Are Gaiters Worth It? 3 Reasons Why Hiking Gaiters Are Worth It

Last Updated on 13/03/2023

Are Gaiters Worth It

Are gaiters worth it for hiking? In this article, you will learn the pros and cons of hiking in gaiters and why we think they are totally worth it in certain terrains. If you aren’t sure if you need gaiters for hiking, you are about to find out.

Gaiters are used by hikers, hunters, outdoor workers, and the like to protect their feet from getting wet and prevent dirt and grit from getting into their shoes. Are hiking gaiters worth it? 

Gaiters are protective garments worn over the legs and ankles, usually made from waterproof or water-resistant materials such as nylon or Gore-Tex. They typically have a close fit around the calf and ankle and are secured with straps or Velcro to keep them in place.

Are Gaiters Worth It?

Gaiters are totally worth it if you want to keep your feet as dry as possible, prevent debris and grit from getting into your footwear, avoid grass seeds in your socks, and protect your legs from ticks, biting insects, plants, and even snakes (with snake gaiters).

If it is raining, snowing, or the grass is wet, then gaiters will help to keep your feet dry, which in my book, makes them worth it. Likewise, if you are trekking on dirt trails or scree slopes, then gaiters will keep those annoying stones out of your shoes.

When you are walking through tick country or snake country, if your gaiters keep preventing them from getting to your skin, then the cost of gaiters seems like a small price to pay.

RAB Latok GTX Waterproof Gore-tex Gaiter for Hiking and Mountaineering - Ascent Red - Medium

What Is the Point of Gaiters?

The main point of gaiters is to keep your pants, socks, and feet dry, but they are also used to prevent any debris from getting into your footwear and protect against grass seeds, bugs, and even snakes. Here is a breakdown of the three reasons why gaiters are worth it for hiking:

Keep Your Feet Dryer

When the ground is wet, you’re walking through wet grass, or you’re walking on snow, it’s only a matter of time before moisture finds its way into your footwear.

Even if your hiking boots are waterproof, once your pants start to get damp at the bottom, moisture will soak up your pant leg, and moisture will transfer to your socks and leg, which then gets soaked into your boots. Gaiters, stop that from happening or at least slow it down.

Keep Grit and Debris Out of Your Footwear

Another big reason to wear gaiters is that on muddy paths, gravel trails, sandy beaches, and loose scree on mountain tracks, they stop stones and debris from getting into your shoes. With low-cut trail running shoes especially, getting small rocks under your foot is uncomfortable and annoying to have to keep stopping to get them out. But even with ankle-high boots on, you still get the odd bit of grit in there.

Extra Protection

Gaiters provide extra protection for your ankles and lower legs. This might be from things like ticks and biting insects that hang out in long grass and are prone to crawling up your leg. Sure, you can tuck your pants into your socks, but then you suffer from a different problem – grass seeds and sticks buds. Gaiters block those annoying grass seeds from burying into your wool socks and irritating your ankles.

You can get special snake gaiters designed for walking through dangerous areas, but these are not the same as the ones you might use for trail running, hiking, hunting, etc.

do you need gaiters for hiking

7 Benefits of Gaiters for Hiking

The benefits of gaiters aren’t just about keeping your feet dry. They also protect your lower legs and keep debris from getting inside your boot or shoe. Here are the seven benefits of wearing gaiters for hiking:

    1. Keep your feet dry
    2. Keep stones out of your footwear
    3. Protect against ticks and biting insects
    4. Protect against thorns and stinging nettles
    5. Prevent long grass from giving you a rash
    6. Prevent grass seeds and sticky buds from latching onto your socks
    7. Protect against snakes

Gaiters work whether you are wearing shorts or pants and have lots of other benefits too; these were just the ones that came to mind. But gaiters aren’t without their problems.

5 Problems with Gaiters for Hiking

There aren’t many problems with gaiters other than the minor annoyance of putting them on and wearing them. Here are five of the issues I have encountered with gaiters while hiking in heavy rain.

    1. Make your feet and legs sweat
    2. Can rub against your skin
    3. Extra Weight
    4. Velcro straps can get heavy and sodden in rain
    5. Zips and buckles break fairly often

You may find that they make your feet hot and sweaty, but for the most part, you will be happy to have them when it rains. They aren’t too expensive, but they aren’t cheap for some Gore-Tex gaiters, and they do add a few ounces to your pack weight. Something I have experienced on older gaiters is that the straps and buckles do wear through and break over time because of how hard they get used while walking hundreds of thousands of steps.

Gaiters with a full-length velcro strap can get a little bit sodden, which can lead to water getting through. Zips with storm flaps are my preferred choice, but they aren’t perfect either. Because you wear the top of the gaiters around your calf, the material can sometimes start to rub after many hours of walking.

are goretex gaiters worth the money

Who Makes the Best Hiking Gaiters?

There are many different hiking gaiters out there that all do the same thing. Gore-Tex gaiters are maybe the best, but getting a good fit is more important. Here are some of my favorite gaiter brands available today:

Rab are my favorite for full-length gaiters, and the Altra Trail Gaiters are perfect for trail shoes or when you are wearing shorts.

Do Leg Gaiters Keep Your Feet Dry?

Leg gaiters will absolutely help to keep your feet dry. However, if your footwear isn’t waterproof and you are walking in the rain, through wet grass, or snow, then your gaiters won’t be able to help you beyond their cover. So if your shoes aren’t waterproof, then your gaiters won’t stop water seeping in above the soles where the gaiters don’t completely cover.

Fully waterproof boots are most vulnerable at the top because if water does get in, then it can take a very long time for them to dry out. Gaiters aren’t airtight, but if you submerge your feet with gaiters on, you stay far dryer. There is a short moment if you submerge your feet with gaiters, one where you can remove your foot without hardly any water getting in.

Overall, gaiters will keep your feet much dryer than without. It doesn’t matter whether you are wearing boots or shoes or if they are waterproof or not. Gaiters help to keep your feet dryer.

Can you Wear Gaiters Over Your Pants?

You should wear long gaiters over your pants to stop them from getting wet and keep water out of your boots. So long as you can keep the lower section of your pants dry then no moisture will transfer to your socks and into your shoes or boots. Some people even tuck their pants into their socks before then putting their gaiters over the top, but I don’t bother.

Wearing gaiters underneath your pants is potentially more breathable for your legs but offers no real benefits and means your pants will still get wet and dirty at the bottom.

What is the point of gaiters for hiking

Do Leg Gaiters Protect You From Ticks and Snakes?

Waterproof gaiters are one of the best ways to protect your legs from ticks as you hike through long grass. They will prevent them from working their way up your trouser leg and stop them from transferring onto your legs as you walk through tick-infested terrain. You should still do a check-over at the end of the day, but you will find that they work 99% of the time.

Snakes are a little different. While regular hiking gaiters may protect your lower leg from small snakes, they are in no way guaranteed to stop a large adult snake. Snake gaiters are different from hiking gaiters and feature protective padding that will block even the largest snake’s fangs from penetrating through.

We ho[e this guide answers the question of, are gaiters worth it. Let us know what you think about when you wear your gaiters in the comments below.

Gear Assistant
Gear Assistant

This article has been written and/or edited by Andrew N. 20+ years of hiking, mountaineering, and camping experience, with access to all the latest outdoor gear.

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