Camp Shoes are Hiking Boots’ Best Friends: How to Choose

Camp shoes are not just for relaxing, but can be used for river crossings to keep your boots dry.
Camp shoes are not just for relaxing, but can be used for river crossings to keep your boots dry.

Many backpackers carry camp shoes for greater comfort in camp that can serve double duty as stream crossing shoes, so they don’t have to get their hiking boots or trail shoes wet. Sandals, water shoes, slides, clogs, and minimalist footwear are all popular choices but it’s worth giving some thought to their strength and weaknesses in different environments and climate conditions. Check out our Camp Shoe Selection Guide below for a full discussion of the factors you should consider.

Here are the 10 Best Camp Shoes that we recommend.

Make / ModelBest ForWeight (Pair)Price
Sockwa G4 Water ShoesCamp | Water6 oz$50
Crocs Classic ClogsCamp | Water13 oz$30
Hoka One One Ora Recovery SlidesCamp12.8 oz$50
OOFOS OOriginal SandalsCamp11 oz$50
Sockwa G Hi Water ShoesCamp | Water7.5 oz$65
Speedo Surf Knit ProCamp | Water9 oz$36
Bedrock Sandals Cairn 3D SandalsCamp | Water17 oz$115
Vibram FiveFingers V-AquaCamp | Water12 oz$90
FitkicksCamp4 oz$25
Sea-to-Summit Ultra Flex Water BootiesCamp | Water9 oz$45

1. Sockwa G4 Water Shoes

Sockwa G4 water shoe
The Sockwa G4 is a lightweight slip-on water shoe with a non-slip 1.2mm TPU sole and a stretch Lycra and Neoprene upper that conforms well to different shaped feet. They’re lined inside with thin fleece for comfort and have a 2.8mm insole so they can be used for light hiking, in camp, and for water crossings. The G4 is hand-stitched for durability and machine washable.  They also fold flat, which makes them easy to pack for the trail.

Check for latest price (Unisex)
Amazon | Walmart

2. Crocs Classic Clogs

Crocs Classic Clogs
Crocs Classic Clogs have been a hiker favorite for decades. They make good camp shoes to help your feet recover and provide enough protection and support for easy stream crossings. Easy to clean and quick to dry, they have built-in ventilation ports for breathability and drainage. They’re best attached to the outside of your backpack since they’re on the bulky side. You’ll also want to wear them with socks when the insects are out.

Check for latest price (Unisex)
REI | Amazon | Zappos

3. Hoka One One ORA Recovery Slides

Hoka One One Recovery Slides
Hoka One One’s ORA Recovery Slides will help cool and dry aching feet and put a little spring back into your step after a hard day of hiking.  Their dual-layer construction, cushioned, oversize midsoles, and soft EVA top layers provide step-in comfort and durability. These are best used in camp but don’t have the protection of stability you’d want for stream crossings where you can’t see your feet or underwater obstacles. They’re not insect-proof, but make good shower shoes at campgrounds and in hiking hostels.

Check for latest price (Men’s)
REI | Amazon 
Check for latest price (Women’s)
REI | Amazon

4. OOFOS OOriginal Sandals

Oofos Original Sandals
OOFos OOriginal Sandals are waterproof recovery sandals made with a super comfortable foam that helps your feet recover after high mileage hiking days or trail runs. They have a non-slip footbed and sole that provides excellent arch support and relief from plantar fasciitis. They even float! These sandals are best used for camp and for easy stream crossings but don’t provide the protection you’d want for deeper streams.

Check for latest price (Unisex)
REI | Amazon | Zappos

5. Sockwa G Hi Water Shoes

Sockwa G Hi Water Shoes
The Sockwa G Hi Water Shoe is similar to the G4 listed above, but provides more protection and support around the ankles, more warmth, and insect protection. They’re made with 2mm neoprene for warmth and protection, with lycra tongue for breathability and flexibility. The TPU sole is anti-slip, provides great tactile feedback when walking and excellent wet-slip grip. The G Hi also folds flat for easy packability and is machine washable.

Check for latest price (Unisex)
Amazon | Walmart

6. Speedo Surf Knit Pro

Speedo Surf knit Pro
The Speedo Surf Knit Pro Water Shoe has a porous woven upper that sheds water and dries quickly between uses. It’s hydrophobic rubber EVA insole and grooved outsole provides anti-slip protection and traction, while a rear heel pull strap makes them easy to put on. The Surf Knit Pro folds flat for ease of packing and has a roomy toe box. They run large so size down a 1/2 to a full size.

Check for latest price (Men’s)
Zappos
Check for latest price (Women’s)
Zappos

7. Bedrock Sandals Cairn 3D Sandals

Bedrock Sandals Cairn 3D Adventure Sandals
Bedrock’s Cairn 3D Sandals are so well-fitting that some people hike in them instead of wearing shoes or boots. But they also make great camp sandals with anatomically molded footbeds that provide excellent arch and toe support to help your feet recover after a hard day of hiking. They pack well because the straps fold flat, but lack toe and side protection for deeper stream crossings.

Check for latest price (Men’s)
REI
Check for latest price (Women’s)
REI

8. Vibram Five Fingers V-Aqua Water Shoes

Vibram Five Fingers V-Aqua
Vibram Five Fingers V-Aqua Water Shoes are great for water crossings because they provide an excellent grip on wet or slippery surfaces. They drain quickly when they get wet and provide good toe protection against underwater obstacles. They also make good recovery shoes in camp, giving you a minimalist and barefoot feel while protecting your feet from insects and debris. The V-Aqua runs large, so size down when purchasing.

Check for latest price (Men’s)
Amazon | Zappos
Check for latest price (Women’s)
Amazon | Zappos

9. Fitkicks

Fitkicks
Fitkicks are simple minimalist slip-on shoes with a highly breathable upper and a thin sole that is relaxing to wear in camp. They have a flat sole and front toe guard along with a top grip strap to prevent them from slipping off when worn. They’re not durable enough for sustained hiking or challenging water crossings, but they feel like you’re walking barefoot only with good sole protection.  Machine washable and they fold flat for easy packing.

Check for latest price (Men’s)
Amazon | Walmart
Check for latest price (Women’s)
Amazon | Walmart

10. Sea-to-Summit Ultra Flex Booties

Sea to Summit Ultra Flex Booties
Sea-to-Summit’s Ultra Flex Booties are low profile water shoes with 3mm Neoprene uppers that provide extra warmth in cold water with a rubber laminated sole that provides good foot protection around the toes and sides of your feet. A hook and loop top strap secures them to your feet and provides extra support. They’re lightweight and fold fairly flat for each packing.

Check for latest price (Unisex)
Sea-to-Summit | Amazon | Campsaver

Camp Shoes 101: Selection Guide

There are a wide range of factors that make good camp shoes or water shoes for stream crossings. While almost all stream crossing shoes make acceptable camp shoes, many camp shoes lack the protection or traction needed for more challenging stream crossings, where you can’t see your feet or the bottom. Packability, stream crossing protection, weight, warmth, and insect protection are also important factors to consider when choosing a camp shoe or one that can serve double duty for stream crossings.

If you hike in well-drained hiking boots, shoes, or trail runners, it’s worth asking yourself if you even need camp shoes or stream crossing shoes or whether you’d rather not carry them and use your existing shoes as camp shoes and stream crossing shoes instead. There’s no right or wrong answer; it all depends on what your priorities are. There are times when it’s really nice to slip on a warm and dry pair of camp shoes while cooking dinner in camp.

Packability

If you plan on backpacking, it’s best to get a camp shoe or water shoe that’s easily packable with an upper that folds flat against the sole. Shoes with folding uppers are easily packed in pockets, and if they’re wet, in the front stretch mesh pocket of many backpacks. While you can hang bulky camp shoes on the outside of a pack, they can get torn off by passing vegetation or simply fall off because you didn’t secure them well.

Protection While Crossing Streams

Shallow streams are usually easy to cross because you can see your feet and the streambed bottom. But you’ll want camp shoes or water shoes that provide more foot protection if you have to cross deeper streams where you can’t see the streambed or sunken obstructions like sticks and logs. Water shoes that provide more protection around the toes and sides of your feet have a firmer sole, and better ankle support are advantageous in such circumstances. We never recommend crossing barefoot.

Weight

Many backpackers are obsessed with the weight of their backpacking gear and leave comfort items behind because they’re not strictly necessary or carry lighter weight alternatives. In general, shoes that can only be used in camp tend to be lighter weight than those that are designed to be water shoes.

Warmth

If you’re camping or crossing streams in cold weather, you may want to opt for camp shoes or water shoes that encase your foot and your ankle more like a wetsuit bootie rather than sandals or slides. Don’t underestimate how cold mountain streams can get even in summer, especially if you have to ford wide streams. The same holds for standing around camp in colder weather. Camp shoes/water shoes with fewer ventilation ports will be warmer.

Insect Protection

If you’ve ever gotten a mosquito bite on your foot, you know how itchy and unpleasant they can be. Unfortunately, insects become more prevalent in the evening, just as you’re cooking dinner in camp. Water shoes with neoprene or lycra uppers are generally more insect proof than sandals, slides, and clogs. Wearing a sock with a relatively open shoe my still not provide enough insect protection for your needs, something to consider.

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