The 8 Best Gaiters for Mountaineering and Hiking in 2022

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The 8 Best Gaiters for Mountaineering and Hiking in 2022

Hiking boots are an almost perfect piece of gear. They’re great at keeping out water, dust, and rocks. But they have one glaring flaw… there's a big hole where your foot goes in. That’s why you need a good pair of gaiters; to keep the rain, snow, dust, and rocks out of your mountaineering boots.

Here, I’ll outline everything you need to know about buying a pair of gaiters for mountaineering or hiking. What to look for, what to avoid, and some of the best models to consider while shopping.

Our Review Process

I’ve been hiking, climbing, and mountaineering across the West for decades. Whether I’m kicking steps up a glacier in the spring or boot skiing down a scree slope, I’m always glad I’ve got my gaiters.

My hobbies have made me obsessive about researching and comparing gear. I put that obsession to good use and produced this guide to help you find the perfect pair of gaiters.

This article compares the best gaiters on the market by their utility, value, and quality. It also includes some tips on what to look for when you’re shopping for a pair of gaiters.

Best Gaiters – My Top 3

What Are Gaiters?

Gaiters are an under-appreciated piece of gear that keeps water, dust, and rocks out of your boots while you hike. They act like a short sleeve on your shins, covering the gap between your pants and your boots.

Gaiters create a seal over one of the most vulnerable parts of your outfit to keep the elements out. They keep you dry and comfortable, which is essential in rugged terrain and extreme conditions.

Do You Really Need Gaiters?

You can hike on dry trails without gaiters. But if your plan for the day includes scree hiking, hiking off trail, or snow hiking, gaiters will help you tackle your objective.

I recommend gaiters for mountaineering and hiking in any kind of wet conditions. For hiking on snow or in the rain, gaiters do an excellent job of keeping your socks dry.

On long days (or multi-day trips), having wet feet can turn from mildly uncomfortable to a serious safety concern.

Best Gaiter Reviews - Full List

Outdoor Research Crocodile Gore-Tex Gaiter

Best Gaiters for Mountaineering

My winner
The 8 Best Gaiters for Mountaineering and Hiking in 2022 - Outdoor Research Crocodile Gore-Tex Gaiter
Pros

Very durable

Waterproof

Secure straps

Great coverage

Cons

Expensive

Not breathable

Mountaineering exposes you to the elements more than any other sport. If you spend enough time in snowy conditions without gaiters, your feet are bound to get wet. The Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiter is the top candidate for heavy-duty use in the deep snow. 

The Crocodile is a knee-high gaiter made of a waterproof Gore-Tex membrane under a Cordura nylon shell. This construction makes for a very durable and waterproof gaiter. It features a sturdy lower and upper closure with quick-release buckles to help you dial the fit.

But, like most high-performance gear, it’s very expensive. It’s also not very breathable, as it’s intended for use in snowy conditions.

Outdoor Research Crocodile Gore-Tex Gaiter

Rab Muztag Gore-Tex Gaiter

Best All-Around Gaiters

My winner
The 8 Best Gaiters for Mountaineering and Hiking in 2022 - Rab Muztag Gore-Tex Gaiter
Pros

Great all-around performance

Waterproof

Breathable

Comfortable

High-quality materials

Cons

Expensive

Not the most durable

The Rab Muztag is a great companion for any trek into the unknown. It uses a Gore-Tex fabric like the Outdoor Research Crocodile for superior water resistance. But it’s made of thinner nylon material, making it less bulky and more breathable than the Crocodile.

This gives the Muztag better marks as a do-it-all gaiter. It would be right at home on a backpacking trip, or for spring mountaineering on wet snow. Its cuff comes to the knee, giving you ample coverage from debris.

The main downside is, again, cost. Having thinner material also makes it less durable than the OR Crocodile. For multi-day mountaineering, you may want something sturdier.

Rab Muztag Gore-Tex Gaiter

Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain High Gaiters

Best Gaiters for Snowshoeing

My winner
The 8 Best Gaiters for Mountaineering and Hiking in 2022 - Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain High Gaiters
Pros

Reasonable price

Durable

Breathable

Good coverage

Cons

Not fully waterproof

Bulkier than similar gaiters

The Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain High Gaiter finds a good balance between cost and quality. They’re similar to the REI Backpacker Low, but with knee-high cuffs. For under $50 , it’s a solid deal.

The Rocky Mountain High gaiters are made of a durable 420 denier nylon, which is waterproof enough for snowshoeing. Nylon breathes more than a waterproof membrane like Gore-Tex, so you won’t be sweating bullets under them after a few miles.

But, being both somewhat waterproof and breathable means the Rocky Mountain High gaiters don't excel at being either. They’re also bulkier than other knee-high gaiters.

Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain High Gaiters

Razer Snake Gaiters

Best Snake Gaiters

My winner
The 8 Best Gaiters for Mountaineering and Hiking in 2022 - Razer Snake Gaiters
Pros

Excellent protection

Can stop a snakebite

Easy to adjust

Good for use around cacti

Cons

Not designed for hiking

Hot

Not waterproof

When you’re in snake country, it’s a good idea to give yourself an extra layer of protection. Gaiters can help reduce the likelihood of snakebites and their severity by adding an extra loose layer over your leg.

But snake gaiters take this principle a step further by using thick, high denier nylon material. The Razer Snake Gaiter is made of 1000d Cordura nylon.

Cordura will stop not only thorns and cactus spines, but has been lab tested to stop a needle under 25 pounds of force. Razer also tests their gaiters with live rattlesnakes. If that’s not a selling point, I don’t know what is.

But, snake gaiters don’t do as good of a job at keeping out debris, and they’re definitely not waterproof. They’re thick, which means extra hot. But if you want the extra peace of mind, it might be worth it.

Razer Snake Gaiters

Altra Trail Gaiter

Best Budget Gaiters

My winner
The 8 Best Gaiters for Mountaineering and Hiking in 2022 - Altra Trail Gaiter
Pros

Inexpensive

Ultralight

Breathable

Comfortable

Easy to put on

Cons

Not water resistant

Not very durable

If your main concern is dirt and debris, go with the Altra Trail Gaiter. These gaiters are incredibly light, breathable, very comfortable, and easy to move in. They’re designed for runners and ultralight fiends. 

The Trail Gaiters feature easy-to-use velcro attachments and form a tight seal around your trail shoes. They provide enough protection to keep rocks and dirt out of your hiking shoes while you cruise up the trail.

But, they’re not very water resistant. These gaiters are primarily for dry use in the summer. They’re not technical gear and won’t stand up to lots of water or abrasion.

Altra Trail Gaiter

Black Diamond Talus Gaiters

Best Ultralight Gaiters for Trail Running

My winner
The 8 Best Gaiters for Mountaineering and Hiking in 2022 - Black Diamond Talus Gaiters
Pros

Ultralight

Easy to put on

Slim design

Comfortable

Breathable

Cons

Not very durable or waterproof

If you’re a trail runner or a speed freak in the mountains, you want an ultralight hiking gaiter that won’t get in your way. At 100 grams per pair, the Black Diamond Talus is just that.

The Talus uses a minimalist design that focuses on providing protection where you need it most: your ankles. If you’re all about going fast and far, this is the right amount of protection to keep you from digging rocks out of your shoes every ten minutes.

What it lacks is pretty much everything else. It doesn’t have a strap that goes under your boot. It’s made of standard nylon - no reinforcement or membrane. The Talus is for the swift, but it won’t do much against a whole day on a glacier.

Black Diamond Talus Gaiters

Black Diamond Apex GTX Gaiter

Best Waterproof Gaiters

My winner
The 8 Best Gaiters for Mountaineering and Hiking in 2022 - Black Diamond Apex GTX Gaiter
Pros

Very waterproof

Durable materials

Comfortable

Good coverage

Cons

Expensive

Not as durable as the OR Crocodile

If keeping water out of your boots is a must, double up on Gore-Tex. The Black Diamond Apex GTX uses three layers of Gore-Tex, the best waterproofing on this list. The construction is burly, intended for extended technical use in the backcountry. 

The Apex GTX features full calf coverage and an adjustable instep strap for great coverage and performance in rugged terrain. They win out over the OR Crocodile in comfort, with a slightly thinner lightweight material.

But lighter material means a shorter lifespan on average. For water resistance, the Apex is the winner, but for rocks and abrasion, it falls behind the Outdoor Research Crocodile.

Black Diamond Apex GTX Gaiter

REI Co-op Backpacker Low Gaiters

Best Gaiters for Hiking

My winner
The 8 Best Gaiters for Mountaineering and Hiking in 2022 - REI Co-op Backpacker Low Gaiters
Pros

Lightweight

Comfortable

Breathable

Reasonable price

Cons

Low cuff hurts technical performance

Not the most waterproof

Hiking gets a lot more complicated in wet weather. Especially if you’re bushwacking off trail. Having a short hiking gaiter to keep mud and rain out of your boots is a solid move. 

The REI Backpacker Low gaiter is perfect for hikers that like to go out no matter what the weather is like. As the name suggests, it’s a good lightweight option to bring backpacking, too.

The Backpacker Low provides just enough extra protection to keep the rain and mud off, without being too uncomfortable. It also has good airflow, which is a plus for long trail days.

However, the Backpacker’s ankle-high cuff reduces its appeal for technical use. The membrane isn’t spectacularly waterproof, either.

REI Co-op Backpacker Low Gaiters

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How to Shop for Gaiters 

Gaiters have lots of designs, strengths, and weaknesses. Here are some things to look for while shopping to separate the best from the rest.

Shoe Size and Length

Gaiters come in three main heights: over-the-ankle, mid - calf, and knee-high. These range from six to 18 inches tall. If you’re picking knee-high gaiters, you want them to stop below your knees.

Gaiters are also sized by shoe size. Most brands lump them into small, medium, and large, according to your shoe size.

Waterproofing

Waterproofing is one of the most important jobs a gaiter does. If you’ve ever post-holed your way up a snowy slope, only to top out with puddles of snowmelt in your boots, you’ll know why.

Nylon fabric alone provides some waterproofing, but not a ton. The most high-end gaiters use waterproof membranes like Gore-Tex to keep you dry. Gore-Tex fabric is a proprietary material used in outdoor gear, and is the gold standard for waterproofing.

Breathability

Breathability usually stands in contrast to waterproofing. By definition, a waterproof piece of material is going to be harder for air to pass through.

Though brands will say their material does both jobs, it usually does more of one or the other. So as a rule, get a gaiter that’s only as waterproof as you need it to be.

There are other ways around this though. Lower gaiters, particularly over-the-ankle fits, allow more airflow to your calf. Having adjustable cuffs lets you adjust them to let more air in as well.

Durability

Hiking and mountaineering can really do a number on your gear. The constant abrasion of rocks, dirt, and vegetation adds up quickly, so you want a gaiter that’s tough.

The durability of fabrics is sometimes simplified by the “denier” of the material. Denier is a measure of how thick the individual strands in the cloth are. So a higher denier typically means a thicker, more abrasion-resistant material.

On the high end of this spectrum are materials like 1000d (denier) Cordura nylon, like in the Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiter. 40-80d nylon is a much cheaper material, but won’t provide as much long-term durability.

Closures

The way your gaiters fit onto your foot and shin has a lot to do with how good they are at keeping debris out. Gaiters for technical climbing have a cinch at the top, a velcro closure, a bootlace hook, and an instep strap.

Having this many straps and closures lets you tailor the fit so they stay snug and in place. It also lets you adjust the fit as need be. Cheaper gaiters have fewer closures, but for less technical uses you won’t need them as much.

Intended Use

The main way to figure out the intended use of a pair of gaiters is to figure out whether they’re more waterproof or breathable. Breathable gaiters are for light hiking and running in the summer.

Waterproof gaiters are for use on snow. They add extra warmth when you need it - in the winter. Breathable gaiters won’t repel water when you’re mountaineering. Waterproof gaiters will be way too hot in the heat of the summer.

Cost

Gaiters range from $20 to $90 or so. Cheaper models are commonly shorter, more elastic, have fewer closures, and are breathable. Expensive models are usually waterproof, knee-high, and have lots of closures.

Summary

We find the best all-around gaiters to be the Rab Muztag. For mountaineering, the Outdoor Research Crocodile is the top performer. For general use while hiking, the REI Co-op Backpacker Low gaiter is best.

Common questions

Are gaiters worth wearing?
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How do I choose a good gaiter?
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Do gaiters prevent snakebites?
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How waterproof are gaiters?
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Can you wash gaiters?
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I consider myself a citizen of the West. Currently residing in my hometown, Salt Lake City, Utah. Between my career as a wildlife biologist and my many outdoor hobbies (mountaineering, skiing, backpacking, climbing, canyoneering, caving), I’ve seen just about every nook and cranny of the Wild, Weird West.

*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.

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