Backpacking is a skill that is honed over time and mastered through trial and error. There are a million tips and lists to be found about what exactly you need. Camp shoes are one of the items that are forgotten and sorely missed.
Your camp shoes are a welcomed break from the daily grind of a backpacking or hiking adventure. It may seem like an unnecessary addition to your backpacking gear but the juice is worth the squeeze. Once you pop, you can’t stop.
While camp shoes may not make any essential backpacking list there is no denying the comfort they bring to the trail. At the end of a long day, there’s something special about being able to kick off your boots and throw on a comfortable pair of camp shoes and unwind.
What are camp shoes?
Camp shoes are an extra pair of shoes that are used while backpacking. They are used during evenings at camp and the occasional river or stream crossing to avoid getting your hiking boots completely soaked.
Camp shoes come in all shapes and sizes and there is not one camp shoe that rules them all.
Some people choose a simple pair of flip-flops, while others prefer a comfy pair of Crocs. Point is, finding the best camp shoe is about finding out which style of camp shoe fits you personally.
Benefits of camp shoes
There is an argument among the hardcore backpackers on whether or not camp shoes are worth the extra weight. While they may not be the “right fit” for everyone, there are a number of reasons to consider adding camp shoes to your backpack.
1. Camp shoes work great for river crossings
Camp shoes will keep your boots dry during the inevitable river or stream crossing. Wet boots and backpacking are a recipe for disaster when hiking long distances. Throw on your camp shoes at the river crossing and you won’t be the one suffering through wrinkled feet and wet skin with blisters.
2. Keep your feet clean at camp
Camp shoes help keep your feet clean at. Taking your boots off at camp and kicking your feet up is one of life’s greatest joys on the trail. After you get them off you can clean them off and throw on your camp shoes to dry out and stay clean.
3. Give your boots time to dry out
It gives your boots a chance to dry out at night. Hiking in wet boots means there is more slippage, which in turn leads to more blisters. Having an extra pair of shoes to slip is going to give your boots a little extra time to dry out.
4. They are more comfortable than boots
After spending hours in your boots there isn’t a better feeling in the world than kicking off your boots and letting your feet breathe. The refreshing feeling of taking your boots off at night and having a comfortable shoe is worth is weight in gold.
5. Give your feet a chance to breathe
A series of back to back days hiking or backpacking in boots do a number on your feet. Having an opportunity to let your feet breathe will preserve the condition of your feet in the long run.
What to look for in the best camp shoes
Camp shoes come in all shapes and sizes, however, there are some common themes that run through any camp shoe worth its salt.
Weight is always at the forefront of every backpacker’s mind. Looking for ways to cut weight from every piece of gear becomes a source of pride on the trail. A general rule of thumb is to keep camp shoes at 10 ounces or less, there is obviously wiggle room either way, but the lighter the better.
You’re going to have to find a place for them somewhere in your backpack, therefore, you want them to be compact. A good pair of camp shoes is small or breaks down into a small area that is easy to stuff into a backpack.
This is especially important when they are used as an alternative to hiking boots or bare feet when crossing rivers or streams. They need to be either 100% waterproof which is basically rubber or made of a quick-drying synthetic material.
In a perfect world, you spend a third of your backcountry day in boots, a third in bed, and a third in camp shoes. You probably won’t be walking circles around camp but your water source could be a quarter mile away. Your camp shoes need to be walkable for trips to the backcountry toilet and on the hunt for freshwater sources.
Easy on easy off
Generally, laces should be avoided when choosing a pair of camp shoes. After 8-10 hours walking in tightly laces boots the last thing you want is more laces to deal with. Look for a slip-on style shoe that can be kicked on and off with ease.
You’ve been in your boots all day and your feet are a sweaty and stinky mess. Camp shoes are supposed to be a break from the daily grind of backpacking and to let your feet air out. Camp shoes should give your feet a chance to breathe.
The Best Camp Shoes
The best camp shoes are the ones that you feel most comfortable in. They will be breathable, comfortable, and able to handle wet conditions better than a pair of hiking boots.
Here is our top 7 picks for the best camp shoes available.
Aleader mesh slip-on water shoe
- Breathable and durable air mesh upper allow the foot to breathe
- Solyte midsole provides an exceptionally lightweight midsole with excellent bounce-back and durability
- Water Drain outsole provides exceptional traction in wet and slippery conditions
- ComforDry sockliner provides the optimum cushioning performance that creates a cooler, drier and healthier shoe environment.
The Aleader Mesh Slip-On Water Shoe is made with a synthetic mesh fabric that dries quickly. The shoe itself has a feeling similar to trail runners. One of the qualities that set this shoe apart is the mesh FluidFlow technology which provides excellent drainage after the shoe has been fully submerged.
One of the main reasons that backpackers consider a camp shoe is to cross bodies of water and this shoe is more or less designed exactly for that. The Hydrophobic engineered mesh offers up an extremely quick drying fabric.
The sole of Aleader’s mesh shoe is made with strategically placed rubber pods for additional traction. Overall, they fit like a sneaker and dry like an aqua sock.
- Fits like a shoe
- Quick drying
- Rugged soles
- Mesh insole is rough
- Not made for high arches
- Sand gets inside
- Perforated clog with textured trim and heel
- Fully molded Crocs Croslite material for signature Crocs comfort
- Fit suggestion for 1/2 size recommended to size down
- Heel strap offers a secure fit
There isn’t too much to say about Crocs, but we’ll say this… Unless you live under a rock you know exactly what they are. For the uninitiated, Croc’s are a wildly popular pair of rubber slip-on shoes with a strap on the back.
They often weigh close to a pound which is a significant amount of weight to add to any backpacking gear set. That being said, they are ultra-durable and work well as a camp shoe.
They have three styles that fit pretty much any foot… Roomy, relaxed, and standard. Croc’s are made of rubber so getting wet and is a non-issue. They have sold over 300 million pairs worldwide, so they have to be doing something right.
- Made of rubber
- Multiple foot styles
- Rare sizing issues
- Lack of arch support
Chaco ZX2 Athletic Sandal
- Athletic sandal with jacquard-webbed upper featuring adjustable and durable high-tensile heel risers
- LUVSET PU midsole. Width: Medium
- Non-marking ChacoGrip rubber outsole with 3mm lug
- W or C/D indicated wide width and B or M indicates medium width
Chaco sandals are a go-to for campers, hikers, backpackers, and anyone who enjoys the outdoors. The open-toed design, quick-drying fabric, and lightweight design make them a practical camp shoe.
Widely used with kayakers and canoes it is a proven shoe to use in water crossings. There is a break-in period that some people experience and others don’t. The sandal offers arch support and the thick soles give a decent amount of arch support.
Chocos have a loyal following due to their quality of construction blended with superb comfort.
- Quick drying
- Thick soles
- Arch support
- Toe strap tightens
- Narrow fit
- On the heavier side
KEEN Uneek Sandal
- Huarache-inspired sandal with woven-cord upper featuring adjustable drawcord lacing and non-marking rubber outsole
- Polyurethane midsole
- Anatomical footbed
Keen Uneek Sandal has a design that stands apart from nearly every other sandal out there. It The woven cord has a funky look and the shape of the sandal is made of leather woven to form the shape of a sandal.
The sandals fit comfortably out of the box and they break in quickly. There is a microfiber heel back that limits chafing and blisters. The footbed is designed with microfiber increasing the comfort of the sole.
The open-air design gives your feet a chance to breathe and they can be worn with socks or without. Intended to be used as a casual walking shoe they double as a decent camp shoe.
- Toe protection
- Exceptionally comfortable
- Rare rubbing on skin
- Insole loses color
- Knots can cause irritation
VIFUUR Water Shoes
- Recommended 1: CONVENIENCE - Smooth neck design prevents chafing when wearing our water shoes. It is convenient to wear and take off.
- Recommended 2: COMFORTABLE FIT -- Breathable and smooth fabrics with fine stretch on uppers. Like socks, flexible and comfortable.
- Recommended 3: RUBBER OUTSOLE & FOOT SAFETY -- Wearable and top-quality rubber sole, which protects your feet from being hurt by sharp objects.
- Recommended 4: OCCASION - Yoga Training, beach, swimming, pool, weight training, wake-boarding, sailing, boating, kayaking, windsurfing, cycling, jogging, walking, fishing, beach volleyball, gardening, lawn, car-washing and driving. Family outings!
VIFUUR Slip On Water Shoe is quick-drying water shoes that are more geared towards water sports but have gained traction being used as a camp shoe. The biggest drawback is the fact that they are not super breathable, however, they are designed for constant use in water.
The soles are built with high-quality rubber and have thick foam arches inside of them. The polyester material has elasticity meaning that they are comfortable in most terrain
The smooth neck design around the ankles prevents chafing and blisters. There is a heel hook that makes taking them off and putting them on a breeze.
- Toe protection
- Made for water
- Rubber outsole
- Thin material
- Loose fit
- Rare durability issues
Reef Leather Sandal
- Full grain leather upper , Features a bottle opener built into the footbed to open your soda after a surf session or hanging at the pool
- Padded jersey liner, Air-mesh lining for all-day comfort
- Molded, high-density EVA outsoles for durable and grippy performance
- Contoured, compression-molded EVA footbed with 360 degree heel airbag for anatomic arch support
Reef makes some of the best flip-flops around on our humble opinion. Flip-flops around camp are commonplace. They will work for water crossings, however, slippage and support while in the water is an issue.
The sandal is built with full grain leather with padded jersey liner and Air Mesh lining. With compression-molded EVA footbed the flip flop contours to your foot with the help of the mold. If you need to order a half size Reef suggests that you go up to the next full size.
The high-end design of these sandals and quality material make them a decent option.
- Molded sole
- Air pocket in heel
- Can cause blisters
- Straps loosen over time
Vibram Toe Running Shoes
- Minimalist running shoe featuring perforated upper with adjustable pull tab and cord closure
- VI-Lite Midsole with XS Run outsole rubber compound
- Mont Compound rubber pads in the outsole. INSOLE: 2mm EVA Anti-Microbial Drilex Sockliner, MIDSOLE: 4mm EVA
- Please be aware this product runs one size large. Please size down 1 size from your normal VFF size
Vibram 5 Finger shoes are the most notable and visible brand with this style of shoe. It seems like people either love or hate these shoes, you rarely find someone in the middle. The arguments are mainly focused on the look of the shoe and support they offer, or the lack thereof.
It’s a minimalist shoe that is quick drying and built to last. The sole is made with a tough durable compound of 4mm EVA rubber.
These work around camp and can be a replacement for a day or two on the trail. They do take some time to adjust to and the overall feel is not what you’re used to. The shoes do run a size large, so keep that in mind when choosing your size.
- 4 mm EVA sole
- Can cause blisters
- Velcro issues
- Not for wide feet