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One of the gear questions I get asked most often is whether or not a person should opt for the Boa closure system on their new wading boots. Boa laces are wire and they crank tight by turning a knob at the top of the boot. Pull the knob, the wire loosens, and you step right out of the boot. The idea had been successfully applied to ski boots, and Korkers was the first to get a license to use Boa on wading boots a few years ago. In recent years, many other boot manufacturers have fallen in line, not wanting to give up market share by not offering this feature. The effect on price really isn’t significant. It usually comes down to a matter of personal preference. I know people who swear by Boa, and some who hate it.
I’m kind of in the middle. I have fished two pairs of boots with Boa. One failed–the knob just broke, which immediately made those boots worthless. I am still fishing the other pair, but only in certain situations.
The biggest problem with Boa is that there’s no bailout/quick fix if the system breaks when you’re on the river. You can’t splice the wire. Most anglers don’t carry a repair kit. So if you’re three miles into the back country, or if you’re in the middle of a river float, and that thing gives way, you basically have a flat tire you can’t fix. Most guides I know dislike Boa for that reason.
I would never hike-in fish with Boa boots. I would never make Boa boots my dedicated pair for taking on a trip, especially to somewhere like Alaska.
You also have to maintain and clean the Boa system to keep it working. The system is probably going to break eventually (so the guides know they might get 100 river days out of their boots, but they can “retire” the ones with regular laces on their own terms), but the wire is absolutely, dramatically more durable than any fabric laces. Cleaning them just helps them last even longer. I don’t have a problem with that. Anglers should be cleaning their boots after they fish anyway to help prevent the spread of invasive species. But that’s not the routine for many. If you’re an angler that keeps your wading boots bouncing around in the back of your truck, don’t do the Boa.
If you have skinny legs, you can’t tighten Boa as far as you can tighten laces.
Having said all that, they are comfortable and convenient. I like being able to immediately loosen them and kick my boots off at the end of a long day, especially when the weather is cold enough to make laces icy.
If you have a place where you normally fish, that’s not too far off the beaten path, and you don’t like bending over and lacing up your boots (some people have flexibility issues, etc.) I say go for it. Boa is great, especially if you only fish several times a year.
If you’re whacking out 100 river days a year or more, if you hike a lot, travel a lot, and especially if you are hard on your gear, I’d suggest you take a pass on Boa.
And that’s the honest truth after playing with this stuff for a few years.