In the West, following a delightfully wet winter, forests are lusher than they’ve been in years, and hillsides are overflowing with wildflowers and berries. Across the country, the National Park Service is celebrating its 100th birthday with a series of centennial events in our most beautiful outdoor spaces. All of which is to say that it’s a big year for hiking. Fortunately, the latest crop of trail shoes is up to the task. Diverse new models are entering the market: featherweight low-cut hikers, multipurpose boots that perform equally well on afternoon romps and weekend backpacking adventures, and supremely sturdy but silly-­comfortable high-tops that are the ideal choice if this is your year to tackle the Pacific Crest Trail. 

under armour
  Photo: Under Armour

Under Armour Verge Mid GTX

Gear of the Year 

In a category filled with hard-to-distinguish designs, this boot stands way, way out. It’s easier to imagine Stephen Curry rocking it on the court than seeing it on the display wall at REI. The fit is more basketball shoe than hiker, with a pliable mesh upper and welded overlays that conformed to our feet, creating a snug but not restrictive cradle. Down below, however, this is a classic hiker: a TPU shank in the midsole offers support, and a Michelin-rubber outsole with aggressive lugs gives supreme grip. We had to pay attention to foot placement on rough terrain, because the Verge doesn’t provide much protection against jagged rocks, but that’s a small compromise for a hiker that offers the best mix of comfort and agility of any we’ve ever worn. 

Price $170 Weight 13.1 oz

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La Sportiva
  Photo: La Sportiva

La Sportiva Tx2

Best For: Getting to the wall. 

The Test: La Sportiva really took the word approach to heart with the svelte new Tx2. The entire top of the shoe collapses, allowing it to shrink to half its size when you need to throw it in your pack and switch to a burlier boot on technical ascents. A loop on the heel clips to your harness if you’re changing into climbing shoes. On your way to the crag, rubber rands shrug off errant objects, a ­gummy Vibram Megagrip outsole latches onto boulders and shale fields, and an EVA midsole provides so much support, you’ll be tempted to log some real miles in it. 

The Verdict: A well-thought-out approach shoe.

Price $125 Weight 9.8 oz

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Chaco
  Photo: Chaco

Chaco OutCross 4

Best For: Fording creeks. 

The Test: We wouldn’t call this a water shoe—it’s more like a light hiker that doesn’t mind getting wet. If we did happen to fall off a log crossing or get stuck in the rain, the abundance of mesh ventilation enabled quick drying, so we didn’t feel bogged down for the rest of the hike. On dry trail, Chaco’s plush Luvseat PU midsole, nylon shank, and heel lock provided plenty of armor for day hikes over variable terrain with a 10- to 20-pound pack. The gusseted tongue and toe cap offered front-end protection for occasional scree scrambles. 

The Verdict: A low-cut hiker with great moisture management.

Price $120 Weight 11 oz

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Salewa
  Photo: Salewa

Salewa Ultra Train

Best For: Speed records. 

The Test: Part trail runner, part low-cut hiker, the Ultra Train has great ground feel, lots of bounce, and a noticeable forward roll that nudges you along the trail. One tester said he felt lazy at a normal pace and often found himself motoring close to peak heart rate. He also lauded the fit. The well-designed lacing system means you can ratchet the shoe to your foot for zero slippage without cutting off circulation. Mesh on the sides and over the toe vents steam, while a Michelin tread—based on a mountain-bike tire design—stuck to whatever it encountered, even on wet days. 

The Verdict: Made for the hare, not the tortoise.

Price $139 Weight 10.2 oz

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Hoka One One
  Photo: Hoka One One

​Hoka One One Tor Summit Mid WP

Best For: Climbing fourteeners. 

The Test: With loads of classic Hoka cushioning, the Tor Summit is “perfect for big days of peak bagging,” reported a tester. Even after miles of scrambling up, down, and over jagged high-alpine boulder fields, he insisted that his feet never once felt beat up or worn down. The rocker profile also helped reduce fatigue during long days on smoother trails. The Vibram Megagrip outsole and five-millimeter lugs provided lots of traction on everything from wet logs to kitty-litter desert rock. The waterproof membrane protected against late-summer rainstorms. 

The Verdict: All that padding has a ­purpose.

Price $180 Weight 1 lb

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Oboz
  Photo: Oboz

Oboz Scapegoat Mid 

Best For: Long day hikes. 

The Test: A workhorse build—tough synthetic leather with a reinforced rubber toe and heel guard—made this hiker punch above its weight. One tester described it as “a bigger, heavier backpacking boot hiding in a light hiker.” It was also nearly indestructible. We purposely dragged our feet across rocks and branches, but the Scapegoat came out with nary a scuff. Thankfully, it retained the playfulness of a mid-cut hiker, with plenty of spring and agility, making another tester want to put in more miles. “I swear I felt sad taking them off,” he said. 

The Verdict: Mike Tyson hiding in Manny Pacquiao’s body. 

Price $145 Weight 1 lb

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Lowa
  Photo: Lowa

Lowa Tiago GTX Mid

Best For: Babying your piggies. 

The Test: The extremely picky tester who wore this boot was blown away by its out-of-box fit. Instead of constantly adjusting the Tiago throughout his hikes, per usual, he just pulled it on and left it alone. What’s going on? Lowa built the boot with a pliable but supportive upper, with three well-placed ankle hooks that allow you to snug the laces without crushing your foot. A proprietary squishy foam in the midsole makes for a plush ride, while a Gore-Tex liner and mid-high construction keeps feet dry and happy when the going gets wet and messy. 

The Verdict: The best-fitting boot we tested.

Price $175 Weight 1.1 lbs

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Salomon
  Photo: Salomon

Salomon Quest Prime GTX

Best For: Doing it all. 

The Test: This is 2016’s best multipurpose boot: great for everything from day hikes to weekend backpacking trips. That’s because it’s just burly enough in all the right ways. A medium-stiff sole lets you carry up to 40 pounds, suede construction in key spots adds heft and support, and rubber toe and heel guards provide extra foot armor. But the Prime doesn’t skimp on comfort. Hikers with finicky feet or those who want a minimal break-in period will find it easy to wear, ­courtesy of Salomon’s perfectly dialed-in last. (The company has made a lot of hiking and ski boots over the years.) 

The Verdict: Planning multiple trips in varied terrain? This is your boot.

Price $190 Weight 1.3 lb

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Garmont
  Photo: Garmont

​Garmont Tower Trek GTX

Best For: Through-hikes. 

The Test: A rock-solid rubber outsole that plowed over obstacles both big and small, paired with lots and lots of ankle support (the top reaches to just under your lower calf), make this hiker ideal for long days of backpacking under heavy loads. But what really caught our reviewer’s attention was the Schoeller stretch fabric in the flex insert, tongue, and collar, which allowed the boot to cinch onto his foot for a blister-free, second-skin feel almost immediately—something that’s nearly unheard of in a boot this burly. And at 1.6 pounds, it’s also silly light for all the support it offers.

The Verdict: The most comfortable backpacking kicks on the market.

Price $330 Weight 1.6 lb

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Mammut
  Photo: Mammut

​Mammut Trovat Advanced High GTX 

Best For: Weeklong backcountry adventures with the family. 

The Test: We spent only one summer in this hiker but feel confident that, with proper care, it’ll last through a decade’s worth of backpacking trips. Mammut didn’t concern itself with making this the lightest hiker on the market. The outer is made from a thick nubuck leather that feels like it would win a fight with your pocketknife. Underneath, a beefy, ultra-stiff Vibram sole is built to endure thousands of miles of pounding. That burly construction makes this boot supremely supportive when you’re loaded down. 

The Verdict: So tough, you’ll pass it on to your kids.

Price $249 Weight 1.7 lb

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Fitness

The Best Tents of 2016

When selecting a tent, look at the same factors you’d scrutinize when buying a house: location, size, and amenities. First up, where are you pitching camp? The deeper you lug gear into the woods, the more weight matters. If you’re heading into high-alpine environments or anywhere you might encounter serious weather, you need something with thicker fabric and more poles. If you’re car camping or sticking relatively close to the trailhead or put-in, a bigger tent with higher ceilings and ample storage compartments is a worthwhile luxury. No matter where you’re going, the little things count. Think of features like

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Fitness

The Best Hiking Tech of 2016

Spending the night outside just got brighter, cleaner, and easier.   Photo: MSR MSR Guardian Water Purifier Backcountry water pumps are easy to use and durable. Trouble is, most strip out only protozoa and bacteria, not tiny viruses. Enter the Guardian: the filter’s pores are ten times smaller than the competition’s, stopping even the smallest bugs. Price $350 Buy Now Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus Charger Solar panels can be finicky, draining the device you’re trying to charge when daylight wanes. Not so the netbook-size Nomad 7. A light sensor keeps tabs on how much sun’s available. If clouds roll in mid-charge, the unit powers down

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The Best Jackets of 2016

For diehard gear geeks, there’s no more exciting category right now than jackets. Experimentation is the name of the game, with companies trying out new cuts, materials, and construction techniques. Weights are in free fall—the lightest shell in our test came in under three ounces—while just about everything has built-in stretch, boosting freedom of movement and comfort. Designers are mixing and matching fabrics in novel ways, using bio-mapping to create jackets that are thicker where they need to be and thinner where they don’t. Even bedrock concepts of how waterproof-breathable shells should be pieced together are being upended. (Exhibit A:

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The Best Camp Cooking Tools of 2016

The best kitchen tools for base-camp chefs.   Photo: Inga Hendrickson ​Southwest Disk UFO Discada Enterprise Wok  A two-foot-wide wok made of quarter-inch steel isn’t an unnecessary luxury: it’s a crucial part of your cooking arsenal. With 12-inch legs, it’s the perfect tool for cooking over an open flame.   Price $100 Buy Now   Photo: Timbuk2 Timbuk2 x Blue Bottle Sabbatical Coffee Kit  The bagmaker teamed up with the Bay Area java giant to create the ultimate portable brewing kit: grinder, kettle, dripper, scale, and mugs, all in one six-pack-size bundle.  Price $349 Buy Now   Photo: GSI Outdoors GSI Outdoors Stainless Rim Plate  With a

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Fitness

The Best Sleeping Bags of 2016

Your sleeping bag is arguably your most important piece of backcountry gear. If it’s cozy, you’re a happy camper. If it’s too warm or not warm enough, rubber-room constrictive, or sticky like plastic wrap, a bad bag will ruin the experience. The trick is to pick the right bag for what you’re ­doing. Insulation is the most important factor. For alpine trips, find a sack that’s rated at least ten degrees lower than the coldest temperature you expect to face. Summer trips in mild environments call for a rating between 30 and 40 degrees. During shoulder season, we reach for a

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Fitness

The Best Lights of 2016

Brighten up your night. Goal Zero Lighthouse 400.   Photo: Goal Zero Goal Zero Lighthouse Mini Lantern  Toss this eight-ounce, 210-lumen unit in your pack for the next time you get caught out in the dark. Don’t let the diminutive size fool you: the Lighthouse has some nice features, including a miniature hook, a built-in magnet, and a dimmer.  Price $60 Buy Now   Photo: Black Diamond Black Diamond Cosmo  The three LEDs on this compact three-ounce headlamp combine into a single 160-lumen beam that can light up the trail for more than 50 yards. Even on full blast, it gets 200 hours of run

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Fitness

The Best Women’s Jackets of 2016

Pick the right rig, zip up, then get out.   Photo: The North Face The North Face Cesium Anorak  Best For: Affordable Tech The Cesium has the soul of a poncho but the smart detailing of a performance shell. We threw it over our other layers in a rainstorm—it has a huge helmet-compatible hood and is made of surprisingly stretchy fabric—and stayed bone dry. It sheds ounces by forgoing extra pockets (there’s one) and an inner liner. Price $199 Buy Now   Photo: Helly Hansen Helly Hansen Enroute Shelter  Best For: Ditching Your Yellow Slicker   This is the workhorse of the rain-jacket world. It’s dependable

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The Best Packs of 2016

Let’s start with a basic truth: no single pack does it all. Going backcountry camping with all your toys requires a big ol’ bag. Athletes moving fast and light will be happiest with a trimmed-down thoroughbred. Day hikers will appreciate a sack with utilitarian features. But none of this means you need to own a closetful of backpacks. Thanks to design evolution, there are more multi-use options to choose from than ever before. We tested daypacks that can eke out an overnight (like the Osprey Manta) and relatively lightweight big-load haulers (like the Granite Gear Lutsen). Versatility is achievable if

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The Best Multipitch Climbing Gear of 2016

When it comes to big walls, light is right.   Photo: Petzl Petzl Arial 9.5 mm Rope   The Arial is a flowy rope that stretches just enough to provide a nice soft catch. It’s pricier than its closest competitors, but it’ll last seasons, courtesy of a Duratec Dry treatment that resists water, dirt, and abrasions. Price $230 and up Buy Now   Photo: Black Diamond Black Diamond Vapor Helmet  With 23 vents, the Vapor is the most breathable lid we tested. The foam is surrounded by a polycarbonate shell, keeping it light enough (just 6.6 ounces) for all-day use. Price $140  Buy Now   Photo:

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Fitness

The Best Women's Hiking Gear of 2016

Everything you need for quick jaunts or all-day trips   Photo: Smith Optics Smith Ramona Polarized Sunglasses  These shades are an elegant update of the classic Wayfarer, with impact-resistant, carbonic, polarized brown lenses that make ocean waves, or even distant grizzlies, pop.  Price $129 Buy Now   Photo: Ex Officio Ex Officio Give-N-Go Sport Mesh Tank Quick-drying nylon and breathable mesh make the Give-N-Go ideal for hot-weather hikes. Wide straps cushion a backpack, while a stylish T-back shows a little shoulder from behind.  Price $35 Buy Now   Photo: Icebreaker Icebreaker Women’s Ellipse LS Half Zip Hoodie Made from 75 percent merino and 25 percent recycled polyester,

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