The Bedrock Cairn Adventure easily nabbed the highest score in our review, earning it our Editor's Choice Award. With a unique design that combines a thong with an ankle strap, the Cairn minimizes pressure points along the outside of the foot. Together with a trusty Vibram sole, this comfy and secure strap system makes for a stable contender with higher than average traction. The Cairn performed strongly in several other aspects, which we detail below. This contender was a true all-rounder, with everything it takes to handle steep, loose terrain, water sports, and backyard barbecues. Be warned, though, that this is a fairly minimalist sandal, so folks who are looking for lots of cushioning and support may find the Cairn lacking. If you're looking for an option with plenty of cush and support for high arches, check out one of the Chaco models, like the Chaco Z/Cloud 2.
Bedrock Cairn Adventure Review
Cons: Not as cushioned as other models, can't be worn with socks
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Our Analysis and Test Results
When the many models in our test arrived on our doorstep, it seemed a daunting task to pick only one winner… at first. Then the Bedrock Cairn Adventure came out of the gate foaming at the mouth and ready for adventure. Our testers were continually surprised by this model's strong performance across our rating metrics. On each outing, despite variable terrain, heavy packs, snowy sections of trail, days that demanded quick transitions from crag to bar, and high-intensity days at the lake, the Cairn performed. And it did so in style — we were repeatedly stopped by strangers wanting to know more about these unique kicks. Below, we detail the many ways in which this contender blew our testers' minds.
Thanks to the Cairn's unique strap design, this model scored well in the comfort metric. The thong and ankle strap combo relieve pressure points, while also minimizing the amount of debris that can get trapped between your foot and the shoe in a normal sandal. The polyester and nylon webbing straps are 3/4-inch thick, which means they are plenty wide enough to avoid bothersome rubbing. What surprised us most about the Cairn was the comfort of the toe strap. The looped webbing wasn't so wide that it caused unnecessary rubbing, and testers rarely, if ever, noticed it.
The comfort of a sandal is also impacted by the footbed of the shoe. Constructed from an 8mm Go Far midsole that Bedrock claims is more durable than EVA, this midsole is minimalist. While for some this can be a gripe (especially those with very high arches who require support), our testers found the midsole's bells-and-whistles-free design to be favorable. Even our high-arched testers were comfortable during long days on the trail in the Cairn. A textured pattern on the footbed is designed to provide extra shoe-to-foot traction, an area that we felt the Cairn excelled in. The Teva Tirra and the Chaco models are good options if you're looking for a cushier sandal, and the KEEN Clearwater provides more around-the-foot comfort. We also found the Xero Z-Trail to be comfortable right out of the box because its materials feel great against the skin, but note that this is an even more minimalist model than the Cairn, so don't expect a lot of cush.
The Cairn lost some comfort points because of its minimal support (which we discuss in detail below), as well as the possibility of the textured footbed's bottom-of-foot irritation on long back-to-back days.
The Cairn is, admittedly, not the best option for those with soaring arches. Because of this, it didn't receive top marks in the stability metric. With that said, our lead tester has pronounced high arches, and the Cairn was her favorite model, which goes to show that there can be no replacement for trying a shoe on and seeing how it fits your foot.
Despite failing to meet the needs of the very high-arched, the Cairn is stable and supportive for most foot types, and the minimalist footbed design eliminates hot spots from ill-fitting arch support. Additionally, the 14mm stack height is the perfect barrier between you and the ground. We actually felt that the flexibility of the sole added some stability, because it was able to contour to trail irregularities instead of remaining rigid. This model was a favorite for rugged terrain, allowing the wearer to feel the ground beneath them without allowing pain when stepping on particularly sharp rocks. Some testers favored the KEEN Clearwater in terms of stability, while others liked the ruggedness of the Chaco ZX/2.
The Cairn employs a Vibram sole. This immediately won over our testers, as Vibram is a rubber most of us have come to know and trust over years of scrambling on, around, and through some of the slickest rock around. Bedrock describes the lug design as "aggressive and angular," and our testing proved this to be correct. The large lugs lend this model bite-like traction on slick rock while going both up and down.
Despite our testers' faith in the shoe's rubber and lug design, the thong design of the sandal made it difficult to avoid that lurching feeling when heading down a steep slope in flip flops. Although the Cairn Adventure never slipped off anyone's feet on the way down (and it likely never will), we couldn't shake the feeling, which prompted us to go a little slower.
The Cairn is an amphibious performer, offering great traction both in water and on land. If you're going to be doing most or all of your adventuring in watery environments, Bedrock also makes the Cairn Pro Adventure Sandals, which have a Vibram Megagrip outsole for even more (claimed) traction than the regular Cairn Adventure. We haven't tested this option, but water lovers may want to check it out.
The Cairn's adjustment system is unique, with three independent adjustment points. A Velcro heel strap adjusts front to back, while two adjustment points on the top of the foot adjust the width (and, to some extent, the toe connection). A hook on the inside of the foot allows for rarely needed larger adjustments, while a strap system on the outside of the foot allows you to quickly pull the sandal tight. All of these points might seem confusing, but we found that they worked perfectly in concert together to hug the foot.
Bedrock recommends that users employ the Velcro heel strap for rarely needed adjustments, instead of using the strap system for quick on-and-off. Our testers used this method, finding it to be intuitive and much faster than fiddling with the Velcro. Once we had the Velcro heel strap dialed in, we found it super quick to use the other straps to adjust the sandal when taking it and off and moving between activities. Plus, leaving the Velcro strap alone allows you to extend the lifespan of the Velcro itself. Another high scorer in adjustability was the Chaco Z/Cloud2.
With its low weight and supportive strap system, the Cairn Adventure is one of the most adaptable models reviewed. This model hung on through hot, pebbly approaches to the crag, long SUP tours, steep terrain, and many trips into town. Plus, it packs nearly flat, making it a good travel option. The Chaco models, including the Z/Cloud 2 and the Z/Volv X2, were other favorites for adaptability.
One gripe comes from our sock-loving testers, who were frustrated that they couldn't convert the Cairn into the classic California Snowshoe (sandals with socks). This is crucial for breezy nights around the campfire after a long day of hiking when keeping your feet warm is imperative to your comfort. Some testers worked around this with toe socks, while others felt that it was a deal-breaker. If you're looking for a great camp sandal that accommodates socks, check out the Xero Z-Trail. It's even lighter than the Cairn, super comfortable, and great with socks.
Simple lines, low bulk, and a unique design profile all lend the Cairn style points. Our testers received compliments from strangers almost every time they wore this model in almost any setting, from a biology classroom to the boulder fields to the supermarket. The Cairn has a "technical" look (one friend described it as "climber chic"), which lots of people like.
If you'd like something a little less outdoorsy, you might like the minimalist look of the Xero Z-Trail or the relatively feminine Teva Tirra. Of course, style is subjective, so check out the photos throughout this review and decide if you think you'd be happy rocking the Bedrocks around town and beyond.
The Cairn can handle almost anything. This shoe excels on the trail, scrambling to the crag, during watersports, or while running errands in town. For some, this shoe can be used as a running shoe alternative (although you should be well-versed in the pros and cons of minimalist running footwear).
At $105, the Cairn is not an insignificant investment, but given that you can take it anywhere and that it will last for years, we think this is an outstanding value. Our lead tester has been wearing the Cairn almost daily for more than a year, both around town and in the backcountry, and astoundingly, it's showing virtually no signs of wear and tear. Its versatility and durability make this sandal a bargain at this price.
Combining a lightweight design with a trustworthy sole, comprehensive adjustment, and a sleek, stylish profile, the Cairn Adventure is hard to turn down. Overall, this sandal wins in nearly every category. Plus, the Bedrock factory is local to Richmond, California, and all of the sandals are manufactured there. The founders are outdoor enthusiasts who know the demands an outdoor sandal must meet. And they've designed a product that excels.
— Shey Kiester and Joanna Trieger