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M Sandals for Summer Backpacking

by Chris Townsend

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Article Summary:

Sandals for hiking? Even trail shoe wearers often find such an idea ridiculous or incomprehensible. I didn't take them seriously for backpacking at first either, carrying a pair for camp wear but never wearing them on the trail. Then, I went on a two-week trek in the Dolpo region of the Himalaya in Nepal, where I found my lightweight boots far too hot in the sub-tropical forests at the start of the hike. With only a light load to carry and good trails, I decided to hike in my sandals. The relief was enormous, and I kept wearing the sandals even when the terrain became rougher, steeper, and more mountainous, crossing three passes over 16,500 feet/5000 meters in them. I wore the boots in camp for warmth, as it was often frosty, but I walked the whole route in sandals, finishing with a long scree run. That was fifteen years ago. Converted, I've since walked thousands of miles in sandals, including a 500-mile hike in the High Sierra and 212 miles coast to coast across Scotland on the Southern Upland Way. I've also worn sandals on treks to Everest Base Camp and Makalu Base Camp, and for backpacking in the Colorado Rockies, the Grand Canyon, the Uinta Mountains in Utah and on the GR20 in Corsica (until a pig ate one), as well as on many summer trips in the Scottish Highlands. Sandals are my favorite footwear for hiking.


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