Boots or Mattress

8 inch tall red wing Irish Setter boots.

Red Wing Irish Setter 8-inch tall hiking boots hold on to the hillside.

Years ago as a young construction worker, an older co-worker pointed out to me that the two most important purchases I can make are a good mattress and good boots.  As he said, “the biggest part of your life is either on your back or your feet.”

I’m not a shoe geek like my mother was, or my wife tends to be – different shoes for each outfit.  However, I’ve found, the right boots for the anticipated conditions are essential.  If you have an outdoors person you are shopping for, consider outdoor boots. 


If you can’t afford to buy them boots, I have a second suggestion at the end.

As a kid, I liked those traditional work boots with neoprene soles. They were good for the job and good for the trail.  It’s all I knew.

I didn’t buy a pair of casual tennis shoes or sneakers until well into adulthood.

Both work boots and sneakers are almost the worst things you can wear on the trail.  (The worst thing to wear on the trail are open sandals. The only thing worse than sandals is bare feet.)

And if you want the worst of the worst – try hiking with steel-toed work boots. You do not have the flexibility you need for climbing the hills.  You can severely injure the cartilage at the base of your toes when the steel digs into your foot while trying to flex.

So what’s best?

8 inch tall Red Wing Irish Setter hiking boots

8 inch Red Wing Irish Setter boots are rugged, strong and waterproof.

Here are the best gift – and most expensive for that outdoors person, hiker, backpacker: lightweight hiking boots.  Several brands are available: Keen, Merrell, Columbia, Red Wing, or Vasque.

camping hiking shoes

Mary’s choice of hiking shoes are Keen.

Around these neck of the woods, er um Badlands, we find Keen, Columbia, Red Wing, and Vasque to be most popular.


I’m a Vasque fan. Even my doctor wears Vasque boots all day in the clinic.


Generally speaking, you get what you pay for.  Less costly boots may not fit well (think blisters), and they will come apart after a season or two. I replace my Vasque Boots every 3 years. It’s a $180 investment, but they last 3 or 4 years – so about $50/year – they hold up very well.  I keep my older pair for less intense use such as in the shop or for yard work.

vasque hiking boots

Vasque boots in the last 10 years have changed very little.





Eight Tips

Here’s a thorough rundown of 8 tips to look for when buying hiking boots.

Price: lower quality $50, best quality $200.





Amazon sells Time May Tell Merino Socks. Two pair for $15

Amazon sells Time May Tell Merino Socks. Two pair for $15

Outdoors lovers know that when it comes to socks, two layers are best; a thin layer next to the skin to wick away the moisture, and then thick wool socks on the outside.  You don’t need to go to a special outdoor clothing store for high-end hiking socks. I wear Carhartt and Red Wing. They are padded, warm, and they keep my feet dry. 

However, if you opt to buy high-end hiking socks, you’ll get some with additional features such as padding, support, and breathability.

Price: Starting less than $20

Hikers, backpackers, hunters, campers, and outdoor photographers know that a good pair of hiking boots make the difference between a successful trek and a painful trek.  So, if you can, help your favorite outdoors person enjoy their time outdoor.  Give them quality boots and socks.