Last updated: 05/26/2020

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At last, you manage to escape for a long-awaited mountain hike. When the time comes to cross a small stream, you start feeling the cold water chill you to the bone and wonder: where are gaiters when I need them the most? While many people do not give them much credit, these garments are extremely useful in the right conditions.

But are you really familiar with gaiters? They are one of the best tools out there to combat the cold, but we often forget them because we simply don’t know how useful they can be in various situations. In the following guide, we will tell you everything you need to know about these garments and how they can change your life.

Key Facts

  • Depending on their style and function, gaiters can protect your legs from the cold, humidity, or other climatic conditions or terrain – in particular around the ankle. Used in a similar way to socks, they are much more effective when it comes to providing warmth and protection. These tubular garments are hooked to the foot with various fastening systems.
  • While gaiters were historically used by farmers and shepherds, their use is now very popular among children and in certain sports and leisure activities. Their structures vary depending on their use, and they can be manufactured with different materials.
  • It would help if you focused on key purchasing factors to get the best pair of gaiters you can. These include your use of the garments, their waterproofing, weight, and size, as well as how comfortable they are. The manufacturing material and its breathability are also relevant.

Our Selection: The Best Gaiters on the U.S. Market

If you are anticipating your next snow trip or any other adventure during which you will be facing the cold, don’t forget to throw some good gaiters in your bag. Your legs will thank you later! You can find a wide variety of products on the market, so choosing isn’t always so easy. In the section below, we have selected some of the very best options currently available out there:

Best All-Round Gaiters

It isn’t hard to understand why Pike Trail’s full-leg gaiters are Amazon’s Choice in the category. Available in 5 color patterns and boasting a very affordable price, this model will satisfy most people’s needs with its one-size-fits-all design and adjustable drawstring. The lightweight-yet-durable, no-tear, waterproof material means you can hike, hunt, snowshoe, or run with these gaiters. This pair comes with a carry bag for easy storage.

Best Trail Gaiters

Sportswear manufacturer Salomon is an industry leader in outdoor gear, and these gaiters are tailored to trail running in demanding terrain. Whether you are going through mud, dust, gravel, or snow, they prevent residues from penetrating your footwear while protecting your ankles from blows or scratches. The breathable, elastic fabric offers greater freedom of movement and stability once you have secured your gaiters.

Best Budget-Friendly Gaiters

Made from 210D polyester fabric, these Unigear gaiters are sewn with a double layer and extremely resistant to all types of outdoor sports and activities. Lightweight and easy to carry, they are built to withstand wind, rain, snow, and dust. And at this price, they’re hard to compete with! This pair is so practical with its Velcro closure and adjustable buckle band design. They come in 4 different sizes, so choose wisely.

Best Ankle Gaiters

Seattle-based company Outdoor Research specializes in outdoor clothing and gear, and this pair of ankle gaiters has received great reviews from past buyers. Made from 420D nylon, these machine-washable garments are very durable, breathable, and water-resistant. The boot lace hook combines perfectly with the buckle to ensure fastening and stability throughout your activities. These gaiters fully cover your ankles for increased protection.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Gaiters

Gaiters have become almost essential to make all your adventures, excursions, and trips successful – especially if you love long walks or hiking. You can find various types and models on the market, depending on your use and needs. In the following section, we have answered the most frequently asked questions regarding gaiters.

Low gaiters are generally lightweight and breathable.
(Source: maridav: 32707555/ 123rf.com)

What are gaiters exactly?

Manufactured with various textile materials, these garments are designed to cover your legs from the knee to the ankle, depending on their size. Placed on top of your footwear, their function is to prevent water, snow, humidity, or various residues from entering, while also serving as additional protection against the cold.

Why do I need gaiters?

Whether you like to go on mountain or snow trips, alpinism, or hiking, or if you simply want to run on dirt roads, the reality is that suitable footwear isn’t always enough. Once you attach the gaiters to your legs, they can perform various handy functions:

  • They prevent the entrance of external objects, such as stones, soil or different residues;
  • They keep your feet dry from puddles or rainwater;
  • Your legs are protected against scratches and snags from terrain elements;
  • Gaiters offer extra stability when walking, running, or climbing;
  • They help perspiration;
  • They preserve your feet from low temperatures.
Gretchen BleilerAmerican Snowboarding Olympic Medalist

“Lots of times, people go to the mountains and feel like it’s not cool to wear a beanie and goggles and gaiter. But you’re so much more comfortable, and you’re getting the protection you need.”

Which parts of the leg do gaiters cover?

This will depend on the type of gaiters, with models designed for various activities and sports. We can identify two main sizes: high gaiters that cover from the knee to the upper, and low or ankle gaiters to cover the whole ankle and the upper. Some products will also cover your calf muscles.

Low gaiters tend to be light and breathable and are tailored to backpackers and hikers in woods, sand, mud, snow, or rough terrain. High gaiters, on the other hand, are best for extreme weather conditions and are often ultra-resistant and waterproof. The vast majority of models are worn over boots.

The two gaiters are symmetrical rather than the same. This means that one is for the right leg and another for the left leg. When you put them on, make sure that the zippers are on the outside and the lace hooks on the front.

Gaiters consist of some kind of fabric that covers your leg.
(Source: Obzerova: 60843352/ 123rf.com)

What structure do gaiters usually have?

As you now know, gaiters consist of some kind of fabric that covers your leg. Various parts are added to this tubular structure to reinforce its material, attach the garment to the ankle or knee, and different fastening systems for increased protection. We have summarized this structure for you below:

  • The upper part features an elastic band to prevent it from slipping downward.
  • The most common fastening system is the steel towrope, although the most resistant gaiters come with neoprene or urethane straps. When you put the garment on, make sure that its buckle isn’t on the edge of your sole so as not to crush it when walking.
  • Regarding the best side zippers, those with a Velcro flap prevent moisture from penetrating.
  • At the bottom front of the gaiter, you will often find a small hook to attach it to your shoelaces as an extra measure of protection.

What are the most convenient gaiters?

Once again, this will depend on your use and needs. The good thing about the gaiters market is that there is a wide range of products depending on the activities you plan to do. This is why you need to be clear about your goal before selecting a specific model. In the following table, you can learn more about the typical contexts in which each type of gaiters is useful:

Type of activities Type of gaiters Characteristics
Trail gaiters Ankle gaiters Lightweight, compact, and comfortable, with a fastening system underneath
Alpine gaiters High gaiters Fully covering, waterproof, resistant, and breathable material, with side zipper or Velcro
Mountaineering gaiters High gaiters Manufactured with ultra-reinforced, highly durable, resistant and waterproof materials
Snow sports gaiters High or ankle gaiters depending on the sport Waterproof and breathable
Hiking gaiters  Ankle gaiters Designed to provide necessary protection against rocks, sand, and rain (for temperate climates)
Running gaiters Ankle gaiters Super light, compact and elastic

How thick should my gaiters be?

We use the denier (D) when talking about the thickness of any textile material. This unit refers to the linear mass density of fibers. They are equivalent to the weight in grams per 9,000 meters of thread. The higher this value is, the denser and thicker the fiber used by the material will be, meaning it is more resistant and heavier.

The lower part of the gaiters generally needs the most durability. Typical values for the upper parts revolve around 70D for improved breathability. Kevlar is sometimes placed in the lower parts, where the thickness can reach 400, 500, or 600D, with the most resistant going up to 1,000D.

The lower part of the gaiters generally needs the most resistance.
(Source: Gilitukha: 47346689/ 123rf.com)

What degree of waterproofing should my gaiters have?

Waterproofing is measured by taking the height (in millimeters) of a column of water that a fabric can withstand without letting water leak through. A garment is considered waterproof when it supports over 10,000 mm. As you can imagine from the different uses and models of gaiters on the market, not all models will and needs to be 100% waterproof. Here are some pointers to help you determine what you should opt for:

  • 0 to 5,000 mm: no resistance to fine rain, some resistance to dry snow.
  • 6,000 to 10,000 mm: resistance to light to moderate rain, and average snowfall.
  • 11,000 to 15,000 mm: resistance to moderate to heavy rain, and heavy snow.
  • 16,000 to 20,000 mm: resistance to very heavy rains and intense snowstorms.
  • Over 20,000 mm: maximum protection against rain and snowstorms.

How do I choose my gaiter size?

Most brands will tell you for which shoe size the gaiters are designed. While it is best for you to try them on with the winter boots or sports footwear you are going to use, the most important is that they are firm and comfortable. Nobody knows this better than the manufacturers! Gaiters are often tight, so you may want to opt for a size above.

However, you certainly don’t want them to be too loose, as they will lose their efficiency to keep water, sand, or debris out of the way. Certain brands manufacture gaiter models specifically for women, in which the difference is that the part of the calves is wider.

What care do my gaiters need?

These garments are actually very easy to maintain. They will undoubtedly get very dirty if you do extreme sports or mountaineering, for instance. In these cases, we strongly encourage you to clean the gaiters immediately after use to remove the coarser dirt. Once you have done that, all you need is to wipe them with a damp cloth to ensure adequate drying before your next outing.

Gaiters are very useful for extreme sports and mountain activities.
(Source: maridav: 32707754/ 123rf.com)

Buyer’s Guide

Gaiters are perhaps the garments that best protect your feet and shoes. This is why it is recommended to have a pair handy before you head off for your next adventure. By now, you should be more familiar with the different types available according to use, activities, and materials. If you still have remaining doubts, keep in mind the following purchasing criteria to make sure that you get the right gaiters for your needs.

Waterproofing

As we discussed earlier, you won’t necessarily need gaiters that are 100% waterproof. This will depend on what you want to use them for. In any case, you do need them for outdoor activities, and you will likely face rain and streams, snow, or other debris. In that regard, you are advised to opt for gaiters that can withstand at least 6,000 millimeters of water.

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Excited to release the new design of TREKKER gaiters and get them shipped out to our valued customers ! #Repost @trekkeroutdoorgear New Year ! 💥 New version of TREKKER gaiters for 2019 ! Only limited quantities in stock ! Improved version features has a top containment – elastic draw cord with cord lock, so you can adjust the top tension better or open it up to be more breathable if overheating and also offset snaps for a more secure closure. Now available for purchase on the link below: www.trekkeroutdoorgear.com/shop #TREKKEROutdoorGear #TREKKERGaiters #TREKKERHikingGaiters #TREKKER #Trekking #TrekkingGaiters #Gaiters #LightGaiters #LowGaiters #ShortGaiters #HikingGaiters #Hiking #Hiker #TrailRun #TrailRunning #TrailRunningGaiters #TacticalGaiters #SeanMorganOutdoors #RealtreeMax1

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Fastening System

The ultimate goal of these garments is to protect you from external elements penetrating your footwear and bothering you while you are walking or running. This won’t be possible if the model you purchase has a poor fastening system that cannot keep them stable around your ankle. Make sure that the side zippers are efficient, or that the Velcro system is well structured and resistant.

Material Resistance

If you are into extreme sports or intense mountain activities, you will need gaiters that are manufactured with the most resistant material possible. Ripstop fabrics are a great example: these no-tear reinforced double fabrics integrate thicker high-resistance threads in their weave. In this sense, the thicker the gaiters are, the more resistant they will be.

Breathability

This aspect is particularly important because you need to be able to evacuate the sweat vapor during your activity. Otherwise, it will condense and soak your footwear and pants. This is why we advise looking for models with high-quality membranes and two or three layers, such as Gore-Tex Pro. Gaiters that do not feature a membrane are not recommended.

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EAT 🥩 SLEEP 😴 HUNT 🏹 📸 : @stephenk22

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Design

Gaiters are accessories for your footwear, and you probably want them to go as unnoticed as possible while you wear them. Certain models are extremely heavy or uncomfortable, and most people end up getting tired of them. In that regard, have a good look at the design and read user reviews before making your purchase, so you know that they are both compact and comfortable.

Summary

These special garments consist of various textile materials (usually nylon and elastane) that cover your legs from the knee to the ankle. Their goal is to protect them against cold, water, snow, humidity, and other factors. Worn on top of your footwear, these accessories are handy for all your outdoor activities.

You can find high and ankle gaiters, which differ in the parts of the leg that they cover. It is essential that you choose the right type according to the activities that you want to do. While ultralight gaiters are ideal to go for runs in the mountain, you will need high-resistance, heavy models to go ice climbing.

If you liked our guide on gaiters, feel free to share it with your friends and family on your social media so that others can also learn everything there is to know about these garments. You can also leave us a comment in the section below, and we will be happy to get back to you as soon as possible!

(Featured Image Source: Fstock: 93462462/ 123rf.com)

Why you can trust me?

Thibault Perinet Freelance Writer & World Traveler
As a literature and translation licensee and avid traveler, language has always been at the heart of my daily life. A freelance writer since 2014, I love to delve into a variety of topics that contribute to my professional and personal development. My favorite things in life? Maté in the morning, soccer with friends, and old school hip hop.