Waterpro Ultra-Sport
Waterpro Ultra-Sport

What footwear is best for slot hiking?

I going on a backpacking trip in mid-March to Buckskin Gulch, which is a slot canyon on the Utah-Arizona border. What type of footwear do I need? Zach Littleton, Colorado

Waterpro Ultra-Sport

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That sounds like a fun trip—Buckskin Gulch is billed as one of the best slot canyons to hike. But it’ll be wet, muddy, and sandy, not to mention rocky. So you’ll definitely want shoes that can take that sort of environment.

Waterpro Ultra-Sport Waterpro Ultra-Sport

One good choice: Merrell’s Waterpro Ultra-Sport shoes ($80, www.merrell.com). They’re designed for places just like Buckskin Gulch, with synthetic leather and mesh uppers, drain holes so water can escape, and sticky outsoles with special treads to help keep you upright on wet rocks. Salomon’s Tech Amphibian shoes ($75, www.salomonoutdoor.com) have very similar design and features, with a sole that’s a little more akin to a running-shoe sole (deeper treads) for perhaps better traction in mud and gunk. Teva’s Rydecker Pro ($75, www.teva.com), meanwhile, is a sort of shoe/sandal hybrid, with the protection of a shoe but a more open, sandal-like design for days when it’s wet AND warm. Any of these would work well.

You might also take a long a pair of Gore-Tex socks ($50 for Rocky Gore-Tex Oversocks at REI; www.rei.com) and some fast-drying low-cut socks such as Wigwam CoolMax Socks ($7.50 per pair, www.rei.com). Also give some thought to what to wear around camp in the evening—maybe a very light pair of running shoes or sandals, so you have dry footwear at night. The sandals from Colorado-based Chaco are well-regarded amongst the river rats, so you might look at its lightweight, easily stowable Z/1’s ($90, www.chacousa.com).

Read “Make a Splash” from Outside‘s July ’04 issue, plus the Away Network’s Guide to Canyoneering, for more of the best gear for slot hiking.

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