Bedrock Cairn Adventure - Women's Review
Cons: Not as cushioned as other models, can't be worn with socks
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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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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