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stream crossing footwear input needed
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Darwin Roos
(darwin310) - F

Locale: Great Lakes Area
stream crossing footwear input needed on 10/11/2009 16:28:42 MDT Print View

What do you recommend to wear on your feet when crossing streams when the water is too high for boots? I was told that it's not good to bare-foot it. I'm looking for something that would protect my feet, is lightweight and is good for gripping rocks in the streams.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: stream crossing footwear input needed on 10/11/2009 17:03:14 MDT Print View


Since many of us wear light low-cut joggers withOUT any WP membrane, we just keep walking.

You are right about the hazards of bare feet, especially in cold water with rocks. can be painful.


Steve Martell
(Steve) - MLife

Locale: Eastern Washington
Re: stream crossing footwear input needed on 10/11/2009 17:45:51 MDT Print View

Believe it or not some of us still prefer a lightweight boot vs running shoes.

For stream crossing I prefer my homemade "camp shoes". These are made from neoprene or sealskinz socks--one size up from normal. To make into camp shoes:

*smear silcone sealant onto bottom of socks
*sprinkle a light coating of clean sand onto silicone (adds traction)
*Let dry for 1-2 days. You're "camp shoes" are now complete

To use: Romove boots. Take out insoles (Superfeet green)from boots. Insert insoles into the neoprene socks and they are ready for action.

These weigh only a few oz. each. They work great for:(1) stream crossings (2) camp shoes and (3) extra warmth in sleeping bag or quilt. Ultra light hikers will scoff at the extra weight but of all the methods I've tried I prefer this system.

James Patsalides
( - MLife

Locale: New England
stream crossing footwear input needed on 10/12/2009 13:35:40 MDT Print View

My preference would be NON-waterproof sneakers with good arch support (I like new balance), and thin wool socks + gobs of hydropel. Walk straight through the stream if there is no simple route to stay out of the water. Your feet will get wet. Keep walking and they will dry out within 20-30 minutes. The hydropel really helps to stop prune-foot!

I made the mistake of attempting this technqiue once with goretex/leather waterproof hiking shoes (Keen Targhee Mids), and guess what, my feet were still soaking 2 hours later. I had to stop and wring out my socks and I was still a bit wet that night in camp. Even the hyropel failed to prevent some pruning. I think the goretex & leather kept the water IN the shoes after they filled up.

By making sure your shoes are NOT waterproof, you ensure that this technique will always work - you only need to put up with about 20-30 mins of squelching and you'll be back to normal again, plus reduced weight and cost (no boots, no camp shoes and generally cheaper sneakers).

Personally, I think non-waterproof sneakers are a better, lighter and safer option than boots, even with camp shoes. Just my 2cs!

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: stream crossing footwear input needed on 10/12/2009 18:19:39 MDT Print View

On a hot summer day some of us LIKE walking in the river at times - it cools the feet.
Crossing Coxs River


Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
Stream Crossing Foot Protection on 10/12/2009 18:35:23 MDT Print View

Although I haven't personally tried it, I ran into a guy on a trip once who carried two tall white kitchen trash bags for stream crossings. If he came to a stream that required wading across he pulled out the bags, put one foot in each and held the bag handles up as he crossed the stream.

I asked him about it - especially about leaks - and he said he can normally get a couple of crossings out of them before they start leaking badly. Hiking in the mountains of PA we don't have a lot of trails where big crossings are required. Usually the water comes up to about the knee so this technique should, in theory, work.

At 10 grams per trashbag this is an option that would weigh less than an ounce for you...

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
stream xing footwear on 10/12/2009 19:28:36 MDT Print View

Crocs or their knock-off copies are relatively light (compared to other shoes or sandals) and they stay on your feet well, are good camp shoes, and you can hike in them if your hiking shoes are bothering you.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Watch the soles on 10/12/2009 19:35:59 MDT Print View

I don't personally us stream crossing shoes, I've gone to running shoes with smartwool sock for most stuff. BUT if you want them I can tell you one thing not to get. I tried a pair of teva water shoes on a canoeing trip. They had lousy traction on wet rocks. I used to us a pair of cheap walmart water shoes and if I recall they did pretty well.
Good luck.

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Vibrams on 10/12/2009 19:39:00 MDT Print View

I agree with the crocs, but if you have a lot of wet hiking to do, just wear a pair of the Vibram Five Fingers toe shoes make from Neoprene (6 oz per shoe!).

You can wear them the whole hike -- it's like going barefoot with enough protection to make it possible. They are great on wet rocks -- and practically every other surface.

Granted, they take some getting used to, but once you do, you'll never go back to those heavy, clunky boots or relatively heavy trail runners. :-)

When I used boots, I used to wear newspaper bags (or those veggie bags you can get at the grocery) under the boots and over the socks (tucked into the socks) as a water barrier. Works pretty well.

A convert to Vibrams,


Edited by nerdboy52 on 10/12/2009 19:41:29 MDT.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
A few thoughts on 10/12/2009 20:20:05 MDT Print View

0. Gather info before hand about water levels/currents if possible.

1. Do not cross barefoot. Cuts and in some places water-borne microbes that often require antibiotics different from the ones most people carry as there do it all antibiotic. Feet do not have good traction!

2. Take a good look around, there might be a better crossing. Nothing like looking back and realizing this.

3. If you are wearing waterproof footwear and just talking about a quick splash here and there, a light membrane gaiter does wonders. I use these a lot. Keeps you from ripping up your pant legs with the other foot and keeps gravel out too.

4. If there's any doubt about what you are stepping on etc, currents etc, do NOT even think about wet feet; think about what you are doing. If you anticipate this, do not wear goretex boots. Wear something mesh that dries quickly. I prefer a wool sock with this. Find it doesn't blister as much when wet and is warmer than other materials. Make sure the mesh is fine enough not to let in little bit and pieces -- I've sent back a couple shoes for this reason. (If in doubt, order from a place that takes stuff back.)

I have been caught in situations with wet goretex boots in cold weather. Dump out the water, wring out your socks, put plastic bags over your socks and put your boots back on. This will markedly improve your situation.

Tipping over in a current with a heavy pack is SCARY. The current can quickly take you into deeper water.I don't know if this is standard advice, but my inclination is to get out of a heavy pack -- risking losing it. I have only been in this position a couple times. I would be interested to hear from Roger on this one.

5. I know I will get abused on this one but that's OK! I take Crocs as camp shoes often. I have crossed streams in them and find the traction on slippery rock surprisingly good. I have done this when I think it's too cold to have wet feet for a few hours. I would not use Crocs in a serious current or where I can't see what I'm stepping on.

4WD crocs are available and may be just the thing. I might order some and check them out. Sure they will be heavier though. Last, I checked Amazon had them.

Edited by backpackerchick on 10/12/2009 20:29:35 MDT.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Re: Stream Crossing Foot Protection on 10/12/2009 20:34:45 MDT Print View

LOL Kevin, those trash bags sound sweet. Any photos? Trash compactor bags with a 3/4 inch with rubber band around the thigh might really do the trick if you're going to go this route. Heavy. Don't know about traction but if there aren't any slick rocks, might be perfect.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
stream crossing footwear input needed on 10/12/2009 20:39:39 MDT Print View

What's a stream?

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: stream crossing footwear input needed on 10/12/2009 20:42:25 MDT Print View

"What's a stream?"

Sort of like the Rio Grande only lots bigger. ;}

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: A few thoughts on 10/13/2009 00:00:56 MDT Print View

> Tipping over in a current with a heavy pack is SCARY. The current can quickly take you
> into deeper water. I don't know if this is standard advice, but my inclination is
> to get out of a heavy pack -- risking losing it.
Rule #1 (and Lynn will back me up): fast water is dangerous!

Our practice is to cross smaller creeks together, arms locked, and each with a stick. One person moves at a time.

With bigger creeks, we may deliberately choose to swim a slower deeper pond instead of hazarding really fast rough water. We carry trash bags on such trips just in case, and will repack just for the crossing. Then we use the pack as a floatie.

With even bigger (and colder) creeks - we look for a bridge!

Both Oz and NZ walking communities have lost well-known people to rivers. Makes us wary.


Tohru Ohnuki
(erdferkel) - F

Locale: S. California
Re: stream crossing footwear input needed on 10/13/2009 00:10:54 MDT Print View

I just wore my regular Merrell Moabs during a canyon trip with many crossings a day. Usually they would be only slightly damp the next day and pretty comfortable with synthetic socks. If you're only going to cross a few times a trip, it might be worth the extra pair of shoes..

@Hartley, are you fooling around on those transmission towers on the Sam Merrill trail up to Echo Mtn?

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
You're the one who took the picture? No Way! on 10/13/2009 00:15:29 MDT Print View

"@Hartley, are you fooling around on those transmission towers on the Sam Merrill trail up to Echo Mtn? "

@Tohru -- Too funny. That was you the other day? You took the picture? Did any of the ones I took of you with your REAL camera come out? Wow, this is SO RANDOM!

Edited by backpackerchick on 10/13/2009 00:34:32 MDT.

Tohru Ohnuki
(erdferkel) - F

Locale: S. California
Re: You're the one who took the picture? No Way! on 10/13/2009 00:54:17 MDT Print View

Wow, that would have been too weird. I'm not the guy, I just recognize the towers because I've been there many a time...

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Strange Indeed on 10/13/2009 01:05:14 MDT Print View

Are you sure?

This guy had walked up to the the pylons to take pictures of shadows. Was walking down and as a beginner photog, always interested in what photogs are doing. He was under a pylon. We were talking about the limitations of point and shoots. And some other things. I noticed you have posted often on this topic. On leaving, we introduced ourselves by first name. It was a name like yours. Do you look like him?

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Re: Re: A few thoughts on 10/13/2009 01:22:05 MDT Print View

Yes, at least of one of these happened about 15 miles or so by road from Queenstown, NZ near an artsy little town. The stream was a bit different from the photo you posted. I felt like a turtle on my back moving quite fast. I could not get my feet on the ground. Was trying to get out of my pack -- the only way figured I could right myself -- and protect my head at the same time. Head injury could have been a real possibility. I think I decided just to get out of the shoulders and get the pack around to my belly intending to let it go if I didn't arrest some how. It happens so fast, I guess there is some innate sense of body awareness -- like a cat but not as refined. Sometimes, you learn by doing. Amazing how these lessons stick.

Edited by backpackerchick on 10/13/2009 02:43:59 MDT.

Jack Newton
(figster) - F

Locale: Central Arkansas
Barefoot on 10/13/2009 07:42:22 MDT Print View

While playing or fishing in water, i've always worn shoes. While crossing water, I have not worn shoes. Cold, warm, shallow, deep, fast or slow has not stopped me from going barefoot. If it is an obviously high use area, I will find somewhere to cross for fear of hooks, glass, and such.

I understand the risks. I figure we run the risk of microbes and worms at nearly every point while backpacking. We sleep, eat, cook, wash with, and drink with nasty things.

Many would argue, for the sake of going light, that we take many risks to achieve our goals. Why skimp here? At best Ive used socks and old insoles. Amphib shoes seem to allow all the nasty critters in too!