Backcountry Forum
Backpacking & Hiking Gear

Backcountry Forum
Our long-time Sponsor - the leading source for ultralite/lightweight outdoor gear
Backpacking Forums
backcountry gear

---- Our Gear Store ----
The Lightweight Gear Store

Bivy Bags
Sleeping Bags
Sleeping Pads
Snow Sports
Winter Kitchen


Avalanche Gear
Hats, Gloves, & Gaiters


Ultralight Backpacks
Ultralight Bivy Sacks
Ultralight Shelters
Ultralight Tarps
Ultralight Tents
Ultralight Raingear
Ultralight Stoves & Cookware
Ultralight Down Sleeping Bags
Ultralight Synthetic Sleep Bags
Ultralight Apparel

the Titanium Page
WM Extremelite Sleeping Bags


Sleeping Bags


Ropes & Cordage
Protection & Hardware
Carabiners & Quickdraws
Climbing Packs & Bags
Big Wall
Rescue & Industrial






Men's Footwear
Women's Footwear


Mens Apparel
Womens Apparel


Black Diamond
Granite Gear
La Sportiva


Top Brands
All Brands

 Backpacking Equipment 

Sleeping Bags
Water Treatment

 Backcountry Gear Clearance

Topic Options
Rate This Topic
#179228 - 08/16/13 11:46 AM Wade or rock hop?
balzaccom Online   content

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 1785
Loc: Napa, CA
Along similar lines...

On our last trip to Virginia Canyon, we ran into a group of students from the Athenian School, a high school in the Bay Area. They were on a 26-day backpacking trip as part of a graduation requirement from the school...and we enjoyed chatting with them. Nice kids, having fun.

But one thing struck us as a bit odd. We met at the junction where the Pacific Crest Trail fords Return Creek in Virginia Canyon, and as we hopped on the rocks across the creek, we noticed that the kids in the group were all sitting down, with their boots off, and wringing the water out of their socks.

When we asked about it, the bright young woman who was guiding them explained that "We don't rock hop across streams."

OK. We do. We also use trees, where possible, as in the photo here. We like dry feet, and dry boots. At any rate...

We stopped there and pumped some water for the hike up to McCabe Lakes, and as we were finishing up, M noticed that their group was getting ready to hit the trail. No worries. Those young people were going to leave first, and were certainly going to hike uphill faster than us old folks.

Not so. In less than 100 yards we were right behind them, and they kindly let us go ahead. And fifty yards beyond that we came to the ford of McCabe Creek...which we rock-hopped across, and headed up the hill.

And we couldn't help thinking that they were going to stop after that one, sit down, take their boots off, and wring their socks out again. Seemed like a slow way to hike in the Sierra.

Then again, the next day M was carelessly rock-hopping across a small stream, slipped, and dunked her feet nicely into the water. She grimaced, swore, and then hiked up out of the stream and let her feet dry out, more or less, on the trail. That afternoon she set her boots in the sun and completed the drying process.

On the other hand, where there are no rocks, we just take off our boots and wade in our Crocs.

Edited by balzaccom (08/16/13 11:53 AM)

check out our website and blog:

#179231 - 08/16/13 04:19 PM Re: Wade or rock hop? [Re: balzaccom]
topshot Offline

Registered: 04/28/09
Posts: 242
Loc: Midwest
If suitable rocks are present, I'll use them. Otherwise, I wade across in my trail runners. They dry enough just hiking. If my feet seem to be more sensitive for some reason, I may wring out the socks, but that's pretty rare now that I've gone to lighter weight ones (ie, running vs hiking socks). My son and I did Zion Narrows this summer (video in the reports section) in our normal footwear. No problems at all. You'll likely have problems using boots that don't drain and dry worth a darn.

#179232 - 08/16/13 05:19 PM Re: Wade or rock hop? [Re: balzaccom]
Barefoot Friar Offline

Registered: 01/23/09
Posts: 176
Loc: Houston, Alabama
Oh, rock hop. I'll go several hundred yards out of my way to rock hop, particularly in winter. I hate having wet feet.
"Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls."

#179242 - 08/17/13 07:59 AM Re: Wade or rock hop? [Re: Barefoot Friar]
LookinUp Offline

Registered: 05/12/12
Posts: 24
Loc: NE TX
I solo a lot and don't like to take chances, so I tend to wade thru rather than rock hop....seen a few folks spill that way, including a friend's wife that ended up with a pretty bad gash to her noggin. If I'm completely confident I can, then I'll hop. I wear light trail runners and light wool socks, and have found that even in cold weather just walking thru is fine. When I'd rather not get my shoes wet; ie just before getting to camp in the evening, I don a pr of Sprint Aquatic shower shoes (1.6 oz,and non-slip soles). But then I'm no longer young and as agile as I once was grin

Edited by LookinUp (08/17/13 08:01 AM)

#179256 - 08/18/13 03:22 PM Re: Wade or rock hop? [Re: balzaccom]
billstephenson Offline

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3915
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
I wouldn't necessarily think wading is any safer than rock hopping. That depends on the crossing, one's personal abilities, and more often than not a bit of luck.

I almost always rock hop, and like Barefoot, I'll bushwhack a long way to find a good, safe, crossing. If I know there's a good chance I have to wade I'll bring water shoes, but I usually don't. Truth is, I've dunked my feet in the water more times than I can count rock hopping, but I've crossed dry more times than that.

I have waded creeks and rivers a lot, many miles in fact, though not much with a full backpack, and from my experience it's much more likely that I'll slip and fall while wading than rock hopping, especially if there's a strong current.

Crossings are a main reason I use a hiking stick. They can be used as a third point of balance and make crossing much easier and safer.

I suppose if I hiked mostly on trails in warm weather I might use fast drying trail runners and just slosh my way across streams and let them dry while I was wearing them. That seems like a good option in those conditions.


"You want to go where?"

#179308 - 08/20/13 10:51 AM Re: Wade or rock hop? [Re: billstephenson]
finallyME Offline

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
Originally Posted By billstephenson

Crossings are a main reason I use a hiking stick. They can be used as a third point of balance and make crossing much easier and safer.

My poles definitely make rock hopping easier. I rock hop 99.9% of the time, and only wade when I can't rock hop. Some people aren't coordinated enough to rock hop. Most of my scouts have a hard time at first, but over time get the hang of it. Well, except for one kid we named "Splash". He eventually gave up and just walked through every water puddle we came across, even the ones you could walk around. Kids just don't walk in the woods as much as they used to. And, I don't see too many balance beams in elementary school playgrounds anymore. All my kids have had a hard time doing it when they were 4 and 5, but by 6 they were pros.

Edited by finallyME (08/20/13 10:52 AM)
I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money.

#179340 - 08/21/13 06:55 AM Re: Wade or rock hop? [Re: finallyME]
LookinUp Offline

Registered: 05/12/12
Posts: 24
Loc: NE TX
One thing I should add, as a paddler I've taken more than one swiftwater rescue class, and while I do tend to walk thru rather than rock hop, I'm all about bushwhacking when needed to find a suitable crossing, and know my personal limits with current and depth and won't exceed them even if I have to turn back..usually, at least in the limited areas I've hiked, I can find a crossing. One thing that hampers me is my size and weight 5'5" and 130 lbs. What some of the big guys I hike with can cross, I'd get swept away even with my Pacer Poles.

#179350 - 08/21/13 09:16 PM Re: Wade or rock hop? [Re: LookinUp]
Samoset Offline

Registered: 07/04/08
Posts: 429
Loc: Newnan ,GA
I do a fair bit of both, Ive found that no two river crossings are the same! I do not currently use poles. But will find a wading staff if need be. I'm also almost always wearing tevas, and will keep a few pair of dry socks
Some peopole live life day by day. Try step by step.

#179399 - 08/24/13 10:32 PM Re: Wade or rock hop? [Re: billstephenson]
Jimshaw Offline

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3939
Loc: Bend, Oregon
As a flyfisherman I have seen water so swift that you could not move anywhere but downstream if it was knee deep. Wading swift water is sort of an art, wheras hopping over has always seemed safer to me, and I hate to get my boots wet.

I would NEVER take off my boots and socks and cross barefooted (I did that once :(), thats asking for badly damaged ankles or something stuck through the sole of your foot.
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

#179406 - 08/25/13 08:57 AM Re: Wade or rock hop? [Re: Jimshaw]
bpackengneer Offline

Registered: 05/01/13
Posts: 26
Loc: Massachusetts
I rock hop when it is convenient. If not, I will walk through with my trail runners on. The nice thing is they are light and breathable so they dry out quickly.

Backpacking Engineer


Shout Box

Highest Quality Lightweight Down Sleeping Bags
Western Mountaineering Sleeping Bags
Lite Gear Talk - Featured Topics
Berghaus Mens Hyper Hydroshell jacket...
by Alf
08/03/18 06:36 PM
Anyone using a Gossmear Gear The one?
by toddfw2003
07/27/18 09:36 PM
Getting Accustomed to Zero Drop Shoes?
by Bill Kennedy
07/23/18 02:32 PM
Backcountry Discussion - Featured Topics
First trip with Bear Vault 500..not enough space!
by willie1280
08/17/18 08:10 AM
Wither Bergans of Norway?
by Steadman
08/14/18 09:09 AM
bad idea taking a newbie into the backcountry?
by toddfw2003
08/11/18 11:23 PM
Make Your Own Gear - Featured Topics
Featured Photos
Breakneck Ridge, New York
May 2012 Eclipse, Lassen Park
New Years Eve 2011
Trip Report with Photos
Seven Devils, Idaho
Oat Hill Mine Trail 2012
Dark Canyon - Utah
Who's Online
0 registered (), 56 Guests and 0 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Newest Members
Bilbobobbles, BrianR68, geckon, eaglesfan122, RedRobin
12621 Registered Users
Forum Links
Site Links
Lightweight Gear Store
Backpacking Book Store
Lightweight Zone
Hiking Essentials

Our long-time Sponsor, - The leading source for ultralite/lightweight outdoor gear:

Backcountry Forum

Since 1996 - the Original Backcountry Forum
Copyright © The Lightweight Backpacker & BackcountryForum