The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

Bedrock Cairn Adventure - Women's Review

This is a minimalist workhorse that can take on nearly anything
Bedrock Cairn Adventure minimal
Editors' Choice Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $105 List | $105.00 at REI
Pros:  Comfortable, versatile, lightweight, fits many foot types
Cons:  Not as cushioned as other models, can't be worn with socks
Manufacturer:   Bedrock
By Joanna Trieger ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 16, 2020
  • Share this article:
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
88
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 14
  • Comfort - 20% 8
  • Traction - 20% 9
  • Adjustability - 20% 9
  • Stability - 15% 8
  • Versatility - 15% 10
  • Style - 10% 9

Our Verdict

The Bedrock Cairn Adventure easily nabs the highest score in our review, earning it our Editors' 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 is 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 it lacking. But if you love to feel the ground beneath you while you adventure along, this kick will be your best friend.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Cairn Adventure impressed our testers from the get-go. 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 it performed. And it does so in style — we are repeatedly stopped by strangers wanting to know more about these unique kicks. Bedrock also makes an even burlier version of the Cairn, the 3D PRO II Adventure, that has a molded footbed and an even grippier sole. Overall, we like the pared-down regular version best, but if you're planning on long backcountry miles with a pack or lots of river time, check out the 3D PRO II.

Performance Comparison


The 10-mile round-trip hike to the summit of Nevada's 10 778-ft. Mt. Rose is no problem for this Editors' Choice winner.
The 10-mile round-trip hike to the summit of Nevada's 10,778-ft. Mt. Rose is no problem for this Editors' Choice winner.

Bedrock Re-soul


After more than two years of daily wear and more than a thousand miles of biking, hiking, walking, swimming, and generally moving around in the Cairn Adventure, our lead tester's pair finally started to show some signs of use as the lugs under the ball of the foot wore down. The sandal still performed well in this condition, but we started to notice a little bit of slipping on steep, loose trails, so we had this pair repaired through Bedrock's Re-soul program. Bedrock keeps the original straps and only replaces the footbed and outsole to cut down on waste. When shipping is factored in, this process is almost as expensive as getting a brand-new pair, but it's still slightly cheaper and arguably less wasteful, and the final product feels just about brand new. Bedrock will even sew cute "re-soul" patches onto the heel straps if you'd like, so you can wear your old sandals with pride.

Our worn out sole after over two years of rigorous play.
The cute "re-soul" patches you can get in the re-soling process to show off the longevity of your kicks.
Look at those brand new soles on our old kicks! Yeehaw!

Comfort


Thanks to the unique strap design of the Cairn, this model scores well in the comfort metric. The thong and ankle strap combo relieve pressure points while 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 surprises us most about the Cairn is the comfort of the toe strap. The looped webbing isn't so wide that it causes unnecessary rubbing, and testers rarely, if ever, notice it.


The comfort of a sandal is also impacted by the footbed. 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 like this midsole's bells-and-whistles-free design. Even our high-arched testers find the Cairn comfortable during long days on the trail. A textured pattern on the footbed is designed to provide extra shoe-to-foot traction, an area we feel the Cairn excels in. The burlier 3D PRO II Adventure adds some footbed molding for more support, if that's something you feel you need.

The sole of the regular Bedrock Cairn Adventure  top  is significantly thinner and more flexible than that of its burlier sibling  the 3D PRO II Adventure  bottom.
The sole of the regular Bedrock Cairn Adventure, top, is significantly thinner and more flexible than that of its burlier sibling, the 3D PRO II Adventure, bottom.


The Cairn does not come in gender-specific sizing, but this certainly shouldn't be a dealbreaker. Because of the minimalist design, it easily adapts to the differences in men's and women's foot shapes. Bedrock displays men's and women's sizes together (for example, Men's 9/Women's 10), and our testers found the sandals to run true to women's sizes.

The Cairn does lose some comfort points because of its minimal support (which we discuss in detail below), as well as the possibility of irritation caused by the textured footbed on long back-to-back days.

Traction


The Cairn employs a Vibram sole with lugs that Bedrock describes as "aggressive and angular." 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 makes it difficult to avoid that lurching feeling you get 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 deep  irregular lugs on the sole of the Cairn Adventure (right) mean that this model performs far better in the traction metric than the Teva Original Universal  left  which has shallow  non-strategic lugs.
The deep, irregular lugs on the sole of the Cairn Adventure (right) mean that this model performs far better in the traction metric than the Teva Original Universal, left, which has shallow, non-strategic lugs.

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, check out the 3D PRO II Adventure, which sports a Vibram Megagrip outsole for even more traction than the regular Cairn Adventure.

Side-by-side testing the traction of the Cairn Adventure (back foot) and the Z-Trail (front foot). The Cairn performed better here  especially since its footbed retains traction even when wet.
Side-by-side testing the traction of the Cairn Adventure (back foot) and the Z-Trail (front foot). The Cairn performed better here, especially since its footbed retains traction even when wet.

Adjustability


The adjustment system on the Cairn is unique, with three independent adjustment points. A Velcro heel strap adjusts front to back, while two 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 in practice, they work perfectly 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. This works. Once the Velcro heel strap is dialed in, it's super quick to use the other straps to adjust the sandal when taking it and off between activities. Plus, leaving the Velcro strap alone allows you to extend the lifespan of the Velcro itself.

The buckles shown here are all you need to adjust the Cairn Adventure during regular use. This adjustment system is one of the simplest and most secure we tested.
The buckles shown here are all you need to adjust the Cairn Adventure during regular use. This adjustment system is one of the simplest and most secure we tested.

Stability


The Cairn is, admittedly, not the best option for those with soaring arches. Because of this, it doesn't receive top marks in this metric. With that said, our lead tester has pronounced high arches, and the Cairn is 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. If you're positive you need arch support, but you are desperate to own a pair of Cairns, don't despair! Bedrock's Cairn 3D line has a molded footbed that doesn't quite achieve the contouring of a Chaco model, but is more supportive than the pancake-flat regular Cairn.


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 feel that the flexibility of the sole adds some stability because it's able to contour to trail irregularities instead of remaining rigid. This model is a favorite for rugged terrain, allowing the wearer to feel the ground beneath them without causing pain when stepping on particularly sharp rocks.

Even on steep  jagged terrain like this  the Cairn's sole protected our feet  and the strap system held them firmly in place.
Even on steep, jagged terrain like this, the Cairn's sole protected our feet, and the strap system held them firmly in place.

Versatility


With its low weight and supportive strap system, the Cairn Adventure is one of the most versatile models reviewed.


This model hangs 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 great travel option.

This model is rugged enough for a hard day on the trail and comfortable enough to relax with on the beach.
This model is rugged enough for a hard day on the trail and comfortable enough to relax with on the beach.

One gripe comes from our sock-loving testers, who are frustrated that they can'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 work around this with toe socks, while others feel that it's a dealbreaker. If you're looking for a great camp sandal that accommodates socks, check some of the options in our review that go over the top of the foot instead of between the toes.

The thong strap on the Cairn Adventure makes them tough to wear with socks  but on the up side  it gave us an excuse to bring these sweet leg warmers backpacking.
The thong strap on the Cairn Adventure makes them tough to wear with socks, but on the up side, it gave us an excuse to bring these sweet leg warmers backpacking.

Style


Simple lines, low bulk, and a unique design profile all lend the Cairn style points. Our testers receive compliments from strangers almost every time they wear this model in any setting, from the biology classroom to the boulder fields to the supermarket. The Cairn has a "technical" look (one friend described it as "climber chic"), which a lot of people like.


If you'd like something a little less outdoorsy, there are certainly options for that in our review as well. 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 Editors' Choice winning Cairn is simple and effective.
The Editors' Choice winning Cairn is simple and effective.

Value


The Cairn is not an insignificant investment, but given that you can take it anywhere and that it will last for hundreds if not thousands of miles, we think it's an outstanding value. Our lead tester wore the Cairn for more than two years, biking, hiking, backpacking, river stomping, and generally hanging out in it daily, before the lugs under the ball of the foot showed enough wear to need replacing. The versatility and durability of this sandal make it a bargain at this price.

A happy day in the backcountry with the Cairn Adventure.
A happy day in the backcountry with the Cairn Adventure.

Conclusion


Combining a lightweight design with a trustworthy sole, comprehensive adjustment, and a sleek, stylish profile, the Bedrock 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.

Joanna Trieger