One of the essential items you need for long-term travel is a solid pair of shoes. Hiking boots are a great option for backpacking, as they keep your feet well protected and can stand up to all sorts of weather conditions in a way that sneakers just can’t. If you’re the kind of traveller who likes to get outdoors and see the natural wonders of this world, they’re an absolute must! In this guide we give some practical tips on how to find your perfect pair, and pick out the best hiking boots for travel currently available.
This is not a sponsored post: we have not been paid by any of the brands featured in this article. The hiking boots we recommend are based on our own research and testing. If you make a purchase after clicking a link, we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
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Do you need hiking boots for travel?
Like any piece of travel equipment, this really depends on your travel style, how long you’ll be on the road and what you plan to do on your trip.
If you’re heading to a hot region like Southeast Asia and intend to spend most of your time island-hopping, relaxing and exploring cities leisurely, then hiking boots might be overkill. A pair of sneakers or even some good flip flops will probably do the trick.
But if you plan to spend a lot of time exploring outdoors, and you will be travelling in places where you’re likely to encounter a range of terrains and weather conditions, then hiking boots should be high on your ‘things to buy’ list.
We spent a year travelling on a career break across South America, Oceania and Southeast Asia. We trekked in a diversity of environments, from the Andean mountains of Peru to the glacial landscapes of Patagonia, and from the jungles of Northern Thailand to the fjords of New Zealand. One of the best decisions we made was to invest in good hiking boots for the trip; we couldn’t have got through it all without them.
How to find your perfect hiking boots for travel
There are a surprising amount of factors you need to consider when choosing a pair of hiking boots for travel. To help you cut through the noise, here’s our lowdown on what you need to look out for…
1. Cut: high, mid or low?
One of the most important characteristics of a hiking boot is its cut. Your choice of cut should depend on the travel activities you’re planning to do.
- High cut boots rise up above your ankles, and offer the highest levels of ankle support. These are ideal if you are a serious hiker, like to get off the beaten path and you enjoy more technical activities like mountaineering or rock-scrambling. They provide the best protection for difficult terrains, and excellent support if you’re carrying a heavy load.
- Low cut boots are cut beneath the ankle and are similar in appearance to regular sneakers, but are generally more resilient and durable. They are typically the lightest boots and provide maximum flexibility. These are a good option if you are planning more casual and lighter travel, such as city sightseeing and day hikes on well-trodden paths.
- Mid cut are like a halfway house between high and low cuts. They provide decent ankle support while retaining an element of flexibility that high cut boots lack. These are the perfect option for travel if you are planning a good mixture of trekking and general backpacking.
2. Waterproofing and breathability
The last thing you want when you’re on a multi-day trek into the wilderness is for your footwear to be invaded by water. Getting your feet wet is not only uncomfortable, but it will also make you more susceptible to blisters, and cause your boots to smell bad.
Keeping water out of your boots is only half the equation, too. It’s also important for vapour to be able to escape, so you don’t get a build-up of sweat when walking in heat.
We highly recommend hiking boots built with Gore-Tex waterproofing. This is a membrane that keeps water out, and is also great for allowing your feet to breath at the same time. Keep a lookout for those three magic letters GTX when shopping.
Nothing is more important than how your feet will feel in a pair of hiking boots. At the end of the day, the comfort level of your boots will have the biggest impact on your overall experience.
If you can, try a few boots on before you commit to a buying decision. Have a good walk around and get a feel for them. If you wear additional insoles, bring them along with you for the fit.
One thing to note is that brands tend to use similar foot moulds across all of their products. If possible, it’s a good idea to go with a brand you’ve used before and trust.
When you’ve bought a new pair of boots, you will need to take time to ‘break them in’ before you do any extended walking in them. Some boots require a longer break-in period than others, in particular high-cut boots. At the very least, wear your new boots on a few short and easy walks and build it up. If you jump straight into a strenuous hike there’s a strong chance you’ll come out with chafing and blisters.
Getting the right size hiking boots can be quite a tricky business. It won’t always be the case that your regular shoe size will translate to being your optimal hiking boot size.
There are a few things to bear in mind when it comes to finding the right size boot:
- Hiking socks are thicker than regular socks, and thus make your feet bigger inside your boot.
- Your feet swell after walking. The best time to try hiking boots on for size is after you’ve had a good long walk.
- The two factors above often mean that it’s best to buy hiking boots approximately half a size higher than your regular shoe size.
- Read online product reviews of any potential new boots, and keep an eye out for comments about size. Some brands have smaller fits than others.
The weight of your hiking boots will also have an effect on your overall experience. This is particularly true for backpackers and long-term travellers, as you won’t wear your boots all the time – and when you don’t, you will be lugging them around in your backpack.
What’s more, it’s harder to carry weight on your feet than anywhere else on your body. As a general rule, the lighter your boots, the better.
Space is an invaluable commodity for backpackers, and footwear takes up a lot of it. You can’t carry many pairs of shoes with you on a long-term trip.
This means it’s a big bonus if your hiking boots can be used for multiple purposes. A downside to heavy-duty, high-cut boots is that they don’t transition so well to general backpacking and walking around cities. If you find a pair that are suitable for a wide range of your activities, you’ve hit the sweet spot.
7. Get some good socks too
If you intend to spend a lot of time hiking and camping on your travels, in particular in colder climates, then you will need some good hiking socks to keep your feet snug and warm.
8. Looking after your travel hiking boots
A solid pair of hiking boots should last you a long time. To get the most out of them and to maximise their durability, you need to take care of them.
Hiking boot cleaner doesn’t take up a lot of space in your backpack and will help to keep your boots in good condition. Pack some in your backpack and give your boots a regular clean after use.
Best hiking boots for travel: men’s
Quick comparison table
Berghaus Men’s Explorer Trek Plus GTX
We use a lot of Berghaus gear for travel and hiking, and we’re always impressed. Berghaus Men’s Explorers are comfortable and resilient hiking boots for travel, and a great choice if you’re planning to hike in challenging conditions. I’ve used my pair on several multi-day trails; they’ve lasted well and have never disappointed. For a boot so sturdy, they’re remarkably lightweight too.
The boots are built with Gore-Tex for high-performance waterproofing. They kept my feet dry on the W Trek in Patagonia when the rain was slinging down and we waded through streams and rivers. On the cheaper end of our recommendations, Berghaus Explorers are excellent value for money.
|Sizes available||7–13 (US), 6–12 (UK)|
|Weight per boot||560g|
|Pros||Gore-Tex waterproofing, great traction, sturdy, affordable|
|Cons||Quite an unwieldy size/shape for packing away, ventilation could be better|
Salomon Men’s Quest 4D 3 GTX
As a rule of thumb when buying hiking boots, you can’t really go wrong with Salomon. Their products are extremely high quality and we’ve never been let down. The Men’s Quest 4D 3 are in many ways Salomon’s flagship hiking boot, offering outstanding comfort and durability.
This is a high-cut boot that can stand up to extreme terrains due to its excellent grip, ankle support and Gore-Tex waterproofing. At the same time, for a high-cut boot, it’s a remarkably comfortable fit for general backpacking. It’s on the expensive end of our recommendations, but worth it if you want a premium hiking boot for travel.
|Sizes available||8–14 (US), 7–12.5 (UK)|
|Weight per boot||640g|
|Pros||Excellent grip and support, comfortable, quick to break in, Gore-Tex waterproofing|
|Cons||At 1280g a pair, a little on the heavy side for backpacking|
Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Mid 2 GTX
The Merrell Moab 2 Mid is a great option if you prefer to travel lighter and stick mainly to the beaten bath. It’s a perfect boot for everyday walking and exploration, and among the lightest hiking footwear you will find.
The Moab 2 Mid boasts the rare combination of being highly waterproof but breathable at the same time. A mid-cut boot, it also provides high levels of mobility – you’ll feel supremely agile on your feet walking through cities and on day hikes.
The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack Mid GTX
North Face is another outdoor brand we have always been able to rely upon for quality. Their Hedgehog Fastback hiking boots are no exception, and a great choice for the all-round traveller who likes a mixture of city sightseeing and outdoor exploring.
The best thing about this boot is its versatility. It provides solid traction and waterproofing for regular hiking, but can switch up seamlessly for casual everyday wear. They’re comfortable, light and easy to carry around.
Salewa Men’s Mountain Trainer Mid GTX
If you are in it for the adventure, and you want to stretch your budget and go the extra mile for a hiking boot, then Salewa’s Mountain Trainers are a worthwhile investment. This is the ideal choice if you plan to fill plenty of your time with strenuous outdoor activity.
Salewa boots are built to be durable and resilient against all manner of terrains and weather conditions. The Mountain Trainer model offers superb grip for off-the-beaten-path trekking and mountaineering, but aren’t quite as suitable for general backpacking.
|Sizes available||7–14 (US), 6–13 (UK)|
|Weight per boot||670g|
|Pros||Sturdy, breathable, outstanding support, Gore-Tex waterproofing|
|Cons||On the heavy side for backpacking, stiff and rigid fitting|
Best hiking boots for travel: women’s
Quick comparison table
Salomon Women’s Ellipse 2 Mid LTR GTX
Our women’s hiking boots of choice for travel are the Salomon Ellipse 2 Mid. Built with Salomon’s typical high levels of quality, Lisa’s pair of these has seen us through hikes in Peru, Patagonia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Vietnam and many more places, and they’re still going strong.
Specially moulded for women’s feet, these are lightweight, breathable and waterproof boots that offer excellent support and comfort for hiking. At the same time they double up well for backpacking from city to city, and they’re not a pain to carry around.
|Sizes available||5.5–10.5 (US), 3.5–8.5 (UK)|
|Weight per boot||370g|
|Pros||Super-lightweight, comfortable, durable, Gore-Tex waterproofing|
|Cons||Many users report a small fit|
Salomon Women’s X Ultra 3 Mid GTX
Another stellar women’s hiking boot from Salomon is the X Ultra 3. It has the build and feel of a trail running shoe but with additional ankle support that makes it suitable for hiking on a range of terrains.
The X Ultra 3 a is lightweight and flexible boot with a comfortable fit, making it suitable for general backpacking as well as hiking. Solid all-round hiking boots for travel are hard to come by, but you can’t go wrong with a pair of these.
|Sizes available||5.5–10.5 (US), 3.5–8.5 (UK)|
|Weight per boot||418g|
|Pros||Excellent durability, traction and comfort, Gore-Tex waterproofing|
|Cons||Limited underfoot protection and cushioning|
Merrell Women’s Moab 2 Mid GTX
The women’s version of Merrell’s Moab 2 Mid hiking boots are an excellent all-round option at the budget end of the scale. It’s an affordable lightweight boot that is versatile for hiking and casual everyday wear.
The Merrell Moab 2 is also available in a low cut, which provides greater freedom of mobility and may be the better option for travellers who prioritise general backpacking and casual wear.
|Sizes available||5–12.5 (US), 3–11 (UK)|
|Weight per boot||405g|
|Pros||Light, agile and flexible, takes up minimal space in a backpack, superb grip, Gore-Tex waterproofing|
|Cons||Lack of breathability, less suitable for heavy-duty hiking|
Keen Women’s Targhee II Mid
Keen’s Targhee II Mid hiking boots are an affordable option for all-round travellers who like a bit of hiking. They are light and flexible with good grip, but not the most durable for hiking on difficult terrain.
One standout feature of the Targhee II Mid is its trademark toe protection. It is fitted with a burly toe cap called Keen Protect, which is found in several of the brand’s models. Overall, it’s a good budget option for travelling light with the occasional day hike.
|Sizes available||4.5–10.5 (US), 2.5–8.5 (UK)|
|Weight per boot||403g|
|Pros||Lightweight, affordable, good ankle support, quick to break in|
|Cons||Waterproofing is not the best, quite a narrow fit|
Aku Trekker Lite III GTX
If you’re seeking a more technical hiking boot for travel and you’re happy to part with a little more cash, the Aku Trekker Lite III is a good shout. These boots are particularly well suited to hiking in colder climates, as their suede build makes them comfortable and warm.
Aku Trekker Lites are stylish boots that will serve you well on strenuous hikes, with reliable Gore-Tex waterproofing and Vibram soles providing top-class traction. A good choice for active travellers who are serious about hiking.
|Sizes available||5.5–10.5 (US), 3.5–8.5 (UK)|
|Weight per boot||525g|
|Pros||Durable, breathable, ideal for hot-weather hiking, Gore-Tex waterproofing|
|Cons||On the heavy side for general backpacking, not the most breathable|
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