Best Gaiters For Hiking

Best Gaiters for Hiking: Top 5 of 2021

Hiking can present you with a range of different terrain types. You might find yourself traversing snow, dust, grit and water all in one day.

A great way to keep unwanted elements away from your feet is by wearing gaiters. However, you need to find the right pair if you want to maximize protection.

In this article, we have reviewed and compared the best gaiters for hiking. Our aim is to make sure your feet remain dry and comfortable in the outdoors; allowing you to gain maximum enjoyment from your time on the trail.

Ranking The Best Gaiters For Hiking

  1. Outdoor Research Crocodile
  2. Black Diamond Apex GTX
  3. Kahtoola INSTAgaiter Mid
  4. Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low
  5. Altra Trail Gaiter

Best Hiking Gaiters Comparison

Name

Price

Overview

Seriously durable and weatherproof gaiters that can handle anything you throw at them

Rugged and warm winter hiking gaiters with superb weather protection

Easy-to-use hiking gaiters with a classic design that will last for many years

Lightweight and adaptable gaiters with a secure fit and great protection

Lightweight and snug fitting gaiters that will suit minimalist hikers and trail runners

Best For

Overall

Winter/Alpine

Day-Hiking

Versatility

Minimalist

Pros

Waterproof, durable, secure fit, easy entry, warm, adapts to most boot shapes

Durable, waterproof, warm, protective lower panel, reliable attachment

Easy entry, durable, simple design, good value for money, relatively breathable

Adaptable, versatile, lightweight, DWR water-resistance, reliable debris protection

Lightweight, comfortable, flexible, easy-to-use, secure fitting, keep out debris, packable

Cons

Heavy, not so breathable

Can feel tight and restrictive

Not fully waterproof, baggy fit

Durability issues

Not waterproof, not so durable

Overall Rating

Material

Gore-Tex, Cordura Nylon

3-layer Gore-Tex

420D Nylon

Stretch Nylon, Polyester

82% Nylon, 18% Spandex

Weight (pair)

12.1oz (343g)

8.1oz (230g)

4.8oz (136g)

2.3oz (66g)

2.6oz (74g)

Height

17in (43cm)

13in (33cm)

9.5in (24cm)

8in (20cm)

6.5in (17cm)

Why Do I Need The Best Hiking Gaiters?

Hiking with dust, dirt and debris in your boots is never fun. It can lead to aggravation, discomfort and blisters that could ruin your adventure.

Similarly, it’s important to make sure water doesn’t enter your boots. Having wet feet is not ideal when you’re on the trail and can seriously detract from your experience.

The easiest way to negate these issues is by wearing a pair of gaiters. By covering the ‘shaft’ portion of your boot with tough fabric, they are a great way to keep out the elements.

The amount of gaiters on the market can often feel overwhelming. With so many designs, styles and materials to choose from; it can be hard to find a suitable product.

However, with this guide to the best gaiters for hiking, you’re sure to find a pair that suit your style.

Best Gaiters For Hiking
A good pair of gaiters can provide great weather protection

How To Choose The Best Gaiters For Hiking

Gaiter Height

Gaiters come in a range of different heights that each offer a varying out amount of protection. Anyone heading off trail or facing alpine weather may look for a taller gaiter, while day-hikes on trodden trails might only require ankle coverage.

Gaiters can generally be split into three height categories:

  • Knee-High: By covering your entire lower leg, they provide maximum protection. If you’re facing deep snow or plan on bushwhacking through wet and rugged terrain; these are a great choice.
  • Mid-Calf: This gaiter will provide a medium level of protection by covering the bottom half of your lower leg. They are generally around 10 inches in height and are great for keeping out rain, dust and debris.
  • Over-The-Ankle: Sitting not far above your ankles; these lightweight gaiters provide minimal protection. However, they work great for summer hikers looking to keep debris away from their boots.

Material

The material your gaiters are made from will dictate their warmth, water-resistance, fit and feel. Each one has benefits that are suited to a different type of hiker.

  •  Nylon & Polyester: These synthetic materials are incredibly popular thanks to their lightweight durability and water-resistance. Due to their limited breathability; you will most frequently find them in winter hiking gaiters that are designed to keep you dry.
  • Gore-Tex: Anyone heading into seriously wet terrain will be happy with Gore-Tex. It’s a fabric that has proven waterproofing, windproofing and durability. It’s breathability is often superior to nylon or polyester, but it can still leave you feeling warm during the summer.
  • Elastane, Spandex & Lycra: A great choice for anyone looking for a secure fitting gaiter. Despite providing limited water-resistance, they are great at keeping out rocks and debris during summer hikes. These lightweight materials are often preferred by trail runners.

Water-Resistance

The amount of water-resistance you require is dependent on the conditions you most regularly face.

  • Fully waterproof gaiters are often made from nylon, polyester or Gore-Tex. They are ideal for anyone facing heavy rain or deep snow, but often lack breathability.
  • Water-resistant gaiters are sufficient for most hikers. They are capable of withstanding the light-medium rainfall on winter trails. Nylon and polyester are the most common water-resistant fabrics.
  • Gaiters without water-resistance will often be made from stretchy materials, such as spandex or lycra. Despite performing poorly when wet, they have the breathability that summer hikers require.

It’s always worth noting that water-resistance often compromises breathability. If you’re only planning on hiking in the heat, be sure to find some ventilated gaiters rather than a waterproof product.

Practical Features

Hiking gaiters come in a variety of different designs. Each one has a range of features that aim to maximize comfort, practicality and performance.

  • Front entry is a closure system used by most knee-high gators. It allows you to easily take them on and off without the need to remove your shoes. The closure is often completed using a zipper.
  • Instep straps are used to secure the gaiters to your feet. It’s a strap that wraps around the underside of your foot or hiking boot. Some will be made from stretchy elastic, while others will use more ‘heavy duty’ fabrics.
  • Top closure usually comes in two varieties. Smaller and lighter gaiters often use an elastic drawcord that can be cinched. Tougher gaiters might use strap and buckle closure for added security.
  • Lace hooks are sometimes used to secure gaiters to your boot laces. In general, they will be used in conjunction with instep straps.
Best Gaiters For Hiking
Gaiters are incredibly popular amongst snow trekkers

Best Overall Hiking Gaiters

Outdoor Research Crocodile

Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiters

Dust/Debris Protection

Comfort

Ease Of Attachment

Water Resistance

Breathability

Durability

Weight

Overall

In recent decades, Outdoor Research have gained a reputation within the hiking community for producing top-quality gear. In making the Crocodile, they have proven that they know how to make durable pair of gaiters that can provide protection from any weather.

The gaiters use a 3-layer Gore-Tex laminate outer layer that provides complete protection from rain, snow and moisture. Cordura nylon fabric has also been used in typical ‘wear and tear’ places to improve durability and longevity.

The easy-entry system allows for hook and loop closure, with a front entry point that makes them simple to attach in any conditions. The beefy instep strap is incredibly durable and designed to fit alpine and mountaineering boots of all sizes.

The overall performance and quality of the Outdoor Research Crocodile made it a clear winner upon review. The heavy-duty durability and truly waterproof design performs superbly in winter hiking scenarios.

Pros

  • Highly durable
  • Fully waterproof
  • Warm
  • Easy-to-use
  • Reliable instep strap
  • Fit any boot size
  • Feels secure

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Expensive
  • Not breathable enough in hot weather

Best Winter/Alpine Hiking Gaiters

Black Diamond Apex GTX

Black Diamond Apex GTX Gaiters

Dust/Debris Protection

Comfort

Ease Of Attachment

Water Resistance

Breathability

Durability

Weight

Overall

Black Diamond are well-known for producing quality alpine gear for skiers and hikers alike. This prowess means it’s no surprise to see their Apex GTX gaiters providing the best winter peak bagging performance upon review.

The heavy-duty design uses typically reliable 3-layer Gore-Tex that is capable of protecting you from rain, sleet and snow. The design also proved incredibly warm, durable and capable of coping with the abrasions caused during snowy ascents.

The lower part of the gaiter has been double-welded for improved durability and increased protection from snow. In addition, the underfoot strap and attachment points are prepared for serious usage in harsh conditions without showing any wear.

Anyone looking for a heavy-duty gaiter for long alpine slogs can’t go wrong with the Black Diamond Apex GTX. Its incredible durability, waterproofing and snow-protection make it the perfect choice for winter adventures.

Pros

  • Superb waterproofing
  • Very durable
  • Warm
  • Great snow protection
  • Abrasion-resistant lower portion
  • Fits large mountaineering boots
  • Reasonable weight for a mountain gaiter

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Feels tight and restrictive
  • Not so easy to adjust and enter

Best Day-Hiking Gaiters

Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low

Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Hiking Gaiters

Dust/Debris Protection

Comfort

Ease Of Attachment

Water Resistance

Breathability

Durability

Weight

Overall

Most ‘run of the mill’ day-hikers require a reliable gaiter that’s easy-to-use and sensibly priced. Thankfully, the Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low provides all of these attributes.

The ‘low’ version we have recommended uses a mid-calf design that provides ample protection from damp grass and dusty debris. Despite not being fully waterproof, the 420D nylon fabric is capable of keeping light rain at bay and provides a certain level of breathability.

The ‘one size fits all’ design feels comfortable for all boot shapes and felt secure at all times. In addition, the simplicity of attachment via a large lace hook and adaptable elastic straps is ideal for the average weekend trail warrior.

Overall, the Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain has predictably good performance across a variety of metrics. Its tried and trusted design will get the job done in most weather conditions without causing too much fuss.

Pros

  • Easy entry and exit
  • Decent durability
  • Water-resistant
  • Relatively breathable
  • Simple and intuitive design
  • Good debris protection
  • Time-tested reliability

Cons

  • Not fully waterproof
  • Fit can be baggy for some
  • Not heavy-duty enough for snow

Best Versatile Hiking Gaiters

Kahtoola INSTAgaiter Mid

Kahtoola INSTAgaiter Mid Gaiters
  • Weight: 2.3oz. (66g)
  • Material: Stretch Nylon, Polyester
  • Height: 8in (20cm)
  • Retailers: Amazon
  • Alternate Models: LEVAgaiter Mid GTX

Dust/Debris Protection

Comfort

Ease Of Attachment

Water Resistance

Breathability

Durability

Weight

Overall

Kahtoola are becoming well-known as a brand thanks to their performance orientated alpine traction systems. However, the INSTAgaiter mid proves that they’re capable of producing products that can perform in all conditions.

The mid-calf design offers superb protection from dust and debris thanks to its snug fit. We were also pleasantly surprised by the level of water-resistance offered for a light and flexible gaiter.

The conforming shape and light weight of the INSTAgaiter makes it a hit for trail runners and speed hikers alike. In addition, it’s relatively easy-to-use thanks to a classic toe hook, zipper and cinch design.

If you’re looking for a ‘jack of all trades’ gaiter, the Kahtoola INSTAgaiter is probably your best bet. Light and breathable yet capable in wet weather, it’s a great addition to your hiking gear collection.

Pros

  • Great debris protection
  • Decent water-resistance
  • Lightweight
  • Breathable
  • Secure enough for trail running
  • Easy entry
  • Replaceable instep straps

Cons

  • Not the most durable option
  • Ankle fit too tight for some

Best Minimalist Hiking Gaiters

Altra Trail Gaiter

Altra Trail Gaiter
  • Weight: 2.6oz. (74g)
  • Material: 82% Nylon, 18% Spandex
  • Height: 6.5in (17cm)
  • Retailers: Amazon
  • Alternate Models: N/A

Dust/Debris Protection

Comfort

Ease Of Attachment

Water Resistance

Breathability

Durability

Weight

Overall

Altra are a brand that’s best known for their trail running gear. However, we found their Trail Gaiter also provides outstanding performance for fast and light hikers.

The over-the-ankle design is as comfortable and flexible as you should expect from a trail running gaiter. By using a combination of nylon and spandex, they make for a comforming fit that leaves no space for dust or debris to enter.

The use of nylon also improves the Trail Gaiter’s water-resistance, which we found capable of coping with light splashes on wetter trails. Another strong suit was ease-of-use, with the simple attachment design perfect for impatient backpackers.

If you’re an ultralight backpacker or just love the occasional trail run, we highly recommend the Altra Trail Gaiter. Its reliable design, comfortable fit and decent protection make it suitable for a range of outdoor activities.

Pros

  • Comfortable fit
  • Easy-to-use
  • Flexible design
  • Good debris protection
  • Decent water-resistance
  • Packable and pocketable
  • Feels secure

Cons

  • Lacking long-term durability
  • Not fully waterproof
  • Shoe velcro needed for attachment

Summing Up

If your feet are cold, wet and uncomfortable; it can seriously detract from your outdoor experience. However, the best gaiters for hiking have got you covered.

Every product in our comparison is more than capable of performing on the trail. Take the time to read our product reviews and asses the various pros and cons of each option.

Each gaiter is best suited to a different hiking scenario, so make sure you select the one that suits your style.