Review: Keen sandals and GripStuds for wet wading

OregonTroutback-1000585

This past Memorial Day weekend, I spent three days biking, camping and fishing along the Deschutes. There was a lot of hemming and hawing about whether I should bring my waders and boots on the trip. They would, of course, provide all day comfort but would be really unwieldy on a bikepacking trip over a rough surface. I had originally wanted to get a pair of the Simms Rip Rap shoes, but didn’t have time to find a store to try them on. As an 11th hour hack, I ordered some GripStuds with the intent of putting them on some Keen CNX sandals I already owned. How’d they work out? Read on!

Fishing the #OregonTroutback from Russ Roca on Vimeo.

When the weather warms up, I really prefer wet wading when I can. I have wet waded with my Keen sandals and a pair of cheap neoprene booties before. This combo definitely keeps me warm enough to stand in a cold river to fish. However, one thing that has been lacking is grip! On more than a few occasions I’ve nearly taken an unsuspecting dip when wading a river. The Keen sole (atleast on the ones I’ve owned) are no match for slick mossy rocks or boulders worn smooth by the river. I ordered some GripStuds to hopefully give me a little more traction on the sometimes slick surfaces on the Deschutes.

Because the sole of my Keens don’t have huge protruding rubber lugs, I ordered the GripStuds in the 1100 flavor that came in a pack of 20 with their own installation tool. I eyeballed the pattern from their website, using some gold colored sharpie to mark the holes. Installation was easy and straight forward. The tool has two prongs that mate with the studs so there is no chance for slippage when you are applying force. The studs themselves have auger like blades that cut and embedded into the rubber soles. One of my concerns doing it on my CNX sandals is that they are the lightest sandals in the Keen line with a thinner sole. Fortunately, I didn’t feel any protrusions while wearing the sandals.

I fished about 6 hours a day for three days with the Keens, GripStud and neoprene bootie combination and had zero problems. The studs provided noticeable grip. I could feel the bite on slick rocks and even when stepping over downed branches and tree trunks. The toe box on the Keens also add some protection when you are shuffling along. The only downside is that after three days of putting on the same wet shorts I was starting to feel a bit haggard. I think for trips where there will be long spells of fishing across multiple days, I would consider using my waders with the Keens. I just tried them on momentarily and found that the neoprene stocking foot on my waders is JUST thick enough that I can’t get them comfortably in my Keens. I might hunt down another pair that is a size larger and put Gripstuds on those when I want something to using with my chest waders.

Conclusion:

If you like to fly fish while on bike tour and don’t want the weight of boots, then this is an excellent combination. You get good traction and some insulation at a fraction of the weight! The weight of the Keen CNX sandals (size 9) with Gripstuds and the neoprene booties I have is a scant 1lb and 14oz.