What shoes and clothing do I need for canyoneering in Zion?

I planning a hike through the Narrows in Zion National Park, which involves wading up the Virgin River. What do you recommend to keep warm? Dry is obviously not possible. How about footwear? Connie New Haven, Connecticut

Jun 8, 2011
Outside Magazine

Salomon Techamphibian

A: That sounds like great fun, Connie. Zion National Park is beautiful, and the trek up the Virgin River—deep in a slot canyon—is a classic, albeit a wet one. You'll be chest-high in water for long stretches. On the other hand, it's apt to be hot during your trip, and hot/wet beats cold/wet. So think lightweight, and think synthetic. Cotton, wool—both fabrics have their place, but neither dries very well.

And I mean all-synthetic, undergarments included. Patagonia's seamless Capilene Briefs ($18; www.patagonia.com) and Capilene Mesh Bra ($35) would be a good start. Over those, a warm-weather T-shirt such as REI's MTS Lightweight Crew ($24; www.rei.com) has polyester fabric that dries very fast. This will be comfortable across a wide temperature range so makes a good base layer if it's chilly, plus will work fine by itself when very warm. I'm not a huge fan of "convertible" pants, but Ex Officio's Buzz Off Convertible Pant ($79; www.exofficio.com) offers good sun protection, a bug-repelling fabric finish, and that option of shorts or long pants. And they're made of a light nylon that dries quickly.

Layer over that a light fleece jacket such as Marmot's Reactor Full Zip Jacket ($75; www.marmot.com). And a rain shell of some sort; REI's Taku ($189; www.rei.com) is one fantastic option in this department.

For footwear, you'll clearly want some sort of aqua-ready shoe, such as the Salomon Techamphibian ($80; www.salomonoutdoor.com), which has high-traction outsoles, fast-drying uppers, and drain holes to let water escape quickly. Better, I think, than a sandal-type shoe, as sand can get under the sandal straps and quickly chafe. I'd pack some inexpensive tennis shoes to wear around camp in the evening.

Read Away.com's guide to climbing and canyoneering for more gear to carry you safely through the slots.

Filed To: Hiking Shoes

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