CAMPING & HIKING

Best Hiking Gaiters: Top 6 picks for 2017

Blue gaiters detail
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

Hiking through snow may not be the easiest choice, but it will give you some of the best memories. Snow-covered hills and landscape leave long-lasting memories, leading you to want to experience them again. Snowy trails can be uncomfortable without the right equipment. You need insulated clothing, hiking boots, and the best hiking gaiters.

Gaiters are extremely useful for hikers. They stop any dirt and snow from getting into your boots. There isn’t much more annoying than snow melting in your boots. Gaiters are worn over top of your boots and the lower part of your pants. Typically, they attach to your boots with an instep strap and hooks. At the top, gaiters have drawstring closures that guarantee they stay up around your leg. The drawstring also prevents snow from entering.

There is more than one type of gaiters. When you are searching, it is important not to select ones that are designed for running. Hiking gaiters are typically higher and made with lighter materials. Running gaiters are shorter and won’t do a good job of keeping out the snow. Alpine, or expedition, gaiters are more expensive. You can wear them over snow boots, running shoes, or other options. If they aren’t waterproof, you will want to wear snow boots.

Woman wearing blue gaiters standing on a clif

The Important Qualities of Hiking Gaiters

  • Material: The material of the gaiters you select is imperative. It needs to be waterproof, but it should also be breathable. Some of the best choices are Gore-Tex and eVent.
    You’ll find three different types of waterproof and breathable materials: 2-layer, 2.5-layer, and 3-layer. 3-layer (line, fabrics, face fabric) fabric is the most durable choice and is best for weather protection. You can purchase many jackets in 2-layer and 2.5-layer. They provide weather protection, but they don’t have the durability that the 3-layer provides. Your gaiters are going to go through a lot more abrasions than a jacket.
  • Reinforcements: On the lower part of the gaiters, you will find reinforcements with a durable fabric. Many manufacturers opt for Cordura or Kevlar. Reinforcements give your gaiters, even more, protection against abrasions. They prevent tears, so look for strong reinforcements.
  • Weight: You want all of your hiking equipment to be lightweight. Less weight allows you to hike faster, getting your destination sooner. The ideal choice will weigh less than 400 grams a pair. You don’t want heavy gaiters; they will feel like weights on your legs with each step that you take. That is far from ideal. However, some people prefer to swap out the weight for durability. It is an excellent choice as to which is most important.
  • Debris Protection: You don’t want to hike with debris or snow in your boots. That is their purpose – they keep debris out of your shoes. If they can’t perform this job, then you purchased the wrong ones. Luckily, most companies have this part figured out and have a solid design. They don’t have to be fancy to perform this function. All you need to is elastic or a drawstring along the top. Also, elastic on the bottom, where it attaches to the shoe, is ideal for keeping out snow.
  • Easy to Use: Gaiters for hiking should be easy to put on. Some new models have a Velcro front that lets you attach them to pants quickly. Zippers are harder to use, especially if you have gloves.
  • Durability: It makes sense that you need a durable product for hiking. We want our products that we buy to last us. For gaiters, you typically trade durability for weight. If you are after the lightest hiking gaiters, you are bound to sacrifice some durability to reduce the ounces. However, you also have to be sure that they aren’t so light that they will shred after a few uses.

You should look at the fabric utilized for the foot panel. The ideal choice is a 1000-denier fabric, which is the thickest that you can buy and still be able to use the gear. This material could withstand years of use.

Couple wearing gaiters

The instep is one of the most areas to check for durability. You are going to step on it thousands of times, so it has to be able to stand up to repeated uses. You should also ensure the fabric of the instep is smooth; rough materials will snag as you walk.

The Top Choices for the Best Hiking Gaiters

Outdoor Research Expedition Men’s Crocodiles Gaiters

Weight: 239 grams OR crocodile gaiters

Material: Gore-Tex, Cordura

Design: 3-Layer

Best Use: The Outdoor Research Crocodiles are a durable, well-made hiking gaiters suitable for mountaineering, trekking, and backpacking. If you need reliable snow and water protection, the 3-layer, Gore-Tex fabric is breathable, durable and waterproof. On the lower part of the hiking gaiters, Outdoor Research added reinforcements of 2-layer Cordura fabric. Adding reinforcements prevents any rips of tears.

Cordura isn’t as breathable as Gore-Tex, but the addition doesn’t decrease the exceptional breathability of their gaiters. On the front, there is double-stitched Velcro, allowing you to put them on quickly before you head out.

BioThane makes the instep straps; they are known for durable sports items. On the exterior of the straps, there is a protective shield. Outdoor Research also added lace hooks that ensure the gaiters stay attached to the boots. The top of the gaiters has a cam buckle, giving you a custom fit.

You can find gaiters that are lighter, but these hiking gaiters have all of the essential features listed above. They are durable, functional, and not overpriced.

Check the price on Amazon

OUTAD Waterproof Gaiters

Weight: 250 grams OUTAD GAITERS

Material: 600-Denier Oxford Fabric

Design: 2-Layer

Best Use: As you can tell by the name, OUTAD gaiters are designed for hiking, climbing, snow legging, and more. OUTAD used waterproof, breathable, nylon fabric for their gaiters. This material does provide excellent waterproofing. 600-denier Oxford fabric is durable, tear resistant and breathable. However, they aren’t as breathable as other choices, such as Gore-Tex. They will do the job nicely if you are out in the snow.

The instep is created with 600-denier fabric as well, an excellent choice. You use a metal hook at the bottom of the gaiters to attach to the shoe lace. It provides a custom, firm grip to the shoe, so you are less likely to have it slip off during a hike. There are some great reasons to purchase the OUTAD gaiters. They are lighter than other choices. They are durable, breathable, and waterproof. Plus, you will find them very budget-friendly.

Check the price on Amazon

Black Diamond GTX FrontPoint Gaiters

Weight: 251 grams Black-Diamond-Front-Point-Gaiters

Material: Gore-Tex

Design: 2-layer

Best Use: Black Diamond makes well-designed, durable gaiters. The GTX FrontPoint Gaiters are lighter than the Outdoor Research gaiters, making them an excellent choice for ice climbing. They are only 2-layer, which means they don’t provide the best weather protection and durability that you could find. However, Black Diamond did opt to use Gore-Tex which provides breathability and waterproofing to the gaiters.

The foot strap is made of nylon with a neoprene coating for waterproofing and durability. Black Diamond also added nickel coated buckles for easy adjustments over the instep. You will get the best fit with these! There is also reflective panels to help you see them at night. Overall, if you want a budget-friendly pair of hiking gaiters, the Black Diamond GTX are a lightweight choice, especially for ice climbing.

Check the price on Amazon

Outdoor Research Verglas Gaiters – Women’s

Weight: 210 grams Outdoor Research Women's Verglas Gaiters

Material: Pertex Shield, Cordura

Design: 3-layer

Best Use: Our next choice for the best hiking gaiters are also by Outdoor Research. They create the Verglas for men and women, providing you with a custom fit. The Verglas differ from the Crocodiles because they use a different fabric type – a 3-layer Pertex Shield fabric. It is a unique choice because it is known for being lightweight, waterproof and breathable. You will notice they weigh considerably less than the other options.

The only downside to the Pertex Shield is that it doesn’t provide as much breathability as Gore-Tex. They use polyurethane coating rather than a membrane. However, they are the lightest choice, so you may find that it is worth the trade-off.

The Verglas gaiters provide very similar features as the Crocodiles. There have Cordura reinforced ankles, cam buckle top closures, Velcro fronts and metal boot lace hooks. Another difference is Outdoor Research used 500-denier fabric for the foot panel, rather than the 1000-denier fabric that they used for the Crocodiles. So, the foot panel on the Verglas isn’t as durable. You would be smart to pick the Verglas if you are looking for the lightest gaiters for hiking.

Check the price on Amazon

REI Mountain Gaiters

Weight: 250 grams Rei gaiters

Materials: REI Elements Nylon Laminate and Schoeller WB Extreme

Design: 3-layer

Best Use: REI is known for high-quality materials. Their Mountain Gaiters protect your feet during every hike in the snowy mountains. They feature snow seal cuffs and rugged scuff guards. These hiking gaiters will keep you safe from all of the elements. The upper portion of these hiking gaiters is made from REI Elements nylon laminated for waterproofing and breathability. REI is known for their impressive fabric.

On the lower portion of the Mountain Gaiters, REI added reinforcements featuring Schoeller WB Extreme. It gives you a form-fitting seal over your boots. WB Extreme also adds extra waterproofing and breathable, plus it is flexible for hiking.

Another nice feature of the gaiters is easy on and off Velcro closure flap on the front. On the top, it secures with nylon webbing and a cam buckle for a custom fit. The instep strap under booth uses die-cut Hypalon material that is durable and sturdy. The lace hooks also create a custom fit for the wearer. You can feel confident wearing the REI Mountain Gaiters; they are well-made, from a high-quality company.

Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain High Gaiters

Weight: 6.9 ounces Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain High Gaiters

Materials: 420-denier nylon

Design: 2-layer

Best Use: Outdoor Research creates another excellent choice for the best hiking gaiters. Their Rocky Mountain gaiters are made out of 420-denier nylon, a strong, durable material that can handle years of hiking. There are uncoated and coat packcloth boot and leg sections that prevent any snow, mud or debris from entering your boots. On the top of the gaiters, there is a strap and a cam buckle for a snug and custom fit.

For maximum durability, Outdoor Research added durable, Hypalon instep straps for year-round use. You will be able to use these boots for years to come. There is also reinforced boot lace hooks that will keep the boots in place while hiking. On the bottom of the gaiters, they added elastic bottoms to keep everything out.

There are plenty of reasons to like the Rocky Mountain gaiters. They used breathable fabrics that let vapor and sweat to escape. They are durable and budget-friendly. The only downside is the materials used aren’t as durable and waterproof as other choices. However, they will handle heavy usage for a long time.

Check the price on Amazon

Selecting the Best Hiking Gaiters

We showed you six impressive choices for the hiking gaiters. They all are different but offer you superb features and durability. The best out of the six is Outdoor Research Crocodile. It is listed as the first choice for a reason! It uses Gore-Tex with Cordura reinforcements. You don’t have to worry about any types of rips or tears. They are heavier than the other choices, but the durability is unmatched by the other gaiters.

Black gaiter detail

If you want a lightweight option, the Outdoor Research Verglas is ideal. They are 210 grams, the lightest gaiter on the list. Verglas offers many of the same features of the Crocodile, with a few differences. The biggest downside is the less durable fabric used for the instep, which causes the instep to break or wear down sooner than you would like.

Any of the six choices are great! All of these companies know what they are doing when they make outdoorsy products. You can feel confident, and dry when you are wearing the best hiking gaiters.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dennis Owens
Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.

  • Robert Wolfe

    Most of my hikes don’t deal with severely wet terrain, so gaiters are more about keeping out dust and debris. For this, I have found that Dirty Girl Gaiters work perfectly. They don’t provide a lot of protection against moisture, but for keeping my shoes debris free, they are worth every penny. What other recommendations do you have for a dry climate gaiter?

    • Dennis Owens

      Gaiters are the way to go when you are indeed in the warmer or dry terrain. Try gore-tex gators from Mountain Equipment Co-op, or REI trail running gaiters for the lighter weight and breathability. It is important to consider also how comfortable you are with these gaiters so I suggest check them out and see what you think is best for you.

  • Charles

    I’m usually ok with my feet getting a little wet in my hiking shoes, since they dry very quickly. I try to not get ankle deep or anything, but generally, with wool socks and a well ventilated shoe, my feet feel dry within about 45 minutes. I wear the Altra Lone Peak 3.0. They are extremely well ventilated and well built. I recommend using runners instead of trying and failing to stay dry.

    • Dennis Owens

      Thank you for the insight Charles! Altra Lone Peak 3.0 is a great suggestion too! I myself get frustrated when I don’t wear a well ventilated shoes.

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