If you've ever had snow, burrs and rocks slide their way into your boots while trekking the backcountry, you should consider investing in a pair of boot gaiters before your next excursion.
Gaiters are designed to protect your feet by keeping unwanted debris and water off your lower legs and out of your boots.
Typically constructed of a soft-shell fabric, boot gaiters cinch snug at the top to lock out the elements and usually feature a Velcro strip down the front for easy on and off. Instep straps slide under the boot for a secure fit.
Their size, construction and purpose can vary greatly depending on your pursuit.
Types of Boot Gaiters
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Trail gaiters are typically compact and ultralight, designed to provide basic protection when worn with trail running shoes.
Lightweight and breathable, hiking gaiters are usually water-resistant and abrasion-resistant but are best suited for mild conditions and light precipitation while backpacking in hikers.
Heavy-duty mountaineering gaiters are usually worn for snowshoeing or other snowsports that demand added insulation and waterproof construction when paired with snow boots.
Hunting gaiters can fall anywhere in between depending on where you're heading, what you're pursuing and how the conditions will affect you.
Boot Gaiter Height & Size
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The terrain and weather will help you determine the correct gaiter height for your off-grid adventure.
Over-the-ankle low gaiters are best for warm-weather trail running when you only need basic protection. Mid-calf leg gaiters usually hit less than a foot above the ankle for moderate conditions, and knee gaiters are typically the warmest and appropriate for the toughest of conditions.
A snug, secure fit is important to ensure gaiters stay in place and lock out moisture and debris. Boot gaiters typically come in unisex small through extra large rather than numerical shoe sizes, so it's best to try them on with the hiking boots or snow boots you plan to pair them with.
Boot Gaiters for Hunting
If you'll be crossing through streams or anticipate heavy downpour, you should opt for fully waterproof gaiters or snow gaiters, equipped with Gore-tex or a similar protective barrier. Every ounce counts when you're chasing elk or running and gunning for turkeys, so look for a high-quality pair that won't weigh you down.
Both camo and solid options are available for your hunting boots from some of the leading names in hunting gear and footwear. Kenetrek, Kuiu, First Lite and Sitka all have high-quality options and die-hard fans who swear by their boot gaiters.
I have a pair of the Yukon gaiters from KUIU, and they're awesome for wet, windy conditions that would normally allow debris and snow to slip into my boots and make my feet freeze. At 12 ounces per pair, they're not noticeable while hiking but still stand up to thick brush and briars.
Whatever you choose, be sure to keep your feet dry and free from debris so they don't slow you down in the backcountry.