March 8, 1998

Amphibious Footwear Can Make A Big Splash


Q. I am going backpacking in the Escalante Canyon in southern Utah in late April. I am taking a good pair of trusty leather boots for most of the hiking, but will also need a pair of boots/shoes/sandals to tromp through and across the river numerous times a day. In your humble opinion what would be the best choice for these river shoes? I’ve thought of heavy duty sandals, a sturdy pair of off-trail running shoes, or even a pair of Converse high tops. Easy to get on and off is a plus as well as something that will dry relatively fast. I would prefer to get a pair of shoes I can use for other purposes and not spend money on something too specific to river walking. What would be the perfect fit to this dilemma? Thanks!

Andrew Thompson

Gear Guy: The enormous popularity of all-terrain sandals such as those from Teva has created a whole category of amphibious footwear. Several makers now are building wet/dry boots that give you the protection of a full boot with the water-loving attributes of a sandal. Teva’s own Wet Climber II ($80), for instance, has grippy rubber outsoles, drain holes for fast drying, and materials that can take repeated soakings.

On the other hand, I like your idea about the Converse.

Depending on how much you really expect to wear these shoes, I’d opt for inexpensive sneakers such as those. Find something cheap in a discount shoe store, wear em, and toss em out.

Q.I’m 6-foot-4 with long legs. I’m going to be climbing Rainier this summer with a guide service. I want to buy an ice ax rather than rent one. How do I know what length to get?

Mike Fogarty

Gear Guy: The longest ice axes regularly available are 90 centimeters, so that would be your top end. Still, I’d suggest you go with a 75- to 80-centimeter ax. That will give you a lighter, more manageable ax, but one that’s still long enough for comfort. Keep in mind you won’t use it as a walking stick, but for balance and self-arrest on slopes. So you won’t be sticking it into the snow at foot level, but rather uphill from you.

Be sure you also take a pair of ski poles. These are invaluable on the trudge to base camp and for the trip back down. They make you a more efficient, better-balanced hiker.


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