How to Choose the Best Hiking Gaiters

by Nick Sotos on April 23, 2012

Are you familiar with gaiters? Gaiters are designed to protect both your footwear and your lower leg and shins at the same time. Imagine having dirt, snow or moisture get into your feet through the tops of your footwear and also scraping, and wetting your leg, even through the fabric of your hiking pants. That’s what gaiters are for. Therefore, to take full advantage of a gaiter’s features, you must choose one that will serve you well.

What Type of Gaiter Should You Buy?

There are a variety of gaiters whose differences lie in the type of activity they are used for.

  • Trail Gaiters: Designed for hiking during mild climate or weather, these gaiters are lightweight, water-resistant and breathable, yet protect against rocks, grit and light rain.
  • Alpine Gaiters: People who love to go hiking in all weathers, mountaineering, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing can rely on these gaiters’ added defense against abrasions, water and snow.
  • Expedition Gaiters: If you are going out on a mountaineering expedition in the harshest and toughest weather conditions and you expect to be faced with nature at its extreme, expedition gaiters are the way to go. It’s thick, providing insulation, yet remains breathable and water-resistant. It also comes in a higher leg cut than other gaiters, ensuring maximum coverage, ergo maximum protection.
  • Women’s Gaiters: Women’s gaiters are shorter and have more girth on top to allow more room for the female calves. They could fall under any of the previous three categories.

Gaiters are also classified according to their size or height, whether they are low-cut or high-cut. Basically, the height is indicative of the amount and level of protection the gaiters provide to the user.

  • Low Cut Gaiters – Generally ankle-high, low cut gaiters are ideal for normal or light conditions when you’re dealing with only trail debris and rain to stay out of your hiking footwear. They normally range from 8 inches to 12 inches (20 cm to 30 cm).
    • High Cut Gaiters – These are ideal for trekking in thick grasses or bushes since they reach to the top of the calf, providing maximum coverage against rain, snow and puddles. They can run from 15 inches to 18 inches (38 cm to 46 cm)

What to Look for in a Gaiter?

Aside from the height or how tall the gaiter is and the type of activity it will be used for, you should also check out other factors before making a final decision.

      • FEATURES

1. Entry System – How does one get in and out of a gaiter? They are pretty straightforward, what with most gaiters having zippered or Velcro openings (usually located at the back) and fastenings. Other gaiters have the opening at the back but only a few older models have them.

2. Top Closures – Check if the elasticized draw cord provides a comfortable, snug fit when drawn for closure.

3. Instep Straps – These are found at the bottom of the gaiters. They should be sturdy and durable since they will be securing your gaiters to your footwear, by the insteps.

4. Lace Hooks – These allows the gaiters to be attached to your boot laces for more security and comfort.

      • MATERIALS

1. Gore-Tex – When we speak of waterproof, windproof and breathable fabric, Gore-Tex is one of the first to come to mind. It is a favorite especially among those who love to go on adventures during winter or rainy days.

2. DWR – The makers of gaiters usually use their proprietary durable water repellent (DWR) technology in the fabrics they use for their products.

3. Cordura – Many users prefer Cordura for the long-term protection it provides. It can resist abrasions from ice and rocks.

To Wrap It Up…

Maximum comfort and protection is what one usually looks for in gaiters. Therefore, if your gaiter does more than wrap your lower leg and the top of your footwear and actually provides warmth and shields your lower limbs from rocks, abrasions, and the elements, then you have found the perfect gaiters for you.

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