A few months back, a little bird whispered into my ear that Patagonia and Danner were teaming up to release some knock-your-socks-off wading boots. Patagonia’s fly fishing gear know-how combined with Danner’s legendary boot-building brains? The prospect was drool-worthy from the moment I first heard about it.
The boot premiered at ICAST, a big fishing convention a few weeks back, but we weren’t at ICAST so I had to wait for Outdoor Retailer last week to get a chance to play with the new boots in person.
It took a tremendous amount of willpower to not stuff the boots in my backpack and abscond with them, heading straight for the Gunnison region’s legendary trout water to put them through their paces.
Handmade by Danner in its Portland, Oregon, factory, the boots seem to ooze quality. And they’d better, at a whopping $450 for the lighter Salt River model, and up to—are you sitting down?—$550 for the Foot Tractor with metal outsoles.
I’d read before going in that the whole idea with these boots was to make them timeless and ageless. They can be resoled and repaired, “recrafted,” Patagonia calls it, for a lifetime. “The Last Boots You’ll Ever Buy” seems like a natural tagline. But, gulp, $500 for wading boots? Can any boot be built well enough to justify that price tag?
Boots in hand, it feels, at least without getting them into the wet stuff, like these just might.
The boots are unlike most wading boots I’ve ever handled. They’re a blend of luxurious, waterproof full-grain leather and tough-as-nails 1000D nylon. The nylon saves weight, and despite a rugged appearance, the boots are light in the hand.
There are two models, with three different sole options. The least expensive, the Salt River, which ring up at $450, come with sticky rubber soles courtesy of the Vibram Megagrip platform. These boots are for the angler who likes, or needs, I should say, to hike a fair distance to get to the water. They’d be great fishing in the flats, maybe wet wading too.
The higher-end Foot Tractor models have a bit more leather on the uppers for beefier look and feel and a thicker midsole too. They’re called Foot Tractors for a reason and feel as though you could kick through a concrete wall in these, though it’d be comfortable while doing so. These also have more sole options than the Salt River: sticky rubber, felt, or Patagonia’s unique aluminum bar for slick rocky stream bottoms. The rock-gripping aluminum bar-soled model runs $550, and if I’m spending $500-ish for wading boots already, these are the ones I’m springing for. Can’t imagine the buyer’s remorse at dropping $500 for boots only to slip around mossy rocks.
In case you’re wondering, the price for these boots is a massive jump from Patagonia’s current offerings. For example, you can pick up a pair of the (soon to be) old Foot Tractor waders with aluminum bar soles for $280. The Salt River is a new model name, but the current lightweight Patagonia boot, the Ultralights, are only $189. Probably a good time to catch those on sale, actually.
Patagonia says the uppers on their new boots won’t crack or absorb water, greatly lengthening their life and going at least a little way toward justifying the cost. Most wading boots I’ve worn (including Patagonia models) begin cracking and swelling after only a few sessions, and if these new Danner-made boots avoid that, they’re already well on their way toward justifying the expense.
The boots aren’t available until February 2019 and media samples haven’t been made available yet. Once they do, I’ll be out there tromping around to see if they live up to the hype and the cost and reporting back here. Although it would probably take a decade of use to properly review a boot made to last forever.
Either way, this is a fascinating collaboration and one that, at least at first glance, looks like a smashing success.