Here at Sweetwater Fly Shop, we take our time with product reviews. We don’t try to rush out the first review on the latest new product, reviews that often sound awfully similar to a manufacturer’s press release. If we’re going to review a rod, we don’t just take it out for a casting session on the back lawn. We fish it and fish it hard, in the kinds of conditions that you, the angler, are likely to come up against on the river. We don’t want to recommend a product that’s likely to let you down in the long run. That’s especially the case with waders and wading boots, where durability is a big concern. We’ve had too many otherwise admirable waders spring a leak halfway through their first season of use. We’ve had too many light, comfortable wading boots go to pieces before they should.
I’m pleased to say that I’ve had no such issues with Simms’ Vaportread wading boots. I’ve had a pair of the Vaportread (formerly just Vapor) boots for more than a year now and fished with them a lot during that time. They haven’t been the only boots that I’ve worn over the last season, as I’ll detail below, but I haven’t treated them gently either. I’ve worn them with waders and wet waded in them. I’ve worn them while fishing the Yellowstone River, the Paradise Valley spring creeks, and up in Yellowstone National Park. I’ve hiked across the Lamar Valley a number of times. And so far, they’re showing only the slightest wear. No seams starting to unravel. No separating outsoles. None of the usual durability issues with wading boots, especially those that are lightweight.
Simms touts the lightness of the Vaportread boots. And light they are. And very comfortable. The partial neoprene lining cushions your foot. The mid-height cut allows your ankles to flex when you walk, not constricting your gait like boots that come up higher on your ankles. The boot itself has more flex than most. The latter is a mixed bag, of course, as they don’t provide the ankle support that taller boots do. Twisted ankles while wading are a definite possibility. The soles are more flexible than on a traditional boot as well. They feel more like a lightweight hiking boot than a traditional clunky wading boot.
That’s exactly where Simms has positioned the boot among their boot lineup. They’re marketing it as a “go anywhere” boot, equally at home hiking to a small stream and wading the stream itself. Though I haven’t done any multi-mile hikes in them yet, they certainly are the best wading boots I’ve ever owned when it comes to hiking up the Beartrap Canyon of the Madison and the like. They’re also great for wearing in the drift boat (without cleats, of course), when you plan to jump out and fish some riffle corners.
What about the wading itself? Well, I’d give the Vaportread boots mixed marks on that. They’re
definitely not the most stable, sticky boot out there. Because Simms has positioned hiking lugs around the outside of the sole, the area covered by the wading lugs is diminished, relative to other boots in their lineup. It’s a tradeoff. The result is a sole that can be a bit slippery, especially if you step on a rock with the outside edge of the sole. The soles are compatible with Simms’ Star Cleats, but then you can’t wear them in a boat. In addition to the Vibram soled version of the boot, which I’ve been discussing so far, Simms makes a version with a felt sole. But that seems to defeat the purpose of buying a boot designed for hiking in to the river. All that said, I’ve yet to take an unplanned swim while wearing them. So maybe there’s something to Simms’ marketing hype that a more flexible sole allows it to “wrap” around rocks and provide a larger area of contact. I’ve gained more confidence in them as I’ve worn them for longer. Still, I tend to put on my workhorse G3 Guides when I’m facing more challenging wading situations.
All in all, the Vaportread represents a pretty radical approach to a wading boot. A boot that’s comfortable on both the trail and the streambed. You’ll probably want to hang on to a pair of traditional boots for wading streams with a bunch of slippery rocks. But as a second option, they’re an exceptional choice. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself wearing them in more and more situations, and dreading the ones when you have to pull on your stiff, heavy boots.3