Gaiters are an important piece of gear for both hikers and backpackers. They protect your lower legs and ankle area, add extra insulation, and provide protection against moisture.
If you love spending time in the great outdoors, then you know that dirt, debris, rocks, and water will always find a way to sneak into your hiking shoes. But with gaiters, you can be able to protect your feet from these elements and have a memorable experience with the natural world.
How To Buy The Right Gaiters For Hiking
Choosing hiking gaiters is not difficult at all. As long as you know the exact activities you plan to undertake, how high you want your gaiters to go, and the features you need, you will be fine.
There are different types of gaiters for different trail and weather conditions. For instance, those designed for hiking and backpacking will be breathable and lightweight and will provide basic protection against rock abrasion, grit and moisture while on the trail.
If you are eyeing mountain climbing, you should consider something comfortable and that can withstand harsh weather and terrain conditions. Mountaineering gaiters are designed to offer heavy-duty protection and extra insulation. They come with a waterproof yet well-ventilated fabric to provide maximum protection and comfort.
For ice sports like skiing, snowshoeing, and ice-skating, get something that is breathable and waterproof to keep your feet well ventilated and free from moisture. Although almost all snow sports gaiters will come with these features, they are not always as long lasting as gaiters made for mountain climbing. In fact, ice-climbing gaiters will have more durable reinforcements than the regular ice sporting gaiters, so if you think that your activities in the snow will be more intense, it would be wise to consider the climbers.
Need something for your regular run in the woods? Don’t worry! There are gaiters that can attach nicely to your trail running shoes too. These are compact and lightweight and will keep rocks and debris at bay while you sprint.
Difference Between High And Low Gaiters
As mentioned, one of the factors to consider while choosing hiking gaiters is how tall you want them to be. As such, gaiters fall under two categories – high and low gaiters.
The main difference between these two is that high gaiters are mostly worn during winter to protect your shoes and socks from getting wet in snow, while low gaiters are used in warmer weather to keep leaf litter and dirt out of your trail shoes. Let’s dig a little bit into this:
High gaiters are the best companion for mountain climbing and winter hiking shoes. They will provide extra insulation and keep ice away from your feet. If you are preparing a winter camping trip and need something to protect your feet from being drenched by snow, then you got it. High gaiters are also the perfect foot protection gear for those who fancy hiking or backpacking in the rain. How about bushwhacking and long distance hikes? You will need some insect and leg protection and this is simply it.
High gaiters are mostly designed for shoes that have a curve on the sole. If you plan on buying a pair, make sure your trail boots don’t have a flat sole. Otherwise, it will be very difficult for you to hook them up.
Most high gaiters come with a thick cord that runs beneath the instep of the shoes’ sole to prevent the gaiters from coming off or riding up your legs. If you are going to consider this type of gaiters, make sure to get something whose cords are not stitched with the gaiters because in the event they break or wear out, you won’t be able to replace them.
Get hiking gaiters with replaceable straps especially if you are going on a long hike or facing terrain with rough abrasion rocks. These can ruin your instep cords pretty fast, so if you don’t want go back to your retailer for new gaiters every time you plan to spend quality time with Mother Nature, then stick to something you can replace.
These will typically cover your ankles or the lower calves. You can use them for hiking or trail running to keep debris, pebbles, and rocks out of your hiking boots or trail running shoes, so you won’t have to keep stopping on the trail to take them off.
Made form stretchy nylon or spandex, these gaiters will protect you from moisture in case you splash in mud or puddles. But this won’t be the best protection to your feet if you will be crossing a river or hiking in an area with deep puddles because your shoes and socks will still become wet when you slosh through the water. If you think you will be having such encounters, it would be sensible to invest in high gaiters.
There are various ways to hook low gaiters to your trail shoes, so before you purchase your chosen pair, make sure it is going to work perfectly with the type of shoes you plan to bring on your trip.
If your shoes have a curve between the heel and the forefoot, the best gaiters for you would be those attached with instep straps or cords running through them. Why? They are convenient and easy to use – you can simply remove them and put them back on without taking your shoes off. If you are taking a long walk and need to change shoes later on the trail, you can switch these quickly between shoes.
There is one problem though. Bottom instep straps wear out quickly when subjected to rough terrain. So if you are going to buy gaiters designed this way, make sure the straps are replaceable so that even if these cords rip or break, you can just make a quick replacement.
However, not all running shoes will come with a curve between the forefoot and the heel. Most of them have flat soles and so, to hook your gaiters, you will need a Velcro patch glued at the rear part of your shoes to keep the back end of your gaiters on. The front part of the gaiters will attach to the laces of your shoes.
There are some gaiters that will come with gluey Velcro strips to hook at the rear of your trail shoes. Unfortunately, most of these don’t give a firm grip so you will eventually need to buy stronger adhesive if you want a bond that will last longer.
How To Put On Gaiters
Having compared high vs low gaiters, we believe that you are in a better position to choose the right one for your next backcountry trip. But as we always advise; make sure to test and learn how to use your gear prior to hitting the trail. So before you head out with your newly purchased pair of gaiters, ensure that you know how to wear them right.
The first thing you need to do is to make sure that you have aligned each gaiter with its right foot. The best and easiest way to do this will be to check the buckle of the instep strap, as usually, it will be on the outer side of each foot.
- With your hiking shoes or boots on, wrap the gaiters around your lower legs and ankles. Then have the hook and loop closure sealed properly to make the fit as snug as possible.
- Raise your heel and place the instep strap underneath your foot making sure that the metal lace catch remains in the front of your shoes. Do not hook this up yet as you may need to adjust the strap underneath your foot.
- Attach your Velcro behind your boots and then put on the lace hook.
- Snug the top straps making sure not to over tighten them as doing so may make the gaiters less comfortable. Just fit them nicely so that the gaiters won’t slide down your legs.
- Adjust the instep cords to tighten them and secure the excess. You can trim these if necessary.
- Repeat the process for the other leg.
If hiking in wet weather, do not be tempted to wear your gaiters over your rain pants, as the rainwater can run down your pants into gaiters all the way to the socks and boots. Wear your gaiters under your pants so that even if the pants get wet, no water will sneak into your boots.
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Hiking gaiters are an essential item for walkers. They keep their feet dry and protect their footwear from getting muddy.
Depending on the trip you intend to take, you can go for either high or low gaiters. For intense outdoor activities like mountaineering or cold weather hiking, get high gaiters, as these are well insulated. For warmer weather or when hiking through scree, you will be just fine with low gaiters. But remember, you will reap maximum benefits of both gaiters only if you strap them right.
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