Backpacking Boots: How to Choose

Backpacking Boots: How to Choose

Having the right pair of backpacking boots is essential to having a good backpacking trip. It is not the same as choosing a pair of hiking boots for a day hike, since there is a lot more to consider on a longer trip.

Make sure to consider the following when choosing a boot:


Backpacking boots should be more durable than hiking boots, but this extra durability comes with extra weight. The heavier your boots are the more it will strain your legs, ankles, and feet as the miles trekked increase. Try to find the lightest boot you can that has all the requirements for your trip – durability, stability, etc.


Backpacking boots are usually made of one of the three types of materials below:

Full-Grain Leather

Full-grain leather is the toughest material that boots can be made of. It is durable, resists abrasion, and has great water resistance, especially when treated with a wax or conditioner. Full-grain leather uses the whole hide.

Split-Grain Leather

Split-grain separates the rough inner of the hide from the smooth exterior. Hiking boots are often made with split-grain leather paired with synthetic material. These boots are usually cheaper and typically lighter, less water resistant, and not as durable as full-grain boots.

Synthetic Material

Backpacking boots polyester or nylon are typically lighter, cheaper, and dry faster than leather boots. However, hiking boots made from synthetic material are usually not as waterproof and have shorter lifespans than leather boots.


Another aspect you should consider when choosing a boot is the tread pattern. A deeper and more narrow tread pattern will provide more grip and stability in muddy conditions. Wider more shallow tread patterns will be best for smoother surfaces to get grip on wet rock.

Ankle Height

Higher ankles on a boot provide more stability on backpacking trips. They protect your ankle and lower the chance of you rolling your ankle – something you do not want to do on a backpacking trip. I recommend a mid to high boot ankle, but make sure you balance it with what is comfortable for you.


Consider having an insulated boot when hiking in colder areas or in heavy snow. Cold feet are not only uncomfortable but can increase the chances of you getting sick.


Keeping your feet dry is also important. Wet feet lead to cold feet. Most backpackers will encounter some type of wetness while trekking through the wilderness. However, more waterproof boots usually have less breathability. Balance out how much waterproofing you need with how much breathability you want based on the conditions of the trip.

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