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REI Flash Gaiters Review

Rei Flash Gaiters Review

REI Flash Gaiters are lightweight softshell gaiters designed for use with trail runners, trail shoes and hiking boots. They have an elastic cord that runs under the soles of your shoes and a velcro front closure, so you can put them on after you’ve tied your laces. A second elastic cord helps tighten them on your calf so they don’t fall down, while a front hook attaches to your front laces and keeps them from riding up. They are billed as having replaceable bottom elastic cords (the ones that run under the sole) but I’ve found them difficult to replace without making minor modifications. Despite that, they are very comfortable and effective short gaiters if you’re willing to tweak or fiddle with their elastic cord anchors.

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Specs at a Glance

  • Type: Short Gaiter
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Gater Height: S: 7.6 inches, M: 7.8 inches, L: 8 inches, XL: 8.2 inches
  • Max Top Circumference: S: 12.2 inches, M: 12.5 inches, L: 13.1 inches, XL: 13.7 inches
  • Weight: S: 12.2 inches, M: 12.5 inches, L: 13.1 inches, XL: 13.7 inches
  • Material: 88% nylon/12% spandex
  • Closure: Snap, Velcro

Short gaiters are designed to keep sticks, small stones, and mud from getting into your trail runners, trail shoes, or hiking boots particularly around the rear and sides of your heel in order to prevent blisters or discomfort. They’re sized based on the circumference of your calves. Some are waterproof and some are not. Personally, I prefer non-waterproof and breathable short gaiters for non-winter hiking, often made with a soft stretch fabric, because they vent calf perspiration and keep my socks much drier.

REI Flash Gaiters have bottom cords and keep trail junk out of your shoes.
REI Flash Gaiters have bottom cords and keep trail junk out of your shoes.

These REI Flash Gaiters are made with such a softshell fabric (nylon and spandex) which is breathable and comfortable. They have an elastic cord that runs under the sole of your shoes and works well even if your shoes are flat on the bottom and lack a distinctive arch. The elastic cord is anchored at one end with a cord lock, so you can tighten the cord if you want it to ride lower over the rear of your shoes.

The front of the gaiters has a velcro strip to secure the two sides together, making them possible to put on after you’ve put on your hiking shoes. There’s a snap at the bottom end to ensure that the velcro stays closed and a cordlock and elastic cord to cinch them around your calves so they don’t fall down and bunch around the ankles.

The gaiters have interior tags indicating which leg that's for.
The gaiters have interior tags indicating which leg they’re for.

These REI gaiters have tags sewn into the seam that tell you which leg they’re intended for, right or left. This is normally a requirement on winter gaiters where one of the bottom strap anchors is larger than the other and should be worn on the outside of your leg so it doesn’t get torn off when your opposite foot brushes against it. But the side anchors on these Flash Gaiters are covered with a secure rubber cover that is nearly flush with the side of the gaiters and much less pronounced, making self-inflicted damage less likely. Still, the tags are there if you feel they’re needed. They also help determine which is the inside half of the gaiter (tags inside) and the outer.

The lace hook points up instead of down making it difficult to take off
The lace hook points up instead of down making it difficult to take off

The gaiters also have a hook that attaches to your front laces and prevents the gaiter from riding up. These hooks normally point down on gaiters, but REI has rotated them so they point up and are less likely to come undone while hiking. While they do stay put, they really are a pain in the ass to unhook when you take your shoes off because you need to sit down to get them off. I’m not entirely sold on this new feature.

Repairability

I’m a big fan of gaiters that you can repair with everyday materials, like elastic cord because I don’t like having to throw gear away, purchase replacement parts, or send it away to be fixed when I can fix it at home myself. I also like the portability of gaiters with a heel strap because it means I can use the gaiters with multiple pairs and types of shoes (trail runners or hiking boots) more easily without any preparation, like gluing a piece of velcro behind the heel.

In theory, you should be able to run the elastic cord through these holes
It’s challenging to run replacement elastic cord through these cordlock holes

While the REI Flash Gaiters come with a pair of spare elastic cords, it can be challenging to replace them because they’re secured at one end with a tiny cordlock that must be squeezed to feed the cord through. Extra replacement cords (1/16″ / 2mm) beyond the ones included with the gaiters are not available at REI but can be purchased on Amazon if you don’t mind buying a lifetime supply.

Threading the cord through the cordlock is pretty straightforward if the ends are cleanly cut. But there is a rubber flap sewn over the cordlock which makes it difficult to squeeze and which blocks the ends of the elastic cord from poking out the other side so you can knot them together. I’ve found it necessary to use scissors to cut partway along the side of the rubber flap so I can access the cords on the other side of the cordlock. I feel this attachment point has been over-engineered when a larger grommet and cordlock would have been just as effective and much easier to use.

The cordlock is buried under a rubber patch that makes it difficult to access the cords once they've been threaded through unless you cut along the side with a pair of scissors.
The cordlock is buried under a rubber patch that makes it difficult to access the cords once they’ve been threaded through unless you cut along the side with a pair of scissors.

Recommendation

REI Flash Gaiters are comfortable and breathable softshell gaiters that are compatible with all types of hiking footwear from trail running and trail shoes to hiking boots. They’re easy to put on and take off while when wearing your shoes and provide good protection against scree, sticks, and stones. While they are designed to be repairable if the bottom elastic cord breaks (one pair of spare cords is provided), it’s not all that easy to accomplish. While these are good gaiters, I expect that a lot of people will return them when they try to replace the elastic cords and get frustrated. Despite that, the REI Flash Gaiters are good gaiters for warmer weather use and are worth getting if you’ve been struggling to find a gaiter that keeps your socks perspiration free and clean on the trail.

Disclosure: The author owns this product.

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2 comments

  1. Thanks for the nice review Philip. How do you like these compared to the OR gaiters that you have liked and reviewed in the past?
    As a side note, I wish someone would make a gaiter in very light tan or even white for tick country.

    • I prefer the ActiveIce gaiters that OR used to make. Sadly, they’re no long available and all of the recent short gaiters they make are very poor quality and should be avoided.

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