Footwear - cold weather canoeing

I bought my first canoe (a solo) a few months ago. Since then I’ve been happily paddling here on lazy Southern flatwater. I board and land the canoe on a small beach. The water is generally 6-to-10 inches deep, and I use the ubiquitous “water shoes,” which work just fine during warm weather.

But summer won’t last forever, so I’m trying to prepare for canoeing in colder weather. I have an old pair of “Wellies”, 16 inches high and slightly insulated, which I thought (with appropriate socks) might be just the thing. But then I read Bill Mason’s guide (“Path of the Paddle,” 1984, etc). that “People who wear open-topped rubber boots in a canoe must have suicidal tendencies.” That doesn’t sound very good.

So my problem is very basic: It’s not a question of whether to order this or that item, but of what kind of footwear PRODUCT will meet my off-season needs without endangering me? I just don’t know the category of product to look for. Comments or suggestions would be most appreciated.

I like these…

I’m a huge fan of Chota Mukluks.

The problem with regular open-top rubber boots is that they become giant water scoops, making self-rescue difficult. One way around this is to wear boots large enough so that they’re easy to kick off and will probably fall off if you go in.

The Chota-type mukluks have a couple of advantages: they tend to fit more snugly, they have a top collar, and they’re made of neoprene, which floats. A mukluk full of water is still difficult to drag around, but at least it’ll add a bit of bouyancy instead of subtracting from it.

After a week on the ST John’s River in Maine in May in 4 inches ofd snow, sleet, rain I recommend them. I’ve also dumped in December and they didn’t fill with water.

Many here have them!


I have Chota lites and they are
great, but floppy. If they ever wear out, I’ll try the NRS version because they have an adjustable strap.

chota question
not to get off track totally from the question but i noticed Chotas seem to be a popular preference and I almost bought a pair today and probably will in the next couple of days.

I have a couple of quick questions to chota users - do the lites keep your feet dry if you dont step in deep water beyond the top of the boot and lastly …do they end up reeking like the water shoes? as i am worried about that! sorry again for the interruption.



Chotas, Mukluk Lites
Thats what I wear during late fall, winter and early spring in the midwest. I wear a pair of thick wool/polypro socks and never get cold/ wet feet. But… I have been carefull to not get water over the top. They do cince tight at the top, but would leak in a swim. And mine don’t stink, after two full seasons. They have never been wet inside. I am careful in cold weather cause I hate wet feet. My NRS paddles shoes however have to reside in the shed.

Wanting an "adjustable strap"
Or, just upgrade to a style of Chotas with laces. Personally, I like the way laces cinch down along several inches of the boot instead of at a single point. Just another option.

Chota Breathable Mukluks
with wool socks

Stepping in water too deep

– Last Updated: Aug-15-07 10:48 PM EST –

If the tops are well cinched, they don't leak very fast. If you briefly step in over the tops of the boots, there won't be enough water running inside to matter that much, as long as you have good socks. Wool socks (perhaps with polypro liner socks) are highly recommended! I find that stepping into water too deep almost never happens if you are reasonably aware of where you put your feet.

One thing I can add: I have both the neoprene and breathable Chotas, both in lace-up style. The neoprene ones are definitely warmer in cool or cold weather, but on the subject of stepping into deep water, the thin, flexible uppers of the breathable boots tend to fall down, even with the strap cinched (people with fatter calves probably don't have that problem). The neoprene uppers are stiff enough to stand up by themselves, regardless of how tight the top strap is cinched, so there's less worry about water running in the tops if you find yourself stepping in the water a lot.

I use both Chota Mukluks and LaCrosse Alpha Burley Wellies. The Chotas are ok, but I much prefer the LaCrosse boots. They are way more comfortable and offer a more substantial sole and footbed for tough portages. They don’t feel cold and wet the next morning either. I tend to sweat heavily in the Chotas and end up with damp feet and legs. As far as wellies taking on water; well I flipped a canoe while wearing the Burley’s and they barely took on a cup of water. I had the top strap cinched up snug. I certainly didn’t feel like they were going to pull me down. Even if they had they’re easy to slip off.

If you kneel when you paddle, be sure to try out your boots that way. For me, a stiff-soled boot/shoe is uncomfortable to kneel in.

I use NRS “Boundary Shoes”.

They are just as good as Choatas, but less expensive.

We used them all over Alaska and the Arctic circle tundra.

They are also good for hiking through swampy areas.



Thanks so much to those who have provided this useful information.

Chota Lites or a dry suit
I have a pair of Chota Lites for cool weather quiet water.

The soles are thin which is good for kneeling but not for hiking.

The tops are snug around my wet suit. I try not to step in over the tops but when I have the boots have not flooded.

They don’t breath and my feet get damp from sweat so they are not perfect but they are pretty good.


Neoprene socks
For cold weather, add a pair of neoprene socks too (great if you’re wearing a dry/semi-dry suit & put the socks under the legs of the suit, then the mukluks over the suit legs).