Gear Guy

Q:

What's the best boot for a four-week trek?

For a four-week section hike on the Appalachian Trail in March, should I get a full-leather waterproof boot like the Hi-Tec Excursion, or the lighter Amazon that's also waterproof and made with both leather and nylon? Matt Chattanooga, Tennessee

A:To be honest, I wouldn't get either of them. I don't want to rip Hi-Tec footwear, as some of that company's stuff is not bad. But in my experience, their shoes simply aren't made as well as those from most other higher-priced boot makers. They might well survive a four-week AT section hike. Then again, they might not.

Of the two you mention, though, I'd definitely get the Excursion ($110), which as you note is all-leather, whereas the Amazon ($85) is a fabric and leather hiker. The Amazon really isn't a bad-looking boot, so it might work fine.

Still, I'd advise you to spend a little more. One failsafe recommendation is L.L. Bean's leather Cresta Hiker ($170), a comfortable, well-made boot with a Gore-Tex liner. Asolo's FSN 90 GTX ($150) is another extremely well-regarded boot—it's waterproof and as comfortable as a day hiker, but with enough support to handle backpacking. Montrail's Torre GTX ($150) is another boot that's good for all sorts of trail and load conditions. It too is waterproof.

Of course, with boots, fit is the most important thing. So, start with the above list, then buy whatever fits best. And be sure to keep the leather well conditioned to repel water, with a treatment such as Nikwax. Don't rely on the waterproof liner alone.

Have a great hike!

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