La Sportiva Hyper Mid GTX
$180, 2 lbs. 1 oz. (men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 38-47.5
A boot hits a rare trifecta when it excels for traction in any situation, delivers enough support and comfort for backpacking, and weighs only as much as the lightest hiking shoes. The mid-cut, leather Hyper Mid GTX does all of those things. I wore them on a pair of backpacking trips that would put even a much beefier boot to the test: carrying up to 40 pounds on a four-day, roughly 40-mile September hike in the Olympic Mountains, including 10-plus miles off-trail with very steep scrambling in the Bailey Range and two days of wind, rain, hail, and snow and temperatures in the 30s; and a three-day, 17-mile, mostly off-trail hike in early spring through the rugged canyons of Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park. These boots shined by all measures.
Most distinctively, the outsole stuck to all terrain, wet or dry: mud, packed dirt, slick roots, loose talus, very steep rock, even slippery heather. Credit the outsole’s hybrid design of a smoother zone of sticky rubber under the toes, widely spaced and moderately deep lugs under the mid-foot, and a pronounced in-cut and deep lugs beneath the heel for braking. The low weight, to-the-toes lacing, flexible forefoot, and slightly narrow platform give the Hyper Mid the nimble feel of an approach shoe. The mostly leather uppers conform nicely to the shape of your foot, and the padded tongue feels soft. The Gore-Tex membrane repelled water in all but extremely wet conditions: Not surprisingly, the boots got soaked through the top while hiking for hours through pine boughs and knee-high brush that poured buckets of water onto our legs. (I didn’t have gaiters, and I haven’t seen lightweight boots that can keep feet dry through that kind of deluge.) But impressively, after freezing overnight, the Hyper Mids dried out while I hiked in them in sunshine but cool temps, a testament to their breathability. Lastly, for a little more than the price of most lightweight footwear, you’ll get many more miles of use out of these superbly constructed boots. Fit is best for narrow to medium-volume feet; people with wide feet may find the toe box cramped.
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.