Gear is great. Gear is good. Let us take it to the woods, and the water, and the pub.

Some folks think they need everything in the catalog to enjoy a day outdoors. Other prefer to keep it simple by asking: What are my needs? And what gear do I really need to meet those needs? For these folks, the utility of each piece of gear is key. I relate to the latter group more these days. And, I appreciate any gear that helps me sneak up on simple. 

So, when Austin Canoe & Kayak sent a complimentary pair of Astral Brewer water shoes, my question was this: Does this shoe get in my way, or does it get me closer to simple?

To find out, I wore the Astral Brewer for a full week. The Brewer and I went kayak fishing. We walked some 20 miles around Austin. We trained muaythai in a garage gym. We did a little trail walking and caught white bass at Lake Georgetown. We went wade fly-fishing. And, to cap it all off, we went straight from a paddle trip to a client meeting and back out to another paddle trip.

The verdict in one word:

u·til·i·ty [yoo-til-i-tee] noun | def. the quality of being useful

The Brewer was great on and around the water and solid everywhere else. Most importantly, the gear didn’t get in the way of what I was trying to do. Instead of spending my time chasing down boat shoes, bar shoes, business shoes, moo shu pork, and so on, I just went and went in comfort.

A few features that made it so:

  • Weight: The shoe weighs 7.5 ounces, which is well lighter than sneakers and many water shoes and boots. The weight makes them comfortable for all-day wear. And, as it turns out, the ultra-light weight makes them good shoes for training muaythai in a garage. I did not see that one coming.
  • Traction: The Stealth Rubber sole does a good job of sticking to concrete boat ramps, rocks, and wet wooden piers. It makes the Brewer a good shoe for wade fishing as well, though I didn’t test it in strong current and can’t speak to its performance there. They’re appropriately terrible footwear for two-stepping.
  • Quick-draining & Quick-drying: Water drains out of the shoe almost immediately through four drainage holes in the sidewalls and a larger silt dump in the heel. They dry quickly due to the Cordura® and AirMesh materials, both of which Astral uses in their personal flotation devices (PFDs) or life vests. The quick-dry feature allows you to move from one activity to the next in comfort. No one wants to wear wet shoes all day. I believe, too, that these features will lessen the chances of mildew and, ultimately, help the shoe last longer.
  • Breathable: The features that drain and dry the shoe quickly also help it breathe.The airflow is important in preventing sweating if you’re using the Brewer for more than just a river shoe.
  • Looks: It doesn’t scream, “Hey, look at me I’m a river shoe!” It doesn’t scream anything. So, you can wear it with just about anything and just about anywhere. Even the branding is subtle.
  • General Design: The low cut Brewer is more comfortable than a boot, especially when using the foot braces in my fishing kayak. The laces keep the shoe in place. Though it is not a walking shoe, the Brewer is surprisingly comfortable.
Room for Improvement:

  • The Brewer sole marks linoleum and other surfaces. Be mindful where you wear it.
The Brewer is Astral’s first go at a water shoe. It’s worth a look. You can get it at for about $100. Men’s and women’s sizes and styles available.
Race to 50 Paddles Update:
Good news: The Race to 50 Paddles project will be in book form before too long. FalconGuides will publish “Paddling Texas” in 2014. The book will include 50 beginner-friendly paddling trips around Texas rivers, streams, and coastal waters. Details to come.