There are no two activities that go hand-in-hand quite like camping and hiking. Your trip will often be planned right around a nice hike in the wild. It is the hike that makes the food taste sweeter and the lounge around the campfire all the more rewarding. For all campers, getting a good pair of hiking boots holds the utmost of importance. You want to enjoy your trip, not endure it.
Deciding on the best hiking boots for you can be a daunting task. To give a helping hand, we have come up with our six main areas to consider. Hopefully, this will hope you find the right pair for you.
1. Making The Cut
Hiking boots come in many different cuts. The cut essentially refers to how much of your ankle is exposed. In general, hiking boots can be broken down to three cuts - low, medium and high. The cut you need will have a lot to do with the types of trails you will be going on. Below is a quick breakdown of the three cuts with corresponding terrains.
Low-Cut Hiking Boots: Low cut hiking boots would be similar in appearance to your everyday shoe or trainer. If you mainly are going to be on well-maintained trails and just going on casual hikes, this could be a good option. The low-cut makes the boot more freeing and lightweight. However, on the flipside, you are more exposed to the elements.
Medium-Cut Hiking Boots: If you plan on going on more aggressive hikes, on rougher trails or even light backpacking, this is the cut for you. The ankle height cut gives extra support and protection to your feet while remaining fairly lightweight.
High-Cut Hiking Boots: This cut is perfect for a more adventurous hiker. High-cut hiking boots are for longer hikes with heavier backpack and when you want to venture into murkier terrain. Overall a heavier boot for heavier work.
2. Level of Hiking Experience
When giving advice a lot of people talk about the weight. The general consensus is that “lighter is better” but it’s not that straightforward. We prefer to consider experience level first. If you are starting out cycling, you wear training wheels. If you are new to tennis, you start with a bigger head. Similarly, if you are new to hiking, you want to allow a certain amount of time to breaking in your “hiking muscles”.
If you are new to hiking, it is a good idea to go for a boot with more support. As you gained experience and miles under your belt, you could move to a more lightweight boot.
3. Protection - Against Terrain and The Elements
The reason you choose hiking boots over an average runner or trainer is for the protection they offer. For that reason, you want to make sure you are getting value for money. There are a few elements that you will be guarding against.
Of course when hiking, water protection is of the utmost importance. There’s nothing quite like wet feet for putting a damper on your hiking fun. (Pun semi-intended) Look out for lining technology such as GoreTex or Outdry when buying waterproof hiking boots.
Aside from water, you want to protect against the terrain itself. A feature to consider is the ‘rands’. This is a guard of rubber on the outer edge of your foot. You’ll be thankful for it when you survive the brutality that is a snubbed toe.
4. The Structure of the Hiking Boot
There is a lot to consider in the structure of the boot. We already alluded to weight of the boot, which is definitely an important consideration. You also want to have proper arch support and durability.
If you will be carrying heavier loads or will be travelling on rockier terrain you want a mountaineering or backpacking boot with sturdy soles. This is less important for more casual, lighter outings.
5. Material Things Matter
The material in the boot itself is very important. With hiking boots you can break it down into three main groups. Fabrics, leather or a hybrid of both.
Leather hiking boots are generally heavier, stiffer and take more time to break in. As a result, leather hiking boots are more durable and offer superior water protection. Synthetic or fabric hiking boots are more similar to trainer material. This means they are easier to break in and oftentimes more comfortable.
Hiking boots with fabric material are seen as lighter, nimbler with better ventilation. In an ideal world you would have a leather pair for more wintery conditions and a fabric pari for Summer/Springs trails. For most people, it comes down to what time of you year you will be hiking and the type of conditions you expect to face most often.
6. Above All Else - The Fit of Your Hiking Boots
Finally, one of the most important things to consider is the fit. You can buy the best hiking boots in the world but if the fit isn’t right, it’s almost worthless. This, of course, makes trying your pair on in-store very important.
Below are some of our tips for trying on your hiking boots.
What’s a right fit anyway? When tied up tight your feet should fit snugly into your hiking boot. There should be a small bit of wiggle room for your toes and not too loose on your heel. Too loose or too tight will lead to pain and blisters. Test the boundaries by striding out and seeing if everything still holds up.
Create a “match-day” situation. When you are in the store you want to create an atmosphere identical to your hiking day. If you wear thick socks, make sure you bring them with you into the store. The same goes for orthotics if you wear them. Most stores will have a slant board with which you can create the feeling of walking on an incline or decline. These are simple tricks to make sure your boot fits right when it matters most.
Allow for natural swelling. Our feet swell up during the day, it’s a natural fact. That is the reason you experience such relief when you take off your shoes after a busy day. They also swell during a long hike. So, to recreate this atmosphere, make sure you try on your hiking boots at the end of the day. It’s science!
We hope our guide will help you to get the right boot for you. Making your way through your camping checklist? Check out our community spotlight on the seven best camping stoves.