Gear Guy

What’s the difference between hiking boots and backpacking boots?

What’s the difference between hiking boots and backpacking boots? I'm a beginner hiker/backpacker and looking for enough support from a boot that doesn't weight a ton. I’ll probably carry 35 pounds for five days max. Will hiking boots work? Peggy Charlotte, North Carolina

It can be a little confusing. One school of thought is that hiking boots and backpacking boots are the same thing. Another is that hiking boots are more for day trips, while backpacking boots are for lugging larger loads for several days, sometimes off-trail. That is perhaps a more useful distinction. So we’ll run with it.

A hiking boot would look like Garmont’s Flash XCR ($130; garmont.com), a boot that combines the comfort of a trail-runner with mid-ankle support and a Gore-Tex liner for waterproofing. I would view this mainly as a day-hiker, but you could wear a moderate-sized pack and be comfortable on decent trails, too. Same for Asolo’s FSN 95 ($160; asolo.com), a boot that has been out now for several years and has proven extremely popular. It’s very comfortable, works fine on day hikes or overnighters, and has a Gore-Tex liner.

On the backpacking front, take a look at Montrail’s Blue Ridge boots ($175; montrail.com) These all-leather boots have a little more heft than the boots above, and they stand taller around the ankle for a bit more support. They also have a half-steel shank for more support when lugging a load. Scarpa’s new Mustang GTX ($170; scarpa.com) is another solid boot for moderate loads and backpacking. They’re a well-made Italian boot, very comfortable from the start, and offer great traction and ankle support. Garmont’s Dakota ($240; garmont.com) ramps up the weight with 2.4 mm leather uppers, for heavy off-road backpacking or even light mountaineering. But they’re comfortable and not so heavy that they’ll make you think you’ve donned concrete overboots. Personally, I prefer the foot protection and security of a beefier boot, especially when carrying a load.

The Gear Guy reports from 2007 Winter Outdoor Retailer, the bi-annual gearapalooza in Salt Lake City. Check out his top picks for gear to watch in 2007.

Filed To: Hiking Shoes, Hiking Boots

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