Vasque Zephyrs
Vasque Zephyrs (courtesy, REI)

What boots will hold up under 40-pound loads?

I recently bought a pair of Vasque Zephyr boots (not the Gore-Tex model) from an outdoor store, but the boot salesman was, shall we say, underwhelming. They were very comfortable, but I think he might have overestimated the weight limit on them. I regularly backpack with 40-pound loads. How do you think these boots will hold up? Frank Wayland, Iowa

Vasque Zephyrs

The problem, Frank, is that your boot guy probably has never been backpacking, least of all on anything approaching a hill. He’s probably never left the state, and the highest place in Iowa is Hawkeye Point, 1,670 feet above sea level and I imagine only 800 to 900 feet higher than the median elevation of the entire state.

Vasque Zephyrs Vasque Zephyrs

Anyway, you now own a perfectly fine pair of day hikers. The Vasque Zephyrs ($135 for non-Gore-Tex version, $160 with Gore-Tex; are perfectly good shoes, but even Vasque doesn’t tout them as anything more than a boot for light and fast overnights—meaning loads of 25 pounds or less. Depending on how heavy you are, you could be way under-booted. Vasque’s “classic” backpacking boot is the Sundowner ($195), and I don’t even regard that as a particularly heavy-duty boot. But fine for loads such as you describe, on rugged trails or even off-trail.

Other good boots to take a look at would include Montrail’s Blue Ridge GTS ($175; or Raichle’s Mountain Peak XT GTX ($200; I think that Gore-Tex liners have become something of a plague in footwear—sometimes useful, often not—so another alternative is the rather pricey but extremely good Scarpa Delta M3 ($230;

What to do with the Zephyrs? You’ll use them in time, so maybe hang onto them. Or go back to the store, make a fuss, and trade them in. Or sell them on eBay. But they are NOT the boot for you.

Wondering what gives a boot its inner mojo? Check out “The Anatomy of a Boot” for an inside look at what keeps the scree from your skin.

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021
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Lead Photo: courtesy, REI