Camping and backpacking trips are the best, but if your shoes are heavy and uncomfortable, it can suck the fun and relaxation out of your trip quickly.
After a long day of hiking, the last thing you want to wear around camp is a heavy pair of boots, especially if you’re planning to take day trips and explore from camp.
Enter: camp shoes. Lightweight, comfortable, and convenient — camp shoes can be sandals, water shoes, booties, slippers or anything else made from lightweight material. No matter what form they come in, the goal of camp shoes is to give your feet a much-needed break from the bulkiness of your normal hiking shoes.
Things to consider
Before we get into our recommendations, here are a few things to consider. First, you might not need camp shoes at all. If you feel comfortable continuing to wear the shoes you spent all day hiking in, more power to ya! However, if you use heavier footwear or get uncomfortable with your feet in same shoes, you could benefit from camp shoes — especially if you need lighter footwear to go exploring after you’ve put down your backpacking pack for the day.
Before you start pricing camp shoes, you’ll want to think about what season and what kind of terrain you’ll be hiking in. Booties are generally better for cold weather, while sandals are the best option for summer.
And if you’re going to be hiking near a river or in the snow, you’ll need water shoes, whereas booties or sandals will work for dry campsites. If you’re a desert dweller like most of the Territory Supply crew, you can probably get away with sandals in the creeks of the Southwest’s canyon country.
Are you backpacking or car camping? If you’re backpacking, pick camp shoes that are small and lightweight for ease of transport. If you’re camping by car, however, this won’t be as much of an issue. Whatever shoes you choose, make sure you’re comfortable in them. If you’ve been hiking all day, you’ll want something easy on your soles when you set up camp.
Finally, keep in mind that many people go the inexpensive route when it comes to camp shoes. There are several basic, cheap, and even DIY camp shoe options, such as simply purchasing a cheap pair of sandals.
The shoes in this article, however, are better options to give you a comfortable camping experience. Are they necessary for your camping trip? No. But can they enhance your experience and help you enjoy the more relaxing parts of your adventures? Absolutely.
Teva Ember Moc
Footwear company Teva has been around since 1984, when its founder created the original sport sandal while hiking the Grand Canyon by strapping two Velcro watch bands to a pair of flip-flops.
Thirty-five years later, the company’s products have evolved into the likes of the Ember Moc, a slipper-style shoe that’s comfortable, breathable, and a customer favorite. Described as part sneaker and part sleeping bag, the shoe is great for both campsites and long flights.
The heel is collapsible and the entire shoe feels like a slipper. The men’s shoe comes in navy, gray, and black, while the women’s shoe comes in coral, olive, purple, and black. The shoe isn’t overly expensive, but if the price is a little too high for you, Teva offers you the option of making four interest-free payments with QuadPay.
Two drawbacks of the Ember Moc: it may be a little too warm depending on the weather during your trip, and it may require a little breaking in.
The North Face Thermoball Traction Mules
With the Thermoball Traction Mules, the North Face created a high-traction shoe that’s great for inclement weather. Thermoball technology is a synthetic alternative to down. It’s lightweight, provides insulation even when wet, and keeps you warm in cold and wet conditions.
The Thermoball Traction Mules partially block rain and snow to increase breathability. They’re also durable and tough, providing good traction in the form of a recycled rubber sole so you won’t slip. Enjoy the cozy lining made of Oso fleece. You can find the women’s model here.
Western Mountaineering Down Bootie
At just six ounces per pair, this down bootie is lightweight, compressible, and easy to lug around. The shoe is filled with European goose down inside a nylon outer shell with a durable water repellent finish.
The insole is reinforced with thermal insulation, and the outsole is made with a non-slip Toughtek material. The shoe also includes an adjustable elastic draw closure at the top, plus an elastic heel band just inside the booties that keeps you stable while walking and keeps in the heat.
Choose from sky blue, navy blue, or yellow. Western Mountaineering notes that you can also wear these booties at home to aid with poor circulation or cold feet. Western Mountaineering is a California-based company that makes high-quality sleeping bags.
Exped Camp Slipper
Exped’s Camp Slipper is inexpensive, but doesn’t skimp on quality. The brand describes the slipper as “unbeatable for camping, backpacking, and overnight snowshoeing trips,” offering “lightweight foot comfort deep in the backcountry.”
The outsole is slip-proof to give you traction on snow or the forest floor, and the slippers can pack down to almost nothing, giving you more space in your backpack. Exped’s slippers are also water resistant with a quick-drying insulation.
The shoe comes in blue, red, and multiple shades of green. “Small” fits shoe sizes 5-7, “medium” fits shoe sizes 7-9, “large” fits shoe sizes 10-11, and “X-large” fits shoe sizes 12-13.
Xero Cloud Barefoot Sandal
The Cloud sandal gives you the feeling of barefoot movement while protecting you from any painful rocks or rough terrain your feet might encounter. Xero, a brand of minimalist shoes, claims the Cloud is sturdy enough to take on a 100-mile trail ultramarathon.
The Cloud is a sandal, but better than your typical flip-flop. It has a heel strap, so it stays on your feet no matter what you’re doing. The toe strap is flexible and you can adjust its tension to your preference.
On the Cloud, a Barefoam insert provides comfort but not too much padding, and the insert’s flatiron pattern gives you better grip. The toe post is strong but not firm — it won’t hurt your toes. Plus, if you wear out your Clouds in less than 5,000 miles, Xero will replace them for a small cost. The women’s model is available here.
Skinners creates innovative sock shoes for anyone who wants to move without limits, and this minimalist barefoot sock shoe works great to wear around camp. The shoe looks like a sock, but it’s sturdier than it seems at first glance as it’s made of anti-abrasive Swedish polymer, and your feet will be safe and protected from the ground.
The shoe is 100% machine washable and supports your foot’s natural position to give you more stability. It’s easy to pack down — you can even carry it in your pocket — and is almost unbreakable since it doesn’t have any seams or glue.
The North Face Base Camp Plus Flip-Flops
These flip-flops are no ordinary flip-flops: they’re sturdy and durable, and extra comfortable. They don’t absorb water, making them a good choice for summer camping trips. Out here in Arizona, backpacking trips along creeks and streams almost always call for a solid pair of flip-flops.
Some customers say the strap chafes a little, but overall, the flip-flops are considered comfortable thanks to the compression-molded footbed and soft jersey lining. The men’s shoes come in blue/white and gray/red, while the women’s shoes are available in black/gray, dark blue/light blue, and gray/yellow combos.
Teva Terra Float
The Terra-Float Travel Knit Sandal is a hybrid sandal made with quick-drying knit. The foam construction is lightweight, but still durable and tough. The upper and footbed are fully knitted, and the outsole has good traction. An antimicrobial treatment keeps odor away, and the shoe does not absorb water.
The shoe is a little expensive, but according to the majority of online reviewers, it’s worth it. The women’s iteration, the Terra-Float 2 Knit Universal Sandal, is equally as good of a choice.
Birkenstock Arizona EVA
Birkenstock is known for its comfortable shoes, and the Arizona EVA is no exception. It’s a classic Birkenstock that’s modeled on the cork sandal and is crafted from lightweight, flexible EVA material.
The shoe is waterproof and washable, and the footbed is anatomically shaped for extra comfort. The Arizona EVA is fairly inexpensive and comes in five color choices so you can be stylish around the campsite.
For more hiking and camping gear, check out our favorite American-made hiking boots, the best hiking boots under $100, our favorite hiking backpacks under $100 and the top packable backpacks for day trips and more.