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.