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 2019 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!

Best Hiking Boots of 2019

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...

Best Lightweight Hiking Shoes of 2019

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...

Best Trail-Running Shoes of 2019

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...

Best Hiking Socks of 2019

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...

Best Hiking Pants of 2019

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...

Best Rain Jackets of 2019

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 Jackets of 2019-2020

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 2019, including the top down sweaters, ultralights...

Best Synthetic Insulated Jackets of 2019-2020

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, can breathe better, and are more...

Best Vests of 2019

For cool fall and spring conditions, it’s hard to beat a vest. This simple layering piece is super cozy, adds warmth to your core, is easy to throw over a flannel, and less bulky and cheaper than a full jacket. But...

Best Backpacking Tents of 2019

The ideal backpacking tent is lightweight, spacious, and tough enough to handle any inclement weather that you can throw at it. It’s a big category, but the good news for backpackers is that...

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 2019...

Best Daypacks for Hiking of 2019

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…

Best Backpacking Packs of 2019

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...

Best Baby Carriers for Hiking of 2019

For hitting the trail with a little one in tow, it’s hard to beat a baby carrier pack. Their supportive designs allow for a comfortable and safe ride, and we’ve spent countless hours hiking with both a happy child...

Best Backpacking Sleeping Bags of 2019

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...

Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2019

A good night’s sleep on a backpacking trip used to be a rarity, but today’s sleeping pads are much improved over their predecessors. Comfort is better than ever with...

Best Trekking Poles of 2019

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...

Best Water Bottles of 2017

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...

Best Backpacking Stoves of 2019

Backpackers need a stove that is lightweight, dependable, and will get the job done quickly after a long day on the trail. Thankfully, the market is full of both time-tested models and newer...

Best Backpacking Meals of 2019

It almost goes without saying: dinnertime is one of the best parts of any backpacking trip. There’s just nothing quite like warm, filling food after a long day on the trail. In choosing the...

Best Altimeter (ABC) Watches of 2019

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)...

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...

Best Handheld GPS of 2019

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...

Backpacking Checklist for 2019

Whether you are a first-time backpacker or a seasoned veteran, everyone likes a good list. Our detailed backpacking checklist below covers everything from critical equipment (tent, pack, sleeping bag, etc.) to hiking footwear...

Zpacks Duplex Tent Review

Purpose-built for thru-hikers and serious ounce-counting backpackers, the Zpacks Duplex is one of the lightest and most well-built tents on the market. To test its limits, we took the Duplex Flex—a fully freestanding upgrade to the base model...

MSR Guardian Purifier Review

MSR has been a longstanding leader in the world of backpacking filters, so it’s no surprise their Guardian has become our go-to pump for trips abroad. We took this hybrid filter and purifier along to Peru’s...

Arc’teryx Aerios FL GTX Review

New for 2019, the Aerios FL builds off Arc’teryx’s Norvan trail-running collection and marks the company’s continued foray into hiking footwear. Eager to test its performance, we took the low-top version...

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2 Review

Maine-based Hyperlite Mountain Gear helped bring Dyneema to the backpacking mainstream —or at least the fringes of it. And new for 2019, the trekking pole-supported Dirigo 2 tent now carries the torch...

Granite Gear Blaze 60 (2019) Review

Effectively balancing weight, features, and carrying comfort is a tall order, but Granite Gear’s Blaze 60 pack manages to do so with very few compromises. We took the recently updated women’s Blaze on a...

Patagonia Stretch Rainshadow Review

There’s no shortage of high-performance rain jackets that will keep you dry when the weather turns, but the Patagonia Stretch Rainshadow stands apart from the competition in one crucial way: stretch...

REI Co-op Flash 55 (2019) Review

With the 2019 Flash 55, REI Co-op enters the world of ultralight backpacking in a big way. For a reasonable $199, REI pulled out all the stops: ample storage, removable features including a top lid and...

Salomon Odyssey Triple Crown Review

Drawing heavily from their since-discontinued Odyssey Pro hiking shoe, Salomon’s recent addition to their lineup, the Odyssey Triple Crown, is aimed at long-distance backpackers looking to cut weight...

MSR Hubba Hubba NX (2019) Review

Discerning backpackers look for a high-quality, lightweight, and durable tent. And from our experience with the latest 2019 MSR Hubba Hubba NX, it checks all those boxes...

Osprey Aura AG 65 Review

Osprey’s proven lineup of backpacking packs runs the gamut from simple entry-level haulers and ultralight builds to premium, feature-rich models. The Aura AG—and its men’s counterpart, the Atmos AG—falls right in the middle...

Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 Review

Big Agnes’ Tiger Wall blends two of their best backpacking designs—the popular Copper Spur and Fly Creek—into one intriguing ultralight package. We took the UL2 model backpacking in Utah’s Canyon...

Merrell Moab 2 Review

Merrell’s original Moab reached legendary status, and the current “2” carries on the tradition. To cut right to the chase, after taking the Moab 2 Ventilator to Utah’s Canyon Country and...

Nemo Dagger 2P (2019) Review

Nemo has come on very strong in the tent market with a number of quality offerings for backpackers. We took the updated 2019 two-person version of their high-end Dagger for an early-season trip into...

Merrell MQM Flex Review

The growing popularity of wearing trail-running shoes for hiking has pushed the market towards lighter and nimbler designs. Merrell’s latest offering in this category is their hybrid MQM Flex, which aims to combine a hiking...

Gregory Baltoro 75 Review

Gregory’s flagship men’s Baltoro and women’s Deva packs are long-time favorites for those carrying serious weight. Updated last year, we took the Baltoro 75 on the demanding Huemul Circuit in Patagonia and were pleased with its stable feel and premium...

Salomon X Ultra 3 Review

Salomon’s X Ultra line of hiking footwear is one of our long-time favorites for all types of uses from day hikes to lightweight backpacking trips. We’ve tested the latest low-top shoe version through everything from early winter conditions in the...

Granite Gear Crown2 60 Review

Granite Gear is a market leader in ultralight packs, with a strong following among thru-hikers and other minimalist backpackers. Arguably, their best design is the Crown2...

Review: REI Co-op Traverse 70

REI Co-op continues to improve its in-house line, and the versatile Traverse is the company’s leading backpacking pack. Updated for 2018, it retains the characteristics that have made the pack a success, including high levels of comfort, thoughtful...

REI Co-op Half Dome 2 Plus Review

Beloved by backpackers for years, REI Co-op’s Half Dome boasts many of the features we love in a tent at a very reasonable price point. Updated last year, the Half Dome line is now exclusively offered in “Plus” models, which are among the roomiest and...

Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX Review

Salomon’s Quest 4D boot has headlined their backpacking lineup for years. Updated last year, they fine-tuned the design with a grippier outsole and reworked platform that offers a little more...

Keen Targhee III WP Mid Review

Keen’s Targhee line has been a powerhouse in the day-hiking world for years. Released at the end of 2017, the Targhee III retains similar levels of comfort and build quality that people love, but hones in fit for slightly more of a performance feel...

Review: La Sportiva Trango TRK GTX

With a serious alpine pedigree, La Sportiva has been manufacturing highly regarded climbing and skiing gear for almost 90 years. Therefore it’s no surprise that their Trango...

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest Review

Dyneema is a hot item in ultralight gear, and for good reason: it’s one of the strongest materials in the world, resists moisture well, and is incredibly lightweight. Maine-based Hyperlite Mountain Gear...

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Review

First introduced in 2008, the Copper Spur series by Big Agnes has been a consistent front-runner in the ultralight tent category. We tested the HV (high-volume) model of the two-person Copper Spur UL in conditions ranging from the hot and sunny Utah...

Review: Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX

Scarpa’s Zodiac Plus GTX is a fully supportive yet exceptionally lightweight boot ideal for handling high-mileage days with a heavy load. This midweight hiker is designed to shine in environments when a mountaineering boot is overkill but a low-top...

Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 Review

I typically purchase gear with an eye toward fastpacking, and previously thought of high-capacity packs as being useful only for slower thru-hikes or long trips into the backcountry. The Gossamer Gear...

Patagonia 850 Down Sleeping Bag Review

We’ve never seen a sleeping bag release get as much hoopla as Patagonia’s 850, but that just goes to show how big the brand is in the outdoor world. The company has two models in the lineup: 19°F and 30°F bags, and both are filled with generous amounts...

Osprey Stratos 24 Review

Osprey is a leader in the pack market, and their Stratos line is an all-around favorite for day hiking. We’ve owned multiple variations over the years, and all have delivered nearly flawless performance through extended, rough use. We’ve been testing...

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Review

Nearly every major hiking boot brand has its signature model, and for Lowa, it’s the Renegade GTX. We took the popular mid-height boot out backpacking and day hiking...

Osprey Aether AG 70 Review

Osprey has a strong reputation for building comfortable packs, and the Aether line is one of their best. To see how it performed, we loaded down the 70-liter model for a multi-day trip in Southern Utah. Despite the recent overhaul, the Aether’s core...

Arc'teryx Zeta LT Review

The Arc’teryx Zeta LT manages an impressive balance that few rain jackets are able to achieve: design and performance that nearly match an alpine hardshell with the comfort and weight of a packable rain jacket. Retailing for over $400, the Zeta LT...

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...

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...

Do You Need Waterproof Hiking Shoes?

We get this question a lot: do your hiking shoes or boots need to be waterproof, or can you do without? Hikers and backpackers fall on both ends of the spectrum—some prefer the unparalleled...

Does Your Tent Need a Footprint?

This age-old question stymies both newbie backpackers and veterans alike. You've already spent a substantial amount on a tent, but should you tack on the extra purchase of a footprint?

Fall Hiking Gear Essentials

Fall is our favorite time of the year to hike: the temperatures have cooled off, the bugs are mostly gone, and the colors in the mountains are incredible. For this shoulder season, we always make some adjustments to our hiking gear...

Sleeping Bag Temperature Ratings Explained

Choosing a sleeping bag can be a confusing experience. There are so many considerations to keep in mind: down or synthetic? Snug mummy or roomy rectangular shape? And perhaps the most puzzling question of all: which temperature rating should you choose...

Merino Wool: Is It Worth It?

Merino wool, the ultra soft fabric most commonly found in performance baselayers and socks, is one of the most sought-after materials in the outdoor gear world. But is it worth the hype? Below we...

Down vs. Synthetic Insulation

As the weather cools down each year the insulation debate heats up. Goose and duck down fill are among the premier insulators on earth, trapping air and creating pockets of warmth around your body...