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Can I backpack in sturdy sandals instead of hiking boots?

Is there a water-friendly sandal ong the usual brands, or otherwise, that has the support needed for a light backpacking trip? I'm planning a two- or three-day hike on the Jack's River Trail in Georgia’s Cohutta Wilderness. The trail has multiple river crossings, so I looking for an alternative to hiking boots. Or do you have a better alternative than sandals? Marshall Atlanta, Georgia

A: My toes and ankles cringe in horror at the very thought of going backpacking in sandals—regardless of the brand. You’re just asking for foot problems, from blisters around the straps to stubbed toes to a snake bite to a sprained ankle.

Teva Philter

Teva Philter

Still, I understand your position—it’s a warm-weather, light-pack hike. So you don’t want to carry a lot of extra footwear. You might look into some of the water shoe/light hiker combos out there. Teva makes a shoe called the Philter ($85; that’s a real shoe, but made with synthetic materials and loaded with drain holes. So you can walk through a creek and have dry feet again reasonably soon. A neoprene lining keeps your feet warm and fairly chafe-free. Adidas makes a somewhat similar shoe called the ClimaCool Cardrona ($85; Neither will offer a lot of ankle support, but if you have stable feet, and the trails are in good shape, you’ll probably be OK.

Alternatively, you could wear whatever hiking boot you prefer and pack along a pair of neoprene booties. NRS Desperado Socks ($40; slip right on and off, weigh just a few ounces, and have a grippy sole for traction when fording a stream. They might be the best solution.

The votes are in: Check out the winners of Outside's 2006 Gear of the Year awards, including the year's hottest light hikers.

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Filed To: Hiking Shoes
Lead Photo: courtesy, REI