By Jennifer Degtjarewsky
Outdoor gear is a highly specialized market and when you’re on your way to a place that you’ve probably only just read about, it can be a challenge deciding what piece of gear is essential and what may be overkill.
As travelers, we’ve all made ambitious gear purchases that turned out to be nothing more than an exercise in excess suitcase weight. One such example? The snazzy, Sea to Summit NANO Mosquito Pyramid Shelter recently purchased for a trip to the Amazon. It’s a great net for bug-free sleeping that packs easily in a snug little roll, but as it turns out on that particular trip, the tannins in the Amazon river work as a natural mosquito repellent. Not a mosquito or even a gnat was seen the entire trip and the net stayed in it’s carrying case taking up space.
One such find recently came in the form of Columbia Powerdrain Cool shoes intended for that same trip to the Amazon. It ended up being the shoe of choice 85% of the time whether hiking the jungle, trekking through streams or just knocking about in a canoe.
Columbia products are known for being well-made and the Powerdrain line is no exception. Sold mainly as a multi-purpose water to trail shoe with styles for both men and women, the Powerdrain’s claim to fame is the quick release of water from inside the shoe through the specially-made, quick drains between the sole and the tread. The goal is to keep the wearer from getting bogged down when moving through water and when switching from wet to dry surfaces. In this instance, the hype rings true as water freely moves through the shoe so efficiently, you won’t think twice about getting your feet wet. Water in, water out and you keep going without missing a step.
It’s also important to call out the Powerdrain’s treads as this reviewer was amazed at how easy it was to perch on slick surfaces with an amphibian-like quality, every time. From slimy, algae-ridden rocks to slick boat surfaces, you aren’t going to go down in these shoes. The triangle-shaped treads, Columbia brands as Omni-Grip, give the wearer full control and make it effortless to balance no matter the terrain or what may be coating it.
Outside, Powerdrain’s are constructed of a single layer of breathable mesh surrounding an external frame for support, complete with a reenforced toe. Inside, Columbia’s proprietary Omni-Freeze Zero sweat-activated lining cools on contact when the temperature rises. These shoes were tested with and without socks and in both instances, heat was not a perceptible concern and the shoe performed equally well.
The inner sole, which also has drainage ports, is completely removable and easy to pull out and rinse off after a day of slogging through surf or streams. There is also a quick lace chord system instead of traditional laces for easy on/off.
The footbed and midsole make use of Columbia’s Techlite technology found on their high performance trail and running shoes. It’s very durable and supports your foot well, however the front of the footbed could use more impact absorption as this was the one weakness found in the Powerdrain line. After a few hours of hiking, the lack of impact absorption under the balls of the foot was felt, though it was still not enough to keep this reviewer from reaching for these shoes time and again.
Women’s Powerdrain Cool retail for $90.00, but can often be found online for around $68.00 or less.
Men’s Powerdrain Cool also retail for $90.00, with sale prices available less frequently.
- Treads that glue you to any surface, with sure-footed stability.
- Mesh body makes these shoes cool and comfortable to wear in the heat.
- Thoughtful design and foot support allow these shoes to go from beach to stream to trail and more.
- The quick lace system makes it easy to adjust the fit when you are on the go.
- The tasteful design and color pallet doesn’t shout for attention.
- Easy to take apart and clean.
- Hold up well to whatever you throw at them.
- True to size.
Best Used For
- Trail & stream hiking
- Beach & tide pools
- Great for rainy days
What’s Not So Good
- The footbed needs more padding to aid in shock absorption around the balls of the foot.
Columbia offers two other shoes for men and women with many of the same features as the Powerdrain Cool. The first is the Drainmaker II and retails for $85.00. It’s supposed to drain water “33% faster” than the Powerdrain line. Still, bigger is not always better and the Drainmaker II felt cumbersome, less flexible, and less ventilated than the Powerdrain Cool.
Up next is the Powervent Hybrid, retailing for $90.00. This shoe is so similar to the Powerdrain Cool that it’s hard to tell the difference between the two. Marketed as a water to trail hybrid, it may be worth checking out back-to-back with a pair of Powerdrain Cool to see which give you the better fit.
Columbia Powerdrain Cool shoes were a brilliant find. They enhanced a trip to the Amazon as a “do everything” shoe and they did all that was asked of them well. Not just a water shoe, Powerdrain Cool holds its own on a trail, they bound through streams, and handle ocean surf and slippery rocks confidently. They enhance safety with their grippy treads and easily come clean at the end of the day.
The pair tested here not only held up for three weeks in the Amazon, but they have since taken a beating at local beaches and not a seam has stretched nor sole has split. At $90.00, you get your moneys worth without regret.
Overall Rating: (5 / 5)
What’s the number one item of gear that you have gotten the most mileage out of?