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Backpacking has evolved from an overloaded pack with a bulky foam mat dangling from it to a science of balancing weight and function. Base weights in a pack has plummeted with newer and lighter materials and a mindset that less weight is typically better.
Backpacking footwear has gone through the same evolution and most ultralight packers scoff at traditional hiking boots. Since their packs are typically less than 20 pounds for a three-day trip, added support isn't needed. The chosen alternative is a pair of trail running shoes. And Backpacking Light recommends them in their gear list.
I had a chance to put some miles on the VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Trail, a zero-drop heel trail runner. I wouldn't classify the shoe in the barefoot category, but it does have similar features. Your heel is on the same plane as the forefoot making your gait more natural.
The mid and outersole is beefier since it's a trail shoes and provides protection against most rocks, roots and trail nuisances. A gaggle of V-shaped lugs pattern the outsole, and it's a feature that was a plus.
The lugs are beefy for a minimalist shoe and gave plenty of grip on the trails. I found the Neo Trail handled well on slightly wet trails but lost traction when the trails were more than a little wet.
Since it's a trail runner, the toe box doesn't offer much protection. But you benefit from the lightness of the Neo Trail – just over 9 ounces.
VIVOBAREFOOT has designed the Neo Trail's upper with hydrophobic mesh and are touted as water resistant. The upper repels light rains but tread quickly through a stream. The Neo Trails will eventually let water in.
The VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Trail is a lightweight option for backpacking especially if your pack is on the lighter side. At just over 9 ounces, they are light and will manage most trails even when somewhat wet. Not the choice for a lengthy through hike but are the choice for a three-dayer. (MSRP $130)
Jason Elliot is the Editor and Publisher of OutdoorInformer.com. Elliot has established a respected following with the top industry professionals and gearheads for his nonbiased reviews of outdoor gear and apparel. Elliot is a regular contributor to Examiner.com, Trails.com and other publications on top of his editorial and writing role with OutdoorInformer.com.
Elliot left a successful fifteen-plus year management career that he worked at Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies to pursue his passion for writing about the outdoors. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Clarion University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree from La Roche College.
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