Gear reviews

TU tested: Korker's 'River Ops' wading boots

($259.99; korkers.com)

Some wading boots are getting expensive. But I’ve always seen the value in Korkers boots because they’re built with an “Omnitrax” system that allows you to switch soles (they come with two sets.) So it’s like getting two pairs of boots in one. Say you prefer wading in studs, but your fishing friend doesn’t want you wearing those in her raft (of course)… you can switch to felt, or hard rubber soles in about two minutes. I often travel with Korkers boots for that very reason. Versatility matters.

The Korkers River Ops boot offers another value proposition beyond all that—extreme durability.  In theory, these are the kind of boots that will last another couple years or more (or X many miles waded) after you’ve just dropped another couple hundred bucks to replace other boots. 

Obviously, the jury is still out for me on that long-term performance measure, because I’ve had a pair for only a few months now. But, for what it’s worth, I’ve been really tough on them. I’ve fished them in Michigan, hiking through sand and gravel, and I’ve also done a lot of hiking on sharp rocks and dirt in Colorado. I estimate about 30 miles of hiking and fishing in them so far.  And they don’t show any sign of letting up.

The key is a protective exoskeleton made of hard material, which completely covers any stitching.  As you probably already know, it’s the exposed stitching that catches snags and such, and what starts as a little rip, ends up compromising the whole boot. This boot also has a very firm contoured heel cup, which really makes stability in the river much easier to maintain, and it isn’t too stiff or uncomfortable for lengthy hikes.

This is a tactical-inspired design, and it looks and performs that way.  It’s Special Forces-inspired wading. And I have to add that Korkers has done its homework and refined the way the soles fasten to the boots, because I tried to lose a sole in extremely mucky conditions, and couldn’t do it. 

Lastly, I like that these boots come with laces rather than a BOA closure system, because I once saw a guy who had traveled from Europe to fish steelhead on the Dean in British Columbia blow up his mechanical laces on day one and never get it quite right after that. I typically love BOA closure, but I always travel with laces (with spares) now.  River Ops have lace locks, so you can wrap yourself tight and trust that the laces won’t be swimming around once you get them wet. 

This is a really well-engineered wading boot. Period.

By Kirk Deeter. 

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