Most of the boots made for hikers have tops and uppers made of lightweight fabrics and/or suede, making them breathable, more flexible and more comfortable. Some tougher hiking boots are made in part or entirely from light leather. To achieve their lighter weight and greater comfort, these boots must use materials that aren't quite as tough. That presents few problems on a hiking trail, but off-trail the frequent scrapes against rocks and undergrowth quickly wear ordinary hiking boots out. This is why backpacking boots are often made of heavy, full-grain leather. While heavier, less-breathable and often very stiff when first taken out of the box, backpacking boots are very durable and should last a long time even under trying off-trail conditions.
Ankle support is directly related to how stiff the upper part of the boot is. Mid-cut boots offer some support while remaining light and flexible, making them suitable for day hikes, short multi-night hikes, and some light use off-trail while bearing light loads. Ideally, that should mean around 25 lbs, and should not exceed 40 lbs. High-cut boots offer strong support, making them suitable for backpackers who go off-trail and onto rough terrain bearing loads of 40 lbs. or greater. However, they are heavier and offer support at the expense of flexibility. The ankle support of a backpacking boot is therefore often achieved with some loss of comfort.
Hiking boots may or may not be waterproof, while proper backpacking boots always are. Many backpacking boots are made entirely of leather, which can be treated with silicon agents or mink oil and rendered waterproof. Even those boots that are not often have a waterproof interior liner made of Gore-Tex or a similar material. Some hiking boots share these qualities, but many have tops made partially from breathable mesh, which cannot be waterproofed. These hiking boots, while very comfortable, are not meant for crossing streams or rainy day use. Another feature of a backpacking boot that improves its waterproofing is the tongue is attached to the upper most or all the way to the top of the boot. Hiking boots have separated tongues, which are more breathable, but less water-tight.
Article Written By Edwin Thomas
Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.