the Boundary Shoe (the Boundary Shoe has way too much extra tread going up the sides of the boot all the way around. That's extra bulk and weight that serves no purpose except to bring more mud into the boat with you, but it probably looks cool to a person who likes the look of monster trucks and giant all-terrain tires). Whatever boot of this style you might choose, the cost will be much greater than that for pull-over rubber boots, but the fit is much better, the bulkiness is less, and they won't become sloshy water balloons the moment you step into water that's too deep. In fact, with this kind of boot, one or two quick steps over the boot tops won't let in much water at all.

Since you aren't talking about extremely cold weather, the next step up in quality/comfort would be a boot with a rubber "foot" portion and with the upper part made from Gore-Tex or some other breathable fabric. These are the cat's meow! They are also pricey. I've had a pair of breathable lace-up Chotas for about ten years, and of all my boots, these get used the most (I've nearly worn mine out, but with repairs, they keep doing the job). Chota hasn't had this model in their lineup for a few years, but last year a company rep told me that he expected they would offer them again in the future, once the demand built up sufficiently. He said that manufacture of that boot is outsourced, and thus done only periodically. Maybe by this summer, they will be back. Kokatat recently came out with a similar boot, but to me it appears to be far less durable and also less form-fitting around the ankle than the Chota model.

Whatever boot you end up with, do what Jack says, and use wool socks and synthetic liner socks. Smartwool socks are great. Bring more pairs of liner socks than wool socks. The wool won't get stinky if the liner sock is clean. Also, drying out the boots between uses, or as often as you can, eliminates any buildup of stink over time.

NRS Boundary Shoes
Jack L

I love my tingleys and I carry them on virtually every trip.

The problem with rubber boots is to be comfortable to walk in they need to fit fairly tight and if they fill with water they’ll drag you under and when fit tight are hard to get off. Can be a bit dangerous.

Neoprene booties don’t hold enough water when full to bother swimming if the need arises.

Bill H.

I would re-word that
No point in scaring people with “facts” that aren’t. Rubber boots won’t “drag you under”. The water in the boots is neutrally buoyant so it exerts no downward pull on your body whatsoever. It will make your feet “more massive” which will reduce your swimming efficiency, and that’s not a good thing, but that’s a whole different issue than what you describe.

For what it’s worth, I’ve dumped when wearing Tingleys, and I really didn’t have any difficulty with them. There are rubber boots which would be a lot worse for swimming, but again, the “drag you under” idea is far different from the actual fact that they are simply bulky and tend to “stay put” when you try to rapidly move your feet.

Use them to float
If you go in wearing something like an exrtratuf, you can roll over on your back, and use the air in the boot to float your feet up. Definitely not going to drag you down.

They also make a great camp boot in the often wet boggy Alaska conditions, keep your feet warm and dry when gore tex would be long oversaturated. Easy to get in and out of by rolling down the tops. Pretty decent to paddle in as well so long as you pick a good launch spot and don’t “top” them when hopping in the boat.