Ultralight, quick drying and breathable, these hiking boots are perfect for anyone seeking the comfort of a trail shoe and the protection of a hiking boot
Comfortable and very lightweight
Breathable hydrophobic uppers are quick drying
Well cushioned midsole
Protective toe and heel cap
Not rugged enough for wintery conditions
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Helly Hansen Switchback Trail HT boots: first impressions
Helly Hansen calls this a day hiker boot, and while they’re not ultra rugged, you could certainly wear them for many days in a row on the trail without complaint. The Switchback Trail HT boots are impressively lightweight hiking boots that are built for everyday performance. Opting for highly breathable and quick-drying waterproof uppers, these boots repel water and perform well so long as you’re not heading out on an ultra technical hike or in the wildest of winter expeditions.
• List price: $150 / £110
• Unisex: Men’s and women’s fits available
• Weight: 24oz / 680g (women’s small, per pair)
• Sizes available: Men’s: 7 - 13 US, 7 - 11.5 UK; Women’s 6 - 9.5 US, 3.5 - 8 UK
• Materials: Waterproof suede, LWG leather, 100% recycled polyester strobel, HellyGrip rubber outsole
• Colors: Black, Bungee Cord
• Best use: Hiking
Supremely comfortable out of the box, these boots require no breaking in and the cushioned midsoles mean you can walk for miles in them on day one without sore feet or rubbing. A supportive ankle cuff keeps you stable on rough terrain. Underfoot, grippy soles give good traction on slick, rocky trails and the heel and toe cap offer more protection than the comfortable, lightweight nature these boots might suggest. These boots are ideal for anyone looking for more protection than a trail shoe but seeking to avoid the weight and breaking-in period of a more traditional hiking boot.
Helly Hansen Switchback Trail HT boots: in the field
My years-long quest to find a pair of hiking boots that don’t require me to arm my feet with 700 blister pads may finally have come to an end with the Helly Hansen Switchback HT boots. If you’re used to a seriously sturdy, rugged trekking boot, these will feel far too flimsy for you, but if, like me, you’ve long been looking for boots that perform more like a trail shoe in terms of comfort, weight and breathability, you’re going to want to give them a go.
Here’s how they performed:
Comfort and fit
These boots fit true-to-size with some good room in the toe box. The first thing I noticed when I pulled these on was how insanely comfortable they are. I mean, I’ve put on hiking boots in the shop that were comfortable many times, only to discover after half a mile of hiking that I no longer have any skin on my heel, but these felt different. They’re well-cushioned underfoot which makes for easy walking, and the ankle provides really nice, non-intrusive support.
The first time I wore them was for an expedition out in the Beacons with the Western Beacons Mountain Rescue Team and since I was sure there would be more standing around and learning than actual miles, I wore them without blister pads (though I carried them in my backpack). After wearing them for about five hours, my feet felt fine! Next up, I got really brave and wore them for an eight mile walk from Greenock to Wemyss Bay, and once again, there wasn’t any rubbing, anywhere. It’s an actual miracle for someone with my history of hiking boots.
Weather protection and breathability
I’ve had these out on a few longer treks lately in some reliably wet weather and on very boggy trails and I’ve yet to feel a drop of water on my hiking socks. Of course, they’re still pretty new so I imagine I’ll need to reproof them at some point, but given that I’m testing them out in aquatic Scotland, I have to say I’m pretty happy with their water-repellency.
Despite their water protection, these boots are extra breathable, so they’re great for warm hikes and quick drying on soggy days. I wouldn’t wear these out in a freezing blizzard, but for most conditions I’m likely to hike in, they’d suffice.
Weight and durability
Have I mentioned how light these boots are? A pair of these weigh in at about half the weight of my next lightest boots, and as someone that typically prefers to hike in trail shoes, that’s a huge bonus for me. Particularly for my longer hikes, that’s really added to the comfort and lack of fatigue.
That said, just because they’re lightweight doesn’t mean these are flimsy. I haven’t had them long enough to say they’re indestructible, but they’re certainly good quality.
Perhaps the most surprising part of these boots is the sticker price. For a good quality pair of performers, I’d expect to pay upwards of £150 but these come in at a reasonable £110, which for good quality construction and boots you can wear in most conditions, I think is a bit of a bargain!
Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.