In an activity like backpacking where the weight you carry has a direct correlation to your happiness at the end of the day, carrying a set of camp shoes when you already have a great pair of boots on your feet might give you pause.
Because when you roll into camp on the day you stumble through six river crossings and your boots feel like they’ve tripled in weight, and the last thing you want is to keep your wet, sweaty, heavy, muddy boots on your feet a second longer than they have to be.
Enter, camp shoe.
I was first introduced to camp shoes while canoeing as a kid in northern Minnesota, then learned to bring them when I started backpacking. Changing into dry camp shoes became the signal that the big work was done for the day and it was time to relax and take care of our feet.
The two main reasons to bring a camp shoe are foot care and foot comfort.
Once camp is set up, I’ll usually spend a few minutes airing out my feet before putting on my dry socks and camp shoes. This is about more than how good it feels—it helps keep your feet healthier.
Dry feet are less susceptible to blisters and whatever gross things like to grow in warm, damp, dark environments like your shoe.
When the conditions are consistently wet and cold, you’re more susceptible to trench foot, a painful non-freezing cold injury. It’s unlikely you’ll get trench foot if your feet are warm and dry at least in the evenings and at night, and having dry shoes is an important part of that.
Since your feet are your only way in and out of there, taking care of them is a priority.
On a longer trip or one where you’re heading off trail, you might choose to wear a pretty sturdy boot. While that boot’s great while you’re hiking, it can start to feel heavy after a while, especially if it gets wet.
Changing into a shoe at the end of the day that’s lighter weight can give your feet and knees a break. This also gives your boots a chance to dry out —even if you didn’t walk through any puddles, they probably got sweaty as you hiked.
Choosing the Right Camp Shoe
There are pros and cons to anything you decide to pack in your backpack. In general, though, when you’re looking for a camp shoe, you want one that’s:
- Supportive (so you can do things around camp like set up your tent or carry water, or even go on a day hike if the mood strikes you)
Oboz’s new Campster is a good balance of supportive and lightweight.
Ultralight die hards might scoff at the idea of a camp shoe. Let them.
In my opinion, a camp shoe is so helpful with foot care and foot comfort that it’s worth bringing.
Molly Herber is a NOLS instructor and writer who lives in Wyoming. She loves the smell of her backpack and does her best writing before 7:00 am. Find her work on the NOLS Blog and follow her on Instagram @mgherber.