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Check out these five top choices for camp shoes

Check out these five top choices for camp shoes

Your camp shoes allow you to take off those heavy, hot hiking boots you walked in all day backpacking. But you don’t want just any pair of shoes. Here are five choices.

by Leon Pantenburg

Want sensual feelings in your feet? Then take off your hot, sweaty socks and boots after a long hike, and walk barefoot on a wet sandbar. Guaranteed ahhhh…. feeling.

These flip-flops, river sandals and running/trekking shoes may all work as camp shoes.

These flip-flops, river sandals and running/trekking shoes may all work as camp shoes. Mine show heavy wear.

That being said, I won’t wade a creek barefoot with a pack or hang around camp with no foot protection on.

All it takes is to step on a broken beer bottle or thorn, and you may end up in a survival situation.  Even if you don’t step on glass, your foot might slip off river rocks and bruise or twist your foot. I also won’t hang around camp barefoot.

The answer is to have a lightweight pair of camp shoes. But not just any foot covering will do. You put on your camp shoes to hang out in camp, or to safely ford a creek. And if your boot fails, you will need a backup.

Here are five choices for camp shoes:

Crocs: These are the equivalent of slippers for around the camp. They offer some protection from stubbing your toes, and the soles are pretty sturdy. But they are bulky and heavy, and hard to pack along.

Crocs are not the best choice for camp shoes.

Crocs are not the best choice for camp shoes.

Flip flops: These are better than nothing, and that’s about all you can say. The only protection they offer is to the sole of your foot.

River sandals: Last October, I waded the John Day River in Oregon before dawn on opening day of deer season. My intention was to hunt the canyons all day if necessary, and return at dusk. For hiking, I would wear Danner Cougars, that were safely strapped to my daypack.

The river sandals were lightweight and protected my feet on the wade over and back. They were easy to tie onto my daypack, and rode easily for several hours. If I was packing venison on the return trip, I’d wade in my Danners.

River sandals wouldn’t be my choice as backup hikers. Trail debris, and those danged tiny rocks get between your foot and the sandal, and you have to stop and remove the rocks. They also don’t offer much protection for your toes.

But in Oregon, where I live, wearing 100 percent wool socks with sandals is common, even when the weather is spitting snow. I guess it may be comfortable, but nothing I’m going to do. River sandals are just OK for camp shoes.

Water shoes may be a good choice if a lot of wading is anticipated.

Water shoes may be a good choice if a lot of wading is anticipated.

Water shoes: These are form-fitting slippers, designed to dry out quickly. They work fine for kayaking and

canoeing, where you might be getting in and out of the canoe, portaging from lake to lake. They don’t have much support, and be careful when you’re hiking in them.

Running or trekking shoes: These are my favorites, because I generally have a pair that have been retired from active use. While they are heavier than some other choices, they may end up being worth their weight.

In 1977, I did a 14-day hike through the Yellowstone backcountry. I took the Thorofare Creek and South Boundary Trail trail after hiking along Yellowstone Lake, through one of the most isolated areas in the lower 48. Several days in, the creek became a several-mile slog through standing water, because the beavers had created a series of ponds. I hiked for a couple days in my soggy Adidas, and they were as comfortable as possible, under the circumstances.

Twelve days into the hike, my boot failed, and the Adidas became my only hiking shoes. I walked into the Old Faithful Inn area in a snowstorm, thankful to have packed the running shoes.

It’s easy to overpack, and end up with a heavy load that takes the joy out of  backpacking. But it would be worse to hurt your foot, or not have a backup pair of foot coverings.

Pick what you want, but think about alternate footwear, and how you may end up wearing them before you go!
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1 Comment

  1. PeteM

    06/01/2016 at 22:42

    Good advice. I had a boot malfunction on day 2 of a 6 day trip. Had to borrow my buddies running shoes. Never leave home without an extra set of running shoes now. Not just for camping but also for our cars in case of an emergency and we have dress shoes on.

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Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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