Slush And Scree…What’s So Great About Gaiters?
What are gaiters, anyway? Basically, they’re fabric coverings for your ankles and lower legs. Outdoors folks wear them to keep stuff from getting into their boots, e.g. grit, mud, snow, bugs. Gaiters also keep wet snow or rain from trickling down your calves or getting your pants wet. What’s so great about gaiters, then? They take care of some minor outdoor annoyances that might easily turn into major problems.
4 scenarios will illustrate:
You’re making the most of your National Park Senior Pass as per usual and you’re camped at the Grand Canyon. It’s your day to go down the Bright Angel trail. Everyone complains about grit getting in their boots, down their socks, and between their toes. With every step, dirt is grinding away at their heels, the soles of their feet, and their ankles.
Solution? Shorties known as “scree gaiters”. Nothing complicated or sweaty. Definitely scree gaiters.
You’re participating in the annual butterfly count at a Virginia wetlands. Bug central. You could fend off the critters by tucking your pant legs into your socks, but pants have an annoying habit of popping out at every step. Soon, your ankles are mosquito-fodder or a tick’s new home.
Solution? Short gaiters. Treat them with permethrin for additional protection.
It’s mid-summer and the wildflowers are blooming high up in the Olympic National Park. Natch, you’re out there. You’ve hiked and hiked to get a good view, and everything is drippy with droplets because that’s how it is in the Pacific Northwest. Every time you brush a fern, a pine bough, a mossy rock, a bank of lush grass, you get wet from the knees on down. But you really don’t want to bust out the rainpants unless you absolutely have to.
Solution? Tall gaiters.
You’ve always wanted to try snowshoeing (‘cos it’s awesome fun), and today’s the day. Crater Lake, ranger walk. Off you go. You take to it like a duck to water. You’re pleased as punch with the whole deal, the sky is blue, the sun is shining, your limbs are in fine fettle, what could be better? Uh oh. Weird sensation on the backs of your legs. You check it out. Dang, if there isn’t a whole bunch of snow sticking to your pants. And every time you take a step, the snowshoes fling a new pile right at you. Perversity!
Solution? Wear tall waterproof gaiters to prevent snow from wetting out your pant legs.
Advantage? You don’t have to wear rain or snow pants, which can make you very hot and uncomfortable if you’re moving right along. (And generally, when you’re active in winter, you are indeed moving right along.) Instead, wear a pair of light softshell pants layered with long underwear, fleece, Powerstretch, your 1970’s stretch pants in the back of you closet, or wool pants scavenged at Goodwill. Whatever you’ve got except jeans or cotton pants, or you can very quickly risk hypothermia.
If you’re mountaineering, the above considerations apply, but gaiters are often worn even when there’s no danger of trousers getting wet. Why? If you’re wearing crampons, the sharp points will shred your calves or the legs of your pants, especially on the inside. Mountaineering gaiters are made with extremely burly fabric to keep this from happening.
More at: 4+ Ways To Get A Grip In Winter
When it comes to fit, shoe size typically (but not always) has little bearing on gaiter size. Generally, the most important factor is the size of your calf. If they’re too loose, they’ll flop down and get annoying. Too tight, and they’ll cut off your circulation. Try before you buy!
Find A Group: Outdoor Adventuring For 60+ will put those gaiters to good use!
Photo credits: Featured image, Dirty Girl Gaiters DSCN2425: CC BY 2.0 by dirtygirlXy via Flickr. Top, Grand Canyon NP Bright Angel Trail Group Hiking 0215: CC BY 2.0 by Grand Canyon National Park via Flickr. Butterfly hunters: CC BY 2.0 by Virginia State Parks via Flickr. Summer wildflowers, Olympic National Park: National Park Service. Ranger guided walk in Crater Lake National Park: National Park Service. 1940’s Swiss Man at Taos Yurt: CC BY 2.0 by Over the Arroyo Gang via Flickr. Gaiters with crampons: CC BY 2.0 by Leigh Blackall via Flickr. Racer with star-spangled gaiters 5483697737_6c2d8c116b_b: CC BY 2.0 by dirtygirlXy via Flickr.
Fun scree gaiters in this post are from Dirty Girl Gaiters.