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 2021, 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 2021

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 Hiking Boots of 2021

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 Trail Running Shoes of 2021

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 of 2021, from...

The Best Hiking Footwear Brands of 2021

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 fast and light trail runner-inspired hikers. At the time of publishing...

Best Rain Jackets of 2021

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 2021

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 Windbreaker Jackets of 2021

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 2021

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 2021

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 2021

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 2021

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 2021

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 Outdoor Clothing Brands of 2021

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 Hiking Socks of 2021

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 Daypacks for Hiking of 2021

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 Trekking Poles of 2021

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 2021

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 Running Hydration Vests and Packs of 2021

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 GPS Watches of 2021

Despite their diminutive size, GPS 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 2021

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 2021

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 2021

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 2021

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...

Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX Hiking Shoe Review

Every few years, Salomon revamps their best-selling X Ultra line, and they’ve launched the new “4” for spring 2021. Building on the success of the prior generation, the latest shoe features a modernized and sleeker...

Merrell Moab 2 Hiking Shoe 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 subsequent testing in Washington’s Cascade Mountains, the shoe...

Salomon X Raise Hiking Shoe Review

Building on their excellent hiking footwear collection, Salomon released the X Raise low-top last year. The shoe is intended for fast-and-light day hiking and backpacking trips with a trimmed-down, flexible, and well-cushioned build. We tested out the...

Arc’teryx Aerios FL GTX Hiking Shoe Review

Building off of Arc’teryx’s trail running collection, the Aerios FL slots in as a light but tough option for hikers who like to move quickly. Eager to test its performance, we took the low-top version of the shoe on a multi-day backpacking trip in the...

Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX Hiking Boot Review

Salomon’s X Ultra lineup is legendary in the world of hiking footwear, and they've overhauled the collection for 2021. We brought the mid-height version of the X Ultra 4 into Washington’s Hoh Rainforest...

Merrell Moab 2 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 for multiple editors on our staff). We tested one of the best-selling variations—the...

Hoka One One Anacapa Mid GTX Review

Running brand Hoka One One has been aggressively growing their hiking footwear collection of late, and the new Anacapa Mid is arguably their best effort yet. This boot combines the smooth ride and excellent...

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...

REI Co-op Flash Hiking Boot Review

After a long hiatus, REI Co-op has returned to the hiking boot game with the Flash. Sharing a name with the brand’s in-house line of lightweight hiking and backpacking gear, the boot is highlighted by...

Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Rain Jacket Review

Patagonia’s popular Torrentshell got a notable upgrade for 2020, shifting from a 2.5-layer design to a more hardwearing and weather-ready 3-layer construction. We brought the retooled Torrentshell...

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...

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...

Arc’teryx Zeta SL Rain Jacket Review

Arc’teryx’s Zeta line of rain jackets is designed for lightweight trekking and runs the gamut from the fully featured and pricey Zeta AR (“all round”) to the feathery Zeta FL (“fast and light”). The Zeta SL is the “superlight” version and puts a big...

Patagonia Storm10 Jacket Review

Ultralight without being ultra-compromised, Patagonia’s new Storm10 Alpine 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 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, as any new down sweater is compared to this legendary...

Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody Review

Always designed with a specific purpose in mind, Arc’teryx offers a wide range of insulated jackets, and the Cerium LT is one of its most popular. With premium 850-fill down and Coreloft synthetic in areas prone to moisture, it’s a great option for...

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 Jacket Review

Now in its third 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 impression of a lightweight down piece, and recent updates...

Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody Review

The Atom LT 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...

Patagonia Nano-Air Jacket Review

Patagonia’s Nano-Air took the active insulation market by storm, designed to be a synthetic jacket that truly can be worn all day through a variety of conditions and activities. After testing the past-generation hoody while ski touring, we took the...

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...

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...

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...

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 of non-waterproof footwear, while others...

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 for 2021

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...