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Best Gaiters for Hiking and Backpacking

Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiters
Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiters are high gaiters used to keep your socks dry

What are the best gaiters for hiking? It depends on the conditions you hike in. High gaiters are used in winter to keep your socks dry while low gaiters are used in warm weather to keep debris out of your boots and hiking shoes.

High Gaiters

High gaiters are used for snowshoeing and winter hiking to prevent your legs and socks from getting wet. These are usually made with a breathable fabric like Gore-tex and are sized large so they’ll fit around insulated hiking boots. The have a strap that runs underneath them and often have a front hook that attaches to your shoelaces or a gaiter ring on top of your boot’s toe box. The best high gaiters close in front of your boots with a strip of velcro, since zippers tend to break more frequently.

The best high gaiters are Outdoor Research Crocodiles. Guaranteed for life (Outdoor Research will replace them if they fall apart), they’re bomber tough and used by all serious winter hikers and mountaineers.

Other popular high gaiters include:

Dirty Girl Gaiters
Dirty Girl Gaiters

Low Gaiters

Low gaiters are designed to keep sticks, pebbles, and small debris from getting into your shoes, to protect from thorns, or against disease carrying ticks. While most lost gaiters can be used with boots or shoes, most are used by hikers using trail runners or low hiking shoes instead of boots.

The most popular low gaiters are made by a small company called Dirty Girl Gaiters, which specializes in colorfully designed gaiters. Made popular by the running community, they’re also very popular with hikers. They attach to your shoes with a velcro strip that must be glued to your shoe and a hooks that attach to your laces. I’ve had problems with the velcro coming off myself, but YMMV.

Other popular low gaiters include:

What gaiters do you use?

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  1. I don’t use gaiters. I would but just have not spent the money on they. It seems I have more priorities and would rather spend money on other things.

  2. I tried hiking with low cut gaiters once for dew and rocks and such and did not like them too hot for hiking but full gaiters for snow shoeing were the cats PJs. The full gaiters were Polar Tek-Nik an off the wall Chinese product that I have not see since I got them some years ago.

  3. I use OR gaiters for winter hiking. They are water repellant but not the gortex . I find these just as good and am very pleased with them. Wouldn’t winter hike without them.

  4. I seldom use gaiters in warm or dry weather. In cold and/or wet weather, especially winter backpacking, I use Outdoor Research Expedition Crocodiles.

  5. I have not used gaiters when I hike. I don’t think the conditions I’m hiking in warrant them. Of course, since I haven’t used them, maybe I don’t know what I’m missing.

  6. Dirty girls for pretty much everything unless snow and postholing is involved. Then I have a pair of outdoor research verglas ones.

  7. Currently no. I wear trail running shoes as I prefer them and most of the places I hike in New Zealand I’m going to be walking through streams.
    However after a recent trip where there were kilometres of hook-grass tearing at my bare legs I’d consider them but only on occasions such as this O_o

  8. Have never used them but am thinking of getting REI’s ankle haters to help keep small stones and twigs from getting into my boots or shoes.

  9. Outdoor research all year long – low cut ultra light for 3 seasons and a gortex crocodile gaiters in the winter

  10. I use over the calf Outdoor Research waterproof gaiters, thru hiking the AT.

  11. I use dirty girl gaiters for all hiking. I love all the protection they give you!

  12. I use dirty girl gaiters or nothing depending on the environment I’m hiking in. I’m based in SE TX and it was mid-70s today: what is this winter hiking of which you speak?!

    “sectionhiker.com” is a great informative website and I’ve learned a lot from it – thank you PW!

    • Ah! It was -30ºC (-22ºF) this morning. Just a short walk, and the snow wasn’t over my ankles. Crisp enough to have to ‘back up to pee’ …

  13. I use Dirty Girl gators when backpacking only.

  14. I’ve tried a low cut pair of OR gaiters a couple times during a couple hikes in the summer but just can’t seem to get used to them. Using my GTX MEC gaiters for snowshoeing is a completely different story. I love them.

  15. I do not, but have been considering using them.

  16. I have not used gaiters in the past, but did buy some Outdoor Research ones this year because we purchased some snowshoes. We have not gone though due to an injury.

  17. I just started to use gaiters when I run/hike. They are a homemade pair based on the gaiter girl design. I am currently making a new pair for snowshoe running.

  18. I never have used them before, I never thought I needed them in the area I am in.

  19. I hike in ALTRA shoes so i use the Altra gaiters but only if im in super loose stuff in the desert other even in the winter but i live in Southern California and snow typically is not an issue where i hike.

  20. I use a pair of REI gaiters when bushwhacking in Arizona. The spiky things here are epic.

  21. I don’t wear gaiters. Just never got into the habit, i guess…

  22. Gaiters are good for snowshoeing. For long distance hiking they’re mainly a fashion statement.

    • You obviously haven’t hiked through any scree or done any bushwhacking whatsoever. Terrible comment and insight on your part.

      • Zach, I completely agree. I wear full length gaiters even in the summer when I hike the White Mts., at the end of the day, there is ALWAYS mud on the rear and calve section of my gaiters and plenty of scuffs/scratches as well. At the end of the day, I sit down into my tent with my legs outside and take my gaiters off and leave all the mud and dirt outside the tent and use the gaiters as a “door mat” to store my boots on overnight.

  23. I don’t wear gaiters or crocs. I’m poor, so I only have the gear I absolutely have to have.

  24. I have gaiters made by LL Bean but the buckle broke on them the last time I used them. I only wear gaiters when I am hiking in snowy conditions or snowshoeing.

  25. Not having a problem with rocks or debris getting in my boots during the 3 seasons, I only use gaiters in the winter for snow deeper than my ankles. I use Mountain Hardwear Nut Shell High Gaiters.

  26. No, I do not use gaiters.
    I don’t need them currently, but would like to try them eventually.

  27. No – I am new to hiking so havent considered them yet

  28. I don’t own gaiters, and have yet to try them for hikes.

  29. OR Rocky Mountain low. It amazing how much cleaner my socks and feet stay. Especially in dusty conditions or tall grass with lots of burrs. Also seem good for keeping ticks off.

  30. I use dirtygirls for dry dusty trails. I have skinny ankles and my shoes or boots always manage to get full of detritus. The gaiters have really helped keep my feet cleaner. I have always used tall goretex gaiters for xc skiing and winter hikes.

  31. Just finished a hike in Haleakala Crater, coming up the Kaupo Trail. (about 5500 ft elevation gain over about 8 miles) Trail was overgrown and wet foliage everywhere. (it also rained/was raining) My pants were soaked and a lot of this moisture dripped into my socks. By the end of the day socks were soaking wet. I wished I had gaiters in hindsight. Fortunately the cabin had wood burning stoves and we were able to dry our stuff out. People that camped in tents did not have that option. I used a golite umbrella (my shirt stayed relatively dry) and I don’t think a poncho would have worked since it would only have made me perspire even more.

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