How to Choose the Best Camp Shoes

Pack comfy footwear and your feet will thank you.

Strictly speaking, you don’t need camp shoes. You could hang around camp in your boots, just like you could sleep in a suit jacket or do yoga in jeans. But do you really want to? 

Slipping into a comfortable pair of camp shoes at the end of the day is not only one of the outdoors’ great pleasures, but giving your hiking shoes a rest has practical benefits, too. It lets your sweaty feet relax, breathe, and dry out, preventing blisters and other ailments. It also gives your boots time to dry out for tomorrow’s adventure. So which camp shoes are best? The answer depends on what kind of camping you’re doing, the weather, and exactly what activities you’d like to do in them. Use this guide to choose the best camp shoes for you.

In this article, you’ll learn about

  • The most important features to look for in a camp shoe
  • The different styles of camp shoes on the market
  • The best camp shoes for backpacking, river crossings, and winter camping

Overall Considerations

Whether you’re car camping, backpacking, or winter camping, you should think about these four qualities as you shop for camp shoes.


Are you content to lounge around the campfire in flip-flops, or do you want to be able to hang a bear bag, fetch water, and even hike a bit in your camp shoes? If you’re a camp mover and shaker, look for a durable sole with grippy tread. You also want a snug enough fit for the shoe to move with your foot. That doesn’t mean sandals are off-limits: Just find a pair with sturdy straps at the heel.


Supportive shoes are excellent for anyone who tends to get achy feet, joints, or muscles, plus campers looking to help their bodies recover from the day’s exertions. A durable outsole and cushioned midsole can help return the spring to your step; some flip-flops even have extra foam support in the footbed for tired feet.


Camp shoes made from polyurethane (PU), mesh, and resins shrug off water and dry quickly—ideal for backpacking trips or river crossings. An insulated slipper or bootie, on the other hand, doesn’t handle the wet and might even lose its ability to keep you warm. Some insulated booties have a durable water repellent (DWR) coating to help them repel light moisture.


Warm weather calls for light, breathable shoes or sandals. In shoulder season, a lightly lined or insulated pair of shoes helps keep the chill at bay; some models use sheepskin or microfiber for this purpose. And on winter trips, a puffy, highly insulated pair of booties is essential for toasty toes.

person sitting on deck, close up on shoes

Camp Shoe Styles

Camp shoes range from simple, cheap flip-flops to carefully designed recovery shoes. Here are the most common styles.


The classic flip-flop sandal works well for light duty around camp, and it’s ultralight, ultrabreathable, and very affordable. But this style doesn’t provide much support and isn’t suitable for hiking or scrambling around camp. The cheapest ones are not very durable.

Hiking Sandals

This category includes minimalist flip-flops with extra straps to hold them to your feet and sturdy sandals with burly soles and secure straps. They retain the breathability of flip-flops, but offer more support and are much better for hiking and creek crossings. The extra performance comes with extra cost and weight, though.

Moccasins, Slides, and Clogs

Somewhere between a sandal and a shoe, this style often leaves the heel open (great if you’re prone to heel blisters). They usually have decent-to-great traction and support, and work well for some camp duties but not extended hiking. Some are lightweight and foldable for easy packing, and some come lined or insulated for more warmth.

Ultralight Shoe

Some camp shoes are lightweight versions of sneakers or light hikers, often made with lots of mesh or other quick-dry materials. They’re high on support and traction and perform well for hiking and stream crossings, too. Downside: more expensive.


Fantastic for winter trips and great for those with cold feet all the time, insulated booties bring serious warmth (see below for more). But they don’t offer much, if any, support.

Special Considerations

Here’s how to choose camp shoes specifically for backpacking, river crossings, or winter camping.


Weight and packability are priorities. Flexible footwear that can fold up to fit in your pack is great, but you can also just clip ultralight camp shoes to the outside of the pack. You’ll also want something that dries quickly in case you run into bad weather. And shoes with soles that have at least some support and traction work best; if you develop a problem with your boots, it’s nice to have camp shoes that you can hike in.

Good bets: hiking sandals, ultralight shoes

River Crossings

Keeping your primary hiking shoes dry by slipping into a pair of water-ready camp shoes is a smart idea. Sturdy hiking sandals are made for this: If your trail includes a lot of creek crossings, you can keep them on for hiking the dry land in between the waterways. Ultralight hiking shoes with quick-dry materials and water-draining ports are similarly useful. Note: If you need to cross a particularly deep, fast-moving river, skip open-toed sandals. They won’t protect your feet from underwater hazards and can even create enough drag to trip you up.

Good bets: hiking sandals, quick-dry ultralight shoes

Winter Camping

It’s all about the insulated booties. There are two main options for fill: Down, made from the plumage of geese or ducks, is extremely warm for its weight and compresses for easy packing, but it doesn’t retain its warmth if it gets wet (though water-resistant treatments can help with this) and is the most expensive choice. Check the fill power of the down when shopping: Higher numbers equal higher loft, and therefore better warmth to weight. Synthetic fills cost less and retains insulating power when wet, but it doesn’t compress as well.

If you’re only going to wear your booties inside your tent or a hut, you don’t need rubber soles (and indeed, some booties are built like puffy socks without them). But if you want to walk around camp in them, look for a durable, nonslip sole. Some booties have removeable insoles for even more support. Two more features to consider: a DWR-treated fabric to fend off moisture, and a top cinch for sealing in heat.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.