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
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.