Imagine this: the sun has just risen and is beginning to shine bright and golden. You spin around, arms stretched towards the sky, in a mountain meadow densely covered with colourful blossoming flowers and herbs. This outdoor dream world, which could have come straight out of an 1950s home movie, would probably reach an inglorious conclusion in harsh reality. Your trouser legs would be soaked from the dew that has formed on the meadow overnight, your socks would not be any better and a tick would probably have sneaked into the inside of your trousers.
Oh, of course, you forgot your gaiters! Whether you’re hiking through an Alpine panorama, mountaineering or trekking, outdoor gaiters are a must. Here’s a little advice on buying gaiters so that you’re prepared and can dance across the mountain meadow without getting your trousers soaked.
How gaiters work and where they’re used
Okay, we’ve all heard the word gaiters, but what does it have to do with our favourite outdoor hobby? Simply put, gaiters are a waterproof extension of shoes that – depending on the model – cover the lower leg and sometimes extend over the knee area. They’re handy whenever high shoes or boots are too warm or impractical or waterproof trousers are out of the question.
A regular gaiter is strapped under the boot with a robust strap system and hooked into the lacing with hooks for extra support. The side has a full-length zip, hook and loop fastener or lacing with a waterproof storm flap so that the whole thing can be put on and taken off easily. A drawstring at the top keeps it snug and also prevents the gaiter from slipping down.
If everything is put on properly, gaiters keep your feet and trouser legs effectively dry, whether on rainy, muddy tours or in deep snow. They also prevent dirt and small stones from getting into the shoes on hikes. Who likes annoying bits and pieces in their shoe? The additional gaiter layer made of resistant material also protects the trouser fabric and your legs from sneaky thorns, rock edges and small branches.
Gaiters also provide protection against the pest mentioned at the beginning of this article – the tick. Once you’ve attached a pair of gaiters to your shoes, the little beasts have no chance of getting under your clothes. This is a precaution that should not be overlooked, especially in TBE risk areas. These protective tubes for the legs are therefore really versatile!
What must gaiters be capable of?
In the past, gaiters were made of simple felt or leather, but today they are true functional beasts made of technically efficient and functional fabrics. So what should you look out for when buying gaiters? First of all, the most important and obvious thing, the gaiters should be waterproof. That much is obvious. On athletic and demanding tours, you could also opt for breathable inserts. After all, having the best moisture protection on the outside is only of limited use if you get soaked with sweat from the inside.
When the going gets particularly tough, for example during mountaineering or winter sports, ventilation options provide the necessary cooling as required. In temperatures below freezing, good insulation is key. If you are often out and about at dusk or in fog, or if you use the gaiters for cycling, reflective elements will improve your visibility.
Gaiters are exposed to numerous stresses in everyday outdoor use. Whether it’s thorns, branches, rock or crampons, the material is really put to the test. Durable fabrics and additional material reinforcements in high-wear areas increase the durability and protect hiking and rain boots from all kinds of damage. Last but not least, but one of the most important: a secure fastening option. Good gaiters must fit tightly and securely to the leg and shoe to be able to provide the adequate protection against moisture and dirt. The width of modern gaiters is adjustable and they can be fixed securely to shoes with neoprene straps, underfoot straps or buckles.
Which gaiters for which purpose?
Now we know what good gaiters have to be able to do. But which are the right ones for your next tour? Don’t worry, we can solve this quickly. For long distances, we recommend hiking gaiters, as you can probably guess. This is not really a sub-type, but rather a variant that is particularly suitable for hillwalking. They should be as lightweight as possible so as not to weigh down the foot unnecessarily on long slogs.
A low cut provides more freedom of movement. For alpine tours or winter hikes, the protective gaiters should be as high-quality as possible. When it comes to deep snow, gaiters that only reach just above the ankle are not very helpful. Breathable inserts and ventilation options should also be part of the package. Expedition gaiters are the ideal partner for extreme conditions. They are indispensable for mountaineering, ice tours and expedition mountaineering. They usually have insulating foam and are specially designed for use with crampon-compatible trekking boots.
Special bike gaiters keep you dry on cycling tours. These outdoor gaiters often provide a cover for the entire shoe, which ensures complete protection against moisture. This means that splashing rain and mud cannot get into or onto your shoes.
Reflective details ensure that you can be seen better by other road users. As you can see, gaiters are neither a thing of the past nor some useless accessory that just gathers dust in your equipment cupboard. Whether you’re looking for styles for hillwalking, cycling or alpine use, once you’ve found your perfect pair, your feet and legs will stay dry as a bone. And uninvited guests such as sharp stones, dust or insects will also stay where they belong, outside.