Gaiters are a useful piece of kit for walkers; keeping your feet and trousers dry, protecting your footwear and preventing your trousers from getting covered in mud. Walking gaiters are essential if you intend to traverse areas with streams or even large swathes of long wet grass.
In our guide to walking gaiters we explain what gaiters are, the various components that make up a gaiter and how to put on gaiters.
Essentially, a gaiter is a protective sleeve which covers the upper boot and (generally) the ankle and lower leg. Modern walking gaiters are made mostly from synthetic fabrics (nylon and/or Cordura®, and more recently softshell fabrics) for their tough, yet lightweight properties. Many gaiters will have a laminated membrane behind the outer fabric which improves waterproofing and breathability.
Gaiters generally come in two styles- ankle and full length.
Ankle gaiters will cover the top of the footwear and bottom of trousers. They are particularly useful to those walking in dry conditions to stop debris from entering in at the top of their footwear (think small stones, bits of twig etc.).
Off-road and fell runners might also find ankle gaiters to be valuable for the same reasons. Running gaiters however tend to be made from either softshell or neoprene and are much closer fitting than walking gaiters. They offer a good level of protection against water ingress when combined with the right footwear.
Full height gaiters are most commonplace amongst the walking community. They offer the best protection to the lower legs, not just from water and dirt but also thorns and debris. They are also ideal protection against snake bites!
Gaiters come in different sizes which are generally dictated by footwear size with bigger sizes a little more generous on the calf fitting. It is worth trying them on to make sure they fit round your legs if you have particularly large calves.
As described earlier most gaiters available today are made of synthetic materials and will either have a durable water repellent (DWR) finish applied to the outside, or a waterproof and breathable membrane laminated onto the inside (usually coupled with a DWR outer too).
Cheaper models will fasten with just Velcro, with higher spec gaiters also having zipped closures covered by a storm flap (often secured with Velcro to stop dirt from clogging up the zip).
Some of the best walking gaiters will be fastened with waterproof zips, which are often anatomically shaped. This helps ensure they open and close better and also give a better fit and feel when worn.
Most gaiters have a lace hook to secure them at the front of the boot and will be elasticated where they fit against the boot. They might also be elasticated at the ankle to give a closer fit. At the very top you will generally find a press-stud fastening and an elasticated pull-cord for tightening them.
The best gaiters (and most expensive) are starting to use a click-lock buckle fastening with an adjustable strap to prevent over tightening which can sometimes occur with the elasticated styles.
One thing that all gaiters have in common (with the exception of a few expedition style gaiters) is the stirrup strap. This rubber or nylon strap passes under the foot to secure on either side to hold the gaiter down and close to the boot, thus forming a good seal to prevent water and debris from getting inside.
The stirrup strap is adjustable and the adjustment mechanism should be located on the outside of the boot. If the strap is made of rubber once the adjustment has been made the strap can be cut. Do remember to leave a little excess for future adjustments, say if using with different boots.
The first and most important thing to do when setting up your gaiters prior to your first walk is to adjust them correctly. It’s worth doing this before you hit the trails so you don’t waste time whilst out enjoying your walks.
Maintaining a pair of gaiters is pretty straight-forward, they only require a few cursory checks prior to each use. These are to make sure the stirrup straps are in good condition (most are replaceable) and check that the zips and Velcro are in good working order.
If your gaiters have press-stud fasteners, check they aren’t filled with mud and remove any that has managed to find its way into them.
After wearing your gaiters, make sure they are packed away clean. Use warm water and either a coarse sponge or a nail brush (nothing too harsh) to remove any dirt and debris from all parts (both inside and out). Allow to dry naturally. Once dry it is useful to spray them over with a technical re-proofer to keep them in tip-top condition so they will continue to serve you for years to come.
If you’re looking for new walking boots – have a look at our walking boots guide.