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Footwear

Review: Merrell Capra Rapid Hiking Water Shoe

Review: Merrell Capra Rapid Hiking Water Shoe

Here’s a solid shoe designed for the canoeist, kayaker or anyone who does a lot of water activities, and who might need to portage heavy gear over muddy trails.

by Leon Pantenburg

I was not paid to write this review, and at the time of publication Merrell has no sponsorship relationship with Survivalcommonsense.com.

If you think accumulating shoes is a gender-specific syndrome, then you haven’t seen my boot collection. I have everything from flip-flops to  arctic quality snow boots.

Merrell

The Merrell Capra Rapid Hiking Water Shoe is a rugged lightweight that will hold up to rugged trail work.

In my defense (and if my wife happens to read this) it’s because I wear shoes every day, and one style won’t work for everything.

That is particularly true if you go some place like the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on the Northern Minnesota border.

I did a nine-day canoe trip there several years ago, and footwear was critical. In the Boundary Waters, the canoeist will be portaging heavy loads on muddy trails between lakes. Shoes get soggy and stay that way. Still, you need a shoe that has a good tread design, and that won’t slip around on your feet.

A pair of military-style jungle boots were my choice of footwear, and they were OK. I usually ended up carrying the 70-pound canoe, and the boots provided the necessary ankle support on the sometimes muddy trails. The boots were heavier than needed, and weighed even more wet.

On a backpacking trip in the Yellowstone backcountry in the late 70s, I crossed Thorofare Creek multiple times over several days. I wore Adidas running shoes, which never really dried out. But this saved my leather boots from staying wet, and I thoroughly appreciated my camp shoes.

I recently tried out a pair of Merrell® Capra Rapid Hiking Water Shoe. This is a shoe designed for canoeists, kayakers, river rafters or anyone who needs foot protection in a wet environment.

Here are the specs:

  • Durable synthetic and mesh upper materials.
  • Quick-drying hiking shoe featuring cord-and-lock lacing system and triangular side cutouts with mesh underlay
  • Printed pull-on loops at heel and tongue
  • Rubber foam and mesh lining for cushioning
  • Perforated EVA removable footbed to control moisture and drainage
  • Water distribution ports in midsole and outsole to manage water distribution
  • Vegan-friendly construction.

    A better choice than the Capra for a hiking shoe is the Merrell Ventilator.

    A better choice than the Capra for a hiking shoe is the Merrell Ventilator.

  • Protective toe rand.
  • Tongue and heel pulls.
  • Breathable textile lining.
  • M Select™ FRESH technology reduces odors.
  • Perforated EVA removable footbed helps control moisture and drainage.
  • Drainage channel in outsole to manage water evacuation.
  • Molded nylon arch shank.
  • Merrell air cushioning in the heel for added shock absorption and stability.
  • SELECT GRIP outsole for multiple terrains, wet and dry, 3.5 mm lug depth.
  • Weight: 12 oz
  • Imported (Made in Vietnam)

I walk about a mile every night with my dogs, so the Capras were broken in in the desert. The shoes kept the sand and dirt off my feet reasonably well. For full-blown desert hiking, I would add a pair of ankle high gaiters to keep those annoying tiny trail rocks out.

Recently, I went dayhiking with a bunch of Boy Scouts on the Paulina Creek Trail in Central Oregon. The trail runs along a creek with a series of waterfalls, and it was a perfect situation to check out a shoe designed for creek crossings and portaging.

Here’s what I liked:

Lightweight: The Capra doesn’t weigh much, but it is sturdy enough for hiking with reasonable loads. This means they will go along on the next backpacking trip. I carried about 15 pounds, and had left room in my pack to help out the little guys if their loads got too heavy. ( The scouts did just great – they didn’t need adult backup.)

The shoes were comfortable and I didn’t have any problem with blisters or rubbing. I wouldn’t want to substitute these shoes for sturdy hikers if I were carrying a heavier load, though. The additional weight could overpower the Capra sole and result in sore feet.

Quick drying: The mesh upper, with four water distribution points, really works. I waded the creek several times to check out how quickly the shoe would dry out. I don’t think I’ve worn a shoe or boot that dries quicker.

The speed lace system is quick and effective.

The speed lace system is quick and effective.

Speed lace: I haven’t used speed laces much, but I like these. It’s very easy to tighten and loosen the shoe with the system, and they will be really handy if you’re doing a lot of portaging.

Sole design: I waded in the Deschutes River in Central Oregon, and in stream beds with rounded, slippery rocks. The Merrell select wet grip soles are great, and are some of the best water soles I’ve tried.

Heel cup design: The heel upper is a cup that secures your foot. I didn’t notice any undue sliding around, even when the shoes were new.

Socks: I got my Capras big enough to wear a pair of socks with. If you anticipate hiking a river trail, or using these shoes for hikers, a pair of socks is a great idea. I wear wool socks year round, and they are comfortable in the Capras. I don’t anticipate wearing these shoes in snow and cold weather, but you can never tell what might come up. If need be, wool socks and Capras would be reasonably comfortable in cool weather.

Cushioning: These are not designed for trail running or trekking. The cushioning is minimal, and designed to dry out quickly. Know that when you’re considering investing.

Not so hot on:

Not made in USA: Many quality products come from overseas. But anything not manufactured here means that local, state and federal taxes might have been avoided. The foreign workers may have been exploited, and these folks have no stake in an American community. Buy USA whenever possible. Support American small business.

Other than the manufacturing origin, I couldn’t find anything I didn’t like about these shoes. It remains to be seen how well these shoes hold up over extended use, but my experience with Merrells is that they wear like iron and and won’t let you down.

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Footwear

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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