Just to warn you up front: this is going to be a difficult topic for a lot of you readers, especially those without a lot of light packing experience.
People love their shoes. Love em. Even when traveling for just a short period of time like a week, most people tend to bring along multiple pairs of shoes to wear in different situations. It’s something that I’ve consistently observed over the years.
Well I hate to break it to you, but if you want to travel with just a small bag, you’re going to need to limit yourself to 2 pairs of shoes.
*A collective gasp from the audience*
Ok. Get a hold of yourself and stay with me for a minute.
The problem with shoes and luggage? They take up a lot of space. They’re heavy. They’re inflexible. You can’t fold them up and squeeze them into a small empty space like you can with a shirt. And if you wear them frequently, they’re going to stink up your bag.
Shoes are the number one article of clothing that can absolutely kill your chances of packing light. So we’re going to limit the damage by keeping the shoes to a minimum.
My solution? If I think I’m able to make it work, then I only take one pair of footwear with me on vacation: Chaco Z/1 Classic sandals.
If you’ve never worn Chacos before, you’re missing out. They’re amazing shoes. If it weren’t for the expectations of society, I’d wear them to the office every day. They’re seriously the most comfortable, indestructible shoes I’ve ever worn.
They’re so well-made that I’ve never actually worn a pair out. I’m on my third pair of Chacos now, and that’s only because I wanted a new color after wearing the older ones for 6 years, secretly hoping that some part of the shoe would break. They never did.
On my last two vacations to Southeast Asia, these were the only shoes I wore the entire time, and not once did I regret leaving all the other shoes at home.
The outsole of these guys is made of a thick, super sturdy rubber compound, and there’s a single continuous strap that loops through the sole and around your foot. All you do is pull on this one strap to tighten the sandals to your feet. A very simple and effective design.
I love these shoes because they’re so versatile. They’re perfect for walking around on normal terrain while seeing new places, and they’re also sturdy enough to explore off the beaten path. Due to the strap design, these things will stay secured to your feet. I’ve done many hikes in Chacos including one up a glacier in Alaska (though I probably wouldn’t do that again), and other than the occasional annoying pebble that can get stuck under your foot, they’ve been solid. If they get dirty or sweaty, they’re super easy to wash. And since they’re sandals, they dry much faster than any regular shoe.
A word of caution to first time Chaco wearers: they’re going to feel uncomfortable at first. These shoes take several weeks to properly break in, but once you do, it’s like walking on a sea of baby ducks. So comfortable. So please don’t go out and buy a new pair the day before you leave on your trip. Your feet won’t be happy if you do that.
Chaco makes several different variations of their sandals. I like the clean simplicity of their Z1, but there’s also a popular Z2 version that features a strap that goes around your big toe. Lots of people prefer this version due to the increased feeling of security, but I hate having stuff in between my toes, so it was a no-go for this guy.
Chaco previously made all their sandals in Colorado, which I appreciated, but after their footwear got really popular, they moved production of most of their goods to China. While I’m not a huge fan of this move, the sandals themselves seem to be exactly the same quality as the previous ones that were made here in the USA. You can still buy a custom designed pair of Chacos made in the USA if you wish. It’s a nice option to have available, so kudos to the company for at least offering the choice.
Now, I’m very much aware that there are certain vacations where a pair of sandals isn’t going to be enough. I’ve been there. So that’s where the second pair of shoes comes in, and the choice of that second pair will entirely depend on the type of trip you’re going on. More discussion on this in a later post!