Looking for a new set of wading boots? Ceri Thomas of Fishtec Tackle reviews the Hodgman H5 wading boots.
Solid Boots Required For Difficult Wading!
I have been looking for a decent wading boot for a while now. Something rugged, supportive and dependable that won’t wear out in a hurry. I have over the years used a wide variety of boots from brands such as Airflo, Greys, Hardy, Scierra, Ron Thompson and of course Simms, all to varying levels of durability and satisfaction.
Premium boots last longer – it’s a simple fact. My last pair of ‘expensive’ boots were Simms Freestone’s which lasted me several years; but they eventually failed due to the felt soles literally wearing away. Some of the others lasted only a few months, some over a year. You really do get what you pay for in terms of tackle, so it’s something to consider in terms of sheer usage. If you are spending countless hours on the water then the cheaper boots are going to die on you a lot quicker. So it pays to invest in something better if you fish a lot.
For the 2018 season I invested in a new pair of boots, looking at the long term rather than short. They are the Hodgman H5’s. Now Hodgman are a relative newcomer to the UK market, but working for the tackle retailer Fishtec I get to see a lot of new stuff and can assure you that like Simms, Hodgman are a premium, well respected American brand that has a reputation for producing long lasting tackle. So I had high hopes that these boots would see me good for a few seasons at least. In the hand the H5’s certainly looked like a solid boot that would last the distance, so I took the plunge.
Price wise the H5’s sit at £179.99, which sounds expense but sit only just above the Simms Freestone MK2 boots, which are £159. The H5’s certainly match anything I have seen from Simms in terms of build quality, being made with a tough vinyl outer with a sturdy toe guard and rubberised protective panels that are double and even triple stitched. Everything about the boot gives you confidence that they can take a right beating.
The quality goes right down to the details – there is a gravel guard securing ring on each boot to save you wearing the laces out, which are in themselves well made, being neither too long or too short, therefore ensuring they are never a hindrance. The boots never get overly heavy when wet, thanks to the clever drain holes built into the insole, which allows your walking motion to forcibly expel any surplus water whilst on the move to a new spot.
Boots With Sole
Perhaps the most important feature are the removable soles, which allow you to change over to something suitable for the terrain. This is also an aid to bio security; you can use different soles for different rivers and sterilise them if needed for a trip abroad. Another benefit is that you never have to worry about the soles ever wearing out, or have the glue fail and then the sole frustratingly peel off the boot, therefore ending the life of your boots prematurely.
There are some other interchangeable sole designs on the market, but Hodgman’s ‘WadeTech’ system is genuinely the best I have seen. It has no vulnerabilities that could cause the soles to detach when wading. (unlike another brand!)
The ‘dual lock’ system used to change the soles over is foolproof and totally secure. The soles fit into several grooves built into the underside of the boot, which are cleverly linked to the water expulsion system mentioned above. This has the effect of ensuring the attachment channels are constantly cleared of any grit and debris by water movement being pushed through from inside the boot.
The H5’s come supplied with two soles, a standard felt and a sticky rubber, ensuring you can tackle slippery rocky rivers as well as fine gravel, silt or for walking across grass and tarmac. There are also several extra soles available, including felt with studs and rubber with studs, both of which I also purchased.
On The Water
They H5’s started off quite stiff and felt a little clumpy initially but they have worn in nicely now, giving a good sense of feel through the boot. They really are very comfortable, with a padded, cushioned lining enhancing the comfort level. They offer a huge amount of protection around the ankle and toe area thanks to the sheer solidness of the boot.
A lot of the rivers I fish have appalling conditions for wading – jagged concrete, rusty metal, discarded urban junk, slippery bedrock, algae covered boulder the size of car bonnets. To top it off the walk in’s often involve thrashing through bramble patches and sliding down steep woody slopes.
In fact, I spent last night stumbling through some rocky, treacherous pools in the dark, fishing the spinner fall, and I feel that a lesser boot would have seen me suffering this morning with aching ankles and bruised feet. Not so with the H5’s!
The two sole types supplied both work well – I always keep the spares handy in the car, ready for a quick change over. I was surprised at just how good the standard rubber sole was, even on very slippery cobbles. It’s only been in a few cases that I’ve felt it necessary to change over to the felt or the studded variants, they really are excellent.
Signs Of Wear?
After a several weeks if your boots are poor quality then it will show up soon enough, usually with a rapid deterioration of the boots outer surface. After six weeks the H5’s are showing hardly a scratch, and to top it off they have spent much of their ‘down time’ soggy and wet within the boot of my car, with no ill effects. To be fair, they still almost look brand new.
I’m going to update this review in one years’ time – just so you can see how the boots have changed in appearance (or even fallen to bits!) although I am pretty sure that based on current performance I will be wearing these for quite a few seasons to come.
Hodgman H5 wading boots are available from the Fishtec Tackle Store here.
- H-Lock interchangeable sole system for optimum traction and secure lock
- Integrated drainage ports in H-Lock system remove excess water weight quickly
- Abrasion resistant synthetic upper construction
- Corrosion-resistant hardware
- Reinforced rubber toe for added protection
- D-ring gravel guard attachment point
- Lightweight shock absorbing EVA mid sole
- Easy on/off heel webbing serves as shoe horn
Airflo’s online marketing manager Ceri Thomas has been fly fishing for over 20 years targeting practically anything that swims. With a preference for wild fish in wild places, Ceri’s fishing travels have taken him far afield, including extensive visits to the USA. His main passion remains his local Welsh rivers and lakes.