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 2018 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 2018

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 2018

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 2018

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 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...

Best Hiking Socks of 2018

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 2018

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 2018

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 2018

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 2018, including the top down sweaters, ultralights...

Best Synthetic Insulated Jackets of 2018

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 Vests for Hiking of 2018

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 2018

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

Best Daypacks for Hiking of 2018

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 2018

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 2018

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...

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 2017...

Best Backpacking Sleeping Bags of 2018

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 Weight Comparison Chart

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...

Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2018

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...

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...

Best Trekking Poles of 2018

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 2018

Backpackers want 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 Altimeter (ABC) Watches of 2018

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 2018

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 2018

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...

Review: Osprey Eja 48

The minimalist Exos has been a mainstay among ultralight packs, and in 2018—at long last—Osprey introduced its women’s-specific counterpart: the Eja. Going beyond the “shrink and pink” strategy, the Eja is a well-fitting, adjustable pack...

Review: Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2

The new Tiger Wall tent from Big Agnes blends two of their best backpacking designs—the popular Copper Spur and Fly Creek—into one intriguing ultralight package. We took the UL2 model...

Review: Merrell MQM Flex

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...

Review: Gregory Baltoro 75 (2018)

Gregory’s flagship men’s Baltoro and women’s Deva packs are long-time favorites for those carrying serious weight. Updated for 2018, these deluxe haulers have been modernized with better ventilation, new...

Review: Salomon X Ultra 3

Salomon’s X Ultra line of hiking footwear is one of our all-time favorites for all types of uses from day hikes to lightweight backpacking trips. The new “3” was released in late 2017, and Salomon mostly stuck to the original script—changes include...

Review: Granite Gear Crown2 60

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...

Review: Nemo Dagger 2P

Nemo has come on very strong in the tent market with a number of quality offerings for backpackers. We took the 2-person version of their high-end Dagger for a series of summer trips into the Alpine Lakes of Washington State and the...

Review: REI Co-op Half Dome 2 Plus

Beloved by backpackers for years, REI Co-op has updated their iconic Half Dome for 2018. Now offered in a full line of spacious 1, 2, 3, and 4-person “Plus” models, the new tent is...

Review: Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX

Salomon’s Quest 4D boot has headlined their backpacking lineup for years. Updated for 2018, they fine-tuned the design with a new outsole and reworked platform that offers a little more flexibility...

Review: Keen Targhee III

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

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...

Review: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2

Following their update to the Fly Creek HV UL tent, Big Agnes has added a second “HV,” or high volume model, with their popular Copper Spur. Already loved by ounce-counting backpackers and...

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...

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...

Review: Merrell Moab 2

More than 10 years after the original Moab was released, Merrell has given us the Moab 2 for 2017. The first edition reached legendary status, so we were excited to see what Merrell had done for the reboot. To cut right to the chase...

Review: Patagonia 850 Down Sleeping Bag

We’ve never seen a sleeping bag release get this much hoopla, but it goes to show how big Patagonia is in the outdoor world. The company jumped into the scene this year with stylish 19°F and 30°F bags filled...

Review: Osprey Stratos 24

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...

Review: REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2

In years past, REI’s Quarter Dome was on the cusp of breaking through in the lightweight tent market. It was a fantastic value for the weight, but the build quality was a step down from the competition and...

Review: Lowa Renegade GTX Mid

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...

Review: Osprey Aether AG 70

Osprey has a strong reputation for building comfortable packs, and the Aether line is one of their best. Updated for 2017, the Aether AG adds Osprey’s signature “Anti-Gravity” suspension to mix. To see how it performed, we loaded down the 70-liter...

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...

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...

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: 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...

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...

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...

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...

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...