At the end of a long day of hiking, there is nothing you want more than to get the hell out of your hiking boots. When every step feels like misery, the promise of freeing your feet from their torture chambers is the one thing that keeps you going. And that feeling is even stronger when you’ve got a comfortable pair of camp shoes to slip on when you reach the campsit.
I recently did some research for a client on the best shoes for camping, and came up with this list of the highest-rated shoes for backpackers and hikers:
10. Flip Flops
Some of the most hardcore outdoor enthusiasts swear that flip flops are the best camp shoes out there. It’s what I used when I was section-hiking the AT. They’re a low-maintenance option for the camper who wants something they can easily stash in their backpack and hit the dusty road.
Pros: They’re cheap, comfortable, and light. Flip-flops are the ideal shoe to slip on at the end of a long day. They’re obviously breathable, since they barely cover your foot, so you can air out your feet while you stretch your toes.
Cons: Although they’re plenty comfortable, flip-flops won’t protect your feet from sticks, stones, or insects. Bring a can of bug spray if you’re going to wear these and expect to get stabbed by the occasional stick.
Popular among experienced backpackers, Crocs are a go-to camping shoe that easily clips to the side of your pack.
Pro: You probably already have a pair. And if you don’t, it’s likely you have a friend or family member who is willing to give you their castoffs. Why are they solid camping shoes? They’re comfortable. They’re sturdy. They cover your toes. They’re waterproof. They dry fast. You can slip them on and off with no problem.
Cons: They’re not that light. At around 10 ounces each, these shoes aren’t that much lighter than your typical hiking shoe. So they’re not the best choice for a backpacker who wants to cut weight. I personally find them a bit clunky, so they wouldn’t be my first choice.
8. Unshoes sandals
Unshoes sandals might just be the ideal shoe for the minimalist. They’re designed to be super lightweight and give you the ‘barely there’ effect on outdoor adventures.
Pros: These shoes are super light. The average weight is eight ounces a pair, or four ounces a sandal. Yet, they don’t compromise on design or functionality. The sandals have a 4-millimeter rubber sole that’s thick enough to handle rugged terrain and rocky surfaces.
Cons: Price. These sandals run about $72 a pair on the website, so you might have to save up before you can spring for them.
Moccasins are an excellent choice for a backpacker who wants to feel one with nature, but also have warm feet.
Pros: Possibly the comfiest camping shoe option, moccasins are soft, warm, and cozy. They’re ideal for relaxing at the campsite or taking a walk through the woods. I’ve always wanted a good pair so that I can keep my feet protected and clean as I set up or break down camp.
Cons: With comfort comes a lack of durability. These are not necessarily the optimal shoe for hikers who prefer technical gear. They will be heavier than other options, and if they get wet, say goodbye to any of that warmth and coziness.
6. Birkenstock Sandals
The old hippy standby for long-lasting comfort around the campsite.
Pros: Birkenstock sandals are a classic for a reason. They are supposed to be super comfortable. They have a soft footbed that conforms to your foot the more you wear it, while also giving your arches support after a day of hiking. The footbed is a bit higher than other sandals to keep your feet off the ground as you walk around in nature. They’re also famous for having a long lifespan – i.e., you can get a decade’s worth of use out of them.
Cons: Minimal foot protection. Because they’re typically made of leather, they’re also not great if you are camping near water sources, since they easily get bogged down in a stream or lake. It’s a matter of personal taste, but I think they’re ugly and probably wouldn’t wear then.
5. Teva Sandals
A sporty sandal you can wear on and off the campsite. Teva sandals are comfortable enough to wear while you’re hanging out around the fire, but rugged enough to head into the forest when you need to string up your bear bag.
Pros: Lightweight, comfortable, versatile. Teva’s have long been an outdoor enthusiast’s go-to for decades because of their durable and comfortable fit. They’re breathable. They’re practical. You can wear them in water. And on top of that, they’ll probably last you for years.
Cons: You may also have to break them in when you first get them. First-time users report the straps cause chafing when they’re new. Not to mention, they’re notorious for leaving serious sandal tan lines.
4. Keens Sandals
A versatile shoe that can go on land and sea. Keens are a solid choice for someone who is just as likely to pop a tent in the woods as they are on the beach. And also want something they can wear when they’re strolling around town and running errands.
Pros: They’re the best of both worlds. The protection of a shoe with the freedom of a sandal. People love Keens because they’re comfortable, sturdy, and airy. The closed toe at the front of the shoe will keep your feet safe from sticks and rocks hanging out around the campsite. Yet, they quickly dry and are easy to clean.
Cons: They’re expensive unless you get them on sale (around $100 new). The rigid sole is great for walking support, but bad for lightweight camping or compact packing.
3. Sockwa G4
Think water socks on steroids. The Sockwa G4s are rugged slipper socks perfect for someone who loves the feeling of going shoeless, but doesn’t want sticks and pebbles poking their soles. I’m not a huge fan of this type of shoe normally, but even I’d consider this suped-up outdoors model.
Pros: They can go in water. They insulate and protect your feet. They’re breathable and lightweight (4.8 to 7.7 ounces, depending on the size). They have a sturdy rubber bottom with extreme grip for crossing rivers. They can be crushed down for easy packing. And still, they give you the feeling that you don’t have anything on your feet if you’re into the barefoot thing.
Cons: They’re not as breathable as a sandal or a perforated shoe (like Crocs). I suspect they’re also not as easy to slip on and off.
2. Patagonia Men’s Advocate Walking Shoe
I love the Patagonia brand. They produce high-quality gear that’s built to last. So it’s no surprise that their Advocate walking shoes are at the top of the list for the best camp shoes. This pair stands out from the rest because they are decidedly the most shoe-like of the bunch.
Pros: These canvas slip-ons have the fit and feel of a shoe without the weight. They have a rubber sole and relaxed fit that will keep your feet safe and comfortable as you walk around the campsite, or into the woods. They are very flexible and can be rolled for easy storage.
Cons: Patagonia isn’t making shoes anymore, which means these shoes and similar models will be hard to find. Also, they’re probably not good in the water.
1. Vivobare Ultra II Watershoe
I didn’t know these shoes existed before I started this research. But now, I’m dying to get a pair. That’s why these shoes are my number one choice. They seem like a great pair of shoes if you want to cut weight, let your feet take a breather, and you anticipate going through any wet conditions.
Pros: These shoes are like Croc’s sportier cousin. They’re perforated to offer breathability, and made of waterproof material, but they have the shape and functionality of a normal shoe. The Vivobare lacks the clunky design of Crocs and cuts out about 75 percent of the weight (only 3 ounces each).
Cons: You may need to throw on a pair of socks underneath for added warmth and comfort on cold camping nights.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all for every nature lover and outdoor enthusiast. So the best shoe for you will depend on your preferences and hiking habits. I hope this list helps, but if you have questions or want to weigh in about what works best for you, don’t be afraid to get in touch.