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Sandals! You’ll hurt your feet!

wearing sandals in the bwca

Sandals are awesome to wear for paddling trip. When wearing sandals and you step into the water, your foot gets wet. You take it out of the water and it dries. The sweat dries off your feet quickly, and, well, they’re pretty darn awesome. Sure there are some downsides, such as they don’t offer the support of a hiking boot and sandals that have open toes don’t protect your toes and they suck in mud (although you can wash your feet when you get to a lake). These disadvantages are common sense no brainers, and the awesomeness of wearing sandals outweighs the disadvantages. Still, there are some who can’t imagine wearing sandals on a kayak or canoe camping trip and hate them so much that they take to the Internets to rail against people who like them. Take for example this response to my BWCA Overnight video:

Bryan, WTH were you thinking wearing Sandals and Shorts in a video that people with no experience will see. On most days you’ll get chewed alive by black flies Or deer flies or the occasional Flock of Mosquito’s……..Yea, while paddling and on Sag if a breeze is up your likely fine but getting there… every portage you Pay in Blood!!
Of course I haven’t been Everywhere in the BWCA, but I’ve totaled 312 canoe camping days up there so I have covered some ground..


Here’s the video that provoked the “WHAT THE HELL were you thinking…” comment.

WHAT THE HELL were you thinking, Hansel?

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I was thinking that sandals are darn comfortable and freak’n awesome. Cause they are.

Apparently, the guy didn’t like shorts, either. Because, BUGS!

I like shorts. They’re freak’n awesome.

But back to sandals.

In my Under Armor pants review, I mentioned that I wore sandals. I posted the review on the PaddlingLight Facebook page and got a comment now deleted by the original poster about how bad sandals are. From memory this is the reconstruction:

I discount your review because you wore sandals.


You should wear boots with toe and heel protection. I should know, because I spent 60 day under a tent this year.

Maybe, I’m not remembering it exactly, because he deleted his comment after I said, “Typical Facebook crap,” but it’s close. The guy didn’t like sandals. He was one of those guys.


I’ve used a bunch of different types of sandals. My top three are: Teva’s, Keen’s and Chaco’s. I tend to like Teva’s the best. Teva is pronounced TĔH-vah (teh-vah) and not TEA-vah. I’ve tried several different models, but I always come back to the simplest models, such as the Original Universal Sandals [REI link]. They run less than $40 and they get the job done. If I can find something like the Teva Terra Fi 4 [REI link] on sale, then I’ll usually buy those instead of the cheaper Original Universal Sandals. I usually get two or three summers (springs and falls — if it isn’t snowing, I’m in sandals) out of a pair of Tevas.

I like Chaco sandals, too. Although, I don’t care for the big toe loop. The Chaco Z2 [REI link] is the classic outdoor sandal. When I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, I met two women wearing Chaco sandals. I felt jealous, because I wanted my pair. Instead I wore heavy, clunky hiking boots. They were so clunky. The two women hiked 2159+ miles in sandals and did just fine. Their trail names were Poly and Ester. Get it.

Heavy, clunky hiking boots by Asolo. They’re the Asolo Power Matic 200 GV Gore-Tex Hiking Boots [REI link]. Even the name is long, heavy and clunky.

Wear heavy, clunky hiking boots on a canoe trip and they’ll likely get wet and stay wet. They don’t dry out easily. But, they have support. Just make sure not to step into too deep of water, because if you over top a hiking boot, your sock gets wet and squishes loudly on the portage.

Squish. Squish. Squish.

I also like Keens. I’ve had a pair of Keens that looked exactly like the Newport H2 Sandals, but they were gray and black. They were comfy and had toe protection. I wore these after I broke my toe during a remodel in my house. I was able to hike around without too much pain. I tried hiking boots one day with my broken toe, and it sucked. It hurt. My foot swelled up and it succkkkkeeeedddddd. The Keen sandals allowed me to hike miles with very little broken toe pain. Unfortunately, they lasted half as long as Tevas.

So, as they say in Minnesota: “So, there you go.” Sandals are awesome on paddling trips. Now just don’t get me started on wearing heavy, clunky hiking boots in a kayak.

Update: I posted a link to this article on Facebook and got the following.


The anti-sandal crew are so anti-sandal that they won’t even go on a trip with someone who wears them.


  • SO how do you handle bugs, just regular repellent>

    • I don’t usually worry about it. The bugs are usually only bad in June and July. In August and early September, it’s more often around sunrise or sunset. During the bug months, I wear pants and a headnet. I may also use repellent. I guess I just don’t see bugs as that big of a deal.

  • Bwahahahaha. That’s pretty funny. It reminds me of the canoe instructor about 15 years ago who chastised my wife & I for using bent shaft paddles in front of novice paddlers since we were on the executive of the local canoe club. He said it was irresponsible of us, as representatives of the Saskatoon Canoe Club, to be using bent shaft paddles since other paddlers are going to look to us and think that they, too, can use bent shaft paddles. Just imagine, people thinking that the non-elite might be able to use a wooden bent-shaft paddle. He spent about 5 minutes berating us in front of the paddling class during a break because bent shaft paddles are not traditional. Oh, and while he did this, he was dressed head to toe in synthetic fabrics, with one foot in a royalex canoe, holding onto an aluminum and plastic paddle.

    Why do people get so caught up in such silly arguments? Anyway, I enjoyed the article, thanks!

  • Back in the day on a canoe trip I was so jealous of my canoe partner with his sandals. My boots were perma-wet and he could step in and out of the canoe with impunity. That was until one fateful portage when he slipped on wet grass and tore a ligament in his ankle. He was useless the rest of the trip. That kept me in boot for the next 20 years until last summer when I transitioned to trail runners. Been tempted by sandals, probably going to try again later this summer. I actually tried a Merrell pair on a tropical trip years ago with an aggressive Vibram-esque tread, but they were torture to walk in for more than an hour. Might have to check out the Teva Terras.

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