10 Best Camp Shoes: A Guide to Backpacking Footwear 2021 - Greenbelly Meals

10 Best Camp Shoes


A guide to the best ultralight camp shoes for thru-hiking and backpacking.
Updated: October 30th, 2021

Hiker wearing toe camp shoes

After a long day of hiking, camp shoes not only feel super comfy they also help keep your feet healthy. Allowing your feet to breathe and stay clean(er) are important reasons to carry a pair of camp shoes.

Keep reading to learn more important considerations and our recommendations when choosing your next pair of camp shoes.


Types of Camp Shoes

illustration showing types of camp shoes

FOAM CLOGS

The king of camp shoes. They do not absorb any water, have a durable heel strap, and are virtually indestructible. Compared to other options though, they weigh a lot—typically at least 12 oz. 


BAREFOOT SHOES

This is one of the best ultralight camp shoes out there. It has all the benefits of foam clogs (completely water-resistant and durable), but several ounces lighter. The average pair weighs in around 8.5 oz. They also are also much more like a "shoe" and able to take on miles of trail if need be. 

foam clog camp shoes next to the tent


MINIMALIST SANDALS

Some people do entire thru-hikes in these ultra-thin sandals. They feel a bit too bare on rough terrain for many hikers though and often make better camp shoes. Ultralight, extremely durable, open-aired, and snug enough for a good walk. The best thing is how compact they are in your pack. Some models are reasonably priced at $40 as well. 


TOE SHOES

Vibram Five Fingers are the most popular brand of this style. These are lightweight and can pack up very small. Depending on the model, the soles can also be very rugged for hiking if need be. However, they do not breathe as well as other camp shoe options and are hard to dry out. 

hiker wearing minimalist sandals


WATER SHOES

Water shoes, canoe shoes, kayak shoes, boat shoes... whatever. They are made for the water and can be found at Walmart for a few bucks. Try to get the kind with well-vented top fabric so your feet can dry. 


TOUGH SOCKS

These have exploded in the past year. Basically a sock with a rough-coated sole - known as a "glove for your feet". Super light and compact. They will not let your feet breathe well, need to be washed regularly, and maybe too support-less for even the lightest hiking though. 

Someone hiking in tough socks


DOWN BOOTIES

Down booties make a fantastic camp shoe for winter. When camping in snow, you'll want more than a pair of sandals to cover your feet. Down booties feel much like an indoor slipper. They provide warmth, comfort, and they are just as light as more minimal types of camp shoes.


FLIP FLOPS

Flip flops aren't great camp shoes. But, in a pinch, they can work. They're surely better than nothing. If your primary pair of camp shoes fails and you need a replacement asap, flip flops may be all you find at the nearest trail town.

hiker putting on down booties


Best Camp Shoes

Model Weight (per shoe) Price
Crocs Classic Clog 6 oz $45
Vivobarefoot Ultra III 8 oz $80
Xero Shoes Z-Trail 5.4 oz $80
Speedo Surf Knit Water Shoe 9 oz $40
Earth Runners Alpha Adventure Sandals 5.2 oz $93
Vibram Fiver-Fingers V-Aqua 4.9 oz $90
Havaianas 5 oz $13
Skinners 2.8 oz $60
Feathered Friends Down Booties 4.7 oz $119
North Face Thermoball Traction Booties 8.5 oz $65

Crocs Classic Clog

Crocs Classic Clog best camp shoes
  • Weight: 6 ounces per shoe
  • Price: $45

Watch any video from a thru-hiker, and you'll likely spot a pair of crocs hanging from their backpack.

Crocs are made from a Thermoplastic (EVA) material, making them ultralight and durable at the same time. Some people even hike in them if their hiking shoes unexpectedly fail.

Not only can Crocs handle the rigors of the trail, they are super comfortable, too. After wrenching off your shoes at the end of the day, it feels like heaven to slip your feet into a pair of crocs.

Our only gripe is the sizing. Crocs are available in full sizes only, so if you wear a half size, you need to wear them a little small or a little big.

See at Amazon


Vivobarefoot Ultra III

Vivobarefoot Ultra III best camp shoes
  • Weight: 8 ounces per shoe
  • Price: $80

Designed for water sports, the minimalist Vivobarefoot Ultra III can double as a camp shoe.

Its Honeycomb EVA upper is both breathable and durable, providing heel-to-toe protection from sticks, rocks, and other campsite hazards. The soles are robust enough to hike in if your primary shoes fail.

You'll be glad you chose the Vivobarefoot Ultra III when you need to cross a stream. The sticky, rubbery bottom provides a secure grip on slippery rocks and logs. These Ultra IIIs tend to collect water inside the footbed, so you do have to drain them from time to time.

If you use them only as camp shoes they are on the pricey side.

See at Amazon

Note: The Vivobarefoot Ultra is a seasonal shoe that company only sells in the summer. Off-season, you may be able to find a pair on Vivobarefoot's recycled and refurbished siterevivo.com 


Xero Shoes Z-Trail

Xero Shoes Z-Trail best camp shoes
  • Weight: 5.4 ounces per shoe
  • Price: $80

Among the lightest shoes on our list, the 5.4-ounce Xero Shoes Z-Trail sandals are ideal for hikers counting ounces. T

hey pack down exceptionally well so you can stuff them inside your pack or stash them in an outer pocket of your backpack.

They are comfortable sandals with an adjustable strap that lets you dial in the perfect fit.

Because of the open-toe design, the Z-Trail sandal is very breathable. This also means the sandals don't offer much protection for your feet. You'll have to tread carefully, so you don't stub your toe on a rock or snag your foot on a branch.

See at Amazon


Speedo Surf Knit Water Shoe

Speed surf knit best camp shoes
  • Weight: 9 ounces per shoe
  • Price: $40

Lightweight and comfortable to walk around in, Speedo's Surf Knit water shoes wrap your feet in a form-fitting mesh fabric. They hug your feet, yet are still breathable.

A grippy sole helps navigate stream crossings and protects your feet around camp.

Unlike some water shoes, the Surf Knit water helps keep your feet as dry as possible. The water shoes shed water thanks to their hydrophobic insole and Surf knit material that resists absorbing water. They are affordably priced, too.

The Surf knits are a bit heavier than other choices on our list but in wet conditions are a great option.

See at Amazon


Earth Runners Alpha Adventure Sandals

  • Earth Runners Alpha Adventure Sandals
    Weight: 5.2 ounces per shoe
  • Price: $93

This lightweight huarache style sandal is designed to be worn while adventuring. Not only do they work well as a camp shoe they also are great for hiking, running, and crossing streams.

With a Vibram sole durability and traction aren’t an issue.

The lacing system is made of one continuous lace, which can be a little fiddly at first but once you get it the sandals stay strapped securely to your feet. However, on some feet, the strap can sit awkwardly over the second toe causing rubbing.

The cotton footbed feels nice on your feet but does need to air out to fully dry.

See at Earth Runners

All types of camp shoes


Vibram Five-Fingers V-Aqua

Vibram 5-fingers best camp shoes
  • Weight: 4.9 ounces per shoe
  • Price: $90

Vibram took its sole-making know-how to create minimalist trail shoes that stand out for their toe-centric "Five Fingers" design.

With an outstanding grip on both wet and dry surfaces, the V-Aqua line is a rugged camp shoe perfect for water crossings. You can even hike in them in a pinch.

Because they cover your entire foot, the V-Aqua shoes protect your feet from bumps and bruises. Best of all, they are flexible and can be rolled up to fit inside your pack.

They are pricey, and you do have to like the "finger" design, so we recommend you try before you buy a pair.

See at Amazon


Havaianas

  • Havaianas flip flops
    Weight: 5 ounces per shoe 
  • Price: $13

Havaianas are found everywhere, from department stores, souvenir shops, and gas stations. They are cheap, light, and don’t absorb water.

They're some of the lightest and certainly cheapest shoes on our list. And, compared to other cheap flip flops out there, Havaianas tend to be more durable.

However, they're still flip flops, meaning they offer little to no support and can’t be hiked in. We don’t recommend doing stream crossings with them either.

Also, they were designed for a casual day on the beach, not for proper walking. They're prone to breaking when used on uneven ground.

Their open nature allows for maximum airing out of your feet but can also lead to stubbed toes in rockier camps. But for those not needing a rugged camp shoe, the price can’t be beaten.

See at Amazon


Skinners

Skinners best camp shoes

Weight: 2.8 ounces per shoe

Price: $60

More a sock than a shoe, Skinners are as minimalist and as portable as you can get.

The sock shoes roll up into a tight ball, allowing you to shove them into your pack alongside your other socks.

They have a snug, crew length fit with a rubberized bottom for grip. The rubberized bottom helps with traction, but it doesn’t offer much protection from sticks and rocks.

The sock material also is lightweight and won't keep your feet as warm as a pair of wool socks. If you don’t mind these trade-offs, the Skinners are a great alternative to heavier camp shoes, especially if you are packing ultralight.

See at Amazon


Feathered Friends Down Booties

Skinners best camp shoes
  • Weight: 4.7 ounces per shoe
  • Price: $119

If you’re camping in colder weather the Feathered Friends Down Booties provide the ultimate warmth.

They actually have two parts: an 800 fill-down sock and a detachable water-resistant shell and an insulated sole. This means you can wear them around camp and pop the shell and sole off and wear the sock inside your sleeping bag.

There are two adjustment points on the booties which help them stay snug and keep the warmth in. They are not designed for hiking, and if you are camping in the snow they can slip and slide if it is icy.

They are surprisingly lightweight, but that comes at a cost. The Feathered Friends Down Booties are one of the most expensive options on our list.


North Face Thermoball Traction Booties

  • The North Face Thermoball Traction Booties
    Weight: 8.5 ounces per shoe
  • Price: $65

Another winter option, the Thermoball traction booties look like a pair of slippers you’d wear on the moon.

The relaxed fit gives your foot room to breathe while still being snug enough to hold in warmth. It also makes them super comfortable.

They are water-resistant so you can wear them around camp without worry. Like other products in the ThermoBall line, these booties are made with 100% recycled content.

They are durable enough to hike in, but they lack adjustable straps which can lead to slipping on uneven terrain.

They are on the heavier side of camp shoes weighing just over a pound.

See at Amazon


How to Choose Camp Shoes

Not all shoes make good camp shoes. Below are the criteria we use when looking at what makes a good camp shoe.


WALK-ABILITY: CAN GET YOU TO A NEARBY WATER SOURCE

A good camp shoe needs to be able to hold up to the terrain around your campsite. In the backcountry, especially if camping in less used areas, this can mean rocky sites with roots and plants. Your water source might be down a hill a quarter mile or you might need to do a short bushwhack through weeds to get to a spring.

Shoes with a heel strap can significantly help stabilize your walk and prevent a 'slip and slide' in these types of areas. Bonus points if your camp shoe is durable enough to use for hiking in the case your primary hiking shoe becomes damaged.

Hiker walking in water wearing water camp shoes


RESISTANCE TO WATER: USE YOUR CAMP SHOES FOR RIVER CROSSINGS

At camp, having shoes that are water-resistant or don’t absorb water keeps your feet dry while you go about your camp business.

In addition, you can (and should) also use these shoes for river crossings. This gives your feet the needed protection while crossing streams and keeps your primary shoes dry.

Soggy shoes will add weight to your pack and be a huge pain to dry out. Water-resistant or waterproof shoes can be carried on the outside of your pack in rain or shine.


WEIGHT: NOTHING OVER A POUND

These shoes will be the pair that you carry in your pack so lighter is always better. Many hikers forgo camp shoes, a tempting way to save weight. However, this can lead to poor foot hygiene which can ruin or even shorten your hike. For total weight, shoot for 6 to 12 ounces, nothing over a pound.


EASY SLIP-ON: THE ONE-HAND TEST

At camp, you’ll be in and out of your tent while doing your camp chores. Having shoes that can easily slip on and off keeps your tent clean. You’ll also want something you can throw on groggily in the middle of the night if nature calls.

Look for shoes that don’t require lacing up. Basic slip-ons or straps. A good rule of thumb: can you put them on with one hand?

hiker slipping on camp shoes


COMFORT: GETTING THE FIT RIGHT

One of the best reasons to carry camp shoes is switching into something dry and cozy after a long day of hiking.

The material a camp shoe is made of is important for comfort. Foam shoes offer the most “cushy” feeling, for instance. The design of the shoe also plays into the comfort level.

Try to find a shoe that stays secure on your feet. If the shoe is too loose or too tight (the straps rub), it can cause more wear and tear on your feet when walking around camp.


DURABILITY: YOU WANT THESE TO LAST

While camp shoes won’t be the primary shoes you will be hiking in, they still need to be durable enough for rocky conditions around camp and to make it to and from your water source.

If a shoe breaks after a few nights of use, not only have you wasted your money but you have to spend the rest of your trip without camp shoes.

And, if you plan on crossing streams in your camp shoes you’ll want to make sure they can hold up to that task as well.


BREATHABILITY:
KEEP YOUR FEET DRY, HEALTHY, AND CLEAN

Not letting your feet breathe allows humidity and moisture to build up in your shoes which can increase the chance of getting athlete’s foot, blisters, and other foot ailments.

Having good breathability is key for your camp shoe. Look for a camp shoe that is roomier and has a lot of open areas for airflow. Sandals, for example, give your feet the most breathability. Switching shoes at camp also gives your primary hiking shoes extra time to dry out.


VALUE: 
FROM $10 to $100+

When it comes to value, how you plan to use camp shoes will be the most important factor. If you’re lightly using them at camp in well-established sites only (i.e. clear from debris and rocks) then $10 sandals may work for you.

If you want to be able to use them for hiking, crossing streams, or need more support around the campsite, then investing more upfront can be worth it.

Investing more upfront also means less chance you need to replace after a few trips.

hiker wearing toe shoes

 


4 Reasons to Bring Camp Shoes Backpacking

Bringing a second pair of shoes into the backcountry might seem like an unnecessary luxury, especially for hikers laser-focused on going ultralight. However, camp shoes provide some extremely important functions to keep your feet healthy in the backcountry. Specifically, camp shoes will:


1. LET YOUR FEET BREATHE

Your feet will be steamy, and possibly blistered up, after a long day of hiking. If you are backpacking for anything more than a night or two, you MUST let those feet air out for a couple of hours at night before slipping them into another steamy piece of clothing (socks, sleeping bag, etc.)

hiker wearing flip flops


2. KEEP YOUR FEET CLEAN(ER)

While letting them breathe, you should clean your feet from any grime - mud, bug bites, blisters, whatever. Use tea tree oil, hand sanitizer (alcohol) or a wet wipe to give them a quick cleanse. Continue to keep them in your breathable camp shoes until dry again. 


3. COMFORT

After a long day of hiking, nothing feels better than letting your sore feet out of those cast-like shoes. Putting them into a lighter shoe with different contours can feel super refreshing.


4. LET YOUR HIKING SHOES DRY

While your feet are drying out and enjoying the freedom of the lightweight camp shoes, let your hiking shoes breathe and dry out as well. You don't want to have to hike out in steamy shoes tomorrow.

hiker resting in down booties

 


How to Make DIY Camp Shoes

Want to go even lighter? There are a variety of ways to make your own camp shoes if the choices above just don’t cut it. Here are some ideas to get you started.


Option 1: Old Soles and Lacing

Use the soles of your old tennis shoes and tie some lacing around for a simple flip flop. This practically free option lets you get a little more life out of something you might have thrown in the trash. A win for you and the planet. If the shoe wasn’t lightweight to begin with, this still could be a heavy option.


Option 2: Foam and Duct Tape

Cut out a piece of foam with some duct tape for the strap. The pros are obvious: you can make your shoes really light, potentially just a few ounces. The cons: flimsy and not functional for anything other than walking around well-padded flat ground.


Option 3: DIY Leather Huaraches

Minimal leather Huarache running sandals have been worn by the Tarahumara people for hundreds of years. Popularized by the book “Born to Run”, these sandals are easy to make at home and weigh practically nothing. Here are the instructables. Xero Shoes even sell a DIY kit.

    A thin cord attached to an old sole makes for an almost-perfect ultralight camp shoe.


    Other Camp Clothes

    Along with your camp shoes, what else should you be wearing at camp? Like camp shoes, camp clothes are the dry and clean clothes that you change into at camp and for sleeping in.


    👕 SLEEPING TOP

    After hiking, you'll want to get out of your sweaty shirt and climb into a warm, clean, and dry long-sleeve baselayer. Only wear after you are done hiking and sweating for the day to keep this layer as clean as possible.

    The Patagonia Capilene is a great option that zips up to cover your neck as well.


    👖 SLEEPING BOTTOM

    Like your sleeping top, your sleeping bottom is for keeping you warm at camp after you’re done sweating for the day. Merino wool is lightweight while still keeping you toasty warm.

    We love the extra comfy Minus 33 base layer.


    🧦 CAMP SOCKS

    There is no better feeling than slipping on a pair of warm dry socks for the night.

    Grab a second pair of hiking socks for sleeping in, like the popular Darn Tough ¼ Hiker. If you’re camping in colder weather (or a cold sleeper) bring a warmer sock like the Fits Light Hiker.


    🧢 HEADWEAR

    Temperatures drop as the sun goes down, especially in the mountains or desert. Having a warm piece of headwear will insulate your noggin around the fire and while sleeping.

    A merino buff is a versatile choice that can be used as a hat, scarf, or balaclava.


    ⏭ Read next: Hiking Clothes: What to Wear on the Trail

    📸 Some photos in this post were taken by Ross Enlow (@rossaenlow)



    joshua johnson writer photo

    By Justin Sprecher (aka "Semisweet"): Semisweet is a Wisconsin-based thru-hiker, adventurer and digital storyteller. You can find him exploring the upper midwest on foot, in a canoe and on a bike.
    About Greenbelly: After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.

    Affiliate disclosure: We aim to provide honest information to our readers. We do not do sponsored or paid posts. In exchange for referring sales, we may receive a small commission through affiliate links. This post may contain affiliate links. This comes at no extra cost to you.



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