Ask Me: Which Boots Do You Recommend for Backpacking, Heavier or Lighter?
This is a great, straightforward review [of the La Sportiva Thunder III GTX boots]. I was just looking at these boots and I am strongly considering them based on your review. I am torn between these Thunder III GTX and the La Sportiva Hyper Mid GTX. Perhaps you can provide some insight or guidance based on your experience with both boots. My primary activity will be backpacking, carrying 30 to 40 lbs., 10 to 15 miles per day in south-central Alaska. The terrain is just about as mixed as you can get: sharp rocks, sand, mud, roots, tundra, steep alpine, scree, creeks, etc.
I’m really leaning towards the Thunder III because it sounds like it has a thicker, more padded midsole, which should be better for moderate loads, whereas the Hyper Mid seems to have a fairly thin midsole. I’m all for getting the lightest boot possible, but I’ll take a slightly heavier boot for added forefoot protection.
I know there’s never a magic, single answer to advise seekers such as myself, but any advice or guidance you can provide will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
(Submitted as a comment at thebigoutside.com/gear-review-la-sportiva-thunder-iii-gtx-boots)
Good question. Besides weight, the major differences between La Sportiva’s Thunder III GTX and the Hyper Mid GTX is significantly more support, rigidity, and underfoot protection in the Thunders, while the Hyper Mids feel more nimble, including more forefoot flex.
Some people who are accustomed to lightweight boots (including me) would carry 30 to 40 pounds in the Hyper Mids without a problem, especially on trails that aren’t as abusive on your feet—that aren’t severely rocky or steep, but rather, have a fairly smooth tread (packed dirt, smooth granite, slickrock, etc.).
But I think your intuition is correct: For where you’re hiking, I would choose the Thunders—not least because beefier boots are also often more waterproof than lightweight boots, which I think is simply a matter of better construction.
As a general rule, I prefer wearing as light a hiking shoe or boot as possible, as long as it provides enough support and protection. I test out several models of new shoes and boots a year, and I dayhike and backpack enough that my feet are strong and accustomed to the abuse they receive on the trail or off-trail.
Still, I look for boots with more support depending on two factors: how much weight I’ll carry and how rugged the terrain will be where I’m hiking. Ramp up both of those factors and I definitely want boots with more support, rigidity, and underfoot protection. Example: I wore the Thunder III GTX on a trip in a place with very rugged terrain, the Grand Canyon, while backpacking with my 10-year-old daughter, when I’d be carrying most of our food, gear, and extra water. Doing that trip by myself, with a much lighter pack, I may have been content with a boot more like the Hyper Mid GTX.
I hope that’s helpful. Good luck!
Thank you Michael! I’ve been scouring your site and I have learned a lot of useful info that I will take with me into the backcountry. Thank you for your sharing your wisdom and experience!
Note: In Ask Me, I share and respond to a reader question. Got a question about hiking, backpacking, gear, or any topic or trip I write about at The Big Outside? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, message me at facebook.com/TheBigOutside, or tweet it to @MichaelALanza. I will answer the ones I can in a post, using only your first name and city, with your permission. I’m receiving an increasing volume of questions, so I cannot always respond quickly.
NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu. See all of my reviews of backpacking boots and hiking shoes I like.
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