It is a point
that some will argue. The most important piece of equipment you
will ever buy is the piece that touches the ground, your footwear.
Sure the right pack is very important, as is the right clothes, a good compass,
and an accurate map. But you can have the best equipment in the world
in the most comfortable pack, get a blister on your heel, and you are
not going to be going anywhere fast. With so many choices of
styles, materials, and prices, we attempt to make sense of it all in the
OutdoorPlaces.Com Boot Buying Gear Guide.
Boots for hiking
and outdoor activity come in a number of usage styles that manufacturers
use to describe how their boot has been designed to be used. The
footwear needs of a day hiker with a fanny pack are very different to
the backcountry trekker with 70 lbs. on their back. Boots come in
four basic flavors of Trail Runners, On Trail, Off Trail, and
Backpacking. Selecting the right boot requires you to decide on
exactly what you are planning to do.
Trail Runners are typically used on improved trails. They are
the perfect boot for day hikes on paved National Park trails, a stroll
through the local state park on improved trails, or if you plan to
mountain bike to a destination and then do some hiking upon reaching
it. They range in style from highly modified sneakers to trail
shoe models and are made in both synthetic and leather materials.
Typically they only offer moderate traction, are made of ankle high or
below ankle construction, and are not the ideal selection for scrambling
across boulders or maneuvering on a rock strewn trail where ankle twists
or cuts to your footwear are possible. Also, they are typically
not very waterproof and are down right terrible for slogging through mud
or crossing streams. Due to the lack of support for the foot and
ankle, and they are not a good choice if you plan to carry more than a
light day pack. They will only offer limited supplemental warmth,
and should be considered a 2-1/2 season boot. Technical Scramblers
would fall between Trail Runners and On Trail.
On Trail boots are best for use on improved and maintained
trails. They are the perfect boot for anything a Trail Runner will
do, plus hiking on a variety of maintained trails with a pack up to 30
pounds. They range in a variety of styles and can be made from
leather, synthetic, and waterproof synthetic materials. Offering
stiffer soles than Trail Runners with typical better traction, they are
a good boot for more difficult trails or when a degree of climbing
across rocks may be required. They are typically constructed as
ankle high or above ankle, and may offer protective rands on the toes to
help stop abrasion and cuts. They are not superior by design in
waterproof abilities, but can handle some mud or a quick hop across a
small stream and still keep your feet reasonable dry (with proper
treatment before entering the field). They will offer limited
supplemental warmth, and should be considered a 3 season boot.
Technical Scramblers would fall between Trail Runners and On Trail.
Off Trail boots are best for use on a variety of surfaces, weather
conditions, and terrains. Due to their stiffer soles and heavier
construction, use on a paved trail with no pack can be tiring.
They are an ideal choice when there is no trail or when path finding
abilities may be required. They are typically constructed of
leather or durable/waterproof synthetic materials like Gore-Tex.
They offer superior traction and support, and are an ideal choice when
carry a pack of up to 45 pounds. They are typically above ankle in
construction, have protective rands over the toes, and some will offer
features like waterproof linings. When properly treated, they
offer solid waterproof protection, and are good for slogging through mud
or small stream crossings. For improved waterproofing consider
investing in gaiters. Some models with proper linings and design
can offer excellent supplemental warmth (ALWAYS check with the
manufacturer) and can be used if properly designed and treated as a four
Backpacking boots are best for use on rough surfaces when carrying a
heavy load. Due to their heavier weight and stiff soles, most
people will find that a heavy backpacking boot is a liability on a day
hike or on a paved National Park Trail. They are the ideal choice
if you plan to carry a heavy pack (in excess of 30 pounds) for more than
a couple of days. They are typically constructed out of full
leather or high quality synthetics like Gore-Tex. They offer good
traction and superior support. Only models that offer above ankle
support should even be considered, protective rands, linings, and
waterproof features also should be a must. When properly treated
and augmented with gaiters, backpacking boots are the ideal choice for
wading through muddy or wet conditions or when frequent stream crossings
are expected. Models designed for cold weather and offer the
ability to attach crampons are also called, Mountaineering Boots.
If you plan to hike in extreme conditions, then you should consider
models designated as Mountaineering Boots which offer heavy insulation
and traction designed for icy and snowy conditions. Backpacking
boots when properly designed and treated can be used as a four season