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Mountain Laurel Designs LightSnow Gaiters

Lightsnow Gaiters with Inov-8 Terrocs

 MLD LightSnow Gaiters with Inov-8 Terrocs

While gaiters keep my socks dry from external moisture, I’ve never found ones that keep my socks dry when my calf muscles sweat. This is a problem in winter because my socks become moist during the day and my feet get cold in camp. It’s also a problem in spring and summer because I develop a heat rash if I wear gaiters continuously for more than a few days. I’ve tried wearing all sorts of different pants underneath gaiters and many different sock and shoe combinations, but nothing seems to make a difference.

Regardless, I do consider gaiters to be an essential piece of gear in certain circumstances. So why wear them?

Why Wear Gaiters?

I wear leg gaiters to:

  1. keep my socks dry when walking through snow, mud, wet grass and such
  2. keep sticks and stones out of my shoes
  3. keep ticks from crawling up my legs
  4. limit the damage that I do to winter pants from poorly aimed crampon strikes
  5. provide added insulation for my legs in winter

MLD’s LightSnow eVent Gaiters

So when Mountain Laurel Designs came out with their LightSnow eVent Gaiters last year, I was eager to try them, given the enhanced breathability of eVent over Gore-Tex. I hoped that eVent gaiters would let “the sweat out” and provide me with a better year round gaiter solution, a magic bullet, so to speak.

Mountain Laurel Designs eVent Gaiters

Mountain Laurel Designs, LightSnow eVent Gaiters

LightSnow gaiters are calf-high, ending just below the knee. The top of the gaiters secure around the top of the calf muscles using a shock cord and cord lock system. The bottom secures with a shock cord loop that runs under the arch of your hiking shoe and a plastic hook that clips onto your front shoe laces.  However, unlike other high gaiters, you have to put them on before you put on your shoe.

The total weight of the LightSnow gaiters is 2.5 oz (L) and they cost $55 a pair.

MLD eVent Gaiters

MLD LightSnow Gaiters are Calf-High

Early Spring Use

I bought the LightSnow gaiters just before I hiked across Scotland last May in the TGO Challenge. We had abnormally warm weather this year, and I developed a heat rash from wearing the gaiters, which I mitigated by rubbing zinc oxide onto my calves to keep my skin dry.

Ticks have invaded Scotland and I continued to wear the LightSnows despite the discomfort to avoid any unwanted visitors. Did I mention that poisonous adders also live in Scotland’s heather? A sobering fact, even in Scotland.

Preliminary Conclusion: Just because they’re made from eVent, the LightSnow gaiters were probably not the best choice for spring time walking on this particular adventure.

Winter Use

When I got back to the US, I shelved the LightSnows until this autumn and the early winter, where I wanted the extra moisture protection they are designed to provide. Wearing them on my lower legs also provides a welcome insulation benefit that can’t be ignored.

MLD Gaiters on Garmont Boots

Rolled Up LightSnow Gaiters on Winter Boots

However, I still continue to sweat in the LightSnow’s despite the colder and drier winter weather. Once I get warmed up, I roll them down to cool off. This works in a fashion, but I wish the LightSnows were more breathable to begin with.

Ironically, my heavy Outdoor Research Crocodile gaiters are a more flexible choice than the LightSnows, even though I sweat just as much in them. The Crocodiles have a Gore-tex seam that runs along the front the gaiter, from the top to the bottom, which lets me take them off when I’m too hot. Honestly, I wish the LightSnow’s provided such a capability, but even more, I wish they were much more beathable than they’ve proven to be.

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  1. You might consider attacking the problem from another direction: the sweating. For skiing, feet become very cold when they sweat, then cool on the chairlift ride up. Many people find relief by spraying their feet with antiperspirant. I wonder if this would work for your calves…..

  2. I had no idea the people did this! Where does the sweat come out instead? :-)

  3. Well, I'm not sure what would work if not eVent. Maybe Ventile gaiters. But I suspect you got to start with your socks and shoes setup. What's that like?

  4. Varies. Inov-8 trail runners and a single smartwool liner to insulated winter boots. I sweat the same amount regardless of the shoe and outside temperature. I think Kate's idea actually makes better sense. I have much finer control over my other layers. Which gaiter I wear seems immaterial, and I'm very happy with my shoe/sock systems. Not sure I need any more change there.

  5. More than one way to skin a cat, obviously. My take is that feet probably sweat for a reason (up to 30 mililiters per hour when really active, I've read), and I don't buy into the idea that you can just sweat elsewhere at will, just as little as you can insulate against the cold/hot arbitrarily … you can wear all you want, below certain temperatures, if you don't wear gloves, you'll freeze your fingers off … Long story short: I wear more socks! A liner (polypro or wool) and a thick wool sock over, with enough capacity to absorb sweat … The nice thing of this setup is that it works for desert hikes just as well as for mountaineering. My 2c.

  6. I get heat rash around the ankles if I let my socks get dirty over 3 or 4 days, whether or not I wear gaiters. Anthisan solves the problem, as do clean socks.

    Some reviewers have been positive about Paramo gaiters.

  7. I have an old pair of REI gaiters that have poly-cotton uppers. They breathe well and don't get wet (in our dry Sierra winters). I wonder if gaiters really need to be as waterproof as we think.

    • Yes! I have an old pair of Chouinards that seem to breathe very well. Unfortunately, they need replacing, and as I search for the best choice, I see lots of complaints about most of the current offerings, “waterproof-breathable” predominating. I DON’T think gaiters need to be so waterproof, especially for cold/dry and warm/ moist snowshoeing or skiing. Though I’m not handy with thread and needle, I’m seriously considering making my own. Seems like equipment makers think outdoor adventurers spends most of their time in freezing rain!

  8. I’ve never used gaiters, but have had good luck with reg old hunting pants. Nylon in front from thigh to ankle, and nylon in back up to mid calf or higher. Yes the rest is cotton. but great for summer and get a bigger pair, to go over proper winter wear and throw a rubber band over the ankle, works great.

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