I spent the first two years of my creeking career hiking in a set of Vans skate shoes. Why you ask?
Well, partly because I thought myself too cool to wear any form of functional footwear, partly because at the time Palm where redesigning their range of footwear and weren’t producing any shoes, but mostly because I am not smart. I lagged behind everybody on hike-ins. There are a multitude of contributing reasons, such as my short, stubby legs. The fact that I am from the city and not accustomed to walking on ground that is not constructed entirely of smooth concrete with instructional arrows painted over it and of course, my stupid skate shoes.
Drenched in sweat and with swollen, bleeding and blistered feet from a long days hiking and watching haplessly as the boys disappeared further and further into the forest in search of a little known river in Wyoming, there where three thoughts running through my head;
“I hate hiking” ... “I wonder if anything is going to try and eat me?” ... “These shoes have to go!”
Later that year Palm released a revamped version of their Gradient boots and in the interest of not being consumed, I ordered a set. The shoes exceeded my expectations in every way. They redefined my thoughts on what I could and could not step on. I shed my city boy fears of uneven terrain and leaping from impossibly slippery rock to even more impossibly slippery rock. They where comfortable to wear, I was no longer subject to blisters and bleeding even when I forgot to wear socks and by far, most importantly, they looked awesome. I have used the Gradients devoutly since this point and truly love them.
Since the success of the Gradient boot, Palm has expanded there range of footwear to include a low cut, shoe version of the Gradient and the lightweight Camber. I haven’t used the Gradient shoe, opting for the extra ankle support and coolness of the boot version. I have however been using the Camber for the past couple of months and think it is a fantastic shoe. It's lighter than the Gradient and is made from a quick drying mesh material, better for easier days on the river or when I know I will be jogging shuttle.
My life is a constant battle of trying to fit two sets of equipment into the mediocre luggage allowances of cheap airlines and I pride myself on being able to travel relatively light and being able to use my equipment across a range of disciplines. For example, I can happily use my FXr buoyancy aid and Fuse drysuit for both creeking and freestyle and can even at a push use my Orbit spraydeck on all of my kayaks.
I have been trying to narrow myself down to just one river shoe but I genuinely can’t decide between the Gradient and the Camber. Both shoes are great and could be used in any environment but there are certain areas in which each model excels. I have resigned myself to packing even fewer clothes than normal in order to be able to travel with two pairs of river shoes.
I use the Gradient on long hikes in remote destinations where rolling an ankle or slipping and falling would not be great. I wear the Cambers every day for running and especially enjoy the mesh material and it’s breathability in the summer months and on more chilled out rivers.
Bonus fact – due to an unfortunate auto ejection at the base of waterfall last winter, where the river stole both my shoes and my dignity, I have discovered that the Gradients seem to float quite well on their own.
See you on the water, Bren