Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Lightweight Gaiters

There are a ton of gaiters on the market, most of which all share the common theme of keeping debris out and offer mild to good resistance at keeping your foot dry. They come in different sizes, different materials, fasten and hook differently, and yes, they weigh quite a bit differently too.

I wear some form of gaiter on any trail as I know one of the quickest ways for me to stop enjoying myself is to throw the smallest of pebbles or dirt debris inside of my shoe and let it dance around a bit. For me, the question is what kind of gaiter, meaning something quick and flexible but merely water resistant or something which would help if I encountered rain.

One misuse of gaiters which I’ve seen quite a bit is people who wear them over their pants. People who hike aren’t riding bikes or marching in the military, so tucking them in isn’t mandatory or functional. The fact is, gaiters are meant to be worn over your sock and shoe, but under your pant leg. The theory is that your pant leg would be the first line of defense against any debris or moisture. After all, what difference does it matter in a rainstorm if 3” of the bottom of your pant leg are dry anyway? Also, when pants are tucked into a gaiter it generally stretches the gaiter out past the point of its intended use and even filters debris down into the gaiter itself. Course, this method does helps seal off your pant cuff and aids in protecting bugs from running up your leg. It's fair to say there is a rationale for either choice.

Without rehashing every gaiter from REI, Outdoor Research, or the other mass retailers, I figured I’d hit on a couple lesser known resources which fall into the “lightweight” category. I should mention that the items below are good for all-round trekking and not necessarily high Alpine conditions where snow will be up to your chin. Choosing the right gaiter depends a lot on the conditions you’ll experience as many, to include those below, won’t do well if you’ll be in bushwhacking situations where they will be exposed to abrasive rocks, thorns, etc. Also worth mentioning is that those below are intended for use with low-cut trail shoes and not boots.

One of the lightest non-waterproof gaiters on the market is the $27 and 1.8oz LevaGaiter by Simblissity ( The LevaGaiter is considered an ultralight and ultra-breathable scree gaiter which is made of stretchy Durastrech fabric. The beauty of the LevaGaiter is that it does not use any kind of undershoe cord, glue, or Velcro. Simply, it pulls on like a sock and stays in place through its tightness around your foot.

Another lesser known gaiter is the 1.12oz Debris Gaiter series from Inov-8 ( The Debris Gaiter 32, for example, is a sock-like gaiter made of fast wicking and quick drying material which is treated to resist water. These are pretty hard to find on the market as it appears Inov-8 lightweight industry leading shoe business takes a greater priority.

Montbell StretchGaiters ( is a 1.5oz and $30 option made of durable and breathable Schoeller Dynamic Extreme stretch material. Schoeller Dymanic bills itself and an excellent choice for high output activities in changing weather conditions where a hardshell would be overkill. It is made of Lycra and has permanent stretch that will keep its shape and elasticity while maintaining excellent moisture management, breathability, and dirt/abrasion resistance. I personally have never owned a pair, but those I know who have mentioned that they weren’t thrilled with the durability of the product.

No list of gaiters would be complete without mentioning a company with a bizarre website and a bizarre name – Dirty Girl Gaiters ( If you ever wanted an inexpensive ($15) and lightweight pair of stretchable gaiters made with a leopard print or other unusual pattern, then Dirty Girl Gaiters are for you. They are made of stretchy spandex-like fabric similar to that used in Speedo swimsuits. They are not waterproof, but are lightweight enough to dry out quickly. Although these gaiters are quite popular, I personally don’t like the fact that a piece of Velcro must be attached to your shoe for it to secure itself correctly. When not using the gaiter, I would think the Velcro would get caught on quite of few things, wear, and also pick up dirt.

One of my personal favorites for rain protection is the $45 and 1.5-1.7oz Superlight Gaiter by Mountain Laurel Designs ( Much like with MLD’s eVENT mitts, another excellent product, the Superlight Gaiter is constructed of 3-Ply eVENT. For those of you who haven’t experienced the joys of eVENT, it is a remarkably breathable and waterproof fabric which runs circles around Gore-Tex which otherwise often makes your shoe fill up with sweat. Negatives about this product include the fact that it isn't as large (long) as other gaiters and has no reinforced areas such as when your feet rub together.

Another pair of gaiters which do quite well in wet conditions is the Integral Designs eVENT Shorties ( At $30 and 2.5oz, these represent a more commercialized product which is on the higher end of lightweight (especially when compared to those above offered by MLD). These gaiters are also made of 3-Ply eVENT fabric and are reinforced with supplex nylon. My only gripe with these, and others of similar design, is that ID uses a piece of shock cord at the top of the gaiter to help hold it in place. Over time, the tension of the shock cord will cause some discomfort no matter how loose it is…and too loose would degrade its function as debris may sneak in at stress points. The cord which goes under the foot also wears quickly, but it is easily replacable. One nice thing about this product is that it has a piece of fabric to strengthen the wear when feet are scuffed together. They are also cheaper than those offered from MLD above.

Happy gaitering.


Erick Fry said...

Thank you so much for this post. I've been wondering about this topic as it relates to waterproofing boots from rain getting in from the leg. I just experienced 16 miles in constant downpour in my eVent boots and ofcourse water came in from the pants getting wet. I'm going to try out some of these options in the future. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

I am in the market for some gaiters. I value your recommendations and see that you use these and the Simblissity LevaGaiter. I wear a size 13 1/2 shoe and was wondering if you thought the Integral Designs eVent Shortie Gaiters would fit me. They list the following on their website for a Large / XLarge: 9"/23cm high, 15"/38cm ankle diameter US sizes 9-12. Regards!

Jolly Green Giant said...

@ Anonymous - I wear a 14 and both fit me, although the Simblissity is no longer available. So yes, the Integral Designs would work fine. A lighter eVent option would be from Moutntain Laurel Designs. Consider a pair from Dirty Girl. You'd be surprised at how little you need around your ankles whether for scree or rain. Basically, you have a lot of options. Good luck.