Best ultralight sandals for backpacking in action

Minimalist, Barefoot-Style, Low-Bulk, Ultralight Sandals for Backpacking

This guide to the best ultralight sandals for backpacking surveys the lightest sandals from a variety of high performance, minimalist, barefoot walking brands. Our selection is intended to be used primarily for backcountry camping while relaxing, strolling to viewpoints, and doing chores like hiking down to the river bank, pitching a tent, or stashing the bear bags. While weight and bulk savings-when-stowed are top priority, baseline functionality is still taken into account when it comes to backcountry performance.

Each pair of ultralight sandals has a secure fit for walking and most have a grippy tread. People have literally completed entire thru hikes in some of these! The average pair of men’s size nine in this guide weighs just seven ounces, lighter than nearly all flip flops but much more functional. They’re half the weight of Tevas or Crocs, and one quarter the weight of Chacos. Jump ahead to read more about why we dislike those models. Perhaps the only downside is these ultralight sandals have numerous straps and thus are bit more finicky to take on or off.

Lastly, a few notes. This guide does not address the entire genre of all possible camp footwear and fording shoes. Rather the focus is 100% on ultralight sandals – that’s it. From booties-to-pool slippers and bread bags-to-textured socks, there are a wide array of possible ultralight options for various purposes that we will address in a future guide. Ultralight sandals aren’t necessarily always the right tool for the job. Finally, we are currently in process of testing these models. While we’re confident in the quality of this overall assortment, we should have a better sense of which to choose and why after one more hiking season.

Read about more footwear in our guide to the best trail runners for hiking, best booties, and the best socks to pair with those trail runners.

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Quick Picks: Ultralight Sandals For Backpacking

Backpacking Sandals Comparison Table

Model Price ($) Weight per pair (oz) Tread
Mayfly Nymph 39 1.7 None
Mayfly Imago 39 1.8 None
Shamma Warriors 95 6.0 Lugged
Shamma Cruzers 60 6.4 Textured
Luna Venado 2.0 95 8.8 Textured
Bedrock Classic LT 70 9.0 Lugged
Xero Shoes Genesis 45 9.2 Lugged
Xero Shoes Z-Trail EV 80 10.8 Lugged
Classic Tevas (for reference) 55 13 Lugged
Classic Crocs (for reference) 50 13.5 Textured
Classic Chacos (for reference) 100 29.8 Lugged

Ultralight Sandals For Backpacking

Shamma Sandals Warriors

Shamma Sandals Warriors

Shamma Sandals Warriors are our earlier front runner for editor’s choice best ultralight sandal. They really have it all from tread, to Vibram rubber soles to secure fit, and they’re also lightest-in-class aside from the Mayfly design, which is much less functional than Shamma’s. This is an impressive sandal to behold in every possible way. We also recommend picking up a pair of power straps, which you may wish to add at your discretion for more intense walking or fording. They add an additional connection point looping around the front of the ankle.

  • Price: $95
  • Pair Weight: 6.0 oz
  • Tread: Textured
  • Sole Thickness: 5.5 mm
  • Material: Vibram Newflex
  • Pros: Ultralight. Durable. Good traction. Conforms to foot.
  • Cons: Expensive.
Shamma Sandals Cruzers

Shamma Sandals Cruzers

As far as we can tell, the Shamma Sandal Cruzers are a second choice to the Warriors because they’re marginally heavier and have a textured surface instead of wavy lugged tread. On the flip, you get an extra 1.5mm of sole thickness and save $35. They’re still a great ultralight sandal for backpacking. This model does not pair with the aforementioned power straps.

  • Price: $60
  • Pair Weight: 6.4 oz
  • Tread: Textured
  • Sole Thickness: 6.5 mm
  • Material: Ultragrip
  • Pros: Ultralight. Affordable. Durable. Conforms to foot.
  • Cons: Poor traction.

Lightweight Sandals For Backpacking

Lunda Sandals Venado 2.0 ultralight sandals

Luna Sandals Venado 2.0

The Lunda Sandals Venado 2.0 are a great all-arounder, and offer a very secure fit, including a front ankle strap plus heel. By a small margin, they’re also the lightest in the lightweight-not-ultralight category. Our biggest knock against them is that the bottom is textured-not-lugged, so you get a bit less traction on slopes.

  • Price: $95
  • Pair Weight: 8.8 oz
  • Tread: Textured
  • Sole Thickness: 9.0 mm
  • Material: Vibram rubber
  • Pros: Secure. Comfy. Lightweight.
  • Cons: Poor traction. Light-not-ultralight. Expensive.
BedRock Sandals Classic LT

Bedrock Sandals Classic LT

The Bedrock Sandals Classic LT are a beloved ultralight sandal with a secure fit, and good quality Vibram rubber traction. They really do it all, and are a true lightweight sandal. What’s more, they’re also 100% vegan, and utilize recycled strap material.

  • Price: $70
  • Pair Weight: 9.0 oz
  • Tread: Lugged
  • Sole Thickness: unlisted
  • Material: Vibram rubber
  • Pros: Lightweight. Conforms to foot. Grippy. 100% vegan, recycled polyester straps.
  • Cons: Light-not-ultralight.
Xero Shoes Gensesis ultralight sandals for backpacking

Xero Shoes Genesis

The original Xero Shoes Genesis are lightweight, super affordable, and have a pleasant, low-profile-lugged rubber sole, with comfy rounded straps. They fall solidly into the middle of the lightweight weight class, and always a great pickup.

  • Price: $45
  • Pair Weight: 9.2
  • Tread: Lugged
  • Sole Thickness: 5mm
  • Material: FeelTrue Rubber
  • Pros: Lightweight. Secure. Vegan. Affordable. Classic.
  • Cons: Not ultralight.
XeroShoes Z-Trail EV hiking sandals

Xero Shoes Z-Trail EV

At 10.8 oz, the Xero Shoes Z-Trail EVs are flirting with Tevas at the heavy end of the lightweight spectrum. That being said, they are 20% lighter and much less bulky, have great traction, high durability, and a very secure fit. We give them bonus points for having been worn to hike the entire PCT, though we personally recommend against that. Lastly, a minor annoyance is how the straps can sometime get twisted around inside the adjusters.

  • Price: $80
  • Pair Weight: 10.8
  • Tread: Lugged
  • Sole Thickness: 10 mm
  • Material: Foam+ rubber
  • Pros: Forefoot loop not toe thong. Great traction. Durable. Lightweight-ish. Highly rated. Completed the PCT, good for hiking.
  • Cons: Straps get twisted. Light-not-ultralight.

Super Ultralight Sandals For Backpacking

Mayfly Nymph ultralight sandals

Mayfly Nymph Ultralight Sandals

Mayfly Nymphs were the single lightest model we could find, weighing an astounding 1.7 oz. As such, they’re also the least functional, least grippy, and least durable to wear around. They are only compatible with shuffling around flat campsites. But if you don’t intend to wear them outside of camp, then no big deal right? Just put your trail runners back on as-needed. True super ultralight products are few and far between, and these are a rare opportunity for massive weight savings.

  • Price: $39
  • Pair Weight: 1.7 oz
  • Tread: none
  • Sole Thickness: unlisted
  • Material: Coroplast
  • Pros: Super Ultralight. Good price. Fun colors. Absorbs zero water.
  • Cons: Not very durable. No traction. Only viable in camp, cannot be used on slopes
Mayfly Imago

Mayfly Imago Ultralight Sandals

If you prefer forefoot loops to toe thongs, go ahead choose Mayfly Imagos over the aforementioned MayFly Nymphs. That and +0.1 oz are the only difference. But also like the Nyphs, they’re dead useless outside of camp and on sloping terrain, so take that into account. We’ll conclude by stating just how fun and cool this wacky coroplast material is. What a unique look and with such thru-hiker pizazz. And though you do sacrifice some functionality, you don’t sacrifice functionality-to-weight ratio.

  • Price: $39
  • Pair Weight: 1.8 oz
  • Tread: none
  • Sole Thickness: unlisted
  • Material: Coroplast
  • Pros: Super Ultralight. Good price. Fun colors. Absorbs zero water.
  • Cons: Not very durable. No traction. Only viable in camp, cannot be used on slopes

Non Ultralight Sandals That You Should Avoid

This section highlights a few popular backpacking sandals that we strongly recommend against bringing. When referring to Chacos, Tevas, and Crocs, we’re referring to their flagship models though marginally lighter options do exist.

Chacos are the number one offender of this genre. Yes, they’re comfortable, durable, good looking, and popular with the outdoorsy crowd. But they weigh nearly two pounds, which is simply unacceptable from a backpacking perspective. My entire two person tent including stakes and ground pad weighs less than a pair of Chacos! For that same weight, I could carry a complete 30 degree sleep system, including quilt and pad. Or a 60L ultralight backpack. Stop. Bringing. Chacos!

Why not Crocs?

Aside from being twice the average weight of ultralight sandals in this guide, Crocs are incredibly bulky. One Croc Clog by itself takes up as much space as four minimalist ultralight sandals, and my pair of size 12 clogs are more voluminous than my tent. Yes, they’re cheap, yes they’re comfy. Yes, they’re popular. But they’re also not very breathable, and when it comes to allowing your skin recovery time outside of shoes, we recommend airier footwear.

Why not Tevas?

While they don’t make the cut, Tevas are at least a step in the right direction compared to the other two. The Classic Universal is lighter than Crocs, and closer to 2x, rather than 3-4x the bulk of minimalist sandals. While they are also nearly 2x the weight of the average minimalist ultralight sandals in this guide, they’re only a bit heavier than the heaviest lightweight models. But ask yourself, what are Tevas giving you that more minimalist sandals aren’t? There’s just not a great reason to add the bulk and weight when you could carry less for equal performance. Are they horrible backpacking sandals no. But are there better? Definitely!

Lastly, Tevas Hurricane Series are one of my favorites for walking around casually in summer, but they’re even heavier and bulkier than the Universals thanks to the enhanced tread, thus worse for backpacking because it’s not needed for use around camp, and just adds extra weight.

Why not flip flops?

When and if we’re bringing sandals for backpacking, we want them to be functional enough to safely handle tasks like climbing down a river bank to fill up water, or ascending the hillock above camp for sunset. If you really search around, you will probably be able to find a pair of flip flops that are ounce-for-ounce similar to minimalist ultralight sandals, like this pair from Helly Hansen. In most ways, the cheaper the better, as it usually implies a thinner sole, and lighter weight end product. However, they’re far less secure, with no ankle or heel attachment. And functionally, that just makes them a lot worse than the barefoot style walking sandals in this guide. So there is very little reason to choose them, aside from the fact that they’re cheap, light, and comfy. But you can do better.

Conclusion to ultralight sandals for backpacking

Thank you for reading our guide to ultralight sandals for backpacking. This assortment reflects minimalism and functionality, and we hope you’ve found you’re next favorite pair. Happy hiking and happy camping!