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 well run with it.
A hiking boot would look like Garmonts 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 Asolos FSN 95 ($160; asolo.com), a boot that has been out now for several years and has proven extremely popular. Its very comfortable, works fine on day hikes or overnighters, and has a Gore-Tex liner.
On the backpacking front, take a look at Montrails 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. Scarpas new Mustang GTX ($170; scarpa.com) is another solid boot for moderate loads and backpacking. Theyre a well-made Italian boot, very comfortable from the start, and offer great traction and ankle support. Garmonts Dakota ($240; garmont.com) ramps up the weight with 2.4 mm leather uppers, for heavy off-road backpacking or even light mountaineering. But theyre comfortable and not so heavy that theyll make you think youve 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.