backpacking boots reviews

The North Face Safien GTX hiking shoes.

Gear Review: The North Face Safien GTX Hiking Shoes

Hiking Shoes
The North Face Safien GTX
$140, 1 lb. 10 oz. (US men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 7-14, women’s 5-11
Moosejaw.com

Few outings test the comfort and support of hiking shoes like a rim-to-rim dayhike across the Grand Canyon. So to take the full measure of the purported extra cushioning in The North Face Safien GTX shoes, I hiked them across the Big Ditch and back again over two days—a total of 42 miles and about 22,000 vertical feet of serious pounding on consecutive days—and finished feeling no small measure of relief that these shoes really are as cushy as TNF claims. They also have other strengths as well as some minor weaknesses.

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Gear Review: Zamberlan 491 Trackmaster GTX RR Backpacking Boots

Zamberlan 491 Trackmaster GTX RR boots.
Zamberlan 491 Trackmaster GTX RR backpacking boots.

Backpacking Boots
Zamberlan 491 Trackmaster GTX RR
$220, 2 lbs. 8 oz. (men’s US 9/Euro 43)
Sizes: men’s 8-13, women’s 6-11
rei.com

For some backpacking trips, lightweight, mid-cut boots or low-cut shoes don’t cut it. With plans for a six-day hike of over 90 miles on the Continental Divide Trail through Glacier National Park in September—where snow had fallen just a week before—I saw the trip as an opportunity to put Zamberlan’s premier leather backpacking boot, the 491 Trackmaster GTX RR, to a real test. On that hike, I found they measure up as a top boot in this category, although I had one minor complaint. Here’s why you should consider them.

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The North Face Ultra Fastpack III Mid GTX hiking boots.

Gear Review: The North Face Ultra Fastpack III Mid GTX Boots

Hiking and Backpacking Boots
The North Face Ultra Fastpack III Mid GTX
$170, 1 lb. 15 oz. (US men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 7-14, women’s 5-11
Moosejaw.com

Supportive, durable, waterproof-breathable, mid-cut boots that weigh under two pounds are a rare breed, so I was intrigued by the specs on The North Face Ultra Fastpack III Mid GTX boots. But I’ve also worn enough lightweight boots to know that many do not measure up when it comes to delivering solid support and stability for dayhiking and backpacking mountain trails. So I took these boots on a four-day, roughly 30-mile family backpacking trip in August in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains—and they aced every test.

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A backpacker hiking the Timberline Trail around Oregon's Mount Hood.

Are You Still Wasting Money on Outdoor Gear?

By Michael Lanza

What if every time you laid down money for hiking, backpacking, or other outdoors gear, you always knew exactly what you needed and were invariably satisfied with your purchase for years afterward? What if you knew every time whether it was smarter to spring for the pricier piece of gear or go for the cheaper model? What if you always knew when and where to find the best gear at rock-bottom sale prices?

Read on to learn how you can become that expert gear buyer—just in time for ongoing gear sales at many online retailers.

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Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX backpacking boots.

Gear Review: Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX Backpacking Boots

Backpacking Boots
Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX
$299, 2 lbs. 7 oz. (men’s Euro 42/US 9)
Sizes: men’s Euro 37-48/US 5-14, women’s Euro 37-42, US 6-10
backcountry.com

What are your expectations of your boots? That’s a good question to consider when shopping for a new pair. On a 39-mile backpacking trip in mid-September in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, I put Scarpa’s Zodiac Plus GTX through the gamut of mountain terrain and conditions. We hiked consecutive, 13-mile days on trails ranging from packed dirt to rock and mud—the kind of backpacking for which I might normally wear a lightweight, low-cut shoe for comfort and breathability. But we also traversed a five-mile stretch off-trail over snow, steep and loose scree, talus, and a 12,000-foot pass, including some dicey third-class scrambling. We walked through shallow streams, puddles, boggy ground, wet vegetation overhanging the path, thunderstorms and heavy rain. By all measures, the Zodiac Plus GTX passed every test. Here’s why.

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