Protecting your feet when you’re backpacking or enjoying the outdoors is very important. Your feet are what get you in and out of the campsite. It is also your primary mode of “transportation” when you’re in danger and need to run for it.
When it comes to backpacking boots, many experienced backpackers would say that you just get the sturdiest one you can afford. This is good judgment since many boots are expensive so they need to be worth the cost. The problem with backpacking boots is the choice; there are simply too many brands, designs and styles all claiming to be the best backpacking boots in the market.
To the uninitiated eye, hiking boots, mountaineering boots and backpacking boots basically look the same. These different terms make choosing the right boot even more difficult. Without going into too much detail, hiking boots are usually high-cut, offer good support and are made of stiff construction.
They are intended for light loads, flex easily and require shorter break-in time. Mountaineering boots on the other hand, feature minimal seams, usually have full grain leather uppers, soles have excellent traction, and sometimes the boots also provide insulation.
Backpacking boots however, are constructed differently from the two aforementioned kinds. They are designed to carry heavy loads for multi-day trips. Compared to many hiking boots and mountaineering boots, backpacking boots have a higher cut that’s raised above the ankles for better support. Their mid-soles are also stiffer but lighter compared to other footwear to accommodate on-trail or off-trail adventures.
Now that we know what backpacking boots look like, it is now time to find out how to find the best backpacking boots.
How to Choose Backpacking Boots
Consider the following factors when looking for a pair of backpacking boots.
The components or material of your hiking boots have a direct impact on the weight of your boot. Materials can also affect breathability, durability and water resistance. For example, a backpacking boot made from leather is waterproof, durable and has abrasion resistance.
Leather boots are also built for extended trips and is great for different kinds of terrain. The downside to leather backpacking boots is the weight since they are heavier compared to nylon/split-grain leather boots. Leather boots also require longer break-in time so make sure not to wear them the first time on extended trips.
Split grain leather is usually combined with nylon for a boot that’s light and breathable. They are also usually more affordable compared to their leather counterparts. However, there are split leather and nylon mixed boots that are not as durable as leather ones. Buyers also need to be careful to buy this type of boot since not all of them are waterproof. Make sure to check if they have waterproof liners.
Always consider the type of terrain or length of your backpacking trip before buying the boots.
The best hiking boots also have to fit your feet very well. You don’t want a boot that’s too tight because it’s going to chafe your heels and it might cut off blood circulation to your feet. You also don’t want lose boots because it won’t offer good support.
A good pair of backpacking boots should fit everywhere and shouldn’t feel tight anywhere, feel snug but offer enough room for you to wiggle your toes. The first thing to know before buying a pair of boots is to know your size. If you’re not sure, you should have your feet measured using a calibrated device. The shoe store where you’re planning to buy your boots should have such equipment.
You might be tempted to look for boots during the day, but the best day to buy shoes is at the end of the day when your feet are swollen. This will help you avoid buying boots that are too small. Before you go to the shoe store you should also bring along or wear the socks you will be wearing when you go backpacking.
This will also help you avoid buying ill-fitting boots. Make sure the socks are cotton instead of synthetic which are likely to cause blisters.
People who wear orthotics should also bring those along. Now that you’ve found boots you like, spend some time with them. Walk around the store to get a feel of them. Find an inclined surface and walk on it and try to see if it offers enough traction.
Shopping online is common and convenient for many buyers. If you prefer this mode of shopping, stick with a brand you’ve worn before. Most boot manufacturers stick to the same materials and construction with most of their models so you should be safe from strange boots or materials. It would also be prudent to do some backpacking boot research before buying anything online.
Now that we know how to find the best hiking boots, it’s time to review some of the most popular in today’s market.
Best Hiking Boots Review
Scarpa Men’s Kinesis Pro GTX Trail Running Shoe
Material: Nubuck Leather
Price: $245.00 – $329.00
Special Features: waterproof Gore-Tex Performance Comfort membrane with Vibram traction outsoles.
Description: Comfortable and heavy-duty are just some of the adjectives happy buyers say about the Scarpa Men’s Kinesis Pro GTX Trail Running Shoe. The Kinesis has been dubbed as the “unbreakable all terrain vehicle for your feet”.
The boots are made from high quality construction and materials. The design of the boots is also very current but with a classic feel so the Kinesis Pro will still look stylish 10 years from now. Scarpa designed this boot with a Vibram sole for more comfort.
It also features micro-pulley hardware lacing, full rubber rand, and waterproof GORE-TEX lining. Clearly, Scarpa designed this boot for durability and different types of terrain. You can easily wear it backpacking or hunting even during winter.
The boot’s ActivFit technology uses an anatomical last so you don’t have to spend a long time to break-in the Kinesis. The only downside we see with the Scarpa boot is the price. At a minimum of $245, it can be out of range for budget backpackers.
Asolo Power Matic 200 GV Boot-Mens
Price: $204.72 – $315.00
Special Features: waterproof Gore-Tex Performance Comfort Footwear
Description: This boot from Asolo can only be described as a beast. While it can be an investment for many hikers, the Asolo Power Matic 200 GV Boot is great for walking, hiking and backpacking. Made to carry heavy loads, Asolo designed this boot around the foot. The result is a flexible, durable and water resistant footwear. It also features a Vibram Rubber Power Matic Outsole for comfort.
The boot is well constructed and will keep you backpacking for many years. However, the Power Matic is a bit on the heavy side at 4.30 lbs and at $204 minimun, a bit on the expensive side. The all-leather construction also makes the boot non-breathable which can be uncomfortable for long hikes.
Overall, the Power Matic is best suited for carrying heavy loads in muddy mountains and kicking some ice during light snow.
La Sportiva Men’s FC ECO 3.0 GTX Hiking Boot
Manufacturer: La Sportiva
Material: Nubuck leather and mesh
Price: $169.95 – $174.95
Special Features: waterproof and lightweight made from 100% recycled Nylon Mesh/ Uretech; Lining: Gore-Tex®/Dri-Lex® Bristol 40% Recycled Nylon
Description: The La Sportiva Men’s FC ECO 3.0 GTX Hiking Boots is a backpacker’s dream boot come true. It is a mixture of leather and mesh which makes it lightweight, durable and waterproof.
Starting at $169, this boot makes it to our list of best backpacking boots because it is on the more affordable side compared to Scarpa and Asolo. But that does not mean to say that it’s a pushover. This is the ideal boot for the first time backpacker because it requires no break-in.
Its Vibram River outsole features an Impact Break System Eco step to help novice backpacker control the pace downhill especially if the terrain is full of loose rocks and gravel. The recycled mesh and perforated nubuck is also very comfortable and allows the boots to be breathable. This boot is designed for backpacking in moderate terrain. It is not made for hard terrain, extended backpacking or heavy loads.
Lowa Men’s Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boot
Manufacturer: Lowa Boots
Material: Leather and synthetic
Price: $137.73 – $309.99
Special Features: water repellent climate control footbed, Vibram Evo outsole
Description: You can tackle any kind of terrain with the Lowa Men’s Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boot. The Renegade is waterproof with a climate control footbed for improved breathability. The bottom of the shoe features perforations so air can go in and out of the boot for added comfort. This allows your feet to be comfortable and dry.
The boot is best suited for day hikes and weekend short-haul trips. Made in Europe, Lowa has made boots for hikers, backpackers, mountaineers and climbers. The company prides itself in making boots that are of high quality.
While the boot is of high quality, there are reports of questionable durability. According to users, one of the first things to go is the water repellent features. Other users also report of the sole and shoe separating only after months of light use.
Vasque Men’s St. Elias Gore-Tex Backpacking Boot
Price: $131.57 – $199.99
Special Features: GORE-TEX waterproof construction with Performance Comfort Technology, Dual Density EVA footbed
Description: The St. Elias is one of the lightest backpacking boots from Vasque. But don’t let its weight fool you because Vasque Men’s St. Elias Gore-Tex Backpacking Boot are tough enough to tackle the tough terrain of Alaska or the rugged Appalachian Trail.
The EVA footbed also makes it one of the best backpacking boots because it can absorb impact while providing all day cushioning and support.
For a leather boot, the break-in time for the St. Elias is surprisingly quick. The boots are also very comfortable right out of the box. The Vibram rubber outsoles also make the boots stable and provide traction in rugged terrain. Starting at $131, the St. Elias is very affordable.
Salomon Men’s Quest 4D 2 GTX Hiking Boot
Price: $145.18 – $373.84
Special Features: GORE-TEX waterproof protection, Salomon 4D Chassis for stability/protection, Molded EVA Ortholite removable footbed
Description: The best backpacking boots have to provide stability, grip, comfort, laces that stay tied together and durability. The good news is that the Salomon Men’s Quest 4D 2 GTX Hiking Boots have all of these features. Developed through research with backpackers and hikers in mind, the 4D provides comfort for every foot shape.
The boot has a high-cut profile for stability and increased ankle support and protection. For the 4D, Salomon uses lining that gives the users breathability and quick drying. Wear this boot on rocky and gravelly terrain because the gusseted tongue connects with the uppers to prevent debris from getting into your boots. Best of all, Salomon provides a warranty of 2 years on their products.
Merrell Men’s Moab Ventilator Hiking Shoe
Price: $52.56 – $149.99
Special Features: water-resistant leather and mesh upper featuring rubber toe bumper and heel counter, Air Cushion midsole and Vibram Multi-Sport TC5+ rubber outsole
Description: A ventilated backpacker is a happy backpacker. The Merrel Moab Ventilator Hiking Shoe is made for light backpacking, hiking and bike trails. The Dura-leather strapping protects the feet while the open window ventilation system helps cool it down.
Your toe is also well protected thanks to the proven Vibram Multi-Sport sole with TC5+ rubber compound which also helps contribute to better grip and durability.
The Vibram Lug patterns on the arch ensure that your feet flex better for added comfort while hiking. The rubber soles also provide better traction during wet conditions. This is the backpacking shoe for people looking for style and comfort.
KEEN Women’s Targhee II Mid WP Hiking Bootman
Price: $80.33 – $186.05
Special Features: breathable waterproof membrane with protective toe cap, torsion stability ESS shank
Description: The women’s Targhee II from Keen is like a 4-wheel drive for your feet. Keen designed these boots to let your feet breathe and stay dry. The aggressive outsoles can also tackle any terrain so these boots can take you on a lonely Sunday walk to tackling the muddiest hiking paths.
This earns a best backpacking boots badge because of its affordable price (starts at $80) and lightweight design (1.8 pounds per pair, women’s size 8). The 4mm lugs also keep users upright in any terrain.
The Targhee II also features a waterproof and breathable lining so your feet stay dry and comfortable during your adventures. The stiff rubber soles also provide good stability and support. The boots are high cut but the ¼ inch off the ankle height might be too little support for some backpackers.
The boots also require some break-in before you do some serious hiking or backpacking in them. At $80, this boot offers great value and durability. These are a great option if you don’t want to spend more than $200 on hiking or backpacking boots.
The best hiking boots are a matter of personal opinion, of course. However, the boot you choose should be able to tackle tough terrain, water, long hikes and heavy weight. Whatever you decide, you should always make sure that your hiking boots fit and can keep up with you on the trail.