October 15, 2021 / by Emma Jones

Adventuring into the forest, foothills, or even braving the mountainside is a great way to reap the benefits of what nature has to offer. And whether it’s a high climb or an incredible stroll across a stunning landscape, you will need to make sure you are protected from wet conditions while adventuring. In addition to hiking clothing and outwear, you will need quality shoes and footwear items that will protect your feet.

Obviously, there’s nothing worse than hiking or walking and wetting your socks. Aside from being uncomfortable and cold, standing in wet socks and shoes for a long time can lead to blisters, and you don’t want that. Hence, investing in quality footwear will keep your feet comfortable and blister-free throughout your journey.

Sometimes the conditions demand more protection than your pants and shoes can offer. So you may want to consider wearing gaiters in addition to trousers and hiking boots. Whether it’s a short day hike or a multi-day backpacking trip, gaiters will help keep your legs safe and help you enjoy your time outdoors in more extreme conditions.

Read on to learn how important gaiters really are and how to choose the right ones for your next adventure.

The Importance of Ankle Gaiters

Though most hiking and backpacking are done on well-beaten trails, you may occasionally encounter rocky faces and ridges. Your shoes and socks or pants can provide adequate protection, but wearing ankle gaiters can make a real difference, particularly in wet weather. These seemingly unnecessary shin guards cover the area between the edges of your trousers and your walking boots, hence acting as a shield to protect your feet and lower leg from moisture or debris while you are on the move.

ankle gaiters

What Are Ankle Gaiters Used For?

Aside from protection against moisture, gaiters can also block debris such as stones, thorns, or branches from entering your boot. Frequently stopping to remove pebbles from your shoes can be quite annoying. Wearing a pair of ultralight gaiters would be the solution to your pesky shoe debris. They will prevent anything from getting into your socks, boots, or trouser legs. Gaiters will also shield your shins in case your pants get ripped.

It’s always best to keep walking gaiters in your pack or bag, especially if you know you will be hiking near or through water and snow. Rain can channel down into your boots or shoes and in such conditions, wet shoes and feet can be dangerous. Hence, wearing waterproof gaiters will divert the rain from pooling in your boots. When it comes to dry and warm conditions, it’s useful to have your gaiters to hand. If you are hiking on loose ground, you could put them on to stop small stones and debris from getting into your shoes.

How to Choose and Use Hiking Gaiters

Choosing the right gaiters is not difficult at all. Typically, it will depend on the activities you plan to undertake, how high you want your gaiters to go, and the features you need. You can find various types of gaiters online or in-store, often split according to length and specialist use.

gaiters hiking

Gaiter Uses and Types

Different gaiters are used for different trail and weather conditions. Basically, the main uses or types of gaiters are gaiters for hiking and backpacking, mount climbing, and trail running. Other types of gaiters include gaiters used for ice sports like skiing, snowshoeing, and ice-skating. In general, modern designs are lightweight, tough, and definitely worth packing. Those designed for hiking and backpacking are typically breathable and lightweight and provide basic protection against rock abrasion, grit, and moisture while on a hike or walk.

When it comes to mountaineering, you should consider gaiters that can withstand harsh weather and terrain conditions. Gaiters for mount climbing typically feature a waterproof, breathable fabric that offers heavy-duty protection and extra insulation. There are also gaiters for trail running which are lightweight and compact. Though they are not typically waterproof, trail running gaiters will keep rocks and debris at bay while you sprint.

Gaiter Height

One of the factors to consider while choosing hiking gaiters is how tall you want them to be. The appropriate gaiter height will depend on how much protection you need and the conditions you are likely to use them in. Generally, higher gaiters provide more coverage and hence are worn during winter to protect your shoes and socks from getting wet in the snow. Whereas lower gaiters are used for trail running and light hiking in warmer weather to keep leaf litter and dirt out of your shoes.

Gaiter Features

Gaiters are a simple square of material wrapped around each lower leg to prevent the rain from getting in. So you will want them to slip on and off easily. Hence, ease of entry is so important feature. When you try on gaiters, look at how closely they fit around your shoes. You don’t want them too tight to restrict circulation.

Beyond getting them on, you will want to make sure your gaiters are secure. Gaiters are typically opened and secured by long strips of a hook-and-loop fastener. They feature a loop of tough material that has some kind of adjustment mechanism at one end, allowing it to be lengthened or shortened. For closing the gaiter is used either a zip, or a line of velcro, or both. Make sure there aren’t any obvious loose areas or openings for moisture to get in.

The instep straps will secure the lower edge of your gaiters around your boot‘s insteps. Whereas lace hooks will let you attach your boot laces to your gaiters for added security. Though attaching gaiters properly and comfortably can take a little practice, they aren’t particularly complicated. In fact, wearing them correctly mostly depends on the footwear and hiking clothes you have chosen.