Your most important equipment

I recently took a week's vacation to backpack the trans-Zion trail and visit Bryce National Park (both were amazing). I tried to cut my pack weight down to the bare minimum and spent a lot of time thinking about what gear was nice, necessary or critical. I came to the conclusion that the most critical piece of gear for a backpacker as well as on Kilimanjaro is boots.

Without good boots there is little you can do. You can spend a wet night on the trail or go a day or two without hot food. But if you can't walk, it's all over with. And that means not only boots, but good, well worn boots that your feet are comfortable in and don't give you blisters. My feet were overheating in my new Asolos and my damp, sweaty socks gave me some bad blisters. By the end of a 15 mile slog I was limping and exhausted. The boots weren't the problem, I just hadn't taken enough time to get my tender-feet used to them. Heavy-duty boots needed for most long backpacking and alpine trips really need a few weeks to break them in.

For Kilimanjaro, I've had numerous customers ask about renting boots and I always suggest otherwise. Nothing kills an expensive alpine adventure faster than feet too painful to actually walk on. And the only way off Kilimanjaro is to walk or be carried.

The timing of my blisters and this blog is great since Backpacker Magazine just posted their 2009 Gear Guide for Boots. While they're a lot heavier, I have always loved the heavy duty boots with the ankle support and stiff feel. After 10-15 miles on a rocky trail my legs are tired from swinging the extra weight, but my feet are usually still happy.
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