I'm about to take on the Long Trail in Vermont for my end-of-high-school trip. My previous experience is short three- or four-day hikes, so nothing compared to the month-long excursion I'm about to undertake. What's the ideal long-distance boot for the Long Trail terrain? Tim Clifton Park, New York
Scarpa SL M3 hiking boot
Scarpa SL M3
So you need a serious boot for this trail, not a light hiker. At a minimum, you'd want a boot such as the Asolo Fugitive GTX ($170; www.asolo.com), which is a Gore-Tex-lined boot with outers of leather and Cordura fabric. Fairly tough, and light for a backpacking boot. A little bit heavier boot is Montrail's Blue Ridge ($175; www.montrail.com), which also has Gore-Tex liners while adding an all-leather upper. This is one durable, comfortable boot. Another tough boot in that price range is the Raichle Mt. Trail XT GTX ($190; www.raichle.com), which again has a Gore-Tex liner and all-leather uppers. An excellent bootcomfortable yet very supportive on rugged trails.
That said, the boot I'd choose is the Scarpa SL M3 ($240; www.scarpa.com). It's a superb boot: thick 2.9-millimeter leather, nylon shank, Vibram sole. No Gore-Tex liner, but you really don't need it with this bootit's exceedingly water-resistant by design.
Whatever boot you choose, fit is the most important thing, not what I recommend or what looks cool in the store. Take the time to try on several boots, and buy the one that fits the best. Also, take the time to break in the bootsstarting now. You'll want to have at least 20 miles of hiking in these boots before you start the Long Trail. Good luck!
Pick up a copy of the 2006 Outside Buyer's Guide, on newsstands now, for a look at the best boots and 396 other torture-tested products.