Gear Guy

What boot would you recommend for wet conditions?

I'm going hiking on the West Coast Trail, and my boots have Vibr soles that are very slick on wood when it's wet. Since it constantly rains on the West Coast and I'll be traversing many wooden bridges and ladders, I was wondering if you could suggest a boot with a sole better suited to wet conditions. Dan Ottawa, Ontario

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It doesn’t constantly rain! Sure, it’s likely to rain any time of year, but I’m willing to bet you’re planning a summer trip, in which case odds are even you could get great weather.

But, certainly you’ll probably come up against at least some residual moisture and plenty slime on logs, wooden bridges, and ladders along the way. Trouble is, just about any material is slick on wet wood. The only way to gain some adhesion on wet, slippery surfaces is to either try to “stick” to the surface with a very soft, spongy sole, or to use sharp, pointy things.

You could pack along some sort of aqua-shoe for those very wet, slick stretches. Something like the Adidas Hellbender ($90; has a sole that’s intended to give the best possible traction on slick surfaces. Be warned, though, soft soles won’t hold up well under the rigors of ordinary backpacking. Attaching some spikes to your boot may help, but then you’ll also spend your time getting these on and off. One solution: the Yaktrax Walker ($20), which uses a metal cable that criss-crosses the shoe sole. Designed for snow or ice in the city, this hybrid solution would likely work well on the trail, too.

Finally, remember to be extra careful when crossing slippery streams, bridges, and so on, as there’s simply no good way to ensure perfect traction.

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