Jul 012014


Dollar store flip-flops are, well, a dollar. And every town with more than 35 people in it has a dollar store. What that means to me is that I have a somewhat destructible ultralight piece of gear that I can easily replace on a long distance hike without the expense and peskiness of having to have someone mail a pair to me. Did I just call extra shoes an ultralight piece of gear? I can feel the true ultralight backpackers cringe right now. “Extra shoes are wasted weight” is lithographed into the true ultralight backpacker’s bible (which I’m sure exists because I’ve been measured against it many a time before). But before you dismiss the idea, let me make a case. Dollar store flip-flops average about 4 ounces of weight per pair. You can make your own and get them much lighter as shown here and here. Or you can order an even lighter pair from this source. That’s about the weight of a Cliff bar (which I personally measure every single piece of potential luxury gear item against and toss out yet another Cliff bar until I have almost no food but tons of comfy luxury items). Another lithographed rule in ultralight backpacking is that gear must have many different uses to earn it’s place in the pack. And so I present to you not 2, not 3, but 20 uses for dollar store flip-flops on a long distance hike, well worth the 3-ish ounces on your back.

  1. camp shoes/town shoes : The most common and all-on-its-own justifiable reason for carrying flip-flops. It’s easy to logically perceive camp-only shoes as a luxury item until your regular hiking shoes are soaked and smell like 3-week old yak vomit and you need something to slip on at 2am to go and hide from the drunk hunters in.
  2. hiking replacement shoes : We didn’t know we needed these until the book “Wild” came out and we had a real breathing example of the fear of losing a shoe materialize.  But even if we don’t actually lose a shoe, soles do fall off (and we’re out of duct tape), or we need to dry the insides of our hiking shoes, or we have foot rot and need to introduce our skin to air, or we have infected blisters to protect, or we want the foot massaging benefits of “barefooting” without slicing the bottom of our feet open, or our toenails are falling off, or, or, or..
  3. water shoes: I’m not talking about using these for deep and rushing river crossings as I’m pretty sure you’d lose them or yourself pretty quickly in a pair of these. But they are great for low water crossings when you just don’t want to soak your hiking shoes quite yet, or for walking out away from the banks of ponds and lakes for silt free water sources.
  4. campspot clearer: You could pick up each individual rock, stick, and pinecone before you pitch your tent/tarp…. orrrrr… you could just lightly sweep the site with a flip flop. You can “sweep” your tent floor with one too.
  5. wildlife frightener: The instructions for what to do should you encounter a mountain lion in Wilderness Survival For Dummies reads, “Make yourself as large as possible and do not appear infirm”. An infirm person would never raise 2 flip-flops over their head and smack them vigorously together making an unnaturally resounding THWACK noise over and over again. They wouldn’t.
  6. rehydration cozy: I rehydrate my meals in a ziplock, which is difficult to keep in an upright position and also difficult to protect from overly rapid cooling. Nesting the rehydrating meal between two flip-flops solves both of those problems.
  7. pillow booster: Especially during those nights when most of my clothing stays on my body because it’s crazy cold out, my flip-flops add an almost smell free cushy height to whatever’s paying pillow duty that night.
  8. sit pad: Kept in an outer pocket of the pack, flip-flops make a great quick-to-grab sit pad for breaks in butt-aggressive terrain.
  9. shoulder strap cushioner: On the first day out from a resupply when your pack weighs 3,500 pounds from the extra food and the luxury quart of grapefruit juice you can’t live without, you can slip a flip-flop underneath each shoulder strap to keep it from slicing your clavicles apart.
  10. hip belt extender: It happened to me last year that I got so skinny (probably because of unloading Cliff bars) that I couldn’t adjust my hip belt to be any tighter and my pack kept riding down my ass until I put some weight back on. A couple of flip-flops underneath the hip belt would’ve tricked it into thinking I was thick enough for it, and provided me some relief from the now loose-ish hip belt chafing as well.
  11. tent mosquito swatter: I don’t know how they get in there in the 2 and a half seconds the bug netting is unzipped, but they do, and they must die, or you will never sleep. You could do it one by one with a finger… orrrrrr….
  12. snow digging tool: Not as easy as a camp shovel (which a true ultra-lighter would never carry), but can be formed into a scoop like shape and used to clear snow from a campsite.
  13. hiking shoe emergency replacement sole/insert: Yes you can duct tape a flip flop to the bottom of an existing hiking shoe, or slip it in as an insert. Really handy when your sole is just done and you’ve just hit the lava fields in Oregon.
  14. pack bottom liner: I would like to submit my revelation that “there is no such thing as ultra-light waterproof anything” up for debate. You’ll lose. I’ve observed with some reliability that anytime actual water is involved, the water-proofedness of ultralight gear seems to fail pretty damn quickly. This bothers me the most when my down sleeping bag is involved. Something (NOT  your ultralight stuff sack) that is actually factually waterproof, like foam flip-flops, at the bottom of your pack will prevent you from performing the equivalent of tossing your bag into a lake every time you put your pack down on wet earth.
  15. makeshift water insulator: You can prevent the sun from beaming the fires of hell into your platys filled with fresh spring water by placing a flip-flop against the exposed side.
  16. gear dryer: When trying to dry a rain fly or any piece of gear that would be sensitive to tearing if you were to place it on a tree branch, you can instead wedge the heel part of the flip-flop into a tight branch junction and hang the rain fly (or whatever) through the flip-flop loops that usually hold them to your feet. You’re welcome.
  17. stream funnel: You can funnel water directly into your platy from a flowing water source by creating a water tube with your flip-flop. 
  18. knee pads: You don’t need to be injured (further) while gathering water from a reluctant source. Relax. Make yourself comfortable. Get on your knees.
  19. pot holder: For moving around hot things, or holding coffee that’s still in the Jetboil, or placing it underneath a meal recently rehydrated with boiling water.
  20. drink/stove holder: A cup will have substantially greater stability placed on top of a flip-flop and nestled into the top straps. You can also add a little stability to your cookstove by doing the same thing.
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  2 Responses to “Top 20 Uses for Dollar Store Flip Flops on Your Next Long Distance Hike”

  1. Another use for them which I have used a few times, is attaching them to your hands and using them while swimming as make shift hand paddles.

  2. This is such a great list that even Isis and Jackrabbit would buy a pair of flip-flops after reading it.

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