I'm not an accomplished distance hiker or ultra-minimalist packer, but I've logged a good amount of miles in the backcountry and take off on long weekends whenever I can to do just that. From that first trip in high school out west to Colorado in search of adventure, to a few weeks ago on loop in the Ansel Adams Wilderness of the Sierras, I've learned a thing or two about making my backcountry experience better. The first backpacking trips I took in high school and college weren't pretty. Well, the scenery was breathtaking and the experiences shaped my life, but the gear list was not. Oversized sleeping bag, bulky layers, one pair of questionably "synthetic content" socks, and some brick-like camp sandals left some stuff to be desired on my early wilderness trips.
Really getting into the sport during college didn't do much to help the matter. I wore my big investment "lightweight" hikers into the ground. Multiple applications of Shoe-Goo and duct tape couldn't save them. Finally, after nearly succumbing to frostbite on an early spring mission in the Rockies, where multiple layers of plastic bags were no match for the wet of post-holing conditions, I bought some real boots. The kind with GTX that were waterproof and breathable and had good ankle support. I coupled these with gaiters, stretch pants with DWR, and a host of other proper backpacking gizmos and gadgets.
It was nice to have better gear. A lightweight rain shell meant for the woods instead of borrowing my dad's city raincoat, DWR stretch pants instead of track pants, and an internal frame pack! Yet I started to hate lugging around my nice sturdy hiking boots for trips. They were a pain in the ass to get on and off at camp, and my feet felt pretty constricted. Sure they dried fast after crossing a small creek with the GTX keeping the water from my socks, but any water above the ankle I couldn't manage without gaiters. I'd look up or down stream for safer passage. And when it came time to be at camp I had no good options.
Sometime in 2014, I found a better way to backpack. I picked up Bedrocks to try trail running in and quickly started taking them as camp shoes in the Sierras since I could handle their 8oz weight over my other sandals which weighed in at 2.8 pounds. Eventually I ditched the boots and bricks completely and started Bedrockin' on all my backpacking excursions. Around this time I joined the Bedrock team and with the launch of our Cairn sandal in 2016, backpacking via Bedrocks became even easier with our grippy and well lugged Vibram regolith sole and easy to adjust strap system.
Below you'll find some photos from a couple trips in the Sierras this summer that illustrate what backpacking better looks like for us.
A trip doesn't go by where peoples curiosities aren't sparked by the folks charging in sandals with full packs on. Sure you'll hear "forgot your boots?" every so often, but you can see the lamentation in their eyes as we cruise through stream crossings or patches of mud without pause. I'd be lying if I said I didn't take some pleasure it that.
While water crossing and muddy trail conditions are the obvious benefit of sandals as hiking footwear, other qualities have made Bedrocks my footwear of choice and led to the betterment of my wilderness experience.
Killing two birds with one stone, Bedrocks make the ultimate camp sandal and hiker.
Moments after camp is set up, we're running down to the water for a cool off dip.Following streams upward, scrambling around until we find our alpine meadow. A few times in the Rockies this summer we continued on past the meadow to summit a few 14rs in sandals.Taking the fun way down back to the trail.
Regular wool socks work just as well as any tabi or toe sock on the market. Hot Cheetos and other novelty food items have taken the place of unnecessary camp shoes in my pack. I used to think granola bars, peanut butter tortilla wraps, and ramen were the only appropriate cuisine. On this trip we took the "skip planning and buy everything at the country grocery store" approach. On the next we took the buy our favorite foods before leaving town including a bomb meal from fellow Bedrockers' Backpackers Bistro.
Jalapeno cheddar bagels > tortillas. Smiling after shivering. Trying to dry off via the temperamental sun after a jump in Iceberg lake, which still had some frozen stuff floating around in September. Not all campsites are created equal. Walking it out. Memo for next time: Have a car parked at the trailhead once finished, so pizza can come quicker.