Patagonia likes big ideas. Sitting around the kitchen table of a rented Cape Cod cottage in Harwich, Masachusetts some time ago, we had gathered to test and discuss one of those big ideas—Patagonia's ultra-packable Middle Fork Waders, which, with their compact form factor and innovative use of materials—have since served to transform the way many anglers think about staying dry when standing in a river. But, try as they might, the folks from Patagonia couldn't help but stray the conversation to another idea, one that was still considerably under development. That idea was one they announced yesterday, a ground-up reinvention of wading boots—a marriage of Patagonia's decades of building innovative fly fishing gear and Danner's 80+ year pedigree of making some of the world's finest boots.
Word was, this marriage wasn't just about building a boot stamped with the names of two iconic brands. And it wasn't just about building a wading boot that was better than other boots on the market. It was about building a wading boot that was so different in its conception than previous incarnations that it might just be the last wading boot you'd ever buy—a handcrafted boot made of the finest, designed-to-last materials that, if and when any of its components did wear or fail, was resole-able, rebuildable, recraftable (to use Danner's terminology). A boot that could, conceivably, never end up in a landfill. A boot that could last you, well, forever.
After years of R&D, Patagonia and Danner reckon their efforts are ready for prime time. And so, yesterday, Patagonia made public the latest incarnation of its Foot Tractor wading boots and its new River Salt wading boots, both made U.S.A.-made by Danner in its Portland, Oregon factory.
“These Danner-built boots are the ultimate fusion of performance, durability, and quality,” notes Chris Gaggia, global marketing manager at Patagonia. “We couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome of our work with Danner, and we’re proud to have a product that will surely endure.”
From there, Patagonia unleashed a torrent of details on its new boots, noting
The durability of both the Foot Tractor Wading Boots and River Salt Wading Boots are the result of stitch-down construction of waterproof full-grain leather and tough 1000-Denier nylon. The saline treated leather is waterproof, non-shrinking, and non-cracking. With technology that prevents swelling, these boots prevent water retention and maintain their appearance. Perforated drains clear water quickly, and nylon webbing saves weight while maintaining strength and support. Nylon-coated hardware also adds an additional element of durability. The stitch-down construction consists of interlocking thread that increases the durability of the boots while also allowing the boots to be resoled and recrafted by Danner. And both boots provide comfort and stability throughout from an insole board, an internal shank for arch support, a cushioned midsole for impact absorption, a wider platform for increased ankle support, and a lace-to-toe design that allows for a more customized fit over the top of the foot.
As one might guess, with last-you'll-ever-buy purported quality and a partnership with an iconic brand like Danner (and VIBRAM, by the way) comes a premium. A price. Figures anglers have never seen in the world of wading boots—$449 for the new Patagonia+Danner River Salt wading boots and a whopping $499-549 for the new Foot Tractor wading boots (depending on whether you want aluminum bars or not—hint: you do).
But, along with the inevitable sticker shock comes a serious question: if Patagonia really has built the last wading boot you'll ever buy—if this new collaboration with Danner really has yielded a boot that you can resole, recondition and rebuild for a generation without breaking the bank—is that big price tag all that unreasonable? After all, any guide will tell you that even the best built boot on the market likely won't last you more than 150 serious days on the water. So if this new boot will take you through 5, 10 or 20 times more days on the water ... Well?
Patagonia and Danner's new Foot Tractor and River Salt wading boots will be available come February, 2019. I guess we'll find out then.