I wear high gaiters in winter to keep snow out of my socks, provide additional insulation around my lower legs, and to protect myself from self-inflicted crampon damage when I get tired and my front point aim starts to deteriorate. I’ve been looking for a new pair of gaiters to replace the old pair of OR Crocodiles I’ve pretty much destroyed after 4 seasons of use, so I decided to test a new pair from Hillsound, the Super Armadillo Nano Gaiters. That’s a mouthful isn’t it, but the product name makes a little more sense when you look at the fabrics used.
Like the venerable Crocodiles, there’s a heavy duty fabric that surrounds the bottom of the Super Armadillo, that is tough enough to deflect accidental crampon strikes. Made out of SuperFabric, it’s covered with small epoxy circles that act like armor and prevent you from spearing or slashing yourself with a front point. I’ve (inadvertently) tried to stick myself a few times with some very sharp new crampons over the past few weeks, and this SuperFabric stuff works.
The upper half of the gaiter is made out of Schoeller c_change, a slightly elastic, breathable windproof and waterproof fabric, coated with a Schoeller Nanosphere, a type of DWR used on soft shell garments to repel water and dirt. This results in a very natural feeling upper gaiter that hugs your leg without feeling like an extra heavy layer. I like the Schoeller fabric a lot and I haven’t experienced drenched socks (my calves swat a lot), since I started using these gaiters for day hikes.
So far, so good. Unfortunately, Hillsound included a zipper in the design of this gaiter, which runs along the front to secure it to your leg. This is a concern for me, because zippers fail sooner or later: having it happen on a overnight mountaineering trip would really suck and compromise my safety unless I repaired it by wrapping duct tape around my leg to keep the gaiter shut.
While that’s a worse case scenario, I still don’t like the zipper because it runs from the top of the gaiter to the bottom which is a very un-natural direction to pull a zipper and makes putting these gaiter on a challenge if you are short of time. For example, it’s not unusual for me to meet a hiking group at a trail head a few minutes before a hike, after a 2-3 hour drive, and have to dress quickly. The zipper on the Super Armadillo’s takes me a long time to close and I’ve ended up using my old torn up Crocodiles on hikes because I couldn’t get the Hillsounds on fast enough.
While there”s no doubt in my mind that the Super Armadillo’s are more comfortable and more breathable than all of the other high gaiters I own, I really don’t trust that zipper and will only use them on day hikes when I know I don’t have to take them off during the day. My suggestion would be to replace the zipper with velcro or some other less vulnerable closure system. Otherwise, I really like the fabrics in this gaiter and think they provide an outstanding level of comfort and safety.
2015: Postscript. The zippers failed.
Disclosure: Hillsound provided SectionHiker (Philip Werner) with a complimentary pair of Super Armadillo Nano Gaiters for product testing and review.