by the Outdoor Research Team
Planning on tromping through frosted peaks after the Polar Vortex, heading out for a hike during this spring’s colossal snow melt or lacing up for an ultra-long trail run? The extra layer of protection from gaiters will help keep your outing a challenging adventure rather than a painful sufferfest.
While waterproof hiking boots or ski boots will provide a huge amount of protection, gaiters work in tandem with your boots to protect the little nooks and crannies that are vulnerable to being encroached by abrasive environments or sneaky drops of rain or snow – like the top of the boot.
Whether snow, rain or overgrown trails are the terrain du jour, there are different types of gaiters that excel for different activities, each with different features. But which kind of gaiter you need largely depends on what you’ll be doing. So how do you choose?
It all depends on your outing. But first, let’s dissect the construction of the gaiter. Gaiters typically run from the bottom of your foot to mid-calf and are made with sturdy weather-resistant materials. This design and fabrication works well to protect your foot and lower leg from deep snow, wet underbrush or debris that you can pick up while hiking, skiing or mountaineering. Low gaiters are about ankle high and are designed for less extreme conditions.
In addition to the fabrication and design, most gaiter are also equipped with: a strap that fits over the instep of your boot or shoe or lace hook that holds the gaiter in place; a top closure that cinches or clips tight to seal the upper half of the gaiter; and some sort of entry system. Often the entry system is a closure like Velcro, but can also be a zipper. In the case of ultra minimalist gaiters, a tighter, stretchy design serves this purpose. Typically, our gaiters have a front entry – where the closure system runs down the length of your shin – which makes getting in and out of the gaiter on the trail or in the hills a hassle-free task.
Austin Kayak carriers two different types of Outdoor Research Gaiters: Alpine and Trail.
Alpine gaiters are crafted to protect your feet while hiking, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, these gaiters are made with waterproof and breathable fabric uppers and also an abrasion-resistant lower to protect your ankles and lower legs from sticks, rocks and other trail debris. The Crocodile Gaiters™ are our time-tested classic with a fitted design and sturdy fabrication of GORE-TEX® upper and Cordura® lower. As at home in snowy environment as a dry and brushy trail, the Crocs (as they have come to be known) will fit well in your pack’s essentials kit and come in both Men’s Crocodiles and Women’s Crocodiles styles. See more about them in the video:
On the other hand, trail gaiters are lightweight and breathable and provide the most basic protection against wet terrain and the thick underbrush of trails. They pair with anything from cross-country ski boots to trail running shoes. Take, for example, our Ultra Trail Gaiter, a favorite for Outdoor Research athlete Chris dePolo – a ridiculously long distance hiker who has hiked over 8,000 miles and spent 487 days in the woods in the last four years.
“Anything that goes in my backpack or on my body has to be small, lightweight and dry quickly,” say dePolo, which is why the Ultra Trail Gaiters are perfect. These breathable, water-resistant gaiters are stretchy with a molded boot section to conform to the shoe and streamline the design. Designed with an endurance trail runner in mind, these gaiters help protect against the trail’s hazards when you don’t have time to avoid them.
Simply put, gaiters protect your feet and help keep you focused on your moving forward comfortably. “I’ve had zero blisters in my 8,000 miles,” says dePolo, “and it’s all about the gaiters keeping stuff out.”