Of all the outdoor activities we cover here at Switchback Travel, hiking and backpacking are two of the dearest to our hearts. They are some of the easiest ways to get outdoors for people of all experience levels, and simply put, any time spent on the trail has a way of soothing the soul. Below are our 2016 hiking and backpacking gear picks, from boots and rain jackets to tents and altimeter watches. In making them, our staff relied on extensive trail time in a variety of conditions, years of experience in the outdoor industry, and in-depth market research. Our recommendations run the gamut from great budget options to high performance gear for the most serious of adventurers. Happy trails!

Hiking Boots

Best Hiking Boots of 2017

Hiking boots are critical to your comfort and performance on the trail, but this no longer means a stiff and burly model that will weigh you down. The trend is toward lighter materials that still offer decent support, and waterproof boots...
Lightweight Hiking Shoes

Best Lightweight Hiking Shoes of 2016

The momentum in hiking footwear is moving away from bulky boots toward lightweight shoes and even trail runners that are faster and more comfortable. You do lose some ankle support when carrying...
Trail-Running Shoes

Best Trail-Running Shoes of 2017

For many, running on varied and challenging trails is a welcome break from the monotony of pounding pavement (or even worse, the belt of a treadmill). Better yet, trail running is...
Backpacking boots

Backpacking Footwear Tips and Advice

Backpacking footwear has come a long way from the burly and heavy all-leather boots of your grandparent’s generation. Now you can choose from everything from waterproof hiking boots dominated by lightweight...
Hiking Socks

Best Hiking Socks of 2016

You just can’t overvalue a great pair of hiking socks: they keep your feet comfortable and dry while helping to prevent blisters and hotspots. We tested the full array of hiking socks from the heat of Utah’s...
Hiking Pants

Best Hiking Pants of 2017

A great pair of hiking pants provides comfort, freedom of movement, the versatility to perform well in a range of environments, and durability over the long haul. Many of today’s top hiking pants are made from lightweight nylon...
Rain Jacket

Best Rain Jackets of 2017

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we know a thing or two about rain. From months of daily drizzle to heavy downpour in the mountains, we’re acutely aware of the benefits of a quality waterproof and breathable jacket. The rain jackets for men and women...
Best Down Jacket

Best Down Jackets of 2016-2017

Nothing beats a great down jacket, whether it’s for causal use or tearing around the backcountry. Below we break down the best down jackets of 2016-2017, including the top down sweaters, ultralights...
Synthetic Insulated Jacket

Best Synthetic Insulated Jackets of 2016-2017

If you’re looking for a jacket that offers solid warmth at a good value, synthetic insulation is the way to go. You don’t get quite as high of a warmth-to-weight ratio as down, but synthetic jackets resist moisture...
Best Backpacking Tents

Best Backpacking Tents of 2017

An ideal backpacking tent is lightweight, packs down small, and is tough enough to handle inclement weather. The welcome news for backpackers is that tent technology has come a long way even over the past few years...
Daypacks for Hiking

Best Daypacks for Hiking of 2016

A key piece of any gear closet is a go-to daypack. It’s what you grab for nearly any type of outdoor adventure, whether it’s a hike, bike ride or day on the slopes. Generally, what most people look for…
Backpacking Pack

Best Backpacking Packs of 2016

Gone are the days when backpacking consisted of strapping on a huge external frame and lumbering through the forest with an aching body. Trends in backpacks these days err towards minimalism and...
Ultralight Backpacking Tent

Tent Weight Comparison Chart

If you’re researching tent weight, you’ve come to the right place. Below we’ve put together exhaustive tent weight comparison tables covering virtually all models available for summer 2016...
Backpacking sleeping bag

Best Backpacking Sleeping Bags of 2017

Cozying into your sleeping bag at the end of a long day on the trail is one of the simple pleasures of backpacking. Today’s backpacking sleeping bags offer not only exceptional warmth for their weight...
Sleeping Bag

Sleeping Bag Weight Comparison Chart

Monday, April 25, 2016
It’s amazing to think that a sleeping bag can weigh only 1 pound and keep you warm through the night. To pull this off, manufacturers follow this formula: light and lofty down insulation...
Backpacking Sleeping Pads

Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2016

A good night’s sleep on a backpacking trip used to be an oxymoron. Without fail, the conversation over coffee in the morning would turn to aching backs from that rock or stick or, heck, even a...
Sleeping Pad

Sleeping Pad Weight Comparison Chart

There are a number of ways backpackers trim total packed weight, but one of the simplest and most affordable is their sleeping pad. And the beauty in getting a...
Trekking Poles

Best Trekking Poles of 2016

Serious hikers have known the great benefits of trekking poles for decades. Aside from providing stability while hauling a heavy load or moving over technical terrain, trekking poles have distinct advantages...
Altimeter Watches

Best Altimeter (ABC) Watches of 2016

For hikers and mountaineers alike, a quality altimeter watch is a worthy addition to your gear collection. Popularly referred to by the acronym ABC (Altimeter, Barometer, Compass)...
Water Bottle for Hiking

Best Water Bottles of 2016

There’s no need for us to tell you the value in staying hydrated, no matter what your day has in store. But for advice on which reusable water bottle to choose? That’s something we can help with...
Backpacking stove

Best Backpacking Stoves of 2016

Backpackers want a stove that is dependable, durable, and will get the job done quickly after a long day on the trail. Thankfully, the market is full of proven designs that perform well in nearly all conditions...
Hiking photo

Best Cameras for Hiking and Backpacking

Hiking and backpacking requires a lightweight and durable camera that captures great images. Depending on your budget, the options abound in categories from compact point-and-shoots...
Handheld GPS

Best Handheld GPS of 2016

Whether deep in the backcountry or on open water, proper navigation is a must. And for route finding, recording tracks or finding a geocache, there’s no more durable and long-lasting navigator than a handheld GPS...
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 backpack

Review: Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60

I typically purchase gear with an eye toward fastpacking, and previously thought of high-capacity packs as being for slower thru-hikes or weeklong trips into the backcountry...
MSR FreeLite 2 tent

Review: MSR FreeLite 2

MSR’s new FreeLite tent has design similarities with one of our favorite backpacking models, the Hubba Hubba NX, but with significant weight savings. At 2 pounds 11 ounces on our scale including poles, stakes, and guylines...
Arc'teryx Zeta LT

Review: Arc'teryx Zeta LT

The new Arc’teryx Zeta LT represents a distinct break from the hiking rain jacket status quo: design and performance that nearly match an alpine hardshell, but with the comfort and weight of a packable...
Saucony Peregrine 6 womens

Review: Saucony Peregrine 6

Saucony’s Peregrine has long been a favourite among trail runners, so much so that introducing changes could be seen as a risky move. With their sixth version of the Peregrine...
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Max SV

Review: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Max SV

In the same way that the words “Velcro” or “Kleenex” are used to describe categories of products, “Therm-a-Rest” has become synonymous with lightweight sleeping pads...
Thule Stir 20 pack

Review: Thule Stir 20

Thule, the Swedish company known mostly for their car rack systems, recently ventured into the world of backpacking with the successful introduction of their first technical packs. In 2016, they have expanded their line of packs...
Outdoor Research Alpine bivy

Review: Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy

For a number of years, I’d thought of replacing my two-person tent that often serves as my home on solo adventures, with a bivy sack. The idea of reducing weight, saving space, and having a shelter with...
Hyperlite Windrider packrafting

Review: Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Windrider

Cutting-edge Dyneema Composite Fabrics—formerly Cuben Fiber until a recent name change—are at the forefront of the ultralight gear movement. And the leader at producing backpack...
Salomon Speedcross 4 Trail-Running Shoe

Review: Salomon Speedcross 4

As one of their most popular and recognizable designs, the Speedcross trail-running shoe has been a huge hit for Salomon. The toothy, exposed traction and bright colorways are a common sight at...
Granite Gear Lutsen

Review: Granite Gear Lutsen 55

Best known for their ultralight gear, Granite Gear has changed its tune lately with a series of innovative but not necessarily paper thin backpacks. First, the Trace Access hit the market with its gorgeous...
Patagonia Alpine Houdini Lake

Review: Patagonia Alpine Houdini

Nearly ten years ago, Patagonia released their lightweight wind shell, the Houdini jacket. For mountain athletes, this layer has been a game changer like none other. It is incredibly lightweight...
La Sportiva Bushido trail-running shoes

Review: La Sportiva Bushido

Over a decade ago I purchased and wore a La Sportiva Wildcat trail runner, and though I loved the tacky tread, the stability was unimpressive. I easily dismissed the brand as simply...
Arctery'x Bora2 Mid GTX Hiking Boots

Review: Arc’teryx Bora2 Mid GTX

Arc’teryx made the jump into footwear for 2015, and to little surprise, mimicked no one in the process. The Bora2 Mid GTX hiking boots combine the protection and grip...
Platypus Water Filter

Review: Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter

Water treatment is a sometimes annoying and always time-consuming process, but remains an absolutely essential part of any backcountry trip. In the hopes of delivering convenience...
Osprey Atmos AG backpack

Review: Osprey Atmos AG 65

One of the few downsides in the industry-wide transition to internal-frame packs is ventilation. In creating a backpack that hugs the body, very little air passes through the space between...
Lowa Innox GTX Mid hiking boots

Review: Lowa Innox GTX Mid

The Lowa Innox GTX is at the forefront of the hiking footwear movement: it’s a lightweight boot that’s comfortable, nimble, and has a Gore-Tex waterproof liner. And despite weighing 2 pounds for the pair, ankle support is plenty sufficient for hauling...
Salomon Quest 4D II GTX Hiking Boots

Review: Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX

Appreciated for its light and nimble feel, the original Salomon Quest 4D GTX quickly became a go-to hiking boot for serious day-hikers and fast moving backpackers. The 2nd generation...
Scarpa R-Evolution GTX Hiking Boot

Review: Scarpa R-Evolution GTX

Lightweight backpacking boots are a big ticket item these days, as hikers of all kinds appreciate the benefits of cutting a pound or two off their leaden feet. Scarpa’s entry into this category is the boldly...
MSR Hubba Hubba NX backpacking tent

Review: MSR Hubba Hubba NX

Discerning backpackers look for a high quality, lightweight, and durable tent. From our experience with the MSR Hubba Hubba NX, it checks all of those boxes emphatically...
REI Half Dome 2015

Review: REI Half Dome 2

Well designed and constructed with quality materials that rival tents nearly twice its price, the REI Half Dome 2 is ideal for weekend backpackers and those on a budget. It’s quite spacious on this inside and REI shed...
Arc'teryx Cerium LT Down Jacket

Review: Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody

Always designed with a specific purpose in mind, we consider Arc’teryx as the outdoor industry’s equivalent to Tesla Motors. Both create super high-end products where...
Patagonia Ultralight Down Jacket

Review: Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoody

The Patagonia Ultralight Hoody is a quintessential all-arounder down jacket, one that works well as a midlayer and outer layer, but also plays nice for daily wear. Despite falling into...
Patagonia Down Sweater

Review: Patagonia Down Sweater

Climbers, hikers and winter outdoor adventurers of all types have enjoyed Patagonia’s Down Sweater for years. It’s a go-to piece that has defined a jacket category, as any...