L.L. Bean Gray Ghost Wading Boot Review
The L.L. Bean boot story is universally known. And the company also provides some of the best values in fly fishing gear on the market today. See my earlier review of L.L. Bean’s Rapid River Vest Pack as an example. So when I was given the opportunity to check out their new Gray Ghost Wading Boot, I was excited to see what the company brought to this combo category.
L.L. Bean dropped felt completely from their wading boot product line a couple of years ago, opting instead for a range of rubber soles including those from manufacturer FiveTen. This is primarily to stop anglers from transporting invasive species from one stream to another. The new Gray Ghost takes that tact to a whole new level with an entirely synthetic upper and welded seams that further reduce attach points for those little hangers on.
Out of the box, the Gray Ghosts look large and solid, chunkily built but with a certain sleekness to the design.
All synthetic, all the time. L.L. Bean constructed the Gray Ghost from a mesh-patterned nylon which looks almost like carbon fiber. That’s cool. What’s not so cool is the stiffness and plastic-like quality of the material. L.L. Bean wrapped the lower half of the boot, along with the toe and heel, in a tough rubber scuff guard to protect those more vulnerable areas. The collar is padded for comfort. The use of these synthetics help keep the weight down.
Underneath, the company used an unbranded soft rubber compound. Grip in the water was good. I didn’t find myself sliding around too much on slick rocks in midstream. The octagonal lugs are much lower than other sole patterns in the category and didn’t really grip as well in the mud and muck. I felt myself slipping around a bit on some stream approaches as a result. Should you want to add studs at a later point, there seems to be no ready attach points as on other products.
Upper: Synthetic, scuff pads for additional durability, welded seams
Sole: Rubber with octagonal lugs
Weight: 3 lb per pair
L.L. Bean built the Gray Ghost big, at least two sizes bigger than your normal street shoe size. Do not hesitate to follow the company’s advice and size down if you typically wear a half size. You might want to consider sizing down to the next smaller size even it you wear a full size (to a 10 from and 11 for instance).
I found the sizing particularly troublesome around the ankle. Given the width of the boot and the stiffness of the upper, it was almost impossible to cinch the laces down sufficiently to get a solid fit on my foot.
L.L. Bean had the right idea with this boot. All synthetic fibers and sleek aesthetics make for an attractive and durable product. But the fit and lack of an aggressive tread pattern really undercut the Gray Ghost’s performance in the field. If you have a hard time finding boots to fit your larger foot, definitely give these a try. If your feet run normal to narrow width, I’d look elsewhere.