Many hikers and backpackers carry camp shoes to help their feet recover after a hot day of hiking or to change into for stream crossings to keep their socks and hiking footwear dry. 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. They’re also indispensable for showering in hostels and at campgrounds to avoid contracting athlete’s foot from others. 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.
Crocs Classic Clogs have been a hiker favorite for decades. They make great 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. Cros also comes in lots of fun colors if you want to let your hair hang out. Avg weight per pair: 12 oz.
Merrell’s Hydro Mocs are cool and comfy shoes to wear in camp, for water sports, or down at the watering hole on a hot summer night. These slip-on waterproof shoes are made with single density injected EVA with a 2mm lug depth for secure traction on wet surfaces. They have an articulated heel with a strap for a secure fit and a contoured arch for support. The sizing is generous, so you normally wear a half size in footwear, we suggest you size down in this product, rather than ordering the ½ size larger. These are great for water crossings and trails that have lots of stream/land transitions. Avg weight per pair: 15 oz.
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3. Xero Shoes Aqua X Sport
While Xero Shoes Aqua X Sport shoes look like beefy trail shoes, they’re actually astonishingly lightweight and packable. It has a breathable mesh upper with a quick-dry lining, non-absorbent tongue, toe guard drain holes that help you quickly shed water, and a perforated self-draining insole, so it’s barely any heavier wet than dry. Weighing just 14.4 oz/pair, they are lightweight and cool for lounging around in camp but provide enough stability and protection for stream crossings and town use. Avg weight per pair: 12.4 oz.
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. While they’re not insect-proof without socks, they make great shower shoes at campgrounds and in hiking hostels. Avg weight per pair: 12.8 oz.
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. Plus, for every pair of OOFOS sandals you buy, the company will donate 3% of the purchase price to the Dana Farber Breast Cancer Research Team. Avg weight per pair: 12 oz.
The North Face Base Camp III Slides are great recovery shoes for tired and swollen feet after a hard day of hiking. They don’t really have enough heel support or toe protection for serious water crossings, but they’ll also serve you well in the shower house to keep your feet fungus-free. They have textured rubber outsoles to prevent slipping on wet surfaces, they fold flat for can be easily carried outside a backpack, and won’t absorb water when they get wet. Available for men and women, they only weigh 8.7 oz/pair.
Xero Shoes Z-Trail EV Sandals have flat, zero-drop soles allowing for a natural, barefoot posture. They offer the protection you expect from sports sandals but at up to 76% less weight and bulk. The foam topsole and midsole mold to your feet while the 3-layer 10 mm rubber outsole gives them a surprising combination of lightweight, comfort, flexibility, and protection. They’re so flexible, you can roll them up and slip ’em into your pocket, making them super easy to pack in a backpack. Avg weight per pair: 10.8 oz.
Crocs Crocband Flips are waterproof and durable flip flops that have massage-pod footbeds to help improve foot circulation and recovery after a hard day of hiking. Lugs on the bottom provide excellent traction and plenty of protection so rocks and pebbles don’t poke up through the footbed. They’re easy to clean, quick to dry, and pack flat. They also come in a wide variety of colors. Avg weight per pair: 8 oz.
Mayfly’s Super-duper-hyper-nano-ultralight Imago sandals are mainly designed to be camp shoes (to be worn in camp and not for hiking or stream crossing or saving damsels in distress) to help your feet recover from a long hiking day. Weighing 1.8 oz, they are made of fluted polypropylene which is the indestructible stuff used to make political yard signs together with nylon cord, silicone tubing, and thermoplastic buckles. They’re easy to adjust and a simple dunk is enough to clean them off. They pack flat and are an ultralight purpose-made option worth considering to keep your feet healthy and take off your gross trail shoes. Avg weight per pair: 1.8 oz.
Bedrock’s Adventure’s Cairn Adventure 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. Injini’s split-toe socks work really well with sandals like these when you need insect protection or greater warmth. Avg weight per pair: 17 oz. Note, these Adventure Sandals are slightly different from Bedrock’s 3D Cairn Adventure Sandals which have the added arch and toe support.
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.
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.
Athlete’s Foot Prevention
There’s nothing worse than picking up a case of Athlete’s Foot in public showers in hiker hostels, bunkhouses, or public campgrounds. Protect yourself by wearing camp shoes in the shower and allowing your feet to dry thoroughly after hiking all day in hot and sweaty hiking boots or trail runners. It takes forever to get rid of, especially if you’re day-to-day footwear doesn’t have a chance to dry out at night.
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.
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.
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 may still not provide enough insect protection for your needs, something to consider.
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