Best Gaiters

Updated November 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

20 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
202 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best gaiters

Last Updated November 2019

Beginning hikers have been known to ask, “What are gaiters?” Experienced hikers don’t have to ask that question. They know exactly what they are and what they’re for, and more often than not they’ve used them on a trek.

Gaiters are an indispensable hiking accessory for anyone tackling muddy or snowy conditions in the backcountry. They help keep trousers and boots cleaner and, more importantly, drier in adverse weather and tricky terrain. Gaiters can also keep pebbles, twigs, burrs, and dirt from making their way inside footwear, an uncomfortable circumstance that can force you to stop frequently to empty out your shoes. They can even protect against accidental scrapes and strikes from crampons and walking sticks. 

Because there are so many sizes and fabrics available, selecting the right set of gaiters can be a puzzle even for experienced hikers and mountaineers. Do you need knee-high gaiters or something mid-calf? Are they worth the investment for trail runners? Read on to get the information you need to make the perfect choice, and take a look at some of our favorites.

Gaiters offer a first line of defense against rain, snow, mud, rocks, and sharp tools, and they dry out more quickly than boots.

Key considerations

Choosing gaiters requires answering a few questions about what you will use them for. Are you planning a day trip in relatively good weather? Are you a trail runner looking to protect your lower legs from low branches or loose scree? Is a multiday adventure on varied terrain in the works? Are you dreaming of snowshoeing on a powdery hillside? Are you hunting in the backcountry, well away from blazed trails? Each of these situations calls for a different type of gaiter. Consider these details before deciding on the type of gaiters to purchase:

Size

  • Outerwear: Winter snowshoers and climbers wear more layers and thicker clothing that can prevent gaiters from closing tightly. 

  • Footwear: Mountaineering boots, hiking boots, hybrid approach shoes, and trail running shoes are built differently, and their shape affects how gaiters fit. Cross-country ski boots and snowshoeing boots offer sizing challenges, too.

  • Shoe size: Most gaiters are cut to fit a range of shoe sizes, so check sizing charts before purchasing.

Material

  • Fabric type: Coated nylon is a fabric commonly used in gaiters, but hikers need more technical fabrics if they’re tackling a multiday hike, ice climbing, or snowshoeing.

  • Water resistance: Some gaiters are water resistant while others are waterproof. Water-resistant gaiters are breathable, allowing sweat in trousers and boots to evaporate; waterproof gaiters are not.

  • Abrasion resistance: Gaiters are made of tough materials that are hard to scuff or tear. Some have even tougher abrasion-resistant fabric around the bottom cuff for additional protection.

Conditions

  • Terrain: Consider the terrain in which you’ll be wearing your gaiters. A muddy path presents a different challenge than deep snowdrifts.

  • Weather: The climate matters when it comes to picking the right set of gaiters. You probably don’t need knee-high, waterproof gaiters when hiking in the desert in summertime.

  • Injury potential: If your trip has known risks like hard strikes against rocky outcrops, large thorns, or encounters with venomous snakes, “snake-proof” gaiters may provide added protection.
DID YOU KNOW?

There are gaiters without instep straps, which are useful if straps get in the way, but these gaiters will slip out of place more often.

Gaiter features

Length

Gaiters come in three basic lengths: ankle, mid-calf, and knee.

  • Ankle: These gaiters measure 6 inches or less, extending from the shoelaces to the top of the ankle.

  • Mid-calf: These gaiters measure 8 to 12 inches and provide coverage from the laces to about the middle of the shin.

  • Knee: These gaiters are 15 to 18 inches long and cover the lower leg from the laces to just below the knee.

Fit

Because gaiters need to fit snugly and not slip around the shoe, their construction has some small but important features, including the following:

  • Hook-and-loop closure: This usually runs the length of the gaiter and allows you to securely wrap the fabric around your leg or ankle and remove the gaiter quickly.

  • Adjustment tab: Located at the top of the gaiter, an adjustment tab or string allows you to get a more precise fit to keep water and debris out.

  • Lace hook: A small metal hook at the bottom of the front of the gaiter attaches to the lowest lace on your boot and prevents the gaiter from sliding around.

  • Instep strap: This runs from one side of the gaiter, underneath the instep of the shoe, to the other side and secures the gaiter to the foot.

Extras

And, of course, gaiters have optional features that can make your outing more comfortable:

  • Insect repellent: Some gaiters are made with fabric saturated with insect repellent, like permethrin, to keep ticks, mosquitoes, and other insects away.

  • Buckled instep straps: Sturdier than lace straps, these leather or synthetic straps adjust using a small metal buckle.

  • Additional attachment points: Multi-point straps may improve durability and fit, while hook-and-loop heel tabs help gaiters stay in place.

Gaiter prices

Inexpensive: Breathable, all-nylon gaiters offer the best value among mid-calf and knee-length models and start as low as $15.

Mid-range: A wider variety of breathable and waterproof fabrics, as well as durable gaiters for trail running, can be found within the $21 to $47 price range.

Expensive: Gaiters built for extreme conditions command the highest prices, from $79 to $150 or more.

EXPERT TIP

Lace hooks should be placed around the lowest lace on the shoes or boots. On bigger boots, the hook probably won’t reach that low, so hook it as low as comfortably possible.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Cross-country skiers can keep drier and warmer by wearing mid-calf or knee-length gaiters, especially when breaking trail.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Layer correctly for rain. On rainy days, wear gaiters underneath your rain pants so that water doesn’t run down into the tops of the gaiters.

  • Put the correct gaiter on each foot. Just like shoes, gaiters have a left and a right. If you’re having trouble getting new gaiters to fit comfortably, make sure the lace hook is located front and center on the bottom cuff and the buckle or pull adjusters for the instep strap are on the outside of your ankle. If not, switch the gaiter to the other foot. 

  • Spray insect repellent on the outside of gaiters before putting them on.

  • Tape the lace hook. If the lace hook tends to come loose while hiking, secure it to the lace with a small piece of duct tape.

  • Dry the gaiters. Hang up gaiters to dry in a well-ventilated spot away from campfires or stoves and out of direct sunlight. If you’re stopping for lunch on the trail, loosen the top closure on the gaiters or open the hook-and-loop closure partway to allow sweat to evaporate.

Other products we considered

In addition to our top five, we came across some other gaiters you might be interested in. If you’re going to be hiking in areas full of heavy brush, thorns, brambles, or venomous snakes, the heavy, padded Scent Blocker Diamondback Buckskin Gaiters offer the protection you need. We’re also impressed by the lightweight, waterproof Veocore gaiters that provide knee-high protection from snow, rain, mud, and more. And we think the Altra Trail Gaiters offer great protection yet stay cool and comfortable while running on woodland trails.

Gaiters can protect boots and clothing from damage due to walking sticks or tripping over crampons.

FAQ

Q. Are there downsides to wearing gaiters?

A. Gaiters add extra weight to a hiker’s overall load. Granted, it might be just a few extra ounces, but on the second day of a tough mountain hike, you feel every ounce of extra weight. Gaiters can be annoying to put on and take off, which should be done during each extended rest break to allow boots and trousers to air out. Waterproof gaiters prevent moisture from evaporating from boots and trousers, so these can take longer to dry during rest breaks. Trail runners may find that ankle gaiters make their feet and ankles sweat more, which can cause hot spots and blisters. Most of these issues can be minimized by selecting the right type of gaiter for the activity.

Q. Will the hook-and-loop closures fail when trekking through heavy brush?

A. On properly fitted gaiters, the hook-and-loop closures should hold just fine even when branches and briars are scraping past them. Hikers complain more often that the outer seams become worn and frayed after miles of hiking through scrub or rocks, and they may fail long before the hook-and-loop closures do. Seams can be treated with a multi-purpose seam sealer to extend their life. Hook-and-loop strips should be kept free of dirt and debris to perform at their best.

Q. Ankle gaiters slide out of place easily on my low-cut trail runners and let gravel and burrs into my shoes. How can I stop this?

A. Look for an ankle gaiter with three points of attachment: An abrasion-resistant stretchy instep strap, a lace hook, and a hook-and-loop tab at the back. A bottom opening that is wider and sits lower on the shoe is also helpful because it provides more coverage, and even if it shifts slightly, it won’t expose the ankle collar or tongue of the shoe. Low-cut ankle gaiters are an option; they’re designed with trail runners in mind and feature lightweight, breathable materials and a secure wraparound fit. If debris and burrs are bigger concerns than sweaty feet, consider longer ankle gaiters or even mid-calf gaiters, which are larger overall and made of more durable materials.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Katie
    Katie
    Editorial Director
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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