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The best leg gaiters for exploring the snowy outdoors this winter

No matter how far off-trail you're exploring this winter, protect your legs with a good pair of gaiters

Outdoor adventuring in winter can be brutal. Frigid temperatures, waist-deep snow, and the constant challenge to stay dry all make cold-weather hiking, backpacking, and camping especially trying. As with any outdoor adventure, the right gear makes all the difference: Good insulated pants, warm socks, a cold-weather jacket, and lots and lots of layers for starters. But, nothing protects your lower extremities quite like a good pair of gaiters.

Not to be confused with neck gaiters, of course, traditional gaiters are designed to keep your legs, feet, and footwear dry while bushwhacking, post-holing, and extreme off-trail exploring. They're essential for anyone serious about exploring the outdoors in winter. Here are our picks for the best gaiters for venturing into the snowy outdoors in 2023.

Stone Glacier SQ2 Alpine Gaiter
Stone Glacier SQ2 Alpine Gaiters
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Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiters
Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiters
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Black Diamond Apex GTX Gaiters
Black Diamond Apex GTX Gaiters
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Outdoor Research Helium Gaiters
Outdoor Research Helium Gaiters
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Berghaus Yeti Attak Gore-Tex Hiking Gaiter
Berghaus Yeti Attak Gore-Tex Hiking Gaiters
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Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Gaiters
Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Gaiters
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REI Co-op Backpacker Low Gaiters
REI Co-op Backpacker Low Gaiters
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Salomon Trail Low Gaiters
Salomon Trail Low Gaiters
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Stone Glacier's SQ2 Alpine Gaiters on a white background.

Stone Glacier SQ2 Alpine Gaiters

If only the best will do, Stone Glacier’s SQ2 Alpine Gaiters are our hands-down pick for the best gaiters on the market. An adjustable closure ensures a snug fit, even when the going gets rough, while a featherweight construction guarantees comfortable all-day wear. The pinless buckle design provides for miles and miles of durability through the toughest terrain. Plus, the patent-pending Contrail BootStrap allows for easy replacing if you ever manage to wear it down.

Stone Glacier SQ2 Alpine Gaiter
Stone Glacier SQ2 Alpine Gaiters
Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiters on a white background.
Hillsound

Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiters

Hillsound focuses on making just a handful of outdoor products extremely well. Among its catalog are the Armadillo LT Gaiters. The lightweight construction and sleek design mean they’re easy and comfortable to wear on even the longest hikes. With a blend of Flexia 3.0 fabric on the upper and 1000D nylon on the lower cuff, they’re extremely durable to boot. When the going gets serious, they’re also breathable and waterproof, making these perfect for winter wear.

Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiters
Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiters
Black Diamond Apex GTX Gaiters on a white background.
Black Diamond

Black Diamond Apex GTX Gaiters

With a deep catalog of premium tents and backpacks, Black Diamond knows a thing or two about outdoor gear. So, it’s no surprise that the brand’s Apex GTX Gaiters are built to take a beating. With a beefy lower half that’s waterproof and abrasion-resistant, these full-length gaiters offer complete coverage for the nastiest winter hikes.

Black Diamond Apex GTX Gaiters
Black Diamond Apex GTX Gaiters
Outdoor Research Helium Gaiters on a white background.

Outdoor Research Helium Gaiters

Full-length protection typically means more weight, and more weight means having to work harder to move in the backcountry. Outdoor Research’s aptly named Helium Gaiters offer complete calf protection without unnecessary ounces. The knee-high gaiters are crafted from ripstop nylon with a Pertex Shield for a featherweight construction that’s almost as durable as their more extreme counterparts. For backpackers looking to shed pounds but keep most of the same protection, they’re nearly perfect.

Outdoor Research Helium Gaiters
Outdoor Research Helium Gaiters
Berghaus Yeti Attak Gore-Tex Hiking Gaiters on a white background.

Berghaus Yeti Attak Gore-Tex Hiking Gaiters

Serious adventures require serious gear. Berghaus’s Yeti Attak Gore-Tex Hiking Gaiters are arguably the most aggressive on this list. Designed for extreme alpine exploration, these gaiters guarantee dry, breathable protection in the worst rain, hail, sleet, and snow. Thanks to a fully fitted hook-and-loop closure system that secures the entire gaiter closed around your boot, they’re ready to tackle anything you can throw at them.

Berghaus Yeti Attak Gore-Tex Hiking Gaiter
Berghaus Yeti Attak Gore-Tex Hiking Gaiters
Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Gaiters on a white background.
Outdoor Research

Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Gaiters

Of course, not every backcountry adventure is extreme. For leisurely hikes without intense bushwhacking or exploring way off trail, Outdoor Research’s Rocky Mountain Low Gaiters provide just enough protection. The mid-height construction means they’re lighter and more streamlined than most full-cover gaiters. But, 420D nylon and a Hypalon strap ensure they’re plenty durable. Breathable fabrics all around allow sweat and water vapor to evaporate while keeping rain and snow out.

Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Gaiters
Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Gaiters
REI Co-op Backpacker Low Gaiters isolated on a white background.
REI

REI Co-op Backpacker Low Gaiters

REI’s own in-house REI Co-op brand has long been a favorite of ours for its reliable outdoor gear at a mid-tier price. The aptly named Backpacker Low Gaiters offer mid-height protection with an ultra-durable construction that’s waterproof and ready for all but the most extreme outdoor pursuits. The look is pretty bland, but at less than $45 for the pair, it’s hard to complain.

REI Co-op Backpacker Low Gaiters
REI Co-op Backpacker Low Gaiters
Salomon Trail Low Gaiters on a white studio background.
Salomon

Salomon Trail Low Gaiters

For even less adventurous pursuits, there’s Salomon’s Trail Low Gaiters. With a lightweight, ultra-streamlined design, they’re purpose-built for trail running. The elastic jersey construction and hook-and-loop closure are built for easy donning and doffing with just the right amount of protection for your ankles and running shoes.

Salomon Trail Low Gaiters
Salomon Trail Low Gaiters

How to shop for the best gaiters

Gaiters aren't overly complicated, but finding the right pair with the best fit for you is key. There are three main things to consider when shopping for the best gaiters: Height, weight, and features.

Gaiter height

In general, the more extreme the adventure, the taller you'll want your gaiters to be. Tall gaiters are best for hiking through snow or when you're planning to venture far off-trail or bushwhacking. Short to medium-height gaiters are better suited for things like trail running and on-trail hiking. Keep in mind that taller gaiters are typically warmer because they restrict airflow more than shorter ones.

Weight

By design, a pair of leg gaiters is likely to be among the lightest pieces of gear in your backpack. Thicker materials add ounces and, as goes the old hiker's adage, "ounces make pounds." Thru-hikers would argue that "pounds make pain." Basically, you want the lightest pack possible, while still carrying all your essential gear. But, you're buying gaiters to protect your legs. So, we recommend sacrificing a little more weight for more protection.

Features

The most important feature to look for when shopping for new gaiters is waterproofness. If you're planning to hike in deep snow or anywhere water crossings are an issue, consider a pair of true GORE-TEX gaiters. These provide premium protection against everything the backcountry can throw at you. The downside is that they're almost always heavier, thicker, more cumbersome, and pricier.

How easy your gaiters are to don and doff can be important too. If your new pair is frustrating to pull on or take off, you're less likely to wear them. Find a pair that "splays" open, so they'll go on and off easily without having to remove your boots.

Lastly, consider your gaiter's straps (or lack thereof). The best gaiters feature a strap that falls on the outside of your boots, underneath the outsole. This helps further secure the gaiters to your legs.

Whatever sorts of adventures you're getting into this winter — from trail running to bushwhacking your way to a summit for an overnight hiking expedition — having the right protective gear can be a lifesaver. The best gaiters can save your calves, ankles, and even knees from twigs, sharp sticks, and thorns whether you're on- or off-trail.

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