hiking shoes reviews

A backpacker at Evolution Lake on the John Muir Trail in Evolution Basin, Kings Canyon National Park.

The Best Backpacking Gear of 2022

By Michael Lanza

The Wind River Range. The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. Iceland. The John Muir Trail, Wonderland Trail, and Teton Crest Trail. Yosemite. The Grand Canyon. Glacier National Park. Yellowstone. The North Cascades and Pasayten Wilderness. Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. The High Uintas Wilderness. The Tour du Mont Blanc. These are just some of the numerous places where I’ve tested the backpacking gear and apparel reviewed at The Big Outside—so that I can give you honest and thorough, field-tested opinions that help you find the best gear for your adventures.

And that’s exactly how I came up with these picks for today’s best backpacking gear.

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Scarpa Rush Mid GTX boots.

Review: Scarpa Rush Mid GTX Boots

Hiking and Backpacking Boots
Scarpa Rush Mid GTX
$199, 2 lbs./907g (pair Euro men’s 42/US 9)
Sizes: men’s Euro 40-48/US 7.5-14, women’s Euro 36-42/US 4-9
moosejaw.com

Having backpacked numerous times through the Wind River Range on summer’s tail—and more than once been greeted with buckets of cold rain and wind for days or finding out that over a foot of snow fell the day after we got out—for my latest trip, I wanted to stick my feet in boots that can handle any unpleasant surprises. Still, I also didn’t want to feel like I was lifting a cement block with each step or like my feet spent each day in a hot yoga studio. Our five-day hike showed me the Scarpa Rush Mid GTX were a smart choice for what we encountered as well as what we might have encountered—and an all-around superior hiking boot.

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Black Diamond Technician hiking-approach shoes.

Review: Black Diamond Technician Hiking-Approach Shoes

Hiking/Approach Shoes
Black Diamond Technician
$135, 1 lb. 4 oz. (US men’s 10/Euro 43)
Sizes: US men’s 6-14, women’s 5.5-11
backcountry.com

My summer goal was to bag all the 11ers in my home range, Utah’s Wasatch, and the Technicians accompanied me on almost every summit—including technical climbing up the North Ridge of the Pfeifferhorn, a mixed day of scrambling and hiking over 17 miles and 7,000 feet of vertical on the Thunder Traverse, and various moderate rock climbs at the crag (up to 5.10a). In these situations, the Technicians performed exceptionally on rock, but left some things to be desired on long days of hiking.

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A backpacker on the John Muir Trail overlooking the Cathedral Range in Yosemite National Park.

The Best Backpacking Gear for the John Muir Trail

By Michael Lanza

So you’re planning to thru-hike the John Muir Trail and making all of the necessary preparations, and now you’re wondering: What’s the best gear for a JMT hike? Having thru-hiked the JMT as well as taken numerous other backpacking trips all over the High Sierra—mostly between late August and late September, which I consider that the best time to walk the Sierra, to avoid snow and the voracious mosquitoes and blazing hot afternoons of mid-summer—I offer the following picks for the best lightweight backpacking gear and apparel for a JMT thru-hike.

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Oboz Sawtooth X Mid Waterproof boots.

Review: Oboz Sawtooth X Mid Waterproof Boots

Hiking and Backpacking Boots
Oboz Sawtooth X Mid Waterproof
$165, 2 lbs. 7 oz. (US men’s size 9)
Sizes: men’s 7-15, women’s 5-12
moosejaw.com

Between the days of backpacking 11 to 12 miles with up to about 7,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain and loss, the seven miles of steep and loose off-trail hiking, the need to carry eight pounds or more of water weight at times, and of course, the heat, one might speculate that our six-day backpacking trip to Utah Flats and Clear Creek in the Grand Canyon was no more than an elaborate ruse to put hiking boots to a severe test. (Some of my companions went so far as to suggest a plot to inflict physical suffering on them. Yea, whatever.) But after all was said and done, the Oboz Sawtooth X Mid Waterproof shined through all the canyon (and I) hurled at them. Here’s why.

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