Best Camp Shoes for Taking the Load Off [2019 Update]

Best Camp Shoes for Taking the Load Off [2019 UPDATE]

Best Camp Shoes

Aleader Men's Mesh Slip-On Water Shoes

Aleader Men's Mesh Slip On Water Shoes

Looking for the Best Camp Shoes?

You're in the right place! In this guide we will be covering the following:

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    What are Camp Shoes?
  • What are the Benefits of Camp shoes?
  • What features are important in shoes for camping?
  • Which brands and models came out on top?

The #1 rated men's camp shoes in our testing go to Alexander's Mesh Slip-On. Looking across all the categories that matter, the shoe takes the top spot in nearly all of them.

Its mesh design allows the foot to breathe, and does it well, although, this is the one area where it falls behind some of the other shoes, particularly the sandals which offer greater breathability.

Being a full shoe, it does offer some protection against low branches, rock that you could graze yourself on. It’s also got some great rubber soles for extra traction, that’ll help you keep your footing around camp. Lastly, as it’s designed as a water shoe, it is extremely quick-drying even after being fully submerged.

Bottom-line: Narrowly loses out on breathability but tops our ranking due to its overall high scores across the board. If you want a comfortable, quick-drying camp shoe then opt for the Aleader Mesh Slip-On.

Our Pick of the 6 Best Lightweight Camp Shoes of 2019

For us outdoors lovers, there are few things more deeply satisfying than a good 20-mile hike through the wilderness. Other than the feeling you get from removing your hiking shoes, after that 20-mile hike through the wilderness.

A good pair of camp shoes can be an invaluable addition to any backpacking pack. While it will add some weight, they will help keep your feet clean, comfortable and likely, in better health by allowing them some breathing time while you set up (or pack up) camp.

We explain the various rationales for taking a pair of camping shoes with you. In addition to taking a look at various brands and models to decipher which is best for which type of user/situation.

Best Camping Sandals
Best Camp Shoes
Best Water Hiking Sandals
Best Backpacking Camp Shoes
Best Women's Camping Shoes
Best Winter
Chaco Z2 Classic Sport Sandal
Aleader Men's Mesh Slip-On Water Shoes
Keen Newport H2
KEEN Uneek Sandal
Vivobarefoot Ultra II Water Shoe
KingCamp Unisex Warm Soft Slippers
Chaco Men's Z2 Classic Sport Sandal
Aleader Men's Mesh Slip On Water Shoes
KEEN Men's Newport H2 Sandal
KEEN Men's UNEEK Sandal
Vivobarefoot Women's Ultra II Water Shoe
KingCamp Unisex Warm Camping Slippers Soft Winter Slippers with Non Slip Rubber Sole & Carry Bag (7 Colors)
  • Extremely comfortable to wear
  • Best breathability in our review
  • Quick-drying
  • Extremely comfortable water shoe that looks like a trail runner
  • Great drainage and drying after it has been fully submerged
  • Great grip and traction for wandering over slippery rocks
  • Very quick Drying
  • Toe Protection
  • Very comfortable
  • Decent Traction
  • Lightweight at just over 1lb a pair
  • Extremely comfortable
  • Unique & colorful design
  • Lightweight/Minimalist Design
  • Great Breathability & Comfort
  • Quick drying
  • Preloaded with over 80 sports/activities
  • Great design
  • Good battery life
  • Not quite as breathable as a sandal
  • The meshy will sometimes trap sand and gravel
    • Not quite as breathable as a sandal
    • The meshy will sometimes trap sand and gravel
      • Rocks/Sand get trapped in shoe
      • Not easy on/off
      • Heavy
        • Not to everyone’s taste
        • Non Adjustable strap can lead to hotspots
          • No drainage holes so water collects in sole
          • Insoles and traction boxes can separate from the bottom of the shoe over time.
            • Proprietary powercord
            Price not available
            Price not available
            Price not available
            Price not available
            Price not available
            Price not available
            Best Camping Sandals
            Chaco Z2 Classic Sport Sandal
            Chaco Men's Z2 Classic Sport Sandal
            • Extremely comfortable to wear
            • Best breathability in our review
            • Quick-drying
            • Not quite as breathable as a sandal
            • The meshy will sometimes trap sand and gravel
              Price not available
              Best Camp Shoes
              Aleader Men's Mesh Slip-On Water Shoes
              Aleader Men's Mesh Slip On Water Shoes
              • Extremely comfortable water shoe that looks like a trail runner
              • Great drainage and drying after it has been fully submerged
              • Great grip and traction for wandering over slippery rocks
              • Not quite as breathable as a sandal
              • The meshy will sometimes trap sand and gravel
                Price not available
                Best Water Hiking Sandals
                Keen Newport H2
                KEEN Men's Newport H2 Sandal
                • Very quick Drying
                • Toe Protection
                • Very comfortable
                • Decent Traction
                • Rocks/Sand get trapped in shoe
                • Not easy on/off
                • Heavy
                  Price not available
                  Best Backpacking Camp Shoes
                  KEEN Uneek Sandal
                  KEEN Men's UNEEK Sandal
                  • Lightweight at just over 1lb a pair
                  • Extremely comfortable
                  • Unique & colorful design
                  • Not to everyone’s taste
                  • Non Adjustable strap can lead to hotspots
                    Price not available
                    Best Women's Camping Shoes
                    Vivobarefoot Ultra II Water Shoe
                    Vivobarefoot Women's Ultra II Water Shoe
                    • Lightweight/Minimalist Design
                    • Great Breathability & Comfort
                    • Quick drying
                    • No drainage holes so water collects in sole
                    • Insoles and traction boxes can separate from the bottom of the shoe over time.
                      Price not available
                      Best Winter
                      KingCamp Unisex Warm Soft Slippers
                      KingCamp Unisex Warm Camping Slippers Soft Winter Slippers with Non Slip Rubber Sole & Carry Bag (7 Colors)
                      • Preloaded with over 80 sports/activities
                      • Great design
                      • Good battery life
                      • Proprietary powercord
                      Price not available

                      How to Choose the Right Camping Shoes for You

                      What are Camp Shoes?

                      Camp shoes are typically a second pair of shoes, in addition to your hiking shoes/boots, that are predominantly worn around the campsite. In addition, some hikers and backpackers will also use a waterproof/quick-drying pair for fording rivers.

                      Types of Shoes for Camping

                      Sandals

                      Some of the lighter models of hiking sandals could be a good fit. They allow for a significant amount of breathability (as your basically exposing a large portion of your foot), are comfortable and can be used in place of your hiking boots or shoes on easier going sections of trail.

                      Water Shoes

                      These can range from a cheap pair of boat or kayak shoes, to more expensive (and better quality) mesh fabric style trail runners. These typically resemble “normal” shoes or trainers but are constructed with waterproof mesh or webbing.

                      The obvious benefit is their quick-drying ability, and make the obvious choice if you plan to use your camp shoes for a significant number of river crossings. Depending on how far up the price scale you are willing to go, they can also be extremely comfortable.

                      water shoes

                      Crocs

                      Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Crocs are a dependable, hardy and waterproof option. More suited for car campers due to their bulk and weight.

                      Tough Socks & Toe Shoes

                      Increasing in popularity, both toe shoes and tough socks are essentially “gloves for your feet”, comprising a fabric upper, with either a rubber base (toe shoes) or a rough coated layer (tough socks).

                      These win out when it comes to being lightweight and compact, but they are significantly less breathable than most other options and can take a while to dry if they get wet.

                      Flip Flops

                      If it’s a campsite with maintained pavements/boardwalks, then you could consider taking a pair of cheap (or not) lightweight flip-flops. Not as sturdy as several of the other options on our list, but definitely a lightweight and cheap alternative. However, not something we recommend for dispersed or backcountry camping.

                      Slippers

                      Yes, you read that right. Slippers. For those who enjoy winter backpacking and camping, then a pair of flip-flops may be a little too breathable. In this situation, you’ll want something comfortable and warm, and there are several outdoors specific brands of slipper camp shoes on the market.

                      Benefits of camp shoes

                      Gives your hiking shoes/boots more time to dry

                      Anyone who has experienced the misery of pulling on a pair of cold wet hiking shoes before a long days slog knows how important this is. Taking a pair of camp shoes to wear at the start and end of the day while you are pottering around camp, will give your boots an extra hour or two to dry out. Editors sidenote: I’d recommend checking out these Drysure Active Silicon Shoe Dryers to help dry your boots out faster.

                      Lets your feet have the opportunity to breathe

                      After a full day of hiking, your feet will thank you for the chance to get some air. Particularly true if you are hitting the trails again the following morning - by letting your feet air out you’re decreasing the chance of getting blisters, and fungus. Eeewww.

                      Help keep your feet healthy with a pair of backpacking sandals to wear around camp.

                      Keeps your feet clean at camp

                      Moving around camp or going to the bathroom in the middle of the night can be done barefoot, but you’ll definitely have cleaner feet with a pair of ultralight camp shoes on. That and you are less likely to stand on something and injure yourself.

                      More comfortable than your boots around camp

                      Suffice to say, that after many miles on the trail you’d rather slip into a lightweight pair of sandals or shoes. It’s much more comfortable setting up camp and get dinner going when your feet can breathe and feel the evenings chill air.

                      Saves your boots from getting soaked at river crossings

                      If you double up and get a quick-drying waterproof pair of camp shoes, then they can be excellent for river crossings. Just down your pack, change your shoes and cross that river. Once on the other side, you can put your dry boots back on safe in the knowledge that you won't have to trudge on in wet boots.

                      sandals camping shoes river crossing

                      What to Look for in a Great Pair of Camp Shoes

                      While everybody's needs are different, there are a few common features of camp sandals and shoes that you should use to gauge whether a particular pair is appropriate for you. Taking some time to understand the following features and comparing them to your needs should help you rank which elements of a product are more important and applicable to your needs

                      Comfort

                      For many people, the main purpose of a pair of camp shoes is to relax at camp, in comfort. Take the time to figure out what is comfortable for you.

                      I hate wearing sandals and flip-flops, so no matter what, I know I’ll never be comfortable at camp in them, which is why I will tend towards a ‘fuller’ shoe design. For others, the reverse is true, they’ll feel more comfortable with sandals as it exposes more skin more to the air.

                      Breathable

                      Tied closely into comfort, you want to look for a pair that allows your feet to breathe if you have had them cooped up in a pair of chunky hiking boots over the last 1000 foot ascent. Nothing beats a pair of flip-flops or sandals for this, as the more bare skin, the greater the breathability.

                      Lightweight

                      If you intend on giving your feet (and legs) some respite at the end of the day, it’s probably best not to burden them with a pair of camp shoes that feel like you’re trailing two cannonballs along.

                      Typically you would expect a pair of camp shoes to weigh less than 14 ounces, and often substantially less than this. Sandals will tend to be more towards the upper end of this (rough) scale) and the newer mesh water shoes towards the lower end.

                      Trekking sandals on the rock in water steam, concept trekking and hiking trip.

                      Compact

                      When you are transporting everything on your back, then space is a precious commodity. If you’re camp shoes take up an inordinate amount of space then you’ll either need to reduce on other items or get a bigger pack. We’d take the third route, and pick something that has either a slim profile (so it can slip between things), or is easily collapsible.

                      Waterproof & Quick-Drying

                      A feature that rather goes without saying, especially if you intend to use them for river crossings. The newer mesh shoes, in particular, are great at drying quickly and are typically faster drying than sandals which tend to use fabric for the straps.

                      Easy-on Easy-off

                      Not necessarily the most important of features but one that could become a source of minor irritation as you struggle to get them on.

                      Which Camp Shoes are Best for You?

                      Now that we’ve covered a number of different features you should investigate, let us take a look at three potential scenarios that you may fit into.

                      Backpacking Camp Shoes

                      If you are in for a long hike, carrying all your equipment on your back for several days (or longer). You will likely want to prioritize the weight and the compactness of your camp shoes.

                      The less weight you have your back for the majority of the day likely trumps the comfort for the hour or so you may be wearing your shoes in the mornings, and evenings.

                      Lastly, don’t overlook breathability. If your feet have been stuck in a pair of boots for the last 15 miles then you’ll want to give them a bit of a chance to recover and get some air while you are setting up camp.

                      camp shoes drying

                      Lightweight Water Shoes

                      If you know your route requires several water crossings, then the focus will naturally fall on a pair of camp sandals that are quick drying. In addition, you may also want to look at how comfortable they are if you will be hiking in them for long periods of time

                      We would suggest a lightweight water shoe for use with a simple on/off design at various river crossings, but if you are expecting to wear them for longer durations, then if you can afford to carry the extra weight, then pick a pair of lightweight hiking sandals to give yourself a little bit more comfort.

                      Car Camping Sandals

                      If you have no concerns about the weight or getting your socks soaked by river rapids then focus on comfort. Your feet will thank you.

                      The Best Camping Shoes - The Results

                      Best Camp Shoes: Aleader Men's Mesh Slip-On Water Shoes

                      Aleader Men's Mesh Slip On Water Shoes

                      Our pick for the best camping shoes goes to the Aleader’s Mesh Slip-On. This shoe scores well across the board. It’s incredibly comfortable for a water shoe and actually looks and feels more like a trail runner (Ed: we wouldn’t advise using it for that though).

                      Its mesh design allows the foot to breathe, and does it well, although, this is the one area where it falls behind some of the other shoes, particularly the sandals which offer greater breathability.

                      Being a full shoe, it does offer some protection against low branches, rock that you could graze yourself on. It’s also got some great rubber soles for extra traction, that’ll help you keep your footing around camp. Lastly, as it’s designed as a water shoe, it is extremely quick-drying even after being fully submerged.

                      Pros

                      • Extremely comfortable water shoe that looks like a trail runner
                      • Great drainage and drying after it has been fully submerged
                      • Great grip and traction for wandering over slippery rocks

                      Cons

                      • Not quite as breathable as a sandal
                      • The meshy will sometimes trap sand and gravel

                      Bottom-line: Narrowly loses out on breathability but tops our ranking due to its overall high scores across the board. If you want a comfortable, quick-drying camp shoe then opt for the Aleader Mesh Slip-On.

                      Best Camping Sandals: Chaco Z2 Classic Sport Sandal

                      Chaco Men's Z2 Classic Sport Sandal

                      When Chaco says “classic” they mean it, this sandal has been around since 1989. For any design to survive over 30 years then Chaco must be doing something right, and the first thing that has made this sandal a classic is it’s extremely comfortable to wear.

                      It’s one of the most comfortable models in our test, with great arch support. Thanks to the webbing design, it is highly adjustable. Meaning that those of us who have slightly abnormal foot dimensions will have no issues finding a comfortable set up (although, you may get a little frustrated from trying to perfectly find that perfect set up).

                      The very open design means less protection for your foot from scrapes and bumps. The Z/2 Classic is also surprisingly heavy despite this, weighing in at over ~1.5 lbs (shoe size dependent).

                      Pros

                      • Extremely comfortable to wear
                      • Best breathability in our review
                      • Quick-drying

                      Cons

                      • Less protection from grazes/cuts from rocks etc
                      • Can be tricky to get the webbing adjustment setup correctly.

                      Bottom line: A hugely comfortable, and breathable sandals, perfect for warm and/or humid camping trips.

                      Best Water Hiking Sandals: Keen Newport H2

                      KEEN Men's Newport H2 Sandal

                      If you plan to encounter a lot of water crossing on your trip, are hiking wet arroyo’s or are planning on kayaking then we would pick the Keen Newport H2 Sandal.

                      As with any water shoe, quick-drying materials and good traction for those slippery rocks are a must. Add on top of that the Newports’ closed toe design, reducing your risk for little bumps, bruises and cuts on any unseen underwater obstructions.

                      The downside for the closed design is that 1) if a little pebble/stone gets in, you’ll likely have to take them off to get it out, which leads to 2) these aren’t a simple slip on and off design. Also, weighing in at ~2lbs (size dependent) a pair, these certainly aren’t the lightest choice.

                      Pros

                      • Very quick Drying
                      • Toe Protection
                      • Very comfortable
                      • Decent Traction

                      Cons

                      • Rocks/Sand get trapped in shoe
                      • Not easy on/off
                      • Heavy

                      Bottom line: The award for best water hiking sandals goes to the Keen Newport H2. It’s fast drying, has great protection in the right places combined with decent traction and good comfort make it a worthy winner.

                      Best Backpacking Camp Shoes: KEEN Uneek Sandal

                      KEEN Men's UNEEK Sandal

                      Coming through with our pick for the best sandals for backpacking camp is the KEEN Uneek, and unique they are.

                      With these sandals, you can’t start anywhere else, but their design. The sandals use a webbing system that looks like a cross between a paracord bracelet and a shoe. Some people absolutely hate them (my wife), and others like the quirky design. The webbing means you get an almost shoe like design but without much weight (weighing in at just over 1lb a pair).

                      They are an extremely comfortable pair of sandals to wear, although some folks may find the inability to adjust the heel strap a pain. They give good traction, and are quick drying for those stream crossings.

                      Pros

                      • Lightweight at just over 1lb a pair
                      • Extremely comfortable
                      • Unique & colorful design

                      Cons

                      • Not to everyone’s tasteNon
                      • Adjustable strap can lead to hotspots

                      Bottom line: Thanks to it’s webbing design we would pick these for our next backpacking trip - comfortable around camp, grippy in the water and light on your back.

                      Best Women's Camping Shoes: Vivobarefoot Ultra II Water Shoe

                      Vivobarefoot Women's Ultra II Water Shoe

                      The Vivobarefoot Ultra II Water shoe is our pick in the women’s category for best camp shoes. Similar to the men’s Aleader it scores high across the board.

                      Designed with trail running in mind, these shoes are made to tackle the trails and creeks in comfort and style. The synthetic material and mesh design allows a great deal of breathability, combined with comfort and quick drying times.

                      A minor downside to these shoes is that after a spell through the water, you’ll need to either elevate your feet or remove the shoes to completely remove all the water from the sole bed.

                      Pros

                      • Lightweight/Minimalist Design
                      • Great Breathability & Comfort
                      • Quick drying

                      Cons

                      • No drainage holes so water collects in sole
                      • Insoles and traction boxes can separate from the bottom of the shoe over time.

                      Bottom line: The perfect pair of shoes for putting your tent (and your feet) up at camp, or for keeping your regular hiking shoes dry while crossing creeks.

                      Best Winter: KingCamp Unisex Warm Soft Slippers

                      KingCamp Unisex Warm Camping Slippers Soft Winter Slippers with Non Slip Rubber Sole & Carry Bag (7 Colors)

                      If you are the type that is undaunted and keeps camping when the mercury dips, then consider packing the KingCamp slippers.

                      These slippers are padded with hollow fiber and lined with polar fleece for great warmth on those chilly mornings. The rubber anti-slip soles and nylon waterproof shell fabric will help keep you on a solid footing, and your feet dry.

                      Pros

                      • Warm and comfortable
                      • Anti-skidding rubber sole
                      • Easy on/off

                      Cons

                      • Rubber sole can become detached after prolonged use

                      Bottom line: If you are looking for some winter warmth at camp, then these bootsies are a great lightweight addition to your pack.

                      Further Outdoor Footwear Reviews

                      If you are looking for more than just camp shoes then check out the following review guides:

                      RELATED GEAR REVIEWS

                      GEAR GUIDES

                      INDIVIDUAL PRODUCT REVIEWS

                      About the Author Brian Connelly

                      In an age when everyone seems to be locked to their small blue screens, I am vehemently passionate about getting more people outside to enjoy the wonder of nature. I grew up with the outdoors on my doorstep, and when I headed off to university I picked a degree in geology that allowed me to spend a lot of time outside on field trips! Over the last 30 years, I have camped or hiked through the wilderness on 5 continents. I hope my posts are informative for both the grizzled veteran and the complete novice alike.

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