August 24, 2011
The Verdict on Svelte Wading Soles
By Kirk Deeter
Several months ago, I reported on a felt sole alternative for wading boots being offered by Korkers called "Svelte". I gave it a glowing review. After all, it was "grippy" on wet rocks. It had kind of a "pot scrubber" texture. It was eco-friendly, less apt to carry invasive species. All the right things...
My one caveat was that I was going to see how long they lasted before rendering a final verdict. Well, they didn't last too long. Not long enough to justify $50 a pair. I got about two months wear out of my test pair. Granted, I hike a lot in some rocky terrain, but two months wasn't a passing grade.
I was just about to write a nasty gram, when I bumped into the Korkers people at the International Fly Tackle Dealer show. It turns out they were one step ahead of me. To their credit, they realized the durability issue, and will soon come out with "Svelte 2." At first glance, one notices that "son of Svelte" is much thicker, akin to the thickness of the standard felt wading sole. I think the texture also seems a little more coarse, which is a good thing, in my opinion.
I want Svelte to succeed. I think it's a great idea. I give kudos to Korkers for fixing the problem. I'm going to try a pair soon, and when I get them in the water, I'll give another honest report (after I see how long they last).
Meanwhile, Patagonia has turned to its mountaineering roots to invent an intriguing solution to wading traction, minus felt. These river crampons and integrated aluminum bars on the soles of wading boots look kinda freaky to me. But I'm told that they are absolutely stellar when it comes to providing grip on slippery river rocks.
With as much climbing up and down mountains and glaciers as the Patagonia people have done over the years, I'd suggest it's a pretty safe bet that they've learned how not to fall on their rear ends when walking on slick stuff. I'm still interested to hear the "test drive" reports from everyday anglers.
Might we really, truly be close to ending the felt on wading boots debate, once and for all? Silly question, but we might be wading in the right direction.