The gaiter guide: How to choose, use and care for them
There are few things more annoying on backpacking trips than soggy, wet feet and sodden boots. Or trail shoes that are constantly getting filled with sand, rocks, dirt and other debris.
This is where gaiters come to the rescue.
WHAT ARE GAITERS AND WHY DO YOU NEED THEM?
Modern outdoor footwear does a great job of protecting your feet, providing grip and, ideally, doing all this in comfort. But much of that, especially comfort, is dependent on keeping unwanted stuff out of your outdoor footwear.
Gaiters are a lightweight removable cover that help to protect your feet, footwear and socks from unwanted debris. Higher cut gaiters also protect your lower legs and, in colder conditions, provide extra insulation.
If you’re about to step into the world of gaiters—here’s when to wear them, how to choose them and how to wear them.
WHEN TO WEAR GAITERS
Gaiters are a staple in your outdoor kit. They’re handy, and sometimes even essential, for everything from day-hiking, multi-day trekking, off-track bushwalking, mountaineering, ski-touring, snow-shoeing and trail running. Gaiters are even useful for activities like yard work and professional outdoor fieldwork.
To meet the varying requirements of these diverse activities, Sea to Summit’s range of gaiters are available in several types, sizes and styles. Ultimately though, they all serve a universal purpose: to keep all those unwanted things—like water, dirt, sand, snow and other debris—out of your footwear and to provide extra protection.
- Top-closure: a strap or cord to cinch the top of gaiters.
- Front-opening: the front opening allows easy access to take your gaiters on and off. A hook-and-loop closure runs the length of the front of the gaiters.
- Uppers: on longer gaiters the upper section gives more protection and protects the lower legs. Waterproof fabrics are used on some models.
- Lower boot section: the lower section is often made of a thicker fabric, to reinforce it against abrasions and to protect your boots.
- Front lace hook: secure your gaiters to your footwear via a hook that attaches to the shoelaces.
- Underfoot/instep straps: a strap of cord that passes under the instep of your footwear to secure the gaiters in place.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST GAITERS FOR YOU
Gaiters are designed to work with almost all enclosed lace-up hiking and outdoor footwear. Before choosing between different gaiter models, ask yourself a few key questions:
- What activities will you be wearing gaiters for?
- What type of footwear are you planning to wear with your gaiters?
- What type of climate and conditions will you mostly be encountering?
The answers to the above questions will help guide your gaiter selection. In many cases, one well-chosen pair will cover the majority of your outdoor needs. Read on to find the best Sea to Summit gaiter for you.
The Sea to Summit Gaiter Range
Sea to Summit’s gaiter range offers different solutions for a variety of outdoor pursuits. That said, it’s worth noting that each model is versatile and suitable for a range of activities.
Low/Ankle Height Gaiters
Ankle gaiters are designed to cover lower-cut hiking shoes and trail runners. They’re primarily suitable for warmer and drier conditions, assisting with keeping dirt, sand, seeds and small rocks out of your shoes. They also offer a little extra protection for shoes, low-cut boots and your socks.
Use these for easier hikes on formed trails, and trail running. They’re also well suited to drier, warmer conditions. Best worn with low-cut shoes and anywhere a highly breathable gaiter is desired.
Tumbleweed Ankle Gaiters
These are the lightest gaiters in the range—and the lowest cut. The Tumbleweed is perfectly suited to add some lightweight, breathable protection to low-cut hiking shoes and runners. Constructed from breathable 228T Taslan Nylon, they have an easy-access hook-and-loop front opening and a replaceable underfoot cord. Perfect for everything from a weekend day-hike, to setting a trail FKT, or even that backyard job you’ve been putting off.
Sizes: S/M or L/XL
Spinifex Ankle Gaiters
The Spinifex gaiters are a heavier-duty low-cut option, constructed with a hard-wearing 450D Polyester outer and Nylon lining. They offer additional coverage and protection compared to the Tumbleweed, while remaining lightweight and cooler for warmer climates.
Sizes: One size fits most
Spinifex Ankle Canvas Gaiters
The Canvas version of the Spinifex gaiters provides the same feature-set as their Polyester and Nylon sibling—but with added durability and protection thanks to a tough, woven 8oz Canvas packcloth construction.
Sizes: One size fits most
Mid/Calf Height Gaiters
Covering approximately 2/3 of the lower leg, these offer some extra protection whilst remaining lightweight.
Use these for mid-duty hiking and mild climates—with the occasional wet weather trip thrown into the mix.
The Grasshopper is a straightforward, affordable and lightweight option. Constructed from durable 450D Polyester, this simple gaiter comes with a hook-and-loop front closure and replaceable cord underfoot strap. The Grasshopper is a solid choice for occasional all-around use—without breaking the budget.
Sizes: S/M or L/XL
These higher-cut gaiters are designed to protect your full shin. The added height provides extra resistance from scrub, sticks, mud, water, snow and debris whilst protecting your shins and footwear from tough conditions. The lower, high-wear boot section is thicker and reinforced, whilst the upper is lighter.
Use these for serious hiking, trekking, or snow use in cooler climates. Knee height gaiters are best suited where substantial protection against the terrain and elements is required.
The Overland is a value-packed knee-height option. They’re very durable and protective whilst remaining lightweight by doing away with some of the additional features of the premium models below. The upper is a tough 450D Polyester and the high-wear boot patch region uses an even tougher 1000D Nylon fabric. With a hook-and-loop front closure and replaceable cord underfoot strap, the Overland is a great entry point into full-height gaiters.
Sizes: S, M, L and XL
Alpine eVent Gaiters
Fast-and-light approved, the Alpine gaiters are a stripped-down cousin of the Quagmire below. They’re still fully featured and provide plenty of protection in snowy alpine conditions, with a bit less bulk and weight. The waterproof, breathable eVent upper is complemented by a 1000D Nylon boot section. The Alpine is ideal for fast-and-light applications such as alpine climbing, ski-touring and fast-packing. Any activity where protection is required, but in the lightest package possible.
Sizes: S, M, L and XL
Quagmire eVent Gaiters
These are the high-performance, full-featured flagship model of the Sea to Summit gaiter range. The Quagmire is knee-height and constructed using a waterproof breathable eVent fabric upper. The high-wear boot area has been reinforced using a tough lined 1000D Nylon fabric. There’s an aircraft-alloy quick-release top closure, a sturdy 50mm wide hook-and-loop front opening with a super hard-wearing replaceable underfoot strap. The Quagmire is a champion in the toughest of muddy treks, heavy rain and snowy alpine excursions. The additional breathability of the eVent upper adds versatility in high-output activity and warmer conditions.
Sizes: S, M, L and XL
Quagmire Canvas Gaiters
The Canvas version of the Quagmire gaiters provides the same comprehensive feature-set as their eVent sibling–but with the added durability and protection of a tough woven 8oz Canvas packcloth upper. Designed to tackle the harshest of off-track, leg-destroying adventures, the Quagmire Canvas is at home anywhere that razor-sharp undergrowth and deep mud is the norm. The stiffness of the canvas upper also allows for ventilation when the top closure strap is loosened off.
Sizes: S, M, L and XL
Just like footwear, gaiters need to fit correctly to function effectively. Loose-fitting gaiters will not secure or ‘seal’ properly around your footwear, letting in water, mud, snow and debris into your boots. Gaiters that are too tight, on the other hand, will be uncomfortable to wear and are unlikely to secure correctly. Check the size guide for the relevant measurements of your gaiter of interest.
Sizing and fit factors to consider:
- The circumference of your calves—gaiters should easily wrap around your lower legs and not feel tight or constricting.
- How bulky is your footwear? Jumping up a size for bulky footwear, such as mountaineering and ski-boots, is usually recommended.
- Walk around in your gaiters–check for rubbing, constrictions or anything uncomfortable.
HOW TO WEAR GAITERS
For the uninitiated, getting gaiters to fit and function correctly can be a little bit more complicated than expected. Follow these basic steps and you’ll soon be a pro:
1. All Sea to Summit gaiters come in a pair and feature a left and right specific gaiter. Use them accordingly.
2. Once you have the left and right sorted, locate the lower lace-hook on the bottom of each gaiter. This will be front-facing. All Sea to Summit gaiters have a front-facing hook-and-loop opening.
3. With the front closure completely opened, wrap one gaiter around the corresponding lower leg. Line up the front hook-and-loop closure, press it closed securely, and slide the whole gaiter down so the bottom meets your footwear.
4. Locate the front lace hook and engage this around the laces of your footwear. This secures the gaiter to the boot, assisting to create a seal between your footwear and the bottom of the gaiter. The better this seal, the better the resistance to rain and mud will be.
5. When fitting new gaiters, or fitting gaiters to a different pair of boots, you will need to adjust the underfoot strap as follows:
For the Quagmire + Alpine models: The underfoot strap can be tightened using the buckle positioned outside of each gaiter. The strap should fit snugly into the arch under your boot's sole.
All other models: Check the cord is passing through the small loop on each side of the bottom of the gaiter. With this cord sitting in the arch of your footwear’s sole, pull it snugly and tie as a loop. Position the knot right beside the small attachment loop on the outside of each gaiter. Use a compact but secure knot like a double fisherman's.
6. Check everything is snug and the gaiter is fitting securely. If your gaiters have a top-closure strap or cord, this can be cinched around the lower leg. Generally, this needs to be pulled tight, to stop the gaiters from slipping down your legs. A little space around the top does allow for better comfort and ventilation.
Wet weather tip: In heavy rain, wear your gaiters underneath rain shell pants. This allows the water running down the pants to run off. Otherwise, it will run down the pants, into your gaiters and your footwear.
CARING FOR AND STORING GAITERS
As with all outdoor gear, correct care and storage is essential. Gaiters are designed to be tough and durable, but some basic TLC will ensure they last longer and keep performing as intended. After use, clean any dirt from your gaiters with a brush, water and some mild soap (or specialised gear wash). Once clean, hang out the gaiters to completely air-dry before storage.