While on a hiking spree, most people tend to experience sand, water, and even pebbles getting in their boots at one point or the other.
In such cases, gaiters are the go-to solution. They help keep off these irritating items from entering the hiking footwear and keep your feet dry and comfortable; however, you need to learn how to use gaiters and how to choose them.
When hiking, people tend to kick loose debris such as mud and stones that end up lodging in your shoes, causing some discomfort. If it rains, you face puddles, sticky mud, and much more.
Also, you transverse across streams and marshy land when using diverse terrain. Therefore, securing a pair of gaiters will provide an extra layer of protection against anything getting into your trouser legs or boots.
Simply put, a gaiter is a fabric guard that helps to cover the gap between the boots and the trousers. They resemble a cut-off sleeve with an attachment and are made to wrap around your ankle and hook under your boot heel with a strap.
The Different Type of Gaiters Explained
It’s the most common sort of gaiter that binds to your ankle and protects your footwear top to the bottom of the trousers.
Also known as snow gaiters, they are popularly used for trail trekking when the weather is fair and not too harsh. Also, it’s great on terrain that is not too challenging.
Full height gaiters
These are meant to protect the entire shin. The high-cut gaiters have a classic style that protects you from the knee to the lower leg against debris particles and water.
It has an extra height that offers more resistance to mud, sticks, scrub, water, debris, and snow and protects the footwear and shin from challenging conditions.
The lower section is reinforced and thicker, while the upper part is a bit lighter. Mostly, they are better for serious trekking, hiking, and snow. The knee height gaiters are suitable for substantial protection.
These gaiters come in between the full-length and your ankle options and are about 8 to 12-inches long.
The gaiters are an excellent choice for less extreme climates and rainy days. If you only need to keep rain and trail debris out of the footwear, they are ideal for walking shoes or hiking boots.
The height of your gaiter will rely on the level of protection that you require. Generally, if you need a pair when heading off the train or while on snow, you’ll require a taller gaiter, and shorter gaiters are suitable for hiking and trail running.
- Over-the-ankle: Primarily, the low gaiters are designed for summertime hiking or trail running. Their goal is to ensure the pebbles and trail debris are from your boots and shoes.
- Mid-calf: They are around 8-to-12-inches long, mostly suitable for less than extreme conditions if you require rain and trail debris off the boots.
- Knee: Typically, they are around 15-to-18-inches tall. Mostly, they are designed for use in rugged conditions like hiking via wet brush and deep snow or during bad weather.
Similarly to footwear, gaiters require fit to function well correctly. Loose-fitting gaiters fail to seal well around the footwear, allowing water, snow, debris, and mud in your shoes or boots.
On the flip side, the ones that are too tight are uncomfortable when you wear them and could be hard to seal correctly. You should check on the right size with relevant measurements that will fit accordingly.
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to select the right size since they come in all sizes, from small, medium, large to extra-large sizes. Luckily enough, the manufacturers offer a sizing chart to assist one in selecting. The gaiter size will depend on the following:
- The calf circumference or your shoe size should comfortably wrap around the lower legs so that they don’t feel constricting or tight.
- The bulkiness of your footwear. It would be best if you jumped up a suitable size for bulky footwear, for instance, ski boots and mountaineering.
- Walking around in the gaiters. Look for constrictions, rubbing, or anything uncomfy.
- Waterproof: Mostly, this feature is great for snow and mountaineering sport. Gaiters have breathable material to keep moisture from glaciers and snow off the shoes or boots. If you will tromp via snowy or wet conditions, it’s suitable to purchase waterproof gaiters.
- Insect repellent: Though occasional, manufacturers will design gaiters using water repellent material to away ticks, mosquitoes, and biting insects. It’s helpful for backpacking and hiking in buggy areas.
- Fabric: Manufacturers use synthetic materials, especially polyurethane-coated nylon or polyester. The kind of fabric you consider will determine the performance level of the gaiters. Besides offering breathable skin and waterproofing, the gaiter’s fabric reduces the physical gap between your footwear and trousers. It prevents bigger debris like stones, twigs, and mud from getting in the boots.
- Entry system: The kind of gaiters used for mountaineering and hiking are secured and opened using long strips of hook-and-loop fastener up to the fronts of your gaiters.
- Fastenings: There is a wide range of fasteners in the market, and the most effective and useful are the waterproof zips. They could be further strengthened using an adjustable strap to secure your gaiter in place. It’s also known as storm flap, which name suggests keeping the worst muck out after the weather picks a nasty turn. There is an elasticized drawcord that gathers around your ankle to secure it tightly.
- Straps: The manufactures prefer to use the stirrup straps for constructing gaiters since they fasten properly and you could easily adjust them. Virtually all the gaiters use them as they offer that fundamental fastening mechanism for your entire gaiter. Also, it works effectively. The straps are made using rubber or nylon that pass below the outsole of your walking boots; they hold down the gaiters across your footwear. Its fastening mechanism is on the outside of your boot, and you can as well cut it to a suitable size if it’s rubber. However, it would be best if you were extra careful to leave a small wiggle room for the gaiters to fit well with the alternative footwear.
- Lace hook: Mostly, numerous gaiter models will feature a lace hook. It allows one to tie the shoelaces to your gaiter to optimize their fit, sometimes referred to as ‘hook and loop fastening,’ whereby the hook is at the front of the gaiter, corresponding with boots front.
- Top closures: There are the basic gaiters that are cinched with elasticated drawcord and toggles; some models appear fancier that features a top strap that has a cam buckle.
- Uppers: They are mostly on longer gaiters; they offer more protection on the lower leg.
- Lower section: It’s made of a thicker material that reinforces it from abrasions and protects your footwear.
How to Use Gaiters
If you are a newbie with gaiters, then wearing it can be a bit tricky. Always put them on the outside of your trouser leg. You should first set them up if it’s your first time before embarking on the hiking. It helps you to freely adjust them and avoid challenges when you are deeply into the activity.
Here are the steps to put them on correctly:
- Open the instep strap and hook-and-loop closure fully.
- Close your hook-and-loop closure, then wrap your gaiter around the leg: The material is meant to wrap around the legs, and when closed, the opening should be at the front.
- After putting the gaiters on, ensure the instep straps buckles are on the outside of the feet; placing them on the inside is not right as you might accidentally kick your buckle while walking. The logos should also be on the outside; otherwise, you might break them if you are not wearing the gaiters properly. Also, ensure your instep straps are running via the instep areas of the shoes or boots.
- Fine-tune your instep straps: Here, the main goal is to snug up your straps to ensure your bottoms make a tight, nice seal around the shoes or boots. If you are using similar footwear with the gaiters all the time, you only need to adjust the straps once.
- Attach your lace hooks: This step is for the gaiter with lace hooks; you should attach them as far down as possible. For larger boots, it might be hard to get to the farthest places.
- Cinch the top hem: It assists the gaiters to stay tightly up on the leg and prevents snow or rain from getting to the top of the boot. It would be best to tighten them over as they will lose their circulation to the feet.
Final Thought on How to Use Gaiters
Gaiters are hiking things that you can choose to either wear or not. Some hikers feel that they offer the much-needed work while traversing in certain weather conditions, while others will always feel like their feet are burning while on them.
The utility they provide will entirely depend on the climate and terrain that you intend to hike on. However, note that gaiters are critically important in some conditions.
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