Three Things to Know Before You Buy Gaiters

Here are three essential types of gaiters, with information on how to decide which style suits you best.

Three guys hiking on a mountain
Considering a pair of gaiters? Here are three things to know before you pull the trigger.Fabrizio Verrecchia/Unsplash

Behold the lowly gaiter, which resides both figuratively and literally at the intersection of pants and footwear. Gaiters have been around for centuries, helping people from Anglican deacons to range-riding cowboys prevent dirt, dust, pebbles, twigs bugs, snow, and other undesirables from entering shoes and boots or traveling up pants legs.

Gaiters not only stop those annoying objects from getting into your shoes, they can also save a hike, a hunt, a run, and even a weekend. A thorn that slips into your boot can pierce your skin and hobble you. Same with briars that penetrate your otherwise unprotected pants legs. And if you’re walking through wet brush or deep snow and moisture enters your boots, you’ll be looking for a way back to home or camp very soon.

Gaiters prevent all that by sealing up the opening between pants cuff and boot, or between shoe top and leg, and by providing an extra layer or protection to the lower legs. There are numerous styles of gaiters, and where and when you’ll wear the gaiters determines the best kind for you. Here’s a guide:

1. To block brush, stickers, dirt, pebbles, insects, and moisture in warm and cool weather.

Azarxis Hiking Gaiters
Azarxis leg gaiters are lightweight, breathable, and tough enough to ward off briars and thorns.Azarxis

If you'll be hiking or walking through fields, brushy areas, dusty or rocky regions, or through light snow or in wet conditions, an uninsulated calf-length gaiter is best for you. The length is necessary to protect your shins and calves and keep your pants legs dry. Get a pair that's waterproof and breathable so they'll prevent moisture from penetrating your pants legs, but won't trap perspiration.

2. To prevent dirt, sand, mud, pebbles and twigs from entering your low-topped running or trail shoes.

Altra Trail Gaiter Protective Shoe Covers
Altra Trail Gaiters are extremely lightweight and won’t trap heat against your skin.Altra Trail

The pleasure of walking or running on a trail in low-topped shoes is quickly mitigated by having to stop every once in a while, take off a shoe, shake out a twig or pebble, put the shoe back on, and start again. Trail gaiters eliminate this problem by sealing the area from lower laces to just above the ankle. Pick a lightweight and breathable pair so they won't interfere with your walk or run.

3. To keep snow from building up against your leg, making you cold and wet.

TRIWONDER Fleece-Lined Snow Leg Gaiters
These Triwonder gaiters are fleece-lined and waterproof, making them ideal for use in cold, snowy conditions.Triwonder

The best cold-weather boots in the world won’t prevent ice and snow from forming giant white cocoons around your lower legs, where your body heat will eventually melt it and contact your skin and possibly travel down into the boots. If you’ll be walking through deep snow, invest in a pair of gaiters that are both waterproof and warm.