The Best Heavy Duty Gaiters For Hiking

If you’re heading into alpine country and will be encountering thick scrub or boulder fields,  you will benefit from taking a pair of heavy duty gaiters. Heavy duty gaiters are important for thick scrub as gaiters endure significant wear and tear, and only the toughest gaiters are reliable in these environments. In this guide we will cover:

  • What are gaiters?
  • Different types of gaiters
  • Why are gaiters useful?
  • Gaiter sizing
  • Fitting your gaiters
  • Things to look for in heavy duty gaiters
  • The best heavy duty gaiters in 2023

What are gaiters?

Gaiters, as shown above, are a hiking accessory that go over your boots and wrap around your lower leg, ending just below the knee. Gaiters are useful on all trail types, and if you are heading off track or into scrubby terrain they are your best friend. The most important thing when choosing gaiters is to match the gaiter length and material to the environment you are hiking in. Harsher environments that will bring you into contact with bushes, scrub, sticks and boulders are more suited to heavy duty 2/3 length or full length gaiters. Alpine environments and snow are better suited to full length gaiters.

Different Types of Gaiters

There are 3 types of gaiters. Ankle length gaiters, 2/3 length gaiters and full length gaiters. The bigger the gaiters, the more protection they offer from water, mud, leeches, sticks, scrub, boulders and snakes.

Different gaiter types; Ankle length, 2/3 length and full length gaiters

Different gaiter types; Ankle length, 2/3 length and full length gaiters. Image credit: REI

 

Why Are Gaiters Useful?

Ankle Length gaiters are best suited to short walks in dry conditions. These gaiters vary in material, from lightweight Polyester covers to heavy duty Canvas.

  • Ankle Length gaiters can help stop any leaf litter, dirt, sand or small rocks from entering your boots and causing discomfort

2/3 Length gaiters are best suited to short walks in wet or dry conditions. They provide considerable more protection than ankle length gaiters, but are not as useful in snow or protecting against sticks, snakes and leeches as full length gaiters. These gaiters vary in material, from lightweight Polyester covers to heavy duty Canvas.

  • 2/3 Length gaiters are fantastic for reducing the amount of water and mud that can enter your boots, helping keep your feet dry
  • 2/3 Length gaiters stop almost any leaf litter, dirt, sand or small rocks from entering your boots and causing discomfort
  • 2/3 Length gaiters reduce cuts, grazing and scratches on your legs from sticks, bushes and boulders
  • Heavy duty gaiters can prevent a snake bite from penetrating your skin on your lower leg
  • 2/3 Length gaiters provide sun protection on your lower leg when wearing shorts

Full length gaiters help protect your legs and boots. These gaiters vary in material, from lightweight Polyester covers to heavy duty Canvas. They are a multi-purpose accessory suitable for alpine day and multi-day walks that aid in the following:

  • Full length gaiters are fantastic for reducing the amount of water and mud that can enter your boots, helping keep your feet dry
  • Full length gaiters stop almost any leaf litter, dirt, sand or small rocks from entering your boots and causing discomfort
  • Full length gaiters reduce cuts, grazing and scratches on your legs from sticks, bushes and boulders
  • Heavy duty gaiters can prevent a snake bite from penetrating your skin
  • Full length gaiters help keep out leeches and other critters
  • Full length gaiters provide sun protection on your lower leg when wearing shorts
  • Full length gaiters keep your lower legs warm when hiking in snow

Gaiter Sizing – Leg Circumference and Boot Size

When sizing your gaiters, it is very important to consider the size of your boot and also the size of your calf muscle. The gaiter strap needs to be able to fit around the bottom of your boot in the in-step (the section of your boot sole before the heel where there is a gap). If you are wearing snow shoes or large boots you will need to size up. Watch out for the circumference of the gaiter especially if you have small feet, as a size Small might suit your boot size, but be too small to wrap around your calf. Follow the manufacturers sizing chart for further information.

Putting On Your Gaiters

Gaiters can be a bit tricky to fit the first time around and there are a few tricks to watch out for. If you are putting on gaiters for the first time, you will need to adjust the in-step strap to fit around your boot snuggly. If you have purchased a pair of heavy duty gaiters with a metal in-step strap, you may find that it is very difficult to adjust with your hands and may require a set of pliers or a multi-tool. For this reason, we recommend doing the initial fitting at home before you hit the trail.

Steps to fitting your gaiters

  1. Open the velcro all of the way, so that the gaiter is flat on the ground. Identify the inside and outside of the gaiter, the inside of the gaiter will wrap around the back of your leg. The opening needs to face towards your toes.
  2. Place your boot over the in-step strap. You may need to slightly tighten the in-step strap to be closer to your boot to do the next step, however we recommend waiting to finish tightening this strap until your gaiters are on completely
  3. Place the lace hook over your boot laces. This doesn’t have to the be the top boot lace, you may find that it sits comfortably halfway down your laces, as the gaiter should cover the top third-half of your boot.
  4. Starting at the bottom, line up the velcro and press down to seal it, running your hand up the gaiter to seal the entire velcro strip.
  5. Close any buttons and clips that connect both sides of the gaiters. There is usually one at your ankle and one at your knee. For some gaiters, you may need to do this before you seal the velcro strip, as the button or clip may not reach otherwise.
  6. Tighten the top of the gaiter until it is in contact with your skin
  7. Adjust the instep strap to wrap snuggly around your boot in the gap under your foot arch. if you have purchased heavy duty gaiters with a metal in strap you will likely only need to do this once.
  8. Go for a walk around and make sure that they are comfortable. If anything is too tight undo it and adjust it. Repeat until the gaiter feels comfortable to walk and climb stairs in.If you get stuck, REI have produced this fantastic guide below.

 

Things To Look For In Heavy Duty Gaiters

Heavy duty gaiters need to be able to endure harsh terrain. Heavy duty gaiters may only last 1-2 years with frequent use on off track walks. To help ensure that you choose a high quality pair of gaiters, we would recommend buying something that is at least 70% canvas, has metal buttons or clips, metal in-step straps and a metal lace hook. Some gaiters utilise water-resistant breathable materials like Gore-tex to help keep your boots dry.

If the in-step strap is made from elastic cord it will perish very quickly on boulders and harsh terrain. Even the metal in-step straps are usually the first thing to go as they will bend and split at the buckle after significant use. Once the bottom strap has fallen off, they are difficult to keep in place, so carrying some spare cord when they are nearing the end of their life would be a good idea. Straps that have holes are easier to set up, where-as others just use a metal strap without holes, such as the Sea to Summit Quagmire Canvas gaiters.

 

Full length heavy duty gaiters. Image credit: REI

Full length heavy duty gaiters. Image credit: REI

The Best Heavy Duty Gaiters

Sea To Summit Quagmire

A rough and tough version of the Sea to Summit Quagmire Gaiter made from cool and comfortable 8oz canvas. Ideal for saving your shins on leg-destroying, overgrown tracks – and providing serious footwear protection.

Features

  • Knee-height shin protection
  • Made from 8oz canvas packcloth upper
  • Tough 1000D Nylon boot section with lining
  • Adjustable 50mm front opening gives fantastic fit and easy access
  • Super hard-wearing replaceable underfoot strap
  • Lightweight and strong aircraft alloy quick release closure
  • 316 stainless-steel, powder coated lace hook
  • All fabrics use a C0 DWR which is PFC-free
Check Price: Sea To Summit Quagmire Gaiters
Sea to Summit Quagmire Gaiters

Sea to Summit Quagmire Gaiters

Hunters Element Basin Gaiters

NZ based Hunter Element’s heavy duty gaiter, built for hikers and hunters alike.

Features:

  • Weight szM: 200g each
  • Made from Hydrafuse™ StealthSHELL™
  • Cordura lined for stiffness and durability
  • Specially designed lace hooks with twin rivets
  • Durable webbing loops for wire attachment
  • Quality YKK® zip and secure double stitched front Velcro
  • Double domes
  • Closure system located on the front to help protect your shins
  • Quick-adjust webbing strap
  • Reinforced side panel
Check Price: Hunters Element Basin Gaiters
Hunters Element Basin Gaiters

Hunters Element Basin Gaiters

Hunters Element Kayahan Venom 2 Gaiters

The Venom V2 Gaiter has been built to the same high standard as the extremely popular Basin Gaiter, but with the added Fang Shield.

Features:

  • Weight SzM: 350g each
  • Double-stitched Cordura lining for durability and stab protection
  • Fang Shield internal membrane
  • Quick-adjust webbing strap for easy on & off
  • Twin riveted lace hooks to lock the gaiter down
  • Heavy-duty webbing loops for wire attachment (not supplied).
  • Reinforced stress points for endurance
  • Angled side closure makes zipping up simple and protects Velcro
  • Heavy-duty YKK zippers
Check Price: Hunters Element Venom 2 Gaiters

 

Hunters Element Venom 2 Gaiters

Hunters Element Venom 2 Gaiters

Bushbuck Kayahan X Silent Gaiters

I have had the pleasure of seeing Bushbuck gaiters in action in the Tasmanian wilderness and they endure the rough terrain really well. They are more expensive than the popular Sea to Summit Quagmire gaiters, but I think that the value is there. The Bushbuck gaiters might be the most durable gaiters on the market.

Tough, silent and water-repellent, the Bushbuck Kayahan X Silent Gaiters provide the protection you need for charging through the bush.

Features:

  • Silent tricot face fabric with oxford ripstop canvas backing
  • C6 DWR fabric treatment (water-repellency)
  • Tough nylon velcro for maximum hold
  • Stainless steel lace hook
  • Adjustable metal G-hook
  • Cord filled hyperlon under-boot strap, with buckle adjustment (haven’t had one customer wear through the hyperlon rubber in 7+ years of using hyperlon)
  • Neoprene top cuff for extra comfort and reduce leg chafe
  • Hyperlon bash pad
  • Pack grade stitching and strengthening bar-tacks in all high wear areas
Check price: Bushbuck Kayahan X Silent Gaiters
Bushbuck Kayahan X Silent Gaiters

Bushbuck Kayahan X Silent Gaiters

Bushbuck Kayahan Snake X Gaiter

The Kayahan Snake X Gaiters have been primarily designed as a snake resistant gaiter. These gaiters use our trusted & proven Kayahan Gaiter style with an abrasion resistant 600d poly spun dual bonded canvas material.

Features:

  • 600d poly spun dual bonded canvas
  • DWR fabric treatment (water-repellency)
  • Tough nylon velcro for maximum hold
  • Stainless steel lace hook
  • Adjustable metal G-hook
  • Cord filled hyperlon under-boot strap, with buckle adjustment (haven’t had one customer wear through the hyperlon rubber in 7+ years of using hyperlon)
  • Neoprene top cuff for extra comfort and reduce leg chafe
  • Hyperlon bash pad
  • Pack grade stitching and strengthening bar-tacks in all high wear areas
Bushbuck Kayahan Snake X Gaiter
Bushbuck Kayahan Snake X Gaiter

Bushbuck Kayahan Snake X Gaiter