Extreme water test - Keen Newport H2
Text and photos: Anna Plaszczyk
5 September 2015
Every year, I go kayaking, away from crowds at the Baltic Sea and in the mountains. This year, I have chosen the Brda River - a scenic Kashubian river, its first part is pristine and virtually unvisited by an average tourist. Already after the first hour of kayaking we have realized that it will be a real test of endurance for our Keen Newport H2 sandals and ourselves.
The Brda river is beautiful and fascinating. Its face is changing very often. Sometimes it makes quiet meanders in wide valleys, then it is passing one of many ribbon lakes. Some of them are peaceful, others provide extreme experience with a strong lateral wave. But the most interesting sections of the Brda river are gorges, where slopes are quite significant, and the number of felled trees - is literally enormous.
With low water level, as it is in this year, the first section, from Świeszyno Lake near Miastko to Swornegacie, the Brda river turned out to be a difficult river, requiring physical strength, patience and determination. For many kilometres, the depth of the river was below "ankle" level, so kayak, loaded with camping equipment and food for 5 days, was touching the river bed even without us- its driving force. We constantly had to get out and walk in water up to our ankles, pulling the kayaks behind. The challenge was crossing over and under fallen trees or struggle with algae, slowing down the kayak.
Keen Newport H2 Sandals have served us for one year - actually from spring to late autumn. They are great as shoes for ascending in the Tatras. Thanks to rubber construction protecting fingers, you can ascend or descend the mountains without fear of injury. The shoes are stable, foot has no chance to slide from the sole. They have comfortable adjustment- special lacing with a rubber and clip. The main advantage is that they are sandals – so leg can breathe naturally. It is an advantage irreplaceable by any other technical solution during this years heat wave. And if the evening is colder- you can wear breathable socks. I know. Its an uncool Polish style. Not in the case of Keen. Because in these sandals, low sock is almost invisible.
Keen Newport H2 is ideal for the mountains, as well as for the city. They have an interesting look, they are comfortable and airy. The question is: is their water resistance, guaranteed by manufacturer, indeed sufficient for extreme kayaking? And whether these shoes will be able to cope with two functions - water shoes and shoes "on the water". Because equipment reduction is extremely important when you are kayaking for many days. In the end, everything must fit into a small, almost flat kayak (the version is good for extreme rivers)!
We have thought that taking our waterproof Keen to kayaking will be the best solution. Earlier we have used to take two pairs of shoes - sandals and water shoes. And third pair- solid footwear for walking in the woods. But here we are orthodox - forest outside paths requires absolutely solid footwear.
After passing the first, more than 4-kilometer lake, we kayaked on the first section of the Brda river. The coastline indicated that normally the water level is about 50-70 cm higher. Kayak quickly got stranded and we started "river trekking"- a trip along the riverbed with kayaks on a tow. I knew immediately that Keen Newport H2 was a good decision. The shoes in water do not slip on the rocks or tree trunks. Of course – you should be careful where and how you put your feet, but the sandals gave my legs really strong support.
For me, the biggest surprise was walking on slippery, tree trunks fallen into the water. From previous years, I have remembered that it was not a pleasant activity. Regardless of shoes chosen for kayaking - it is always dangerous and it can end with a bath. I brought a camera with me- so I was afraid to take this bath. But the bath with Canon reflex camera was not an option. This year, thanks to Keen sandals, I could safely walk on tree trunks lying in the water. Of course, I did not give up a paddle, acting as a stabilizer, but I felt more confident.
Sandals coped with stones, trees, slimy parts (although the mud between the toes was not the most pleasant feeling) or dense duckweed. All you needed to do is to wash them in the river and the shoes look like new again.
And what about the drying? Keen can dry quickly enough, although nights in August are not as warm as in July. In the morning, the shoes were no longer soaked with water (remember that they were in the water up to 3 hours), but they were not dry. It was better when were crossing the long stretches of the river meandering among the fields and meadows. Then all you needed to do was to put feet on the top of the kayak - in full sun they were drying really fast. It means that I was passing another gorge with shallows in dry sandals. Did it help me once again to get out of the kayak without regret? No! Although now I think that hardly anyone had a chance to face the Brda river with such low water level, in the part, which is not popular enough even in high season.
How my Keen look like today? Just like before a kayak trip. I washed them in a washing machine in order to get rid of the smell of 80 km of the Brda River and I rushed to Poznań. Once again they proved to be great. Certainly Keen Newport H2 are a multi-functional shoes that can be great even in the most extreme conditions.