a conversation with the earth guidebooks + guided hiking

Backpacking Camp Shoes

We recently found what we believe might be the ideal camp shoes for backpacking.

Until now, we’ve tried all sorts of cheap flipflops, imitation Crocs, etc. They’re light enough that they’re not burdensome in a backpack. And they’re adequate, allowing us to get out of our boots and walk around backcountry campsites without hurting our feet on rocks. But they’re not sufficiently protective to allow us to stray far beyond the tent, onto rougher terrain. And they don’t fit snugly, so they’re not useful for fording unbridged creeks. Flipflops have the added drawback of not easily accommodating socks, which means your feet always get dirty and can get cold.

A while back we discovered the plastic shoes made by Lizard (www.lizardfootwear.com). The Lizard “Agile 500” looked good: durable, with a snug fit. But we couldn’t find Lizard shoes in North America. Besides, $98 for a pair of camp shoes is just too extravagant. And at 13 oz per pair, they’re not all that light.

Then we looked into competitive racing shoes. Known as “racing flats,” or “spikeless cross-country racing shoes,” we realized they’re everything we want in a backpacking camp shoe:

• lighter than the cheapest imitation Crocs

• complete foot coverage, thus more protective than flipflops

• laces allow a snug fit so they’ll stay on our feet when fording creeks

I bought the men’s Nike Air Zoom Streak XC 2. The MSRP is $70, but I found them for $56 at runningwarehouse.com. They weigh only 5.4 oz (size 9).

Kath bought the women’s Nike Jana Star Waffle IV. The MSRP is $45, but she found them for $40 at runningwarehouse.com. They weigh only 5.6 oz (size 8).

We’ll be taking them on our upcoming Grand Canyon backpack trip. Afterward, we’ll let you know if we still recommend them as backpacking camp shoes.

FOLLOW-UP: We recently completed a three-day backpack trip in the Grand Canyon. Hiked down the Hermit Trail, camped at Monument Creek. Hiked west across the Tonto Platform and camped at Boucher Creek. Then hiked up and out the Boucher trail. We used our racing-flat camp shoes extensively at both campsites, and we love them. They are by far the lightest and most comfortable camp shoes we’ve ever worn. We highly recommend them. The only drawback is having to lace the shoes and tie them when you get out of the tent to pee in the middle of the night. But lacing and tying them is what makes them comfortable and secure. By the way, we also enthusiastically recommend that three-day itinerary in the Grand. Both of us have backpacked in the Grand about a half dozen times, and this was our most rewarding trip yet.