There’s nothing better than hiking in the fall, the crunch of twigs underfoot and dry leaves drifting in the air. There’s also nothing more irritating than having to stop and remove sticks and stones from your hiking boots every five minutes. Lightweight hiking gaiters are an inexpensive and highly practical solution to your foot troubles. Gaiters are designed to wrap around your ankle and lower calf, protecting your leg from prickly plants whilst simultaneously preventing rain, snow, and nature’s debris from sneaking into your shoe. Clever, right?
Hiking and backpacking gaiters are nothing new and there are a lot of different types. Some are specifically designed for hardcore mountaineering while others are better suited to casual hiking. If you’re not sure which is the best for you then you’re looking in the right place. From trail running gaiters to alpine gaiters we’ve put together a list of the best hiking gaiters of 2018.
- When to wear gaiters
- The 8 best hiking gaiters in 2018
- Things to consider when choosing the best hiking gaiters
When to wear gaiters
We’ll let you in on a little secret. A set of gaiters can come in handy on any hiking trip. They are, however, most essential for alpine climbs in snowy conditions or for a wet hikes in long grass and bog. They are also very useful to wear on walking trails through prickly scrub and brambles or summer hikes when mosquitoes, ticks, and other pests are out and about.
The 8 best hiking gaiters in 2018
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|Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiters||Mountaineering, cold and wet conditions.||Knee high||Yes||$$$|
|REI Co-op Alpine 3/4 Gaiters||Backpacking||Mid calf||Water resistant||$$|
|Rab Latok Alpine Gaiter||Mountaineering and general use||Knee high||Yes||$$$|
|Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Gaiters||General use||Mid calf||Water resistant||$|
|Mountain Equipment Alpine Pro Shell Gore-Tex Gaiter||Mountaineering||Knee high||Yes||$$$|
|Salomon Trail Low Gaiter||Trail running and fast hiking||Ankle||No||$|
|FiveJoy Mountain Hiking Boot Gaiters||Mountaineering and climbing||Knee high||Water resistant||$|
|Black Diamond GTX FrontPoint Gaiters||Ice Climbing, snow sports||Knee high||Yes||$$$|
Best for: Mountaineering, cold and wet conditions.
The Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiters are designed to take on the toughest hiking conditions. The triple layer Gore-Tex fabric provides a high level of breathability as well as rain and snow protection. The inner leg is fitted with abrasion resistant Cordura Fabric which is durable enough to withstand punctures and tears. They’ll also fit snugly to your leg thanks to the adjustable instep strap and top buckle.
When it comes to size, the Crocodile Gaiters are available in multiple sizes and in both men’s and women’s versions. It’s worth noting that these gaiters tend to run slightly large in order to accommodate thick hiking trousers and mountaineering boots.
- Highly durable
- Larger circumferences to allow for snow boots
- Can be too hot and heavy for summertime use
Best for: Backpacking
The mid-calf Alpine Gaiters from REI are a lightweight backpacking gaiter for trails which require medium to light protection. They are secured with multiple closures including front Velcro closures, adjustable instep straps, a hook and loop front closure, plus top and bottom poppers.
Meanwhile, the elasticated Snow Seal Cuffs, which are exclusive to REI, ensure that snow, moisture and other debris stays on the outside of your boots.
These REI gaiters are made from a durable 1000 denier nylon fabric which, although not as durable Cordura, resists scuffs and scrapes very well. They are designed to fit on top of a variety of shoe types, however, they fit best over low-cut hiking shoes.
- Secure closures
- Suitable for various terrains
- Slightly strange shape
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Best for: General use
The Latok Alpine Gaiter from RAB is one of the best lightweight gaiters for hiking. They are made with an eVent outer layer and stretch Watergate back panel which provides a rare combination of excellent waterproofing and outstanding breathability. Despite this, these RAB gaiters are lightweight and considerably less bulky than their market competitors. This makes them suitable for regular hikes as well as tough alpine treks.
RAB hasn’t skimped on durability either. The Latok Alpine Gaiter is reinforced with Tough Robic nylon around the ankle area and features rubberised instep straps. Best of all, the Latok Alpine Gaiter only takes a minute to fit due to its Velcro front closure and drawstring top.
- Quality materials
- Slimline design
- Reasonable price
- Easy to fit
- May not fit over plastic boots
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Best for: General use
The Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Gaiters are made of traditional packcloth nylon which is abrasion resistant and breathable. Due to their low-bulk design, the Rocky Mountain Low Gaiters are comfortable to wear in all seasons. They fit securely onto a range of walking boots due to their top and front hook and loop closures, elasticated cuffs, and Velcro front opening.
These low gaiters are only water resistant and are therefore not the best hiking gaiter for wet weather hikes or mountaineering. Likewise, they won’t provide as much protection from brambles as high gaiters but they will keep out small stones and other debris.
- Suitable for all seasons
- Secure fit
- Not fully waterproof
Best for: Mountaineering
The Alpine Pro Gaiter from Mountain Equipment is specially designed for hiking in deep snow and wet conditions. The triple layer Gore-Tex Shell is fully waterproof whilst still allowing for breathability. The lower leg is reinforced with a durable nylon and comes with a replicable underfoot strap. The front zipper makes it quick and easy to put on and take off too. Meanwhile, the Velcro flap and close-fitting ankle ensure that moisture and dust don’t enter. For an extra secure fit, the Alpine Pro Gaiter is fitted with an adjustable drawstring cuff.
- Reinforced nylon material
- Waterproof Gore-Tex
- Excellent debris protection
- Zips may be difficult to open with gloves
Best for: Trail running and fast hiking
These ultralight gaiters from Salomon have a simple but highly practical design which keeps dust and debris out of your running shoes. The Trail Gaiters Low are easy to fit onto your shoe. The wrap around elastic jersey is flexible enough to fit over most running or lightweight hiking shoes and stretches while you move. It also functions as a natural ankle support whilst trail running. The sturdy sole strap and Velcro side closure will keep the gaiters from slipping out of place. Plus, the nylon fabric is highly breathable and water resistant, keeping out light rain and splashes. Another bonus is that the Salman Trail Low Gaiters are super quick to take on and off.
- Breathable fabric
- Comfortable fit
- Fits most running shoes
- Sizes tend to run large
Best for: Mountaineering and climbing
The FiveJoy Mountain Hiking Boot Gaiters are compact and lightweight whilst still providing excellent protection from snow and cold weather conditions. They are made from an abrasion-resistant nylon fabric which is treated with a water-repellent polyurethane coating. The fabric is breathable enough to be used for summer hikes as well as snowy walks.
As well as preventing stones and water from bothering your feet, the high design of the FiveJoy Mountain Hiking Boot Gaiters will keep mosquitos and other pests at bay. Instead of the usual front opening, these gaiters from FiveJoy simply slip on over your boots and trousers and can be secured using the top and bottom straps.
- Quality materials
- Water-repellent fabric
- Quick to put on and take off
- Reasonable price
- Limited sizes available
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Best for: Ice Climbing, snow sports
If you’re looking for a pair of waterproof gaiters for your next winter expedition then the GTX FrontPoint from Black Diamond are right for you. The upper is made from a triple layer of waterproof Gore-Tex fabric while the lower part uses a ripstop nylon fabric which gives you extra protection from tears and abrasions.
The GTX FrontPoint fit just below the knee, providing protection for the entire lower leg. We also like that the front Velcro entry makes the Black Diamond Gaiters super easy to put on and take off. In addition, they are fitted with an adjustable instep strap and a quick-release bungee cord top which helps to provide a snug fit. The Black Diamond GTX FrontPoint Gaiters can be worn over mountaineering boots as well as regular hiking boots.
- Abrasion resistant fabric
- Versatile fit
- Not the best breathability
Things to consider when choosing the best hiking gaiters
Hiking gaiters are usually described as waterproof, water-repellent, or water-resistant. Waterproof fabrics such as Gore-Tex and eVent may be treated with a DWR (durable water repellent) coating. For snow hikes and mountaineering a set of fully waterproof gaiters are crucial. For regular hiking and backpacking, however, a water-resistant fabric such as nylon packcloth should be sufficient to withstand splashes and mild weather.
Gaiters are pretty much useless if they don’t keep stones, dirt, and other debris out of your hiking boots or shoes. We, therefore, look out for gaiters which fit snugly around the top of the boot. Most will have an adjustable closure at the top and some at the base of the gaiter, such as a drawstring or hook and loop. This helps to prevent debris and rain getting inside but also helps to keep the gaiter fixed in place.
Method of entry and attachment
Ideally, it should only take a minute to put on and take off your hiking gaiters without sitting. Therefore, most hiking gaiters are fitted with Velcro closures which are accessible from the front. Some models also have front hooks which secure the gaiter to the shoelaces, plus an adjustable underfoot strap which prevents the gaiter from rising up.
Height/length of gaiters
Gaiters typically come in three heights and you’ll need to consider which gaiter height is most suitable for your usage:
These are around 15 to 18 inches high and are designed to cover the entire calf. They are best suited for wet and cold weather hiking or mountaineering. If you’re planning to head out in deep snow then knee-high gaiters would be the most practical option, however, they can be a bit overkill during summertime.
Mid-calf gaiters measure between 8 and 12 inches. They are useful for hiking in mild weather conditions, rather than snow, when you only need moderate protection from the weather and debris.
Also known as low gaiters, ankle gaiters are best for trail running as they allow for greater movement in the lower leg.
Aside from being waterproof, you’ll want a pair of gaiters which will withstand more than a few hikes. The most durable hiking gaiters are made from a fabric which is breathable and durable as well as weather resistant. Gaiters are most commonly made from quality fabrics such as three-layer Gore-Tex, ripstop nylon, or eVent. The toughest gaiters will also have reinforcements made from sturdy fabrics such as Cordura. This is most useful around the ankle area which is particularly prone to abrasion from rocks, ice, and crampon hooks, and from your own feet kicking your own ankles!
Comfort is key for anything related to hiking. One size certainly won’t fit all so be sure to check the measurements of both your hiking shoes and your calf before purchasing a pair. Most gaiters are available in at least three sizes. The size is typically decided by shoe size but calf circumferences are often listed by suppliers. Gaiters are sometimes available in both men’s and women’s sizes.
It’s also important to look at the straps and buckles. Gaiters with top and bottom adjustable cuffs can be adjusted to fit like a glove to your leg. So as not to inhibit walking, these fixtures should be placed on the outer side of the leg.
A non-breathable fabric will make you sweat more whilst hiking and lead to chafing and blisters. Gore-Tex and eVent are considered to be some of the most breathable fabrics, however, nylon is also a recommended material.