M Ultralight Gaiters: State of the Market Report 2013

by Will Rietveld

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Article Summary:

I'm a gaiter man. Gaiters are standard equipment for me when day hiking or backpacking. Why? Because they keep dust, grit, debris, sand, snow, and (to some extent) water out of my shoes. My feet stay a lot cleaner, my shoe laces don't become untied or trip me, and I rarely need to stop and remove grit from my shoes.

How do gaiters keep water out? Well, if I quickly cross a shallow stream, tight-fitting gaiters minimize the amount of water that gets into my shoes. My shoes and socks get damp, but they're not very wet. Conversely, this technique works better with waterproof shoes or boots.

Ultralight gaiters are, as the name implies, the lightest ones; weighing less than 2.5 oz (71 g) per pair. For an ultralight backpacker the drive to decrease weight is easy to justify. We intentionally choose lightweight footwear because it not only saves energy but also frees our ankles making us feel more nimble and liberated. Wearing heavy gaiters would go against that mindset. If we wear gaiters at all we want them to be ultralight. As with any other item in an ultralight gear kit, the benefits need to be worth the weight.

Caption 600: Backpacking off-trail in the alpine tundra through rock and snow. Ultralight gaiters are standard equipment for me. Shown are the Mountain Hardwear Scree Gaiters.

To weigh less than 2.5 oz (71 g) per pair, one would expect to find gaiters that are minimalist and fragile. That's not true; it's surprising how much can be included within that weight. Read on to get the entire picture.

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