Hiking Boots vs backpacking boots

When it comes to great outdoor adventures, having the right, comfortable and sturdy piece of footwear can make all the difference. However, backpacking and hiking boots are often confused with each other while they are significantly different.

The main differences are that hiking boots are made for easy day hikes or short trips with light loads, while backpacking boots are built to withstand the rigors of extended trips with heavier loads.

Let’s explore the key differences, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of buying those, to help you choose the right boot pair for your next side trip or outdoor excursion.

backbacking boots

Quick Summary

As a general rule, when it comes to choosing between hiking and backpacking boots, there are several factors to keep in mind, such as the intended type of use, shoe design, type of terrain, distance, and climate.

As a general guide, hiking boots tend to be more lightweight and breathable, making them better for day hikes.

Trekking boots, on the other hand, prioritize durability, foot protection, and waterproofing, making them ideal for mountaineering and backpacking.

Ultimately, the best choice to start with depends on your personal preferences, time, and the specific conditions of your hike.

Ankle Support

Trekking boots give more ankle support, with more outsoles and taller uppers to protect the ankle from twists and sprains on uneven routes. Hiking boots typically have a lower-cut midsole, a design that allows for greater mobility but sacrifices some ankle and arch support.


Both offer excellent traction on a variety of surfaces, but trekking boots typically have a more aggressive tread pattern, providing a better grip on rocky and slippery routes. This increased traction comes at the cost of some flexibility.


Hiking boot is generally lighter in weight than trekking boot, as they are made for a shorter length of hiking with less gear to pack around.

Trekking shoes have additional support features over hiker does, elements such as a sturdier sole, making them heavier but better suited for more challenging routes with heavy backpacks.


Both hiking and trekking boots can come with waterproofing features, but backpacking boots typically have more advanced technologies and materials, such as Gore-Tex.

This kind of foot protection gear is important, especially on overnight trips. Hiking boots may have basic waterproof features.


Both can be comfortable and supportive, but leather hiking boots tend to be more flexible, offering greater mobility. Backpacking boots prioritize support and are more durable than leather boots, which can make them stiffer and less comfortable for shorter trips.


Trekking boots are designed to withstand the rigors and wear of extended trips with heavy loads and hard-on, so they tend to be a bit more durable.

Hiking boots often have thicker and sturdier materials, such as leather or synthetic fabrics, that can handle rough routes and rugged terrain.


Hiking boots prioritize ventilation to prevent feet from becoming too hot and sweaty while trekking boots prioritize foot protection.

It’s important to consider the terrain and temperature before choosing between a normal boot or a more rugged backpacking boot, especially if you expect you’ll be off-trail for miles or carrying a full pack or backpack with extra weight.

For short hiking, a light enough boot or a shoe with good ventilation and some water resistance may be sufficient.


Hiking shoes are versatile and lightweight boots that can be used for a range of outdoor activities, from day hikes to short trips.

Mountaineering boots are more specialized and these boots are best suited for extended trips with heavy loads, but may not be as comfortable or practical for shorter hikes.


Trekking boots prioritize stability, with features like a stiffer rubber sole and taller upper, to provide more support and prevent ankle sprains and other injuries while hiking footwear options have a lower cut outsole and are generally a bit more flexible, sacrificing some stability for greater mobility on a less challenging route.


Backpacking shoes may be better at providing warmth as they are often designed with insulation to keep you warm in cold conditions. However, hiking boots may have also basic insulation.


Backpacking boots are designed with better dryability features than hiking boots. This can include moisture-wicking and breathable linings and quick-drying fabrics that help prevent wetness from sweat and rain.

Hiking boots may have basic moisture-wicking features, but may not be as personally comfortable or effective at keeping feet and ankles dry.

How to Decide between Backpacking Boots and Hiking Boots?

  • The route you plan to hike on is a crucial factor in choosing the best gear. For a rugged and rocky landscape, backpacking boots with stiffer soles and taller uppers give greater stability.
  • For forest trails or less challenging routes, hiking boots with more flexibility and lower cuts are more suitable, as they allow for greater mobility.
  • The weight you are carrying is important, especially on climbing and longer treks. Trekking boots offer greater support and durability for carrying heavy loads, while hiking boots are lighter and more flexible for carrying lighter loads.
  • It’s important to choose gear that fits well and gives adequate support but is not too heavy.
  • The weather of your hike is important when deciding what kind of gear to wear.
  • Waterproof backpacking boots with insulation are best for wet or snow.
  • For dry, breathable hiking boots with minimal insulation are better to prevent overheating.
  • Your experience level is one factor to consider. For beginners, hiking boots with more flexibility are a better choice, as they allow for greater mobility and are easier to break in.
  • For advanced hikers, backpacking boots with firmer soles and taller uppers give better support for longer and more challenging hikes.
  • For longer distances, backpacking boots with more support and cushioning are recommended to reduce fatigue and prevent injuries.
  • For shorter distances, hiking boots with lighter weight and more flexibility are better for ease of movement and comfort.

Verdict – So, what to use?

Backpacking boots are the best bet for rough routes and off-trail hiking as they give more ankle support. However, for most day hiking on well-maintained trails, a standard hiking boot is more than sufficient.

Hiking boots offer greater flexibility and are generally lighter, and more comfortable, making wearing them ideal for most outdoor experiences.

Gore-Tex membrane technology is available in both types.

In summary, unless you are going off-trail mountaineering, long-distance backpacking, or traversing rough terrain, wearing a hiking boot is recommended for most hikers due to its great versatility, comfort, and longevity.

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Written by Michael B

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