Gear Guy

How much weight can I comfortably carry while hiking in a mid-weight boot?

Certain popular boots, such as the Vasque Skywalk, are called "Mid-weight backpacking boots." What does this specification mean? If my proportions are fairly average, how big of a pack can I wear with a mid-weight backpacking boot? Arthur New York, New York

That specification means about whatever you want it to mean. Speaking broadly, a “mid-weight" backpacking boot is one designed to carry moderate overnight loads (30–35 pounds) on smooth and/or rough trails. It’s not meant to be worn as a mountaineering boot or for extended off-trail use.

All of this is sort of meaningless from a practical standpoint. For some people a mid-weight boot won’t be beefy enough, for others it may be more boot than they want. It’s really a matter of how rugged your ankles are, and how light you like to travel. Myself, I prefer a little sturdier boot, both to accommodate off-trail jaunts, and to protect a right ankle that’s prone to roll on me.

In any event, Vasque has discontinued the Skywalk. Probably the Vasque Wasatch GTX ($160; vasque.com) would handle the same sorts of trails and loads. It’s an all-leather boot with a Vibram sole and a Gore-Tex bootie. Similar boots from different makers would include the La Sportiva Trango Trek ($170; sportiva.com) and Montrail Torre GTX ($160; montrail.com). I’d wear a boot like this when carrying up to 35 pound loads on hikes where I don’t intend to do much bushwhacking when fully loaded, but I might do some scrambles with a daypack.

In the Vasque line, a step up to a heavier boot would be the Sundowner Summit GTX ($200), which has heavier leather than the Wasatch, a taller design, thicker midsoles, and a rubber toe rand to add some toe protection. I’d wear that if I was carrying 40 pounds or more and apt to be on the trail for several days. A lighter boot than the Wasatch is the Clarion ($140), a fabric-and-leather boot that draws from dayhiker technology to offer a light boot for fast traveling.

The 2008 Winter Outside Buyer’s Guide is now online. From snow sports to trail-running to camping, get reviews of more than 300 new gear must-haves.

Holiday Subscription Sale

Outside Magazine Latest Issue

Save 79% and get a free gift!

Not Now

Special Holiday Offer: Save 79% and Get a Free Gift!

Subscribe
Holiday Bow