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High Gaiters, Low Gaiters

A lot of hikers contact me about gaiters, so I thought I’d write a post about high and low gaiters, when they’re appropriate to use and why you might use them.

First off, there are high gaiters and low gaiters. High gaiters run from the top of your boots to the top of your calf. Low gaiters, like the one in the picture above, run from the top of your boot or trail shoe to the lower part of your calf and cover your socks.

To put on the gaiter, you wrap it around your calf and seal it shut using a velcro seam that keeps the gaiter closed while you walk, but also makes it easy to remove.

Both high and low gaiters attach to your boots in two places: a string or strap runs under your boot in front of the heel, and a small hook, in the front of the gaiter, wraps around a boot lace to keep water, mud, snow, or ice from getting under the gaiter in front. High gaiters also have an elastic cord that can be tightened around the top of your leg to keep them from falling down and bunching around your ankles.

Low gaiters are primarily used to keep little rocks from getting into your boots or trail shoes when you are walking on dry ground. This is useful if you are hiking in shorts and trail runners swear by them. I’ve found them to have limited utility when it is raining, because I just wear rain pants which keeps mud and water off my socks.

Personally, I don’t even bother with low gaiters anymore because I’ve given up on hiking in shorts to avoid bug bites and wearing loads of DEET. However, if I hiked out west in desert conditions, it would make sense to use them.

High gaiters are primarily used to keep your socks from getting wet from snow or in muddy conditions and are worn over a pair of rain or snow pants. You can also wear them as a thermal or protective layer, like leg warmers, because they retain a lot of heat. High gaiters can also be worn for this purpose in early spring or fall if you are wearing shorts. This can be handy if your thighs chafe from moisture buildup because sweat vents more easily if you are wearing shorts.


  1. Thanks for the info!

  2. I wore only low gaiters on my A.T. thru-hike and thought they were very useful. High gaiters would often have been too hot, and since I wore shorts much of the time, high gaiters probably would have been uncomfortable around my leg.

    The low gaiters not only kept pebbles, dirt and mud out of my boots, but, in a light rain or even in a brief heavy rain, kept my boots dry. (The boots were "waterproof," but no boot is waterproof if the water gets in through the top.) In a lengthy downpour, sure, my feet got wet, but otherwise the low gaiters worked just fine.

    Just sayin'.

  3. I wear the MontBell UL Stretch gaiter almost year-round here in the SE. They work perfectly for keep crap out of my trail runners and even keep light rain from getting my feet too wet. The only time I've worn a tall gaiter was on my recent BPL WT3 trip in the Rockies where we had feet of dry snow.

  4. I almost always wear my Integral Designs eVent Shortie Gaiters when I go out on bushwhacking trips. They keep the debris out of my boots, they are super lightweight, very breathable (I rarely even know I have them on in the summer) and are sturdy enough to have held up for several years of multiple long intense bushwhacking trips. The only downside is they can only be put on or taken off with your boots removed.

  5. I have high event gaiters from MLD. I can't say if they're durable for bushwhacking, but you can put them on and take them off without taking off your shoe/boot. Good point though about bushwhacking. Gaiters are a desirable item to wear.

  6. For the last several years, I’ve used OR’s Rocky Mountain Gaiters. They’ve been great at keeping debris out of my boots and have proven waterproof in most postholing incidents. The problem with them has been the plastic understrap keeps wearing out and splitting. I’ve taken advantage of OR’s lifetime warranty policy more than once on this item, but it’s becoming a pain to have them fail on the trail, possibly during a long backpack, and then have to file paperwork every season to have them replaced. The Rocky Mountain Gaiters’ strap is sewn in and OR doesn’t seem to have any plans on changing their design so that the end-user could simply order replacement straps and fix them at home, which is very disappointing. So, I’m now looking at Montbell’s Short Gore-Tex Light Gaiters. I’m not sure they will fit over my Zamberlan boots, however. Any thoughts on these?

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