Gaiters: What are They and When do You Need Them
Hiking Rurimueria Hills was a pain. After 3 or so false summits, we made it to the summit. The hike was beautiful.
I’m yet to hike Elephant hill, but I would argue that of all the ranges of the Aberdares, Rurimueria hills has the most beautiful heath and moorland vegetation. Our descent was interrupted by a hail storm. Luckily, I had a raincoat but it could only cover me just below the knee, which meant that my legs were exposed and my hiking boots were drenched. I couldn’t feel my legs or my hands. My hands felt like tree stumps and I had to descend quickly to avoid falling sick.
I practically ran to the foot of Rurimueria hills. Since then, I have always carried a pair of gaiters while hiking the Aberdare Ranges.
What is the purpose of gaiters?
Gaiters start from mid-calf and run to the bottom of the feet. If I had gaiters while hiking Rurimueria, my hiking boots would not have been drenched in water. Gaiters also protect your feet and hiking boots from wet marshland.
For example, the Aberdare Ranges has marshy and boggy vegetation, so wearing a pair of gaiters will go a long way in preventing shoes, socks and pants from getting soaked.
There are different types and Purposes of Gaiters:
- Bugout gaiters keep ticks and mosquitoes away. These use Insect Shield to protect hikers from insect carrying bugs.
- Hiking gaiters. They are lightweight, breathable and offer protection in mid weather. These are good for backpacking and typical one-day hikes.
- Mountaineering gaiters. They offer protection from harsh weather and terrain. They have insulation on top of being waterproof and breathable.
- Trail running gaiters. These are designed for runners to keep debris and twigs away.
Why do hikers wear gaiters?
As mentioned above, it’s to protect against hubris and wetness. Some trails may not necessarily be marshy like Mt Satima or Rurimeria, but they can be really muddy. In my experience, most Kenyan trails don’t require gaiters, unless you’re hiking Aberdare Ranges or Mount Kenya.
In this case, you can opt for hiking gaiters for the Aberdare Ranges and Mountaineering gaiters for Mount Kenya. Rei has a good article resource on choosing gaiters, types of gaiters, gaiter sizing for men and women and how to choose gaiters.
Can you wear gaiters with hiking shoes?
You wear gaiters with hiking shoes. Gaiters have an external hook and loop system that goes over your shoes. They’re meant to be worn over your hiking shoes to provide bug and debris protection.
Do you need gaiters with pants?
Most gaiters reach start mid-calf or at the knee. They make sure your hiking shoes, your socks, and the lower ends of your pants are protected from wetness and debris.
Can you wear gaiters with shorts?
Trail running gaiters are usually ankle length so they can be worn with shorts. Additionally, if you have a good grasp of the terrain you’re about to encounter, you can wear hiking gaiters with shorts. Otherwise, wear pants. We encountered waist level stinging nettle while hiking Kijabe hills which meant that hiking shorts would have been a bad idea.
Do you wear gaiters over rain pants?
Wear them under rain pants in order to lock moisture out. Gaiters should go over the non-waterproofs (hiking shoes and socks) and under the waterproofs (rain pants and raincoats).
Are rain pants necessary?
In addition to raincoats and gaiters, I’ve always carried rain pants (waterproof pants) especially while hiking the Aberdare Ranges.
Do waterproof trousers keep you warm?
They are designed to keep you warm and they’re treated with a waterproof coating to repel water.
Hiking gaiters are the first investment I’d ask you to make especially if you’re a rookie hiker, preparing for the Aberdare Ranges or adding to your hiking gear collection. If you’re gearing for serious mountaineering, mountaineering gaiters are the way to go.