Adam Edwards is a paddling instructor based in Portland, Oregon who has been guiding in the Pacific Northwest for 5 years. He currently works for Next Adventure’s Paddle Sports Center.
I’ve had a chance use the Astral Aquanaut‘s for a little over a month. I got my regular size, 11, in Black/ Grey. I didn’t need to size them up as I usually wear a waterproof hiking sock with my drysuit. I also wanted the ability to take them on hikes and side trips without having to wear extra thick socks. The sizing was snug the first day but they quickly broke in after I gave them a dry run by walking to work; about a three and a half mile commute.
The Aquanauts are extremely comfortable. The reinforced toe box and heel box offer great stability when walking and the shoe breathes well. After the initial test I took them out on the rivers near Portland, OR for a variety of different trips. I decided downriver stand up paddle-boarding, canyoneering, and good old white water kayaking would be the best ways to test these shoes.
The biggest question I had was, how sticky is the rubber? When whitewater kayaking, the ability to get out of my boat quickly and traverse slippery rocks to scout or help is imperative. You must be able to be sure of your footing to be effective in a rescue scenario. So I took them out to the Lower Wind River with a big group of friends, and I had the opportunity to do just that by scouting Shipherds Falls and running multiple laps.
Even at the edge of the drops where there are usually collections of algae or moss on the rocks, I felt secure standing at the lip and scouting, as well as secure enough to be able to assist with a throw rope when necessary.
We then decided to go to the Ohanapecosh River to catch the last bit of water before it dropped out for the summer. The Ohane has some pretty grueling portages even at the best flows. The shoes are great at sticking to the rock, and worked well enough that I was even able to free climb and traverse in a couple of spots to get to better cliff jumping areas or portage routes.
After the Lower Wind and Ohane I decided to really try the tread out with a stand up paddle board expedition. A six-mile hike into Eagle Creek convinced me hiking in the Aquanauts was comfortable and easy-going. I didn’t develop any hots spots, but wearing good socks and taking care when hiking are imperative. Even after hours of hiking with 50+lbs of gear the shoes were comfortable on my feet.
The Aquanauts lack the high ankle support of the Rassler or Hiyak. That small shortcoming is offset by the aggressive tread which makes getting solid footing a breeze. The additional support from the reinforced toe box and heel cap make the Aquanauts my choice for an expedition shoe over the other options.
I found the rubber on the Aquanauts to be some of the stickiest I’ve used. You can actually feel the rubber gripping as you take a step. They worked well in many different drainages and the rubber stuck to the slippery rocks of Eagle Creek, the Wind River, and the Little White Salmon.
I’m looking forward to getting a lot of use out of these shoes. Even after 30 days of hard charging they barely show a scuff. They are my new go-to shoe for anytime I’m on the river.