Kayland Apex Trek
Choose this nimble, wicked light boot for high-elevation trekking, scrambling 14ers, and three-season mountaineering. It boasts excellent fit with a stable heel cup, ankle support that’s supple for easy striding, and a toe box that’s roomy but trimmed close on the outside so it’s not clunky. Locking laces at midfoot allow fine-tuning fit, and there’s plenty of support for the heaviest loads. An eVent membrane offers unparalleled breathability and generally reliable waterproofing (one tester said hours of wet-snow slogging left the insides damp). The tread grips well on everything from rubble to snow, and when serious traction is required the Trek accepts semi-automatic crampons. We also like the Apex Rock ($300), a stiffer, stickier boot that’s more climbing-oriented. Both are best for medium-volume feet. $270; 3 lbs. 6 oz.
Want a premium rough-terrain boot that won’t set you back three bills? Even on off-trail rambles with a heavy load, testers reported total comfort through 12-hour days, thanks in part to just-right ankle and tongue padding and a leather lining that conforms to your foot (wet-weather caution: the leather lining dries slowly). Traction rules on gravel, scree, and snow, and the wrap-around rubber rand survived a trip through Teton talus with hardly a blemish. They lack a waterproof membrane, but that makes them slightly cheaper and slightly more breathable. Plan a few days of break-in time. Best for medium-volume feet and slightly wide heels. $199; 3 lbs. 8 oz.
Best for Mountaineering
Our Northwest editor pulled these boots out of the box for a climb of Rainier’s Emmons Glacier. He didn’t suffer so much as a hot spot over several miles and thousands of feet of on- and off-trail hiking and glacier climbing. “They fit like slippers,” he said. The last cradles the foot, while lace-locking eyelets let him adjust the fit for uphill or downhill travel. Those attributes, along with a good rocker, facilitated an almost natural stride on trail–despite the boot’s stiffness–and all-day comfort while kicking steps in snow. With PrimaLoft insulation, they’re best for temps from the teens to the 40s, but the highly breathable eVent waterproof membrane kept our tester’s socks dry on a 12-hour day with highs in the 70s. An integral soft-shell gaiter keeps snow out. Best for medium-volume feet. $400; 3 lbs. 15 oz.