What are Hiking Gaiters, and Do I Need Them?

What are Hiking Gaiters, and Do I Need Them?
Figure 1: Gaiters are used with pants and shoes

What are hiking gaiters? What’s the point? Are hiking gaiters useful for me? So many questions that we ask ourselves when someone tells us about these famous hiking gaiters! Often used for racehorses, they have now conquered the trail section of most specialist stores.

To understand their interest and their importance, we are going to go around the question together!

What Are Hiking Gaiters?

By definition, gaiters are parts affixed to the junction of the shoe and the bottom of the pants.

One Piece Affixed to the Pants

Gaiters are therefore neither a garment strictly speaking nor a tool but a piece that is placed at the junction of your shoes and the bottom of your pants. They then come to offer protection to the most vulnerable place: the feet and the ankle.

There is no standard model for gaiters, which is why you will find models that attach with zips, others with a zipper as in figure 1, or even certain models with buckles of the belt.

A Wide Variety of Materials

Whether for horses or for hiking, gaiters are pieces that can be made from many materials. Until a century ago, they were mostly made of leather. But from the middle of the 20th century, their typology began to diversify. Today you will find gaiters made of plastic, polyester or cotton!

More than a utilitarian piece, the gaiter now has many styles to suit everyone. Closing parts, such as buckles, are offered in pewter, stainless steel, or iron to vary the tones and aesthetics of the product.

Models With Variable Lengths

Hiking gaiters today are produced in many sizes to match various gear. For example, Salomon low-rise gaiters will fit most low-rise hiking shoes!

The vast majority of hiking gaiters available on the market are (like the Millet model) mid-rise. That is to say, they go up to the calf in order to be well attached around the leg. It is these gaiters that are most used by hikers.

What are Hiking Gaiters, and Do I Need Them?
Figure 2: High-waisted hiking gaiters

High-waisted hiking gaiters are often used when maximum protection is required. Rising to the knee, they are effective but can hinder movement and slow down your walking pace.

The Usefulness of Hiking Gaiters

Now that we have seen the appearance of gaiters as well as the different sizes available in the market, it is necessary to focus on the multiple protections they offer. In other words, what do hiking gaiters protect against?

Protection Against Rain and Snow

We had already addressed the unfortunate subject of humidity in several of our articles, such as the one dealing with snowshoeing or how to prevent foot blisters. Humidity and water are discomfort factors while walking and can be the cause of many ailments.

The water that we have in our shoes enters by streaming effect along our pants then it enters directly by the top of the shoe. The gaiters, which come to close this risk zone, precisely make it possible to prevent the penetration of water into the shoes, whether the latter is in the form of liquid or snow.

Protection Against External Objects

What are Hiking Gaiters, and Do I Need Them?
Figure 3: Hiking gaiters protect against external objects

Humidity is not the only problem encountered during a hike. Mud and light sediments such as dust and sand are all exhaustion factors if they manage to penetrate your shoe.

New models of gaiters, which are better tied around the ankle, are intended to prevent this sediment from getting under your feet. Thanks to the gaiters, you gain comfort during your walk and drastically reduce the risk of injury during the hike.

By eliminating open spaces, the gaiters also prevent the stones present in large numbers on certain mountain trails from entering the shoe. The gaiters can then be very useful protective pieces for climbing mountains or walking on stony paths.

Other Beneficial Effects

More broadly, each model of the gaiter is designed to meet a specific need. You will therefore find warm and very breathable models when other models are waterproof. Overall, hiking gaiters increase the lifespan of your hiking shoes and especially your laces since they are protected from bad weather and humidity.

Your hiking socks, which are no longer soiled by sediment or permanently wet by rain, have fewer holes. As for your pants, they also gain longevity since the bottom is protected against rain and mud.

Even if the effect is minimal, wearing hiking gaiters in summer can protect you against tick bites and therefore against Lyme disease by closing access to your legs!

Contexts of Use of Hiking Gaiters

When should you wear gaiters when hiking? This is the question that all hiking enthusiasts ask themselves before equipping themselves. We even wonder if hiking gaiters are really useful when we decide to tackle a long distance.

You will certainly be disappointed but there is no definitive and firm answer to this question! It actually depends on your walking preferences and your protection needs.

To find out, you will need to have some hiking experience. It is when you find yourself faced with a problem that you will realize that the gaiters would have been useful to you. They can be particularly interesting if you walk on muddy paths and strewn with puddles of water.

Unfortunately, sometimes you step into a shallow puddle, then gaiters can be the protection. These will save you from blisters on your foot. They are very interesting when you can’t stand the stiffness of rain pants. Affixed to your ankle, you won’t get water in the shoes and keep your walking agility.

They are also beneficial in the context of snowshoeing as the snow climbs to the top of the ankle. In the event of a poor choice of socks in the middle of winter, they are useful for keeping your ankle and feet warm. It is then up to you to find the model adapted to your sport (hiking, mountaineering, snowshoeing) and your preferences!

The verdict

Hiking gaiters are now on the rise! They are available in many models and in three sizes: low, medium and high. Gaiters are a piece that closes the space between the shoe and the pants. They keep the ankle warm and protect the foot against many problems encountered by the hiker: sand, stones, rain and snow.

They of course indirectly limit the appearance of blisters on the foot and reduce the premature aging of hiking socks, shoe laces and trousers. Waterproof and warm gaiters are useful in almost any walking context. They are interesting for all seasons and in all weathers. In short, they adapt to your personal sports practice, your morphology, and your needs in terms of protection.

Why deprive yourself of such hiking equipment?

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