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post #1 of 466
Thread Starter 
Anyone into hiking and/or backpacking? If so, what do you think the best backpack and/or boots are for extended hikes?
post #2 of 466
Disclaimer - This post (probably mistakenly) assumes you are asking for advice. If you just wanted a discussion/argument, I can accomodate as well.

I am a pretty avid hiker/backpacker (which the length of this post indicates!). I would suggest you pick up a backorder of Backpacker Magazine's Gear Guide (I believe it came out in February). When I am hiking with a load in excess of 30 lbs, I hike in Vasque Sundowners (the classic model). There are probably better (and certainly lighter) boots than these, but I've found them to be extremely rugged and absolutely waterproof (I'm only on my second pair after putting in around 3,000 miles the last 15 years). Also, one of my ankles is pretty shot from basketball, so I need the ankle support. However, there are many boots with synthetic fabrics that are a little lighter and cheaper. I suggest shopping around at a reputable outdoor store, trying the boots on, and then ordering on-line from a place like CampMor or STP. Scarpa and Danner also make great boots. When sizing, keep in mind you will/should be wearing a little thicker wool sock than usual.

For packs, that's really an individual choice. Some tend to fit tall/short/thin/fat people better. If price is no object, I would get an Arcteryx pack. While certainly not the lightest pack, they are incredibly rugged and absolutely waterproof (as you can tell, I place a premium on those two qualities). The drawback is that they are very very expensive. For a cheaper pack, Jansport & Gregory make good packs and for really inexpensive, I would go Kelty.
A consideration needs to be how much you are really going to use this pack. Is this a week-long or multi-week hike, after which it will go into a closet for ten years? Then get a Kelty or Mountainsmith. If you are planning a thru-hike (good luck), you probably want to spend a bit more.

If you provide a few more details about your hike (length, terrain), price range, and body type, I can make a more specific recommendation.
post #3 of 466
Thread Starter 
Thanks this is exactly the kind of info I was looking for. At the moment I'm going on day long hikes of 10 to 15 miles about 2 or 3 times a month. It hasn't been a big deal to just bring an old bookbag-style backpack (minus a time when it shifted and almost tossed me off a cliff). For boots I just wear a pair of workboots (they are really heavy!). Pretty soon we're going to start doing longer multi-day hikes (and then eventually thru-hikes). The plan is to to be prepped for taking on the AT (or maybe the Pacific Crest) in a few years, although it will probably have to be taken in segments due to the constraints of limited vacation time. So as far as terrain goes - we'll be hitting pretty much everything but desert over the next few years. Length - anywhere from a 10 mile day hike to however many miles we can cover over several weeks. Price range - I'm hoping to get versatile gear that will last a long time. Cheaper is always better, but I think in this case cheaper is not going to be the deciding factor. Body type - medium/thin and short.
post #4 of 466
You'll be amazed at how much difference a proper pack with a frame (internal or external) and load bearing hipbelt makes.

I bought tons a backpacking shit a little while ago when I was hiking but I've sort of gotten out of it (time constraints lately.) I have a Dana Design pack that rocks, but a few months ago I went online to look for some accessories and apparently the brand has been bought by Marmot and is more or less defunct, which sucks because they were great packs.
post #5 of 466
Thread Starter 
Just looked at Arcteryx stuff, expensive but looks awesome. Do you have any experience with their Naos line? Waterproof and lightweight is good.
post #6 of 466
I used to work summers taking kids out on Outward Bound-style expeditions and have continued to hike a lot - mostly in Florida, the Smokies, and the Badlands. I am leaving Saturday to do seven days in Glacier - so psyched up about it! Anyway, I really want to answer in depth (sorry but this is a subject I'm pretty passionate about) and will do so tonight. I have a few catalogues at home that I'd like to check before I respond.
post #7 of 466
Short answer is "it depends". You've asked about two of the most difficult pieces of equipment to select.

Based on the little info you've given, I'd say a pair of lightweight trail runners or similar would be good for the day hikes. Light and fast. You'll also want a pair of light to mid-weight boots for the multi-day trips. You want to keep your footwear as light as possible, heavy boots can really be a drag. I have a pair of La Sportiva mountaineering boots, and while they are necessary for some terrain and loads, I always wish I was in lighter footwear. If you add snow and such to the mix, you'll need to get into more serious footwear. So, I suggest having a range of footwear to meet the variety of challenges you'll face.

As for packs, I like Arcteryx a lot as well. I have one that they don't make anymore (Bora 90) and it is still looking good despite all the rocks, thorns, ice axes, crampons, etc. However, just like with footwear, FIT is a key issue. Go to a good shop that will load up the packs with weight and let you walk around for a while (at least an hour). As for external or internal frames, it depends. When I was young, I used an external frame, and have fond memories of that pack (a very old Jansport). Internals are more popular it seems, so it will probably be easier to find a nice one.

So, read gear guides from Backpacker, and Climbing if you like mountaineering. Go to a variety of shops and test the equipment. And finally, realize that no matter how much research and effort you put into this, you'll likely have complaints about whatever you buy. The deeper you get into this, the more gear you'll end up getting to cover the variety of conditions, terrains, and trips you take. Have fun!
post #8 of 466
Also, I would try to find a proper, small backpacking shop like Backwoods where the emplyees actually backpack rather than one of these wharehouse operations.
post #9 of 466
my Arcteryx pack is great but it's heavy since it's got a lot of extra doodads and such like ice axe and compression straps. stuff you don't need for most day hikes, even extended ones unless you're peak bagging. my latest addition is a Cold Cold World Ozone: very minimal and very lightweight. the only issue you might have with it is that it's one size fits all and the hip straps aren't padded.

for boots, definitely think lightweight and purchase for the conditions you're likely to hike in 75-80% of the time. for the longest time, i was hiking in a pair of Nike Baltoros, a synthetic leather and nylon boot. did multiple weeklong backpacks in the Sierras and Utah in those things.

beyond that, have a shitload of fun. don't get to do too much hiking/backpacking nowadays so i'm jealous.

post #10 of 466
Depending on how much you're willing to invest, a custom-mold backpack can be a great way to go. My cousin had been a pretty big traveler because of his environmental work and took this past year to backpack around the world. He dropped some money on a custom-mold pack (Osprey if I'm not mistaken) and now swears by it. Not only is the quality up to snuff, but he's got a bag that makes it a pleasure to hike. I lucked out on an external frame North Face pack 6-7 years ago that absolutely fits me like a glove. Point is don't count pennies on comfort and fit if this is a long-term commitment.
post #11 of 466
Which equipment is best is not an easy question to answer, as people's preferences and needs differ.

I know that Vasque boots have been mentioned in this thread, but I have never really liked them, for two reasons - they're more expensive than a number of other excellent brands, and the leather is too soft. Whilst this means that you don't have the pain of wearing them in, it also means that they tend to wear out more quickly, and that they are also a bit more shapeless on your foot. For long-distance hiking, I far and away prefer Scarpa. I've been through two pairs of Scarpa in 17 years, and was able to have both pairs resoled to extend their lifespans. I've used them hiking all around Australia, from cool-climate rainforest in Tasmania and the Lamington plateau, to desert and tropical escarpments in Kakadu National Park. I've climbed mountains in Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan, and I've worn them around cities on three continents. In short, they've been spectacularly well suited to whatever I've wanted to do in them. The only problem I've noticed is that the leather lining on the interior of the tongue tends to wear and occasionally split due to the frequent soaking/drying that it experiences when hiking (ie soaked with sweat during the day, drying at night, and then getting soaked again during the day). Having said that, though, the tongues on my boots took a good few years to develop a couple of tears on the inside, and I was able to get them repaired at the same time that I had the boots resoled. When using a good waterproofing agent on the leather, such as Snoseal, they become virtually impervious to water - I've slushed through streams and hiked through snow in them without a leak.

In terms of backpacks and tents, I use Macpac. I don't know if they have a presence in North America, but Macpac is a New Zealand brand with a strong presence in Australia and NZ. They make excellent internal-frame packs and daypacks - my internal frame pack has lasted me for 17 years, too (bought it when I bought my first pair of Scarpa boots). It looks dirty and battered and I've had to make a couple of repairs to it, but just like the Scarpas, it's taken everything I've thrown at it and it has served me exceptionally well. The zips on the secondary pockets have never malfunctioned and everything is still in good working order. It comes with a lifetime warranty, and I've heard of people returning their packs after twenty years to have a zip replaced and of getting the pack repaired without a murmur from Macpac. My tent and sleeping bag are both Macpac, too. I've used the tent and the bag in the snow at temperatures of about -10C without any problems (I was using a thermarest autoinflate three-quarter length sleeping pad to insulate me from the freezing ground).

Really, knowing what to get requires giving some thought to what you want to do with the equipment.

If you're just going on day walks in relatively dry areas on established tracks, then you could even get away with a pair of sneakers. If you're going on day walks in dry areas with some rock scrambling, then you might want to get a lightweight boot mainly constructed of fabric. If you're going on longer walks and/or will be getting into wet stuff, then get a pair of Scarpas or similar boots. I used to have a pair of Nike AGC Mowabbs (a light, high-top sneaker with an inner, neoprene boot and some heel/ankle support) and they were perfect for rapid daywalks in relatively dry terrain where we wanted to cover quite a lot of ground on the trot.

It's the same with packs. If you're only going for a day (or even one night), you can get away with a day pack. If you're going longer, then you're going to want an internal-frame pack, probably with compression straps so as to help adjust your load and pack size. I'd tend toward getting something with a 70-80 litre capacity. Don't forget that if you are going for some time, you'll need to carry tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, stove, fuel for the stove, food for three meals a day and snacks, at least one change of dry clothes that has been triple-bagged to keep it absolutely dry, and quite possibly a good supply of water. All of the above takes up quite a lot of space (to say nothing of how much it weighs - particularly the water).

I'm sorry that I know nothing of North American brands, but I hope that my ramblings have been of some assistance in helping you to target the sort of things that you need.

post #12 of 466
Thread Starter 
Thanks this is lots of good advice. Re: Macpac - I've never seen that brand before but I will keep an eye out. Re: Boots - The Scarpa's sound good, I will definitely check them out. I'm really looking for a boot that will handle lots of abuse and keep my feet dry. In your experience, when they do get wet do they dry quickly? Re: Osprey backpacks - it looks like they do some kind of custom molding to help the pack fit. It sounds a bit gimmicky but their packs do look good. Definitely cheaper than the Arcteryx Naos line I've got my eye on. Gamelan - which model of Acteryx do you have?
post #13 of 466
Originally Posted by jett View Post

Gamelan - which model of Acteryx do you have?

i don't remember the name but i think it's a Bora 40. it's definitely in the 2500 cu. in. range. if you're looking for a technical, fairly bombproof, and let's face it good looking pack, you can't go wrong with an Arcteryx. i bought it primarliy to carry my junk while skiing and i don't notice whether it's on or off. granted i'm only carrying anywhere from 10-15 lbs of stuff.

post #14 of 466
Nothing gimmicky about the custom-fit stuff. It's the difference of wearing a fitted cap versus one with plastic adjustment. I'll email my cousin and find the exactly model, specs, etc. He didn't want anything huge but this bad boy had it all.
post #15 of 466
I use a Crux AK50 pack an old model similar to the AK47 (simple, lightweight and sturdy)
and Brasher Supalite GTX boots (soft and very lightweight)
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