Re-thinking long gaiters

Back in the dark ages of the mid to late 1990s, I wore the uniform of the day, which means shorts, leather boots, big pack, and the ubiquitous tall gaiters.

Entering Virginia on the AT in 1998.

I quickly eschewed tall gaiters when I thru-hiked the AT as being too hot to pair with shorts, overkill for maintained trails outside of winter, and preferring long pants for most of my current backpacking.

The only time I wear long gaiters is when skiing.

La Sal skiing. PCO Joan W.

But everyone is different.

Take Joan; she prefers to hike in a skirt for the ventilation but still wants legs protection, too. And unlike me, she tends to burn, not tan, in the sun.

So her solution? Old school, high gaiters. But homemade ones made of light nylon and attached to a Dirty Girl-type gaiter.

Joan’s been rocking this look for years, and it works well for her. Be it in Utah, Arizona, or elsewhere. A simple solution if you want sun and leg protection while still having the benefits of a hiking skirt.

And the more I discuss this solution, the more I’ve heard from others. On a Great Divide Trail forum, one person plans to use the high gaiters with a rain skirt as she also wants the benefits of the skirt and does not use rain pants. But she still wishes for some leg protection for the willow bashing that is part of the GDT experience (if less with each passing year thanks to the GDTA volunteers).

And this method can work equally well in winter. My buddy d-low uses shorts, thermals, and long gaiters while ski touring in all but the coldest weather.

D-low posing at Brainard Lake with our friend Terry.

And that’s what I always say don’t listen to just one voice as what is the so-called “best gear.”   A YouTube star, an InstaFamous hiker, a published author, or a moderately well-known backpacking blogger are only giving you one view. Research, look at what others do and apply the ideas in the field to see if it works for you.  Get out there! 🙂

Where to get?  If your sewing skills are as mediocre as mine, not something you enjoy doing, and you don’t own a sewing machine,  you’ll need to do some hunting.

For three-season use, try to avoid waterproof gaiters as they will be heavier and not breathe as well. The closest I can find is the REI co-op gaiters that are water resistant. Probably not as good as the homemade ones for three-season hiking.  Mountain Laurel Designs also sell some light high gaiters, but they are marketed more for cold and snow; not sure how breathable that might be.

However, even for mediocre sewers with the right equipment, some inexpensive wind pants with a shock cord and attached to the short gaiters should not be too hard of a project.

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Another Kevin
Another Kevin
5 years ago

I’ll have to think about this one, but I’m not overly inclined to try that particular project. I reserve long gaiters lately for deep winter – where they’re essential, if only to avoid fouling a crampon point in a trouser leg. I might bring them also for the worst bush bashes – where I know that I’m going to have the viburnum grabbing at my ankles, to say nothing of the nettles and blackberries! My usual nylon hiking pants would turn to trail confetti, and that leaves a trace. Otherwise, I’m mostly with you on wearing long pants. I see… Read more »