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Hendrix Outdoors Gunnison River Wading Boots

A Product Review By Joseph Cornwall

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Back in October 2010 I was asked to present at the Conclave of the Southern Council of the Federation of Fly Fishers.  I enjoyed my time at the show; itís an outstanding multi-day event held in Mountain Home, Arkansas close to the White River watershed.  While I was wandering through the show floor I happened upon an exhibit from Hendrix Outdoors.  It was a new name to me, so I had to take a look.

Hendrix Outdoors is a fishing products distributor based out of Fallon, Nevada thatís been in business for more than 40 years.  Mont Adams, Sales Manager for Hendrix Outdoors, was representing the company at the show and he explained to me that about 10 years ago Hendrix quietly began manufacturing and importing products under their own brand name.  Today Hendrix has a broad selection of branded items including rods and reels, jackets, nets, waders, wading boots and more.  I was impressed with the quality of the jackets and waders on display.  Mont and I began discussing the current trend away from felt soles towards products that are less likely to transport invasive species, and he mentioned that Hendrix Outdoors was bringing in a new line of affordable wading boots right at the end of the year.

For four years Iíve worn Korkers guide boots.  They replaced a long line of boots that never lasted more than a season, or at best two.  I have studded felt soles, plain felt soles and the first generation of the Kling-On soles for my Korkers.  I love the studded felts and really like the plain felts, but I thought the rubber soles were for the birds.  I often thought tha,t with the traction they provide on algae-covered rocks, Iíd be better off wearing roller skates while I waded.  Iíd mentioned my aversion to the new generation of felt-free solutions to Mont and he assured me the new Hendrix boots were not only competitive in build quality, but the traction of Hendrix new studded rubber sole was better, too.  I quickly arranged to review the product once it became available.

The Hendrix Gunnison River wading boots feature a synthetic leather and polyester mesh upper for support and durability, a reinforced, rubberized heel and toebox for protection, and a padded insole. The lug sole has a modest traction lug profile with a series of fifteen metal studs on the size 12 boots I wear. The rubber soles feel resilient and spongy in hand, but not significantly different than the texture of the Korkers soles.  Right away I felt this was going to be a ďlove themĒ or ďhate themĒ review.

The Hendrix boots have a very good lacing system.  Itís not the equal of the Korkers Boa lacing system, but at less than half the price I didnít expect point-for-point competition.  The Boa system is the best Iíve ever used, bar none.  That said, the Hendrix Gunnison River boots surprised me with a simple lacing topology that really does cinch up comfortably and hold all day, even when the boot is saturated with water. So far Iíve found the Hendrix boots exhibit very little stretch when wet and, conversely, don't seem to shrink much when drying (so no presoaking needed).  The lacing system, a personal pet pieve, didn't demand constant adjustment of the laces to keep a snug, supportive fit. A winner!

Iíve worn the Gunnison boots on a number of outings so far, including scrambling along snow and ice covered creek banks, moss-covered ledge rock, algae-coated free stone stream beds, gravel and sand.  Iíve also worn the boots while hiking in a foot of snow along a game trail at the top of a levy.  In short, Iíve given these boots plenty of chances to drop me on my keister, and theyíve come through with flying colors!

The Hendrix Gunnison wading boots offer reasonably good ankle support, but in this respect they arenít the very best Iíve ever worn.  These are boots that are best deployed on creeks, rivers or lakes where extreme climbing isnít necessary, and where the watershed is characterized by a lack of baseball to basketball sized rocks that can put a lot of stress on your ankles.  The Gunnison boots scored a competent level of performance.

The soles of the boots and well-constructed toe and heel protection do keep a waderís feet from bruises.  I felt quite comfortable poking around sharp ledges and sudden breaks in the rock bottom. Unlike some other low cost boots, I never felt a stab of pain from a sharp rock poking into the arch of my foot or my soles while traversing difficult stretches of stream.  These are comfortable wading boots with excellent foot protection!

The big question, of course, is traction.  In this regard the Hendrix Gunnison wading boots didnít disappoint.  The lay-out of the spikes on the sole is such that the boot provided an excellent grip on flat ledge rock, gravel or sand bottoms, mud banks and ďcross countryĒ hiking to a fishing access.  Because the spikes are spread out, and there are sections where a bottom of smaller rocks wonít make contact with the spikes, I did find that these boots occasionally slipped when wading over round, smooth stones that are golf ball to soft ball in size.  The Hendrix boots would be ideal for Cape Cod Canal, Pennsylvaniaís Spring Creek, Ohioís Mad River or similar locales.

While Iíd recommend the Gunnison  for most warm and cold water applications, Iíd opt for studded felts if I were fishing a really demanding river like Minnesotaís Snake (characterized by slime-covered watermelon-shaped rocks sitting on polished baseball sized roller-bearings Ė a brutal river to wade!), Calgaryís Bow or sections of West Virginiaís New River. 

All in all, the studded Hendrix Gunnison wading boots performed significantly better than non-studded Korkers Kling-on soles, about the same as plain felts under most circumstances, and not quite as ďstickyĒ as studded felts in more extreme environments.  At the $99 price point these boots sell for, this is an excellent level of performance and would serve any serious angler well.  Iíll be wearing them all season and Iíll report back regarding their longevity, but at this point Iím thrilled that there is a high quality, affordable wading boot solution available at retailers across the nation and via the web. We're looking forward to seeing a cross section of the full Hendrix line-up.  If the rest of their products are as good as the Gunnison River wading boots, we'll all have a reason to celebrate.  Well done, Hendrix!  Recommended!

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