Hiking is a great outdoor activity, whether you prefer hard-core traipses through harsh environments, or just a leisurely ramble through gentle hills. Whatever your level and hiking preference, be sure to have the right equipment and clothing in order to keep you protected and comfortable. So, what are the best hiking brands on the market today?
Headquartered in Utah, Black Diamond are synonymous with clothing, backpacks, hiking equipment (including tents) and other sorts of accessories. The quality of Black Diamond products is high too. Originally focussing on technical equipment, the company branched out to include its much sought-after clothing range. However, at heart, the brand still remains focussed on the more extreme end of the hiking scale, with mountaineering and ice-climbing equipment its real USP. That equipment includes harnesses, helmets, ice picks, crampons, headlamps and poles – non-essential items for a causal hiker.
A company founded and based in New Zealand, Ice Breaker are clothing focussed, with a particular expertise in base layers designed to keep hikers and mountain climbers warm in extreme conditions, such as those found in New Zealand’s Southern Alps. Merino wool, for example, has long been one of Ice Breaker’s standard lines, and the product has since become something of a major trending fashion, even seen on the catwalk.
“But it’s worth remembering the real benefits of Merino wool – warmth and comfort – which, when combined with more durable materials, provides outdoor enthusiast with an added layer of protection and comfort that can be vital in those harsh conditions. That’s what Ice Breaker deliver,” says Rick Fortes, a hiker at Writinity and Draft Beyond.
Garmin, an American company based in Kansas, are synonymous with navigations equipment and watches. Most people would be familiar with car sat-navs with the Garmin brand, it has also become legendary in outdoor circles due to the company’s unrivalled hand-held GPS gadgets which boast the types of advanced features (WAAS and Hotfix, among others) that as yet no other company has come close to emulating. The company also recently produced the first-ever topographical map-supporting GPS watch.
Another US-based company, Outdoor Research specialise in clothes, backpacks and shelters. From a clothing perspective, we are not talking about trendy hiking gear but practical insulation pieces, as well as gloves and the like. The company’s bivy sacks are also much praised.
“The company’s lightweight rain-proof equipment is also top quality, and Outdoor Research pride themselves on using the very best materials, such as Gore-Tex and Polartec. The 3-layer Ascent Shell has been developed in-house, and is reserved for the brand’s finest rainwear products,” says Marsha Goodhine, an outdoor enthusiast at Research Papers UK and Last Minute Writing.
Columbia is another brand which is focussed on outdoor clothing for pursuits such as hiking, mountaineering, skiing, snowboarding or even fishing. The brand’s products are stylish but durable too, which is a winning combination in an outdoor brand, and is one of the main reasons the company has loyal customer base and a reputation outside of its niche. Columbia products are affordable too, which has further helped promote the brand’s popularity.
Vasque are a name known by all hiking enthusiasts as the brand has been producing top-quality hiking boots for years out of its US base. Although taken over by Red Wing Shoes some years ago, the quality of Vasque boots and shoes has not dipped significantly, and the brand is still well-respected as a manufacturer of among the best, affordable hiking footwear on the market.
Merrell are another brand closely associated with hiking footwear, although Merrell also produced shoes and boots that are not primarily made for strenuous outdoor activities. Quality, comfort and style are the brand’s calling cards. One caveat here is to say that, if you are looking for a highly durable boot for extreme conditions, Merrell are probably no longer that brand, as in recent years the company (which is now a subsidiary of the footwear industry megalith Wolverine World Wide, who have Hush Puppies under their umbrella, among other well-known brands) has moved a little more into what could be called an active lifestyle brand rather than a professional hiking shoe manufacturer. Merrell now produce everything from boots and shoes to snow boots, sandals and socks.
If you hit the slopes skiing, especially in Europe, you will see Salomon equipment everywhere. The brand is known primarily for its Alpine ski equipment, but it also produces great quality hiking shoes which, unsurprisingly, have benefited from the company’s near century-long experience in producing durable mountain gear. The brand has gone extremely trendy too thanks to a recent collaboration with Boris Bidjan Saberi, so expect to see Salomon gear far off the hiking trail too.