Cake
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    • With old, deteriorating backpacking equipment (and a body following a similar trend), I need to do some upgrading if I want to make any more trips. On a recent test hike with my old gear, my REI Flash 65 pack split down the back and the soles of my boots started crumbling and delaminating. So, time for a refresh. It's easy to get consumed reading ads and reviews and conflicting opinions online (I know). But, what I'm wondering about specifically are how the tradeoffs between weight and stability apply to me. I think my situation is fairly common (in my 60's, decent physical condition, but knees don't provide good shock absorption anymore so rocky downhills are particularly difficult). The gear trend is always towards lighter equipment, and all else being equal lighter is obviously better. But, if I care more about comfort than pure speed, I can't help but wonder if boots that weigh a bit more but provide stability for wobbly ankles and cushioning for aching knees would hit more of a sweet spot for me. Similarly, for packs it's not obvious that lightest would necessarily be best. Any thoughts from backpackers out there with some decades of wear on them who no longer gracefully rock hop down the mountain?

    • I'm a bit younger but have been having knee issues. I use a good set of hiking poles now which help a lot and have been through many, many packs over the years. The one that strikes the best balance for me is the Osprey Aether 70. While it isn't ultralight, it carries the load impressively well. When I go backpacking with the kids I often end up taking on extra weight from their packs at some point and it has never been an issue. While that pack work great for me, I would recommend hitting up a good outdoor store near you and getting fit.

    • Hey Vin! Ever since my first backpacking trip 53 years ago, I’ve held the opinion that stiff, heavy, non shock-absorbing boots are not for me. I have a vintage expedition leather pair with Vibram soles, but they are for looking like a hipster on coffee runs.

      I like light, shock-absorbing, breathable shoes like ultrunners use. I wore a pair a couple years ago for the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim hike and they were great. No blisters, body protected by shock absorption.

      I do see a lot of people on the trail in newer style boots like the Hokas, which are known for shock absorption:


      @slamdunk406 ’s dad is an aging ultra runner who swears by his Hokas for their shock absorption. Your mileage may vary.

      The mids are cool too:

    • Chris - I read some positive reviews of those Hoka boots although some people complain they’re too wide. And, I know others who swear by the low Hokas even for long backpacking trips. BTW, what were you wearing on your earlier Grand Canyon trip when you rolled your ankle and broke your foot?

    • I’ve been backpacking in Sierras over the last two months on JMT with an Osprey Xenith (88 liter) backpack. It is definitely an overkill for your needs, but what I love about Osprey’s bags is their light frames and support system. The straps really don't dig into my shoulder like my previous backpack (Granite Gear Blaze 60L). So I would recommend getting a smaller 60L Osprey backpack. I'm not really into ultralight backpacking or traditional heavy loads, I prefer the middle ground.

      As for the shoes, I would recommend Altra Lone Peak 4 or 4.5. They are extremely comfortable, but wear out fast. I bought a pair for my girlfriend as well even though she was sceptical. Now she loves them and recommends them to everyone.

      Here is a photo of me backpacking with the Osprey Xenith and Altra Lone Peak shoes. It was taken about a month ago, while hiking up to the top of Red Slate Mountain (Easter Sierras, close to Mammoth).

    • I was thinking about that when I posted! It was pre-dawn on an exceptionally rocky trail in the Grand Canyon and I was running downhill, not hiking, and trying to keep up with Mark. My headlamp suddenly went off, everything went black while I was in full stride, so I rolled my ankle badly enough to break it when I couldn't see where my foot should land.

      I was wearing Alta running shoes, which I hadn't put to the test before the big day. Dumb. They have fairly narrow heels, and my perception is they made me prone to roll the ankle.

      I have a pair of Hokas and can't believe how soft and cushy the soles are. My perception is they really ease the fatigue that comes of hard footstrikes all day, especially with a pack.

      I got a great new headlamp, btw.