Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review: Simms Headwater Wading Boot

So I bought the Headwater boot 2 months ago and have used it about 12 river days now on varied terrain. I have never owned a wading boot before so I have nothing to compare it to but the summary is that I am very happy with my pair. They feature the Vibram Streamtread rubber sole and I also bought their aluminum cleats to go with it. I haven't tested the boots without the cleats. I've always had cleats in. Also, I traveled in a jet boat for part of my fishing and the cleats don't seem to damage anything. They are flat and flush so the boat's floor was unblemished. That wouldn't be the case with studs.
The pluses
  • Very light compared to other wading boots.
  • Traction appeared to be comparable to my companions' who were all wearing felt.
  • The rubber tread seems to be more aggressive than any other wading boot I've seen
  • Easy to get on and off
The minuses
  • The shoelaces that came with the boot are already starting to wear through after only 12 days of river use. I'm going to have to find some tougher replacements.
  • The Alumibite cleats that Simms sends only come in a pack of 14. That's only seven per boot but all their photos show at least 10 cleats per boot being used. I used the boots like this for 6 river days and they performed fine, but under easy to moderate wading conditions. I later ordered 6 more Hardbite cleats (3 per boot) to see if they would improve the traction. To be fair, I didn't notice a difference in traction. However, I need to test this further in more difficult conditions (let me see if the wife will give me time to perform these very important tests).
  • This is minor for me, but these boots aren't going to support your ankles as much as sturdier boots when you're stumbling and sliding on the sides of underwater boulders, so you're going to have to work a little harder to support your ankles yourself. These lighter weight boots just have less material in them. For me it's a worthy trade off.
My only other minor gripe is that Simms' web site has very little descriptive info about their boots and cleats and why you'd want to use one or the other. I had to scour the web for reviews to figure it out. They really should have someone write up why and where you'd want to use one boot and/or cleat or the other. Their web site would be much better if they put some sort of buyers guide on it for the boots and cleats.

The Hardbite cleats look more aggressive than the Alumibite cleats but I couldn't tell the difference when wading with the mix of cleats on my fit. I still don't know how the cleats differ. A review on the Simms website indicates that the Alumibite cleats are actually more aggressive. It appears that the softer aluminum cleats mold to the bottom more so they provide a bit better traction. However, I'm still confused. My wife would agree with that statement.

Finally, the sizing was hard to figure out. I called Simms and they said to get the boots 1 size larger than my street shoes, in order to compensate for wader booties. However, other reviews/forums said to get them true to size. I'm a size 12 shoe so I tried on the 12 and 13. They both fit ok, but the 12 just felt a hair tight and the 13 a hair loose with my wading booties on. Since tight boots generally will hurt more than loose boots I went with the 13. I also figured I could add socks on cold days as well. They have been comfortable and very functional for hiking and wading all day with just bare feet in my waders. I just make sure to lace up tight. I think my toes would have jammed up in the size 12s.

All in all, I really like the boots, my gripes are minor, and I'd buy them again in a heartbeat.

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