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. But, like any outdoor adventure, the right gear makes all the difference. Nothing protects your lower extremities 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. Here are our picks for the best gaiters for venturing into the snowy outdoors this winter.
If only the best will do, Stone Glacier’s SQ2 Alpine Gaiters are arguably the best gaiters on the market. An adjustable closure ensures a snug fit, even when the going gets rough, while a featherweight construction delivers 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.
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.
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.
Full-length protection typically means more weight, and more weight means having to work a lot 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.
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.
Of course, not every backcountry is extreme. For more leisurely hikes that might not involve 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.
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.
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.
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