Patagonia River Crampons Provide Best River Traction for Wading

Posted April 17, 2014 by Duy Le in Fly Fishing
Patagonia River Crampons

Patagonia River Crampons Provide Best River Traction for Wading

Many fisheries have banned wading boots with felt soles in order prevent the spread of invasive aquatic species such as didymo (a.k.a. rock snot) and parasites, like ones that cause whirling disease in salmon and trout. Rubber sole boots are the alternative to felt sole boots; however, rubber sole boots do not provide as much traction. The Patagonia River Crampons are the solution to this dilemma.

Why We Love the River Crampons


Leave it to Yvon Chouinard to invent yet another game-changing product out of the Tin Shed that has been the source of so many great ideas. His initial innovation was the installation of five aluminum bars on a worn out pair of wading boots. Patagonia’s staff took that idea and created the River Crampons. This product is the best river traction solution for slippery rubber wading boots, period. It excels in freestone rivers and will provide good traction even on rocks covered with algae and didymo. The River Crampons have 5 spaced out aluminum bars attached to a frame and fit the soles of most boots. The aluminum bars are soft and will grip the rock through the thickest of vegetation. The fiberglass impregnated neoprene straps are durable and easily adjustable.


The River Crampons come in only two sizes: Size Small/Medium (6-10) and Large/Extra Large (10-14). However, the stainless steel frame is adjustable in order to further dial down fit and therefore overall fit is great. The River Crampons will not corrode in fresh or salt water. Also, they won’t mark up boat decks or fly shop floors like studs would.


When hiking long distances to rivers, they are easy to take off and put on. They are a heavier than metal studs, but safety in a fast moving, cold river makes weight an obsolete notion. While wade fishing on the large and swift White River in Arkansas, the River Crampons held their ground in the shoals. Walking across the shoals in swift water was a breeze, even on vegetation covered rocks. Studs alone simply do not provide enough traction for rubber wading boots to be effective in rivers like the White. Although some anglers swear felt soles provide the best traction, this is no longer a practical solution due to the growing number of fisheries that have banned felt. The River Crampon are just as good, if not better, than felt soles in gripping slippery rocks which makes them the most versatile choice.


The River Crampons’ aluminum bars are really soft. That is what makes them so grippy and effective. After a few days of fishing on the White and Norfork Rivers in Arkansas, the aluminum bars showed noticeable wear but were still in good shape. We expect them to last at least a whole season. After the bars wear out, Patagonia will replace them for $45.


The best river traction alternative to felt soles isn’t cheap. You might not want to pay $199 for these crampons right away, but after slipping and sliding on slick rock in a felt free fishery while sporting metal studs, you’ll quickly reconsider. We have first hand experience with the inadequacy of metal studs on didymo. Trust us when we say that water inside of your waders is not fun.


There is not a significant difference between the 2014 Ultralight River Crampons and the previous version of River Crampons. If you compare the specifications of the “Ultralight” with the previous version on Patagonia’s website, you will find that the 2014 “Ultralight” version (910 g, 2 lbs) is actually slightly heavier than the previous version (822 g, 1 lb 13 oz). The 2014 version is called “Ultralight” because Patagonia replaced the hardened stainless steel frame with a recycled plastic frame. This change brings into question durability, but knowing Patagonia’s reputation for rigorous gear testing, the recycled plastic frame should be every bit as durable as the stainless steel frame.


In terms of wading boots, a good value rubber sole wading boot such as the Patagonia Rock Grip Wading Boots Sticky Version ($139) or the Simms Freestone Wading Bolts ($139.95) will work just fine with the River Crampons. We recommend the Patagonia boots because they are lighter and will feel less heavy with the River Crampons than the Simms boots paired with the crampons. The Aluminum Bar version of the Patagonia Rock Grip Wading Boots has five aluminum bars attached to the bottom of a flat rubber sole. The Aluminum Bar version retails for $199 and is cheaper than a pair of wading boots plus the River Crampons but is less versatile.

Remember to clean up your felt or rubber soles before entering any new river. Use a tough brush and rinse off any residue from the previous river you were on (exception would be if it is the same river). Do your part to protect the environment and fish by preventing the spread of invasive aquatic species and parasites.

What Others Think

“The River Crampon and Aluminum Bar Boot offer game-changing technology, providing unparalleled confidence in challenging wading conditions, and have been awarded Fly Fish America’s “2012 Editor’s Choice Award” and American Angler’s “2012 Gear of the Year Award”. The Aluminum Bar Boot was also awarded Fly Fusion’s “2012 Editor’s Choice Award”, and the River Crampon was awarded “Best Traction” in Fly Fisherman Magazine’s 2012 Gear Guide.” –

About the Author

Duy Le

Duy is a rock climber, fly fisherman, backpacker, and paddler. He has climbed in some of the most spectacular places in North America from Yosemite and Zion to Squamish, BC. During the summer, you can find him guiding anglers to big beautiful fish in Alaska. His experiences in these remote places have inspired him to share his passion for the great outdoors with others. Duy believes in quality gear that is built to last. He believes buying less is better for the environment and loves to yell, “No duct tape? No respect!” at opportune moments around friends and strangers alike.


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