Dedicated to Mara's travel and hiking adventure journals as well as her words of wisdom and suggested resources for hikers and travelers.
The function of gaiters changes from season to seaon and terrain to terrain. For three season hiking along trails such as the Appalachian Trail, some may suggest the use of gaiters to keep the rain out of your boots. To truly keep rain out of your boots, you would have to wear waterproof boots with gaiters that cover the tops well, rainpants OVER the gaiters, and a rainjacket over the rainpants with the hood up.
However, none of that will necessarily keep your feet dry. Unless it's truly cold, that get-up will likely have you sweating inside your homemade sauna. Your feet would sweat too so between the sweat running down inside your rain gear and the sweat your feet produce, your feet will probably get wet anyway.
For those that think gaiters work best over your rainpants, that's true when you're wading through a lot of snow that would otherwise push up under your pants.
Wearing such a get-up is not one that I recommend for the trail. If you wear waterproof boots (even Gore-tex ones), then once the inside of your boots get wet, they'll take a lot longer to dry that boots that aren't waterproof. For day hikes where you're going home and will have all week to let your gear dry before heading out the next weekend, this can definitely work well. In a situation such as a long-distance hike where you'll be walking day after day, you won't be giving your gear time to dry and you'll end up walking in wet boots for days.
Plus, on the A.T. the difference in humidity inside your rainwear and outside your rainwear isn't enough for Gore-tex to work very well. So while it will help for a while, it may take you 45 minutes to get wet from sweat instead of 15 minutes with other gear. If you're walking all day, does that really make a difference?
Oh yeah, and since everyone is different, your mileage may vary. There are those of us who start sweating when we just look at a hill. Then there are those that can climb all day on the desert and not break a sweat. Most are somewhere in between. You'll have to see what works for you.
So, for three-season conditions, I recommend the lightest shoes that work for you that will likely get wet quickly but also dry quickly. As for gaiters, to keep out dirt, sticks, and rocks, use lightweight non-waterproof shorty gaiteres. They'll be a lot cooler on your feet so your feet will sweat less.
At this point, I've gotten too aggravated with gaiters, even the shorty ones, and for three season conditions, haven't bothered with them for years.
That said, tall waterproof gaiters still have a place in my hiking closet. For winter conditions, they can work wonders to keep snow out of your boots. Given the cold conditions, your feet are also less likely to get wet from sweat so without melting snwo, it's possible to walk all day in the snow and still have dry feet at the end of the day.
Last updated, November 4, 2008.
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