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.
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.
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: 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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