Of all the outdoor activities we cover here at Switchback Travel, hiking is dearest to our hearts. It is one 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 detailed hiking gear reviews for 2024, including round-ups, in-depth reviews, and informational articles covering everything from hiking footwear and clothing to daypacks and trekking poles. For overnight adventures, see our detailed backpacking gear reviews.

Best Hiking Shoes of 2024

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 a heavy pack or traversing rocky trails...

Best Women's Hiking Shoes of 2024

Whether you’re setting out on a casual day hike or hitting the trail with overnight gear, there’s a hiking shoe up for the task. Compared to traditional hiking boots, hiking shoes are characterized by their low-top design, which translates to less...

Best Hiking Boots of 2024

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 Women's Hiking Boots of 2024

For the best combination of protection and support on the trail, look no further than a hiking boot. Compared to other forms of hiking footwear, boots are epitomized by their mid-height build, which offers best-in-class stability on technical terrain...

Best Trail Running Shoes of 2024

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 an immensely easy sport to get into. Below are our top trail runners, from...

Best Hiking Sandals of 2024

Whether you spend your summer days on the trail or in the water, a quality pair of hiking sandals is likely on your must-have list. Designs run the gamut from backcountry-focused offerings that prioritize comfort, support, and grip to everyday...

Best Hiking Footwear Brands of 2024

Ask any hiker or backpacker on the trail and they’ll likely tell you that the key to success—i.e., staying comfortable mile after mile—is a good pair of hiking footwear. From well-established brands like...

Salomon Hiking Footwear: How to Choose

Salomon is a clear frontrunner in the hiking footwear market, with an extensive collection that ranges from capable backpacking-ready boots to light and nimble low-top shoes. At the time of publishing, their hiking lineup comprises 14 core models—many...

Best Hiking Socks of 2024

You can’t overvalue a great pair of hiking socks: they keep your feet comfortable and dry while helping to prevent blisters and hotspots. We've tested the full array of styles in varied conditions from the heat of Utah’s Canyonlands to the snow of...

Best Rain Jackets of 2024

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 shell. Below we break down the best rain...

Best Women’s Rain Jackets of 2024

Let’s face it: it rains, and sometimes it pours. Thankfully, a good rain jacket can provide a solid layer of defense against the elements. The women’s options here range from $60 to $399 and run the gamut...

Best Hardshell Jackets of 2024

Hardshell jackets are designed for the alpine: they’re highly windproof, waterproof, breathable, and durable. This is the outer layer you turn to for ultimate protection while backcountry and resort...

Best Windbreaker Jackets of 2024

Let’s get right to the point: we love windbreaker jackets. In our opinion, a good windbreaker is the most versatile outdoor jacket money can buy. These small but mighty outerlayers pack a punch...

Best Down Jackets of 2024

It's tough to beat a great down jacket, whether it’s for casual use or tearing around the backcountry. This cozy insulation type offers the best warmth-to-weight ratio on the market and packs down smaller than synthetics for easy storage. Below are the...

Best Women’s Down Jackets of 2024

As impressively warm and cozy insulators, down jackets are one of our favorite pieces of outdoor gear. Whether you’re looking for an uber-light alpine piece for the mountains, a casual fur-brimmed parka...

Best Synthetic Insulated Jackets of 2024

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 Hiking Pants of 2024

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 Women’s Hiking Pants of 2024

Women know the struggles when it comes to choosing hiking pants: ill fit, lack of storage, and general discomfort. But the market has improved significantly of late, with a healthy number of leggings, joggers...

Best Women’s Travel Pants of 2024

Traveling can be an involved and exhausting undertaking, but staying comfortable on long plane rides and packed buses can help make the experience a little more bearable. Travel pants are a great place...

Best Hiking Shorts of 2023

Most hikers know the value of a quality pair of hiking pants, but for midsummer conditions or particularly active days on the trail, we turn to hiking shorts. In addition to being more breathable and quicker to dry, most of our favorite modern hiking...

Best Women’s Hiking Shorts of 2023

For midsummer conditions or high-exertion days on the trail, nothing beats the easy-breezy feel of a hiking short. Today’s offerings run the gamut from technically savvy softshell designs...

Best Sun Protection Shirts of 2024

Move over sunburns, heat exhaustion, and sunscreen sweat, sun shirts are the newest solar antidote. With full upper-body coverage (our picks are all hooded), UPF ratings for protection against both UVA...

Best Women's Hiking Shirts of 2024

Shopping for a hiking shirt isn’t as research-intensive as looking for the best hiking boot or backpack, but the next-to-skin layer is nevertheless a very important part of a trail kit. First to consider is the shirt’s fabric...

Best Outdoor Clothing Brands of 2024

The outdoor clothing market is vast, with everything from budget-focused brands to sustainability leaders and high-end backcountry specialists. With years of experience testing a wide range of hiking...

Best Plus-Size Outdoor Apparel of 2023

The outdoor industry has been notoriously slow to produce apparel in sizes beyond small to extra large, and finding even basic items like well-fitting hiking pants and baselayers in plus sizes can still be an...

Best Daypacks for Hiking of 2024

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 Women's Hiking Daypacks of 2024

Whether you’re hitting the trail for a half-day hike, climbing a fourteener, or seeing the sights in a foreign city, a daypack offers just-right carrying capacity alongside load-bearing support and convenient...

Best Hydration Packs of 2024

No matter the length or location of your hike, hydration is one of the keys to staying happy and healthy on the trail. There are a number of ways to ensure that you drink enough water throughout the day, but by far the most convenient...

Best Trekking Poles of 2024

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 even on easy trails. They’re great for...

Best Baby Carriers for Hiking of 2024

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 Fanny Packs of 2024

Once considered an unfashionable fad of the '90s, fanny packs—also known as waist, lumbar, and hip packs—are making a serious comeback in 2023. From replacing a purse while running errands around town to keeping the essentials handy on the trail, many...

Best Running Hydration Vests and Packs of 2024

Whether you’re training for an ultra-marathon, embarking on a leisurely trail run, or tackling a ridge scramble in the alpine, a running vest is the perfect tool for hauling your essentials. These designs...

Best Sports Watches of 2023

Despite their diminutive size, sports watches can really pack a punch. These modern timepieces put the power of a GPS device onto your wrist, allowing you to track your movements, follow a preloaded route, or even navigate complex terrain—hands-free....

Best Altimeter (ABC) Watches of 2023

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 Satellite Messengers of 2024

We’re all for big adventures that take us off the grid, but it’s never a bad idea to have a way of getting in touch. For organizing a pick up, initiating a rescue, or just checking in, a satellite messenger has become our go-to means of staying...

Best Handheld GPS of 2023

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...

Best Water Bottles for Hiking of 2024

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

Best Hydration Bladders of 2024

Whether we’re hiking, biking, running, or climbing, on-the-go hydration is an essential part of our kit. There’s simply no better way to encourage drinking consistently during activity, which is vital to performance and enjoyment...

Best Massage Guns of 2024

We’re all suckers for a massage, whether it’s to relax, work out a few kinks, warm up the body pre-workout, or speed up recovery after a big effort. And there’s no shortage of at-home methods, including...

Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX Hiking Shoe Review

Every few years, Salomon revamps their best-selling X Ultra line, and they launched the latest “4” in spring 2021. Building on the success of the prior generation, the retooled shoe features a modernized and sleeker upper, updates to the lacing system...

Merrell Moab 3 Hiking Shoe Review

With only three iterations in well over a decade on the market, Merrell has taken a slow and steady approach to updating their extremely popular Moab collection. The latest “3” was released in late spring...

The North Face Vectiv Fastpack Futurelight Review

Fast-paced day hikes call for sprightly footwear, and the Fastpack from The North Face is a prime example. Combining TNF’s Vectiv plate and responsive midsole with a waterproof/breathable Futurelight upper and impressive SurfaceCTRL outsole, the...

Scarpa Rush Hiking Shoe Review

In 2022, the line between trail runners and hiking shoes is growing increasingly blurry, and for good reason. As more and more hikers push their mileage and speed, the need for nimble yet protective footwear is paramount. Scarpa’s new Rush collection...

Merrell MQM 3 Gore-Tex Hiking Shoe Review

Most hikers know Merrell by their popular Moab hiking shoe and boot, which are on the feet of many a casual trail-goer. But while the Moab is decidedly classic, it’s not a particularly technically savvy offering. Enter Merrell’s MQM series—short for...

Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX Hiking Boot Review

Salomon’s X Ultra lineup is legendary in the world of hiking footwear, and they overhauled the flagship collection in spring 2021. We brought the mid-height version of the X Ultra 4 into Washington’s Hoh Rainforest and found that it retained most of...

Merrell Moab 3 Mid Hiking Boot Review

Merrell’s Moab is about as classic as hiking boots come and an extremely popular first pair of hiking footwear for many (including multiple editors on our staff). Updated for spring 2022, we tested one of the...

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX Review

La Sportiva makes some of our favorite climbing shoes on the market, and that technical expertise has translated nicely to their hiking boot lineup. The Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX is case in point: It’s impressively light at just over 2 pounds and has a...

Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX Hiking Boot Review

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...

Adidas Terrex Free Hiker 2 GTX Review

Adidas has really leaned into their Terrex outdoor collection of late, with a rapidly growing line of mountain-ready apparel and footwear. The Terrex Free Hiker 2 lands in a popular new segment of hiking shoes: It’s not a full-on boot, but you get over...

Marmot PreCip Eco Rain Jacket Review

Being from Seattle, we get asked for rain jacket recommendations a lot, and we often steer people to the Marmot PreCip. The reasons for this are fairly simple: the jacket punches well above its $100 price with quality waterproofing, a versatile feature...

Norrøna Falketind Gore-Tex Paclite Jacket Review

Waterproof protection comes in all forms, from burly, ski-specific hardshells to ultralight emergency layers and casual rain jackets. Finding a really functional middle ground is the Falketind Gore-Tex Paclite, Norrøna’s lightest and most packable...

Marmot Minimalist Rain Jacket Review

Marmot’s Minimalist jacket isn’t new, but its combination of price and performance keeps it among our favorite rain shells year after year. With proven Gore-Tex waterproofing, a thoughtful feature set, and premium build quality, the...

Patagonia Storm10 Jacket Review

Ultralight without being ultra-compromised, Patagonia’s new Storm10 Jacket is purpose-built for moving quickly in unpredictable mountain environments. With a protective 3-layer H2No construction, functional feature set, and...

Best Cheap Down Jacket: REI Co-op 650 2.0

Here at Switchback Travel, we’re passionate about our down jackets. We’ve tested a huge range of models over the years, from entry-level options from Outdoor Research and Columbia to premium alternatives from Patagonia, Arc’teryx, and Montbell. While...

Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody Review

Climbers, hikers, and 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, and they’ve given it a significant revamp for fall 2022. Key changes include a new, more...

Arc'teryx Cerium Hoody Review

Arc’teryx’s Cerium Hoody is their leading down jacket and replaces the popular Cerium LT for this year. Key changes include a slightly roomier fit, thicker shell fabric, and full suite of sustainability measures. The rest of the design remains largely...

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Hoody Review

Ultralight without feeling ultra-compromised, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 is one of the lightest fully featured down jackets on the market. Despite hitting a sub-9-ounce weight (for the men’s hoody model), Mountain Hardwear managed to...

Outdoor Research Transcendent Down Hoody Review

The Outdoor Research Transcendent Hoody is a longtime favorite that was updated last year with wider baffles, a softer shell and lining, and responsibly sourced insulation. The latest version is among the more comfortable down jackets on the market...

The North Face ThermoBall Eco Hoodie Review

Now in its fourth generation, The North Face ThermoBall remains an extremely popular insulated jacket. With its puffy synthetic fill and smooth shell, the latest “Eco” version does a pretty good...

Arc'teryx Atom Hoody Review

The Atom from Arc’teryx is a legend. This popular synthetic piece crosses over between daily wear and backcountry use as well as anything on the market, thanks to its truly impressive balance of warmth, comfort, and styling. Arc’teryx gave the...

Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody Review

Years ago, Patagonia’s Nano-Air helped to define the active insulation market, debuting the new category with a fun “put it on, leave it on” campaign. With soft and breathable materials, the synthetic jacket is designed to be worn all day...

Outdoor Research SuperStrand LT Hoodie Review

Down-mimicking synthetic insulation isn’t exactly a new trend—Patagonia has been honing their recipe for years with their legendary Micro Puff series. But Outdoor Research has come up with a very competitive formula in their new SuperStrand LT Hoodie...

Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody Review

Patagonia’s Nano Puff remains one of the most popular and recognizable insulated jackets on the market today. But with a fresh crop of new rivals, we felt it was time to take another look at this legendary synthetic piece. What we found is that the...

Suunto Vertical Titanium Solar Watch Review

Suunto’s recent attempts in the expedition-level watch category have fallen short of those from the likes of Garmin and Coros—until now. With the exciting release of the Vertical, the Finnish company is...

Osprey Stratos 24 Daypack 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...

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak Daypack Review

Maine-based Hyperlite Mountain Gear is well known among ultralight enthusiasts for their premium packs and tents made with Dyneema—a naturally water-resistant material that’s incredibly strong for its weight. Their Daybreak Ultralight Daypack is case...

Osprey Talon 22 Daypack Review

Osprey’s Talon is the daypack we see on the trails more than any other. And there’s good reason for its popularity: it’s light, has a nice fit, is made in a wide range of sizes and bright colorways, and hits a desirable price point. In testing the...

prAna Halle Hiking Pant Review

Perhaps no other women’s hiking pant is as ubiquitous and revered as the prAna Halle. In fact, when I bought my first pair, the two female sales associates spotted my purchase and began raving about their experiences wearing the Halle to work, out to...

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...

Rain Jacket Construction: 2L vs. 2.5L vs. 3L

There’s no shortage of rain jackets to choose from, and one way to narrow down your search is by determining what sort of construction best fits your needs. Depending on their application, rain jackets...

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 breathability...

How to Choose a Down Jacket

For the best in cozy and lofty warmth, down jackets are in a class of their own. That said, the category covers a wide range of options, from lightweight and packable designs for backcountry use to stylish and hardwearing models for your winter...

Day Hiking Checklist

A day hike can be as simple as walking a well-maintained trail near your home, or as complex as a dawn-to-dusk journey through a remote wilderness. The items you bring may vary slightly depending...

Down vs. Synthetic Insulation

As the weather cools down each year, the great down-versus-synthetic 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 with very little weight...

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...

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 kit, adding a little...