Backpacking Boot Ratings

    We hold backpacking boots to a higher standard than hiking boots. Backpacking can take you into the rugged wild for weeks and you can’t get there without a boot that matches the terrain.

    We think of the backpacking boots as a spectrum from best to worst and we use a 1-10 rating system to show you which hiking boots are similar in quality.

    See the backpacking boot reviews

    We also rank each feature (excellent, good, fair, poor) to help you find the hiking boot with the quality you most desire.

    Backpacking Boot Rating – This number is a summary of all 12 features that we look at and helps you see how these hiking boots compare to each other on a scale from 1 to 10.

    Weight – A good hiking boot should be lightweight and the lighter it is, the higher the number. Be careful though because cheaper quality materials can also be lightweight.

    Sole – An excellent sole is durable, gives you good grip and cushions the heel against the impact of walking and running. Cheap soles will have tread points that tend to break off and they become brittle or inflexible over time.

    Upper – Leather is still the best upper material because it is water repellant, flexible and supportive. Not all leather is the same and an excellent boot will be made with a treated, top-grain leather.

    Lining – This is usually the second part to wear out on a cheap backpacking boot. The lining is the softest material and helps to draw moisture away from the foot. It also protects the foot from seams in the shoe that could cause rubbing and blisters.

    Connection – This is usually the first part to wear out on a cheap backpacking boot. The sole is connected to the upper with strong glue or stitching. This is usually the first part to start leaking on a waterproof boot. Cheap glue can start to break down and separate the connection after a few miles. Boots that are stitched together get an excellent rating.

    Insert – Good backpacking boots will provide a removable insert that helps to cushion the heel and provide additional arch support. If the boot gets wet, removing the insert will help it dry faster and prevent mold.

    Toe Protection – Your toes are the most vulnerable appendage while hiking and a good boot will give you some added protection. Most boots add a rubber toe cap to protect the leather from scuff damage and excellent boots will also add reinforcement to keep you from stubbing your toes.

    Lacing – The lacing system is the only moving part on a hiking boot and the most prone to wear and tear. Excellent backpacking boots will reinforce the lacing holes with plastic or metal and provide a fairly indestructible shoelace.

    Waterproof – All new boots are somewhat water repellant (you’ll be dry for a while if it’s raining) and many are waterproof or submergeable. Treated leather can be waterproof, but most hiking boots use a Gore-Tex like material to make them waterproof.

    Breathability – You don’t want sweaty feet. Backpacking boots will make you sweat a little and excellent boots are able to get that moisture away from your foot and out of the boot.

    Ankle Support – If the trail is rocky, steep, wet or if you are carrying a heavy pack, you’ll want to protect your ankles from accidentally rolling. Excellent backpacking boots will lace up above your ankle and limit its ability to bend to the side.

    Value – If the quality of the backpacking boot is below what it costs then it will receive a fair or poor value rating. The value number demonstrates whether you are getting what you pay for.

    See the backpacking boot reviews