Gaiters are worn to block debris, shield shins, channel runoff, and insulate. Depending on trail conditions they can be overkill or a godsend. Dive in to see our recommendations for the best hiking gaiters available in 2022 and also learn about the different types, when and how to wear them, and how to make your own.
WHAT ARE GAITERS FOR HIKING?
Gaiters for hiking are additional pieces of material that attach to your hiking shoes. The height of a gaiter can range from your ankles to just below your knees. They are designed to provide additional protection for your legs in rugged conditions. On well-traveled trails, they can be overkill. In extreme conditions, they can be essential. Briefly, gaiters help:
- Block Debris: The most common use of gaiters, especially by thru-hikers. Saves you from fishing rocks and other small debris out of your shoes.
- Shield your shins: On rocky scrambles and thorny bushwhacks, your legs can take a beating. Gaiters save from scratches and cuts by covering your lower legs.
- Channel rain runoff: Your legs act as a funnel to channel rain into your shoes. Gaiters divert the rain away. Dry feet make for a happy hiker, especially in cold conditions.
- Insulate: When trekking through snow, gaiters give your legs an extra layer of insulation from the elements.
Best Gaiters for Hiking
|Leg Gaiters for Hiking||Weight||Height||Attachment||Material||Price|
|Rab Trek Gaiter||7.2 oz||High||Hook and loop closure||70D 2L Ripstop Nylon||$50|
|Rab Latok Extreme Gaiters||8.0 oz||High||Hook and loop closure||70D Gore-Tex® Pro||$85|
|Black Diamond Apex||8.1 oz||High||Hook and loop closure||Three-layer Gore-Tex||$80|
|Ankle Gaiters for Hiking||Weight||Height||Attachment||Material||Price|
|Dirty Girl Gaiters||1.1 oz||Ankle||Velcro and hook||Spandex||$20|
|Salomon Trail Running Gaiters||2.1 oz||Ankle||Hook and loop closure||Polyester||$28|
|Mid Gaiters for Hiking||Weight||Height||Attachment||Material||Price|
|Outdoor research Ferrosi Thru Gaiters||2.1 oz||Mid||Undershoe strap and shoelace hook||Nylon and spandex||$40|
|Kathoola RENAGaiter - Mid||3.7 oz (S/M), 4.1 oz (L/XL)||Mid||Underfoot strap and side zipper||Nylon and polyurethane||$60|
|REI Co-op Backpacker Low||6.5 oz||Mid||Hook and loop closure||Nylon||$45|
|Snake Gaiters for Hiking||Weight||Height||Attachment||Material||Price|
|Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiters||10.2 oz||High||Hook and loop closure||3-layer Gore-Tex nylon||$90|
Leg Gaiters for Hiking
Rab Trek Gaiter
Weight: 7.2 ounces
Attachment: Hook and loop closure
Material: 70D 2L Ripstop Nylon
Why we like it: Affordably priced high gaiter for moderate off-trail conditions.
The Rab Trek gaiter is the most affordably priced and lightest high gaiter on our list. The DWR-treated nylon fabric keeps the elements out to a reasonable extent. The zippered sides add extra protection to snow out, even if the velcro fails. Durability is the biggest drawback to the Rab Trek. For that reason, we think these gaiters are best suited for moderate off-trail conditions. If you need something more robust, the Rab Extreme gaiters are worth the extra cost and minimal weight penalty.Available at Amazon
Rab Latok Extreme Gaiters
Weight: 8.0 ounces
Attachment: Hook and loop closure
Material: 70D Gore-Tex® Pro
Why we like it: Superior protection and breathability without the bulk.
The Rab Latok Extreme gaiters are a shining example of how far outdoor wear tech has progressed. These babies are a beauty. Not only do they rock a sleek design, but they are also extremely high functioning and completely waterproof.
The eVent outer layer and Watergate back panel of the Latok Extremes offer a rare combination of excellent breathability and exceptional waterproofing. Despite the breathability and lightweight, they manage to protect your legs against cold, snow and wet just as well as much bulkier models. Big protection without the bulk? Yes, please.
The Latok Extremes slip on easily once you’ve adjusted the instep strap to your liking, which is attached to the inside of the gaiter via a velcro patch. The instep strap itself is rubberized, thick, and built to last.
The main front entry is also velcro sealed, with an adjustable cinch at the top. There’s a bootlace hook on the front to secure the bottom end of your boots. A flexible strip of polymer keeps the fit tight against your footwear in the back.
These high gaiters are meant to fit over lower volume hiking boots, with a more snug fit than traditional bulky and loose mountaineering gaiters. It’s hard to imagine a pair this strong be more versatile and comfier than the Rab Latok Extremes.
Black Diamond Apex
Weight: 8.1 ounces
Attachment: Hook and loop closure
Material: Three-layer Gore-Tex
Why we like it: Our favorite cold-weather option. Thick, durable, and high-sided. Perfect for snowshoeing and winter hiking.
If you want a high-performance gaiter for cold weather the Apex GTX is for you. The thick, ultra-durable, three-layer Gore-Tex provides insulation from snow, ice, and abrasions from rocks. They are waterproof, even providing protection during stream crossings. However, the thick fabric is stiff, making them less comfortable than more breathable models. They can also be fiddly to put on, but they stay securely in place once they are. Although they are on the heavier side, in tough winter conditions they can’t be beaten.
Ankle Gaiters for Hiking
Dirty Girl Gaiters
Weight: 1.1 ounces
Attachment: Velcro and hook
Why we like it: An ultralight, inexpensive option to keep debris out of your shoes. A vast array of flamboyant designs.
A thru-hiking favorite and, despite the name, Dirty Girl Gaiters are not just for women. At 1 per pair, these ultralight gaiters won’t add much weight or space to your load. Combine that with the soft, stretchy lycra spandex fabric, and it’s easy to forget you’re wearing them at all.
One thing that sets Dirty Girl apart from other ultralight and running brands is their array of colorful and often flamboyant designs. Zebra print, neon camo, and tie-dye printed gaiters - you name it. They also carry a few more muted designs (like plain black) if you’re not wanting to turn heads.
Note that the fabric isn’t water repellent. These are best for keeping out sand, dirt, rocks, and other debris during fair weather hikes and runs—but not rain or cold.
In the front, there’s a hook that attaches to your shoelace. The stretchy fabric slips over your feet and secures to your shoelace with a hook. One of the best things is that there is not a traditional under-the-heel strap. Instead, Dirty Girls secure to the back of your shoe heels with a self-adhesive velcro patch. This alternative securing method can kind of stink considering the velcro is permanent. Make sure you place it well… and don’t need to use those shoes for a fashion show.
All Dirty Girl models are low gaiters, reaching up to about mid-ankle. They’re sized according to men's and women’s shoe sizes, with a length between 6.5” and 7.5” from the bottom to the top seam.
Salomon Trail Running Gaiters
Weight: 2.1 ounces
Attachment: Hook and loop closure
Why we like it: Can be put on without removing your shoes. Thicker, water-resistant fabric acts as a light ankle brace.
Salomon’s Trail Running Gaiters have a super easy-to-use, single velcro strap on the front and a thicker than-average instep strap for additional security.
The rip and stick entry means that you can put them on without taking off your shoes - a uniquely awesome feature for low gaiters. Ahhh, yes… easy on and off! That speed and ease is super useful on the trail.
The upper part is a comfortable, breathable nylon, and the lower strap is a well-gripped rubber. Though these Salmon's are thicker than most, they don’t have an irritating or chafing quality on the ankle. The fabric is also more water-resistant than other competitors and keeps very cool.
Another unique feature to note about the Salomon Trail Running gaiters: the full strap-and-wrap design provides a bit of support and can almost act like an ankle brace on its own. For this level of support, I love how light and easy these are.
Mid Gaiters for Hiking
Outdoor Research Ferrosi Thru Gaiters
Weight: 2.1 ounces
Attachment: Undershoe strap and shoelace hook
Material: Nylon and spandex
Why we like it: Ultralight mid-length gaiters are ideal for fastpacking when you need extra protection.
The Ferrosi Thru gaiters offer a mid-height gaiter at an impressively light 2.1 ounces. They feature 10 inches of protection for your legs and a DWR finish to keep you dry. The nylon and spandex mix of fabrics allows for stretching with movement, making them a comfortable option. The top cinch and undershoe strap perform well to hold the gaiters up. However, the under-shoe strap means they fit best with hiking shoes with a slight arch. As with many ultralight products, durability is an issue.
Kathoola RENAGaiter - Mid
Weight: 3.7 ounces (S/M) | 4.1 ounces (L/XL)
Attachment: Underfoot strap and side zipper
Material: Nylon and polyurethane
Why we like it: Side zippers provide an easy on and off. The durable and replaceable underfoot strap lasts longer than other models.
The RENAGaiter features a breathable nylon construction with a DWR finish to keep water out. A major plus to these gaiters is the side zippers. They allow you to put the gaiters on and off without removing your shoes.
Kahtoola focused on making the underfoot strap extra durable with rock guard protection and a 1,000-mile warranty. Even better, the strap is easily replaceable. Like other underfoot straps, it doesn’t perform as well with flat-soled shoes. Take care to zipper the zips fully or else the gaiters can slide down during use.
REI Co-op Backpacker Low
Weight: 6.5 ounces
Attachment: Hook and loop closure
Why we like it: Good all around, affordable option for summer and winter use.
Don’t let the “low” name deceive you, these are actually mid-height gaiters. Square in the middle of the pack for most performance categories, the REI Low gaiters are a well-rounded model for those wanting one do-it-all pair. The nylon fabric is waterproof and thicker at the ankles to offer extra protection. The velcro closure runs the length of the gaiter for easy on and off. At 6.5 ounces they are the heaviest mid-height gaiters on our list. But the affordable price point makes these a solid buy.
Best Snake Gaiters for Hiking
Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiters
Weight: 10.2 ounces
Attachment: Hook and loop closure
Material: 3-layer Gore-Tex nylon
Why we like it: The toughest gaiters on our list. The ultimate protection in the most extreme conditions.
Outdoor Research’s Crocodile Gaiters are a rather iconic model. They have been a bestseller for over a decade. Don’t think these are outdated though. Constant tweaks and updates keep the Crocodile’s relevant and top-notch.
Made to fit over hiking boots, these high gaiters are designed for some of the toughest backcountry terrains. Really… feel free to walk comfortably in the Crocodiles through the thickest thorns and sharpest rocks you can find.
A heavy-duty triple-layer Gore-tex fabric makes these gaiters highly insulated, with enough waterproofing to trek through deep snow without soaking through. The outer layer sheds any water it comes in contact with.
These are front entries with a rip-and-stick velcro holding them shut and a cam buckle top closure. There’s also a bootlace hook. The instep strap is sturdy and built to last with 1000D nylon fabric (that is thick!), able to withstand heavy crampon abuse.
The Crocodiles keep out debris well, provided that you wear them with the right footwear. They’re intended to be worn with heavy-duty mountain boots, so wearing them with low ankle shoes can leave a gap for debris to slip into. The Crocodiles are also the heaviest on this list and not designed for any sort of fastpacking or ultralight backpacking.
High Gaiters (left): Best for extreme and rough conditions - bushwhacking off trail, snow post-holing, etc.
- Shin height, sometimes up to the knee. Usually designed to be worn over boots rather than shoes.
- Heavy and often waterproof.
- Hardshell and rugged to protect against snow, ice, rock or heavy bush.
Mid Gaiters (middle): Best all-in-one gaiters. Offer basic protection in rough, wet conditions while still being flexible and breathable.
- Shin height. Can be worn over both trail running shoes or heavier hiking boots.
- Mid-weight with a balance of waterproofing and breathability.
- Flexible material gives protection against rocks and snow.
Low Gaiters (right): Best for most backpacking and trail running - sandy, muddy or debris-heavy trail.
- Ankle height, typically under a foot tall.
- Lightweight and breathable.
- Keep out trail debris without inhibiting movement.
Height and material used have the biggest impacts on a gaiter's weight. The higher the gaiter, the more material used. Thin, lightweight materials are used for warm and mild conditions. Gaiters designed for extreme conditions use durable, heavier materials. As a starting point, here are approximate weights for each type.
- Ankle Gaiters: ~2 ounces
- Mid Gaiters: ~4 ounces
- High Gaiters: ~8 ounces
Comfort is a mix of the following factors:
- Materials: Lighter materials like spandex are flexible and stretchy providing maximum comfort. More rigid materials increase protection but can feel very stiff.
- Seal: If gaiters don’t seal well debris will get into your shoes. When testing, make sure they stay sealed in all ankle and foot positions.
- Attachments: Gaiters attach to your shoe and around your leg. As your body parts move independently from each other the gaiter will need to flex. If a gaiter is too tight it can cause uncomfortable rubbing or even chafing.
All gaiters must be breathable to prevent rubbing and chafing from sweaty feet or legs. A lightweight fabric like spandex is the most breathable and our pick for warm weather hiking. In colder or wet conditions, thicker Gore-Tex material is waterproof while still providing breathability.
You want them to slip on and off easily. You might want to take your shoes off and wade across the creek, have a blister in between your toes, or just want to let your feet breathe at lunch. Whatever the case, you need to have easy access to your feet. This is why the ease of entry is so important.
Most high gaiters are “stepped into” like a leg cast. Make sure the heel strap is in place on your boot… and then zip (or velcro) it up. I vote front entry (instead of rear) because you can actually see what you are looking at.
Most low gaiters utilize a stretchy material (kind of like the old school book covers) that you slip your foot into before you put on your shoes. Think of it like a skirt… for your ankle.
Strap and Hook: Beyond getting them on, you want to make sure they are secure.
Again, keep it fast and easy. Most gaiters secure themselves to your shoe via some sort of hook attachment on your laces and under the bottom of the shoe via some sort of strap. Some low gaiters do not have the under-the-heel strap at all and require you to tape a piece of velcro on the back of your heel.
Just like placing your boot into the stirrup of a horse saddle, the instep strap of gaiters wraps around the bottom of your shoe or boot to keep the lower end in place. Some models use simple laces or bungees. Some use more durable synthetics or leather for instep straps. I vote for light, thin and strong laces. You don’t want anything thick that will make consistent and direct contact with the ground.
The materials of your gaiters affect the overall weight, as well as the amount of insulation, breathability, and waterproofing they provide. Materials play a big role in the level of comfort and performance you’ll get out of them.
- Nylon: Rugged, abrasion-resistant, and used for high gaiters (we'll explain in a sec). Thickness and weight can vary drastically. Typically, the top portion of mountaineering-style high gaiters is a waterproof or water-resistant material. The bottom is tougher - designed to shield more frequent ice, rock, and brush abrasion.
- Spandex: Yes, the same glam material from 80’s workout videos. Spandex is super stretchy and flexible... and lightweight. Not going to provide a lot of protection, but enough to keep out trail debris.
If you’re planning on encountering snow, wet conditions, or river crossings waterproofing is key. Nylon fabrics offer a minimal level of waterproofing. Best for short hikes, damp undergrowth, or light rain. Gore-Tex, an industry-leading waterproof membrane, is best for extended rains, river crossings, and snow travel.
The most robust gaiters can be thick enough to protect against snake bites. These large, armor-like, gaiters only make sense when hiking in areas with thick undergrowth where snakes might be hiding. On well-traveled trails, snakes can be avoided by keeping an eye, and an ear, out.
Some gaiters come with insect repellent pre-applied. Insect Shield® and permethrin are common repellents used. Use gaiters treated with insect repellent in areas with high tick and mosquito activity. If your gaiters don’t come with insect protection you can apply it at home. Read our how-to guide for more info.
Top closures, a strap or toggle on the upper part of the gaiter, are an important feature for cold weather and wet hiking. A dedicated top closure ensures the gaiters remain snugly in place to keep out water, snow, and ice.
How to wear gaiters for hiking?
To wear gaiters for hiking, each pair of gaiters will vary slightly on how to wear. In general, these are the steps to put on gaiters.
Salomon Trail Running Gaiters' full strap-and-wrap design
- Step into the gaiter with the strap buckle facing the outside of your foot. This minimizes the chance of kicking the buckle with your other foot while hiking.
- Ensure the bottom strap sits underneath the arch of your foot.
- Adjust internal strapping, if applicable.
- Close the velcro or zipper running the length of your gaiter.
- Tighten the top closures to hold the gaiters on your legs.
- Adjust any other snaps, zippers, or buckles your gaiters may have.
- Hike on!
How to make gaiters for hiking?
You can make your own gaiters with stretch nylon or polyester material, velcro, and a couple of hooks.
- Step 1: Make the pattern. Generally, gaiters are one size fits all, but tweak to your size if needed.
- Step 2: Cut the fabric.
- Step 3: Hem and sew the edges to avoid fraying.
- Step 4: Reinforce the tips by adding another piece of fabric. Most of the strain on the gaiters is on this point. Make sure to sew solidly.
- Step 5: Attach the hooks and velcro.
A full guide can be found here.
📸 Some photos in this post were taken by Dana Felthauser