Whether you wear them to keep your feet dry, to keep sticks and rocks out of your boots, or to protect yourself against snakes and leeches, gaiters have long been a staple of the outdoor adventurer’s outfit.
These pieces of outdoor gear are effectively a garment that wraps around the outside of a shoe or boot and can be really effective at protecting your lower leg and your feet, so they’re a must-have for hikers.
That being said, there are many different kinds of gaiters out there so it can be difficult to figure out which pair is the best for your needs. That’s why we’ve created this guide to the best hiking gaiters on the market.
After the reviews below, we discuss the key things to look out for when choosing your gaiters.
Our top pick: Sea to Summit Quagmire Canvas Gaiters
Pros: Breathable canvas, durable and protective in most conditions
The ultimate gaiter when it comes to protection from the elements, the Sea to Summit Quagmire Canvas are made from a waterproof corespun canvas that keeps you cool and comfortable, regardless of the conditions.
Perfect for off-trail travel, these gaiters cover almost all of the lower leg, so they a maximum amount of protection in one versatile package.
Runner Up: Macpac Cascade Gaiters
Pros: Breathable canvas, Nylon and Hypalon scuff patches, adjustable
Cons: Some people have struggled with the sizing
Like the premium Quagmire gaiters above, the Macpac Cascade gaiters are also made of canvas for maximum durability and breathability
They feature 1000D Nylon scuff patches around the ankles for extra protection and the hook and loop front closure allows for micro-adjustments for optimal boot fit.
An adjustable and replaceable underfoot strap ensures you can get a snug fit under your boot and means you won’t have to worry about your gaiters moving around while you’re out on the trail.
Also Great: Kathmandu Long Gaiters
Pros: Affordable, bungy cord adjustment ensures a snug fit
Cons: Nylon is less breathable than canvas
These Kathmandu gaiters are made from durable, breathable CORDURA fabric. This means they’re tough enough to withstand the elements and provide extra leg protection while you’re hiking.
Unlike most gaiters that utilise a nylon strap, these feature an adjustable bungy cord that allows you to adjust them to get a snug fit around your legs.
As with most gaiters, there are lace hooks so that you can lock them to your laces to keep them in place.
The main difference between these gaiters and the two featured above is that they are made from nylon as opposed to canvas. Nylon is perfectly durable and should provide ample protection but tends to be less breathable which can be annoying on warm-weather hikes.
Best Ankle Gaiters: Sea to Summit Tumbleweed Gaiters
Pros: Lightweight, breathable, velcro closure, boot clip for better placement
Cons: Ankle height doesn’t offer as much protection
These ankle-height gaiters from Sea to Summit are made from Taslan – a strong, lightweight material that can protect you from sticks, rocks, and insect bites. Breathable, yet protective, these gaiters feature a velcro front closure and a boot clip to keep them in place as you hike.
Also Great: Sea to Summit Spinifex Canvas Gaiters
Pros: Universal sizing, canvas for maximum breathability, waterproof, large opening for easy on/off
Cons: Relatively expensive, ankle height offers less protection
The Sea to Summit Spinifex Gaiters are a lightweight and durable solution for keeping sand, stones, sticks, and other debris out of your shoes while you explore the outdoors.
They are made from 8oz canvas, which is both lightweight and durable, making them perfect for long hikes or backpacking trips.
These gaiters have a low-cut design so that they won’t get in your way while navigating technical hikes or climbs. They also have an adjustable front hook-and-loop closure that makes it easy to secure them around your ankles.
Budget Option: Triwonder Hiking Gaiters
Pros: Affordable, waterproof, several sizes to choose from
Cons: Less premium materials
These waterproof gaiters are perfect for any outdoor adventure, and they can be worn with any shoe or boot. Their hook and loop closure method makes them easy to put on and take off, even while wearing gloves. Not only are they waterproof, but they’re also breathable so your legs won’t get too hot while you’re out on the trail.
The best part about these gaiters is that they’re affordable, coming in at about a quarter of the price of comparable products.
Premium Option: Sea to Summit Quagmire eVent Gaiters
Pros: Waterproof/breathable eVent membrane, high height for maximum protection, durable
These gaiters feature eVent – a top-of-the-line waterproof breathable membrane that is perfect for anyone who travels off-trail. If you cross streams frequently and hate wet boots, these waterproof gaiters just might be for you.
Gaiter Buying Guide
While gaiters are actually pretty simple pieces of gear, there are many different kinds out there, each of which serves a different purpose. Here are some of the different kinds of gaiters you might consider adding to your gear list:
Nylon gaiters are made – you guessed it – from nylon. They tend to be the most affordable of the bunch and are pretty good at keeping your feet dry in the rain or snow and at keeping sticks and twigs out of your shoes.
But, the main problem with nylon gaiters is that they don’t breath… at all. Usually, it has to be reasonably chilly out for you to feel comfortable in your nylon gaiters without sweating profusely. This doesn’t seem to bother some people, but it drives others crazy.
Canvas gaiters are slightly more expensive than their nylon cousins, but they tend to be a bit more breathable.
While canvas gaiters are also heavier than nylon gaiters, they tend to be more comfortable in a wider range of temperatures due to their better breathability. Thus, if you plan on hiking in the summer heat, it’s probably worth investing a bit more cash to get a slightly more breathable gaiter.
As the name implies, short gaiters are, well, short. These gaiters reach just over the top of the ankle and are usually made from a thin piece of lightweight, breathable fabric. Short gaiters are ideal for use while trail running or doing similar activities because they’re great at keeping sand and twigs out of your shoes, but not much else.
They don’t provide nearly as much protection for your lower legs as other gaiters do, so they’re best suited for light and fast activity.
Do Gaiters Protect You From Snake Bites?
In Australia, one of the main reasons that people wear gaiters is for protection from snakes. The thinking is that the gaiters can stop a biting snake from actually reaching one’s skin, thus protecting them from any potential venom.
Although there’s no conclusive evidence that gaiters can prevent all snake bites, they do seem to offer some protection, especially if you have an encounter with a small snake that wouldn’t be able to break through the material of both gaiters and trousers.
Ultimately, however, gaiters alone are not enough. Being constantly aware of one’s surroundings, reacting appropriately, and keeping a large distance from any snake is more important than what you wear on your lower leg.
At the end of the day, gaiters are some of the most versatile, yet underrated pieces of gear we use in the backcountry. Gaiters offer unparalleled protection from the elements, so they’re a must for any hiking fanatic.
For us, the Sea to Summit Quagmire are the pick of the bunch thanks to their superior breathability while not compromising on protection.
What’s important is that you find a pair that best fits your needs. Happy trails!