10 Best Backpacking Boots in 2021

Paul Ronto
Paul Ronto on

Pack adventures and backcountry trips that last for days need the right gear. In the realm of footwear, backpacking boots are your sure allies.

This guide is exclusive to those in dire need of the best kicks built for extended journeys. So, whether you need something dependable on all fronts, a lightweight pair, or a boot that can tough it out there for months, we got you covered.

To make this best-of-the-best selection a reality, we’ve thoroughly tested over 100 backpacking boots available on the market. Check out our top picks in several categories below.

How we review backpacking boots

We aim to provide you with unbiased reviews on the best backpacking kicks known to man. Here is what we do:

  • We receive no backpacking boots for free. All pairs are purchased with our own funds to help us stay unbiased.
  • We test every pair for days on various types of terrain—from manicured trails to off-the-beaten-path locations. We also put each boot through the wringer in different weather conditions to gauge its longevity and overall performance.
  • To make our reviews as comprehensive as possible, we factor in tons of reviews from both regular users and gear experts.

With all that in the bag, we come up with a CoreScore, which plays a major role in determining the best, and in most cases second best, backpacking boots.

Best overall

Here’s something we are definitely proud to announce—the Quest Prime GTX is the one to beat for backpacking mastery!

Yes, this bad boy from Salomon is amazing on all fronts. That said, let’s focus on its beefy construction. The Quest Prime GTX is mighty solid. We can confirm its incredible durability in that the boot came out pretty much scratch-free after a week-long adventure on rugged terrain filled with all manners of abrasive obstacles.

Its GTX (Gore-Tex) part served us well throughout our journey. Rainwater didn’t seep in, and through creeks and puddles, the Quest Prime GTX simply shook off every drop!

Now, the Quest Prime GTX is a workhorse, but it doesn’t mean that it slacks off as far as comfort is concerned. Its plush-everywhere confines were available to us from the off, too. We were especially floored by its comfy stock footbed. Yes, you might have a hard time replacing it with your custom orthotics.

This boot also gave us its best in the area of support. Its arch zone, in particular, maintained our stride and helped us stay on our feet quite effortlessly. After our arduous trip, loaded pack in tow, our arches didn’t hurt!

You got to own the Quest Prime GTX to believe it, so don’t hold back!

See our full review and facts

Coming your way hot (yet really cool at the same time) is the Salomon Quest 4 GTX!

A mighty fine alternative to our top pick, the Quest 4 GTX eats miles for breakfast. Yup, this Salomon hiker is one tough beast whose playground is rugged terrain and unbelievably uneven paths.

Our week-long backpacking trip wouldn’t have been phenomenal hadn’t the Quest 4 GTX supplied us with the amount of comfort that we needed. While stiff at first, the boot loosened up to our liking soon enough.

This premium-priced hiker had us going with upped confidence in the rain, as well. Every drop remained outside in the entirety of our adventure. We give its gusseted tongue more credit here, as it kept our feet feeling fresh and dry in this one stream we crossed. If you’re planning to trek in extremely wet conditions, this waterproof kick should be in your quiver!

But is it grippy, you might ask? A big YES is our answer to that! Muddy tracks, wet grass and logs, and slick low-level boulders were a walk in the park for the Quest 4 GTX’s Vibram outsole!

Yup, we highly recommend this Salomon boot, and that’s despite its demanding asking price!

See our full review and facts

Best lightweight

After going through 100+ backpacking boots, the clear winner on the lightness front is the Nucleo High II GTX from La Sportiva!

Our feet and scales don’t lie—this trekking kick is lighter than half a kilo (470 g per boot, to be exact)! Whatever La Sportiva did to make the Nucleo High II GTX as light as it is, it worked. That said, we’re placing our fingers on its rather slim construction with minimal-yet-protective overlays.

Now, the Nucleo High II GTX’s lightness has to come with superior comfort, right? Yes, the boot has tons of it! That cushy hug that we got in it was a concerted effort between the shoe’s plush padding and comfy footbed.

As for water protection, the Nucleo High II GTX didn’t let us down. In the water, which was about 3.5 inches deep, the boot kept our tootsies nice and dry. Its Gore-Tex membrane and watertight gusseted tongue were the prime suspects in all this impermeability talk!

And have we mentioned its stickiness yet? Yup, the Nucleo High II GTX didn’t relent on dry ground and wet terrain (e.g., mud and wet planks). We give this remarkable backpacking boot 5 stars in this area.

See our full review and facts

Coming at second place in this lightweight race is yet another La Sportiva offering—the Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX!

Exactly the same as our top pick weight-wise, the Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX permitted us to travel light. We link its amazing lightness to the boot’s mesh upper and non-metallic eyelets, which are common in backpacking boots.

Sky-high was the amount of comfiness we got out of the Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX. Its interior was already cushy right from the beginning, so we didn’t feel the need to do some test hikes to loosen it up. Oh, but what impressed us the most in our tests was the snugness and flexibility of its collar, particularly its Achilles’ heel zone.

Grip-wise, the Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX was a real stunner. Although minimal in depth, its lugs were a blessing on both wet and dry surfaces. We felt quite surefooted on its treaded outsole going uphill and downhill, as well!

Speaking of footing, the Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX was incredibly stabilizing during our off-path travels.

As for waterproofing, we don’t have complaints. That said, we suggest you don’t take the Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX where the water level is higher than its collar, as the boot—when it gets wet on the inside—takes time to dry.

See our full review and facts

Best leather boot

So, you dig all things leather, huh? Danner has the perfect backpacking for you then, and it’s none other than the Mountain Light II!

Its virtually seamless leather upper will wow you, as it did us. What’s more impressive is that this leather shell is oh so supple on the inside. It’s magical, really, because its confines are brilliantly comfy without being overly padded.

Uneven terrain with fist-sized rocks strewn about was where we tested the Mountain Light II on the most. Our findings? A+! It was so supportive both around the heel and arch that we found ourselves not minding where our feet would land. We just made our way through the obstacles like real cowboys (with loaded knapsacks)!

Slippery and muddy areas didn’t threaten us in the Mountain Light II at all. This is because its toothy outsole kept us anchored in on whatever surface we had to traverse. And golly-wow! Going up tricky inclines in this trekking boot was downright incredible!

As serious as the boot performs, the Mountain Light II can’t be denied its dapper aesthetics. It’s a versatile beast, so it’s a win-win whether you intend to use it for trekking or hitting the pub!

See our full review and facts

Suede!!! Yes, the Lowa Tibet GTX is dreamily suede, and we couldn’t get enough of it!

Its generous supply of comfort didn’t surprise us, although we mean that with purely good intentions. Yes, we thought it would give us resplendent pampering without break-in, and we thought correctly. Let’s put it this way: Trekking in the Tibet GTX was like dealing with ruggedness while having your feet surrounded with cotton clouds!

Now, Lowa is known for putting out exceptionally durable boots, and the Tibet GTX can be considered the brand’s flag bearer on this front. To us, its towering design lived up to the hype. Its suede leather shell toughed it out there for us, yes, but it was the boot’s rubber rand that did the heavy lifting for the most part.

Water, in almost every form imaginable, stayed locked out of the Tibet GTX during our tests. We negotiated this shallow stream, and our feet didn’t get wet. We were especially floored by its ability to keep everything on the inside dry when we submerged it in about 4 inches of water for 10 minutes!

Yup, the Lowa Tibet GTX is a great alternative, even though its stock footbed is ho-hum at best.

See our full review and facts

Best durability

Take our word for it—the Camino GTX from Lowa is tough, tough, and tough!

We’re not kidding; this backpacking boot is a tank, and it doesn’t even look it! The brains behind the Camino GTX must’ve resorted to sorcery or divine power (we prefer the latter) to come up with something this enduring; something quite powerful!

Does its kingly durability come with exceptional performance on the trail, you ask? Definitely! The Camino GTX clung mightily on every surface we tested it on. Muddy slopes? Check. Slippery hills and inclines? Check. Grainy tracks? Oh so check!

“Superbly stable” is also how we’d describe the Camino GTX, particularly where ruggedness is involved. We found no real difference between rocky terrain and root-filled areas in this tanker—everything felt level. That’s how surefooted we were in the Camino GTX.

If you adore boots that are comfy from the box, the Camino GTX has to be on your trekking radar. Most impressive in our books in the realm of cushioning is its impossibly cushy collar. We felt no ankle rubbing in it, only hours upon hours of heavenly pampering!

Invest in the Camino GTX. You won’t be disappointed.

See our full review and facts

Scarpa and longevity go hand in hand, like super glue and wooden popsicle sticks! With that, we give you the long-lasting Zodiac Plus GTX.

Borrowing somewhat from approach shoes design-wise, the Zodiac Plus GTX comes with a tough rubber rand around the forefoot and a reinforced overlay around the heel. These two elements, along with its by-default durable leather upper, gave us abrasion protection like no other.

Lighter than our top pick for durability by roughly 100 g per boot, the Zodiac Plus GTX allowed us to negotiate tricky areas with increased agility. The flexibility and rockered toe of its sole unit also played a big part in propelling our every step.

The Zodiac Plus GTX is also something not to be sneezed at comfort-wise. That said, the cushioning and pampering it has in store are hidden behind a honeymoon phase, which spanned a couple of days for us.

We didn’t get wet feet in the Zodiac Plus GTX at all. Through the watery environments we visited, the boot stayed true to its GTX promise of excellent moisture protection!

Yes, the Zodiac Plus GTX is a worthy alternative, especially for those who can keep its laces real tight.

See our full review and facts

Best budget boot

Who said that extended journeys require an expensive pair? Not us! We even got the Sawtooth II Mid for you!

This hiker right here is a no-brainer for those looking for affordable gear. Case in point: This Oboz trekking boot, before price-busting deals, has a 150-dollar MSRP. Unbeatable, right?

Equally unbelievable is the Sawtooth II Mid’s weight. At no more than 490 g per shoe, this backpacking boot blew us away with nimble feet both on flat terrain and low-level elevations!

Achy arch? What’s that? We’ve nothing to report about painful arches during our week-long testing of the Sawtooth II Mid. Aside from the supportiveness of its midfoot, the sole unit’s high shock-absorption rate delivered us from ankle and knee pain.

But let’s not forget the Sawtooth II Mid’s plush interior. Comfort overflowed from its every inch right at the moment we put it on! That said, we give the boot’s royally pampering heel zone extra props. Our heels remained snugly intact in it—no blister-causing slippage to speak of.

As a non-waterproof trekking gear, the Sawtooth II Mid also has tons of breathability!

So, enough daydreaming! Spend your dough (and spend it wisely) on this remarkable Oboz kick!

See our full review and facts
Author
Paul Ronto
Paul Ronto

Over the past 20 years, Paul has climbed, hiked, and ran all over the world. He has summited peaks throughout the Americas, trekked through Africa, and tested his endurance in 24-hour trail races as well as 6 marathons. On average, he runs 30-50 miles a week in the foothills of Northern Colorado. His research is regularly cited in The New York Times, Washington Post, National Geographic, etc. On top of this, Paul is leading the running shoe lab where he cuts shoes apart and analyses every detail of the shoes that you might buy.