Search for the Perfect Winter Bootie

Here in the Pacific Northwest, winter temps hit the mid 30's the past two weeks. After a stellar summer I refused to put away my Chaco's and have been wearing my Summer/Fall paddling gear. I've been wearing my ProMotion 5/4/3 wetsuit, booties, holey seasonal gloves and a hood since October. I added a SmartWool sock under my booties when the temp dropped.

But last week I had two SUP classes in a row on Friday.  The first started at 35F and was in a calm marina with little paddling or chance to generate heat. At the end of the class, my right foot was frozen solid as were a few tips of my fingers. It was time to winterize and purchase warmer booties.

Coming from both kayaking and SUP, I get my gear from both types of shops. As I've blogged in recent years, each shop carries different gear suited for paddling whether on a SUP, kayak, or canoe.

PNW kayak shops tend to have drysuits, dry tops, NRS booties and gloves, helmets and vest style lifejackets.  'Wetsuits' are farmer john's.  They do have a lot of safety gear - flares, tow systems, lights, drybags, knives, etc.

Surf / SUP shops instead have full neoprene surfing wetsuits, neoprene tops, wax, ding repair kits, no safety gear, limited vest style PFDs (more C02 PFDs).  Booties and gloves come from surfing companies such as QuickSilver, O'Neill and BodyGlove.

But each shop still lacks what I consider the perfect bootie - for my purposes.  I teach in Deception Pass State Park which has a rugged rock shoreline, surf the Strait of Juan de Fuca which also a varied shoreline with a few rocky breaks, and stand on the shore preparing for and teaching basic SUP stuff. For me, I want a bootie with a solid grip underfoot. The NRS booties achieves this with the fleece lined Wet Shoes with a wrap around sole that grips to everything.  Overall the bootie is pretty solid.  But it's not a dry bootie so in frigid temps, my feet can't generate enough heat to warm the water.

I've been using 7mm Xcel DryLock booties for the past few years. Totally waterproof and super warm these have been ideal except they fall apart after a half year and have minimal support in the sole. Walking over barnacled covered rocks feels like going barefoot while slipping on the bare spots.

Finding a bootie that covers both a great grip and enough warmth has been tough.  I added a waterproof lining and Smart Wool sock to my NRS bootie but it still got wet from water leaking down my leg into it.  It was warmer for sure but wouldn't stay for a paddle longer than a few hours.  Plus having all those layers gets old after awhile.  I know contacting the companies will result in 'what I'm looking for is a niche product.' Just like trying to find an ideal touring SUP, the answer is - make my own!