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beginners - boots

Believe it or not, this may be the most important piece of equipment you own. The one thing you have to be careful about on your trip is your feet, if they die, you aren't going anywhere. For this reason, be careful when buying your boots.

Hiking boots come in about three types, light weight, medium weight and heavy weight. The light weights are usually not made of all leather. They have a rough canvas type of material that is light weight and looks good. These boots are generally for day hiking and short trips. They don't provide as much support as other boots, but if you are hiking on trails you will generally be fine. Medium weight boots are more for backpacking trips, about a week or more with a good amount of weight in your pack. Full leather boots tend to be sturdier and provide more support than the rough canvas material on lighter boots. The heavy weight boots are made for long trips, heavy packs and lots of banging around, You won't need these if you are just a beginner, but if you take up mountaineering and climb mountains like K2 you might need these.

You must get a good fit on your boots for them to work well. When you go to buy boots, take some boot socks with you. If you try on boots with thin cotton socks you won't get a good fit. Once you have the boots on, walk around a bit. You might even try kicking something with the toe of the boot. This will help simulate going down a hill, if you toes touch the front of the boot, they are probably to short. If this happened while you were hiking you might get blisters on your toes from them hitting the front of your boot.

Ok, now I know everyone is saying, shouldn't I buy this boot because it has Gore-tex? I will discuss Gore-tex later, but here is a humble opinion from a fellow backpacker. Gore-tex is a fabric that breathes, in other words, sweat from your feet can leave but water from the outside can't get in. I think that Gore-tex in boots really doesn't help that much. If you get a pair of good all leather boots, they basically do the same thing. Leather is a good waterproof material and I even think it breathes some (that is my opinion, no scientific facts).

With the trend towards lighter gear, many people have moved away from full blown boots and now hike in low-top hiking shoes. There is a saying that "a pound on the foot equals five pounds in your pack." This makes sense if you think about it. When you have a lighter shoe, it takes less energy to physically pick up and move your legs. So at the end of the day, you should be less tired (remember this is all just theoretical). These hiking shoes are lighter and more comfortable, but the trade off is in support. To use these low-top shoes, your ankles usually need to be a little stronger. These types of hiking shoes also flex more than boots. Because of this flexing, your arches take more of a beating. If you have weak arches, be prepared for this. Low-top hiking shoes have had tremendous advances lately. Many through hikers of the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail are turning towards these lighter weight boots.



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