backpacking boots reviews

Gear Review: Vasque Breeze III Mid GTX Boots

Vasque Breeze III Mid GTX boots.
Vasque Breeze III Mid GTX boots.

Backpacking Boots
Vasque Breeze III Mid GTX
$180, 2 lbs. 8 oz. (US men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 7-15 plus wide sizes, women’s 6-12 plus narrow and wide sizes
moosejaw.com

There’s an almost mind-boggling array of choices out there in shoes and boots for the trail. But many dayhikers and backpackers really only need one solidly built, mid-cut pair of boots that strike a balance between support and out-of-the-box comfort—and basically aren’t too heavy or too light. On a nine-day, mid-July trek on the 105-mile Tour du Mont Blanc in the Alps of France, Italy, and Switzerland, I hiked these boots through wind-driven rain, slick mud, and warm, sunny days, over talus boulders and loose scree, and on trails, dirt roads, and town streets—and they performed well, although I do have one caution about them. Read on.

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Gear Review: The North Face Ultra Gore-Tex Surround Mid Hiking Boots

The North Face Ultra Gore-Tex Surround Mid boots.
The North Face Ultra Gore-Tex Surround Mid boots.

Hiking Boots
The North Face Ultra Gore-Tex Surround Mid
$190, 2 lbs. (US men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 7-14, women’s 5-11
backcountry.com

The heat and humidity fell onto us like a wet blanket; I broke into a sweat just lacing up my boots for the dayhike of 3,740-foot Cerro Chato, a dormant volcano with close-up views of its larger and more-famous neighbor, Arenal Volcano, in Costa Rica’s tropical Northern Lowlands. And yet, I wanted waterproof-breathable boots for Costa Rican trails notorious for slick mud. The crazy-steep path up Cerro Chato would not only challenge us physically, it would challenge the breathability of The North Face Gore-Tex Surround Mid boots. It would also help me assess whether these very lightweight mid-cuts are the answer to chronically wet hikes in persistently hot, humid conditions—which you don’t have to go to Central America to find, as any hiker in the Eastern U.S. can confirm.

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Gear Review: Asolo Thyrus Gv Boots

Asolo Thyrus Gv
Asolo Thyrus Gv

Backpacking Boots
Asolo Thyrus Gv
$235, 2 lbs. 5 oz. (US men’s 8.5)
Sizes: US men’s 8-14, women’s 6-11
moosejaw.com

I need a reason to wear leather boots, because they usually involve tradeoffs for their benefits: They tend to be too hot and heavy, especially for summer backpacking, when I often wear lightweight, synthetic mid-cut boots or low-cut shoes (depending on how much weight I’m carrying). But the Thyrus Gv felt so shockingly light for a leather boot, with a design that seemed to promise better breathability than is typical, that I decided to take them out on a five-day, 80-mile backpacking trip in the North Cascades National Park Complex in September—slogging long, sunny days through wet terrain, the best test of any leather boot. And these boots delivered on the promise in their design.

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Gear Review: Keen Aphlex Mid WP Boots

Keen Aphlex Mid WP boots, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Keen Aphlex Mid WP boots, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Lightweight Boots
Keen Aphlex Mid WP
$160, 2 lbs. 3 oz. (US men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 6-15, women’s 6-11
moosejaw.com

Lightweight, mid-cut boots at this price make up a competitive category of hiking footwear, and quality varies significantly. Many models are, frankly, made for first-time boot buyers and bargain shoppers who make a choice based on a couple of simple criteria: Whether the boots feel good (often achieved with plenty of foam padding, which doesn’t necessarily translate to good performance) and have any kind of waterproof-breathable membrane (a high-demand feature for hikers). To see whether Keen’s Aphlex Mid WP rose above all that mediocre chatter, I wore them on a two-day, 34-mile backpacking trip in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in mid-October, hiking long days with plenty of elevation gain and loss.

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