Gaiters are a simple but highly effective way to stop any dirt or water getting into your boots. They will ensure that you stay as comfortable as possible throughout your hike so you can enjoy the experience. They can vary quite a lot in design, however, so finding the best hiking gaiters for your situation is important.
In order to find the best gaiters for hiking, it involves making sure their height, material and style suit you, among many other factors. Thankfully we are here to explain them all and have developed a buying guide to give you all the information you need. Once you’ve read through this guide, you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for.
How To Choose A Pair Of Hiking Gaiters – Buying Guide
In terms of the material used with these backpacking gaiters, they are usually made out of nylon which has a great balance of being an inexpensive material but also being durable and light which is why it’s seen in so many camping products.
Oxford cloth and polyester can also be used but it’s important that they are treated to ensure that they are waterproof which is vital. They need to be durable too and therefore the material being think and/or blended with ripstop is ideal.
In terms of the thickness of the material, this is rated by denier which you will see as a ‘D’ next to a number after the fabric. The higher this number, the better, as you want your gaiters to be durable but that additional material does add weight. Spandex can also be blended into the materials in order to add some stretch for a tight fit, but this is usually seen on the smaller models.
The height of your gaiters is important and this generally depends on what type of hiking you’ll be planning to do. Gaiters which just go over the ankle are great for trail running for hiking when the conditions aren’t too bad.
Gaiters which come up to the middle of your calf are ideal for more serious conditions when you need that extra protection to ensure that you keep the dirt and water out of your boots. These gaiters are usually between 8 to 12 inches tall.
The largest ones will come up to just under your knee and are designed for you to be able to hike through the roughest of conditions where you will be walking through snow or you need to protect your feet.
As with any backpacking gear when you are out there hiking, you want it to be as light as possible and that is the same when it comes to your gaiters. All the products that we have listed here are very light as they have been made from high-quality materials.
As you can imagine, the smaller gaiters tend to weigh a lot less which is why it’s a good idea to use them if you can. This isn’t absolutely vital though as in comparison to the rest of your camping gear, gaiters aren’t going to have a significant percentage of your weight.
Your gaiters should be easy to use as you should be able to slip them on over your legs and secure them easily without having to take too much time. It could also be that you need to adjust them while you are wearing gloves so you want them to be highly functional.
In the past a lot of gaiters were made out of leather and a lot of them had zips which made them a lot more difficult to use. More modern designs use a mixture of spandex and velcro to ensure that you are always able to get them off and on as quickly as possible.
The need for reinforcements will depend on where you will be hiking and what you plan to be doing. If you are going on a regular hike then it’s unlikely that you would need any extra protection for your legs as the thick material would be able to give you the protection that you need.
For more serious hikes and climbs though it’s a good idea to be able to look for extra reinforcement of your gaiters, especially if you are going to be wearing crampons which can put into the fabric easily. Having something such as Kevlar added to the material can protect against it. For most hikes though, just having a tear resistant fabric will be enough.
In terms of what is going to affect your buying decision, the style of your hiking is going to be one of the biggest as this will affect the level of protection that you need. It could be that you are a casual day hiker who only likes heading out when the sun is shining or it could be that you’re a more serious backpacker who likes to go out in extreme conditions.
Your gaiters need to be able to match the type of hiking that you plan on doing and if you are trying to hike in snowy conditions, then it’s probably not going to be the best idea to have gaiters which just go over your ankle. You also need to think about what are legs will be traveling through, as if you are off the usual path then you might want to think about having protection from sharp branches and animals.
As we have seen before, there are three main types which can be used which generally depends on the length of the gaiters. Other aspects apply though such as the materials that they are made out of and how they will be secured to your legs.
In terms of the type it can often be tempting to go for the lightest and easiest option. With hiking though it’s going to be the best idea to take the cautious approach just so you can make sure that the gaiters are going to be able to give you the protection that you need.
In terms of that protection, there are a few things that you want to make sure of when it comes to your gaiters. They act as a physical barrier to not only dirt but can be effective in protecting you against sharp objects and animals too.
As we mentioned before you want to ensure that they are going to be high enough to give you the protection you need so that nothing can get into the top of them. Following that the thickness is important as if you are going to be doing anything dangerous, you need the gaiters to be able to cope with that.
Also the seal of the gaiters is naturally going to be a very important part as you want it to be tight enough so that nothing is able to get past and into your shoes. This can vary from one product to the next and is especially important if you are in wet conditions.
Your gaiters are there to protect you and make sure that you are comfortable so the whole point of them is for them to come into contact with things that might damage them. For most people, having material like ripstop nylon will be able to provide you with the durability you need.
If you are going through tough terrain though there are other options like canvas with can be more durable. You also want to make sure any potential weak spots are well-made too and having strong buckles and reinforced hooks can be the difference between your gaiters breaking or staying strong.
Simply put, all gaiters should have a good level of water resistance as this is to a key feature as to why you would wear them. In order to get the best protection you want to make sure that they are the correct length and also that they will provide you with a tight enough seal.
That seal shouldn’t be too tight that it impairs your movement though as that wouldn’t be comfortable. No gaiter is going to be able to completely protect your feet from getting wet as if you are travelling through the snow or the wet, this is inevitable.
One key feature that is probably underrated when it comes to gaiters is that they need to be breathable in order to give you the right level of comfort. They are covering your feet which means if they are not breathable then they could well keep moisture trapped inside your boot due to the sweat.
This would completely go against what they were designed for which is why it is such a key feature. The gaiters are there to make your lower leg more comfortable so if they are failing in that take then they’d be no point in wearing them in the first place.
The fit of your gaiters obviously plays a role in your comfort too. The smaller ankle ones often have spandex and a simple strap while the large ones will have a buckle and a cord on them to keep them in position.
Whichever option you choose it needs to be tight to your leg and your shoe but not too tight that it becomes an annoyance. Picking the right size is very important as getting the wrong fit can be that they will either be too tight to be comfortable or they would be too loose to be effective.
Q: What Are Gaiters And What Are The Benefits Of Using Them?
Q: How Do I Clean My Gaiters?
Q: Are Gaiters Waterproof?
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The best gaiters for hiking can be an extremely useful addition to your hiking set up, especially on backpacking trips when you will be spending more time outdoors. The importance of them increases with the difficulty of your hike but so does the height requirements of them too.
You want to be able to add them to your hiking pants to make you fully prepared for harsh weather along with your hardshell jacket. A lot of the features of backpacking gaiters are dependent on your specific needs with your hike.
If you are in extreme conditions then you want them to be as high as possible and you’d also be looking for the highest level of durability and waterproofing. That being said, you also need to make sure that they are comfortable too and getting the right fit is important. They are there to give you a more enjoyable time when you are hiking and therefore you need to apply your own circumstances to what would be the best backpacking gaiters for you.
When you choose the perfect pair for you, you’ll see the difference and won’t have to worry about stopping to clear out any debris from your shoe and you won’t be getting your feet wet anywhere near as often. Hopefully this guide has given you all the information that you need in order to buy your gaiters with confidence and enjoy the most comfortable hike you’ve ever had.