Gaiters are fabric sleeves which cover the upper boot, ankle and usually lower leg. The main reason they are worn is to close the gap between the pants and boots, preventing things from getting inside your footwear. This includes snow, rain, gravel, mud, dirt, plant matter, and anything else you might come into contact with on the trail. Furthermore, gaiters guard against abrasions from bushes and rocks, and provide added insulation for you lower legs.
While not absolutely essential on the mountain, gaiters offer extra protection from the elements, and that’s a good thing. We estimate that about 25% of climbers on Kilimanjaro wear gaiters. They are optional, but nice to have, especially on the summit night when there is plenty of scree (gravel) on the path and when temperatures can be extreme.
What are the best gaiters for climbing Kilimanjaro?
For climbing Kilimanjaro, look for waterproof or water resistant gaiters that extend from the boot to just below the knee, protecting the entire lower leg. These are known as full length gaiters or high gaiters.
Ankle gaiters, or low gaiters, go from the the boot to the bottom of the pants only, covering the gap in between but not the shin or calf. They are not as effective given their design and material and thus should be avoided on Kilimanjaro.
Gaiters typically can be opened up completely. Once the gaiter is wrapped around the leg, it can be be fastened using velcro or zippers. A top closure strap adjusts for a snug fit to keep the gaiters from sliding down. A stirrup or instep strap goes under the bottom of the shoe and is secured on the side to hold the gaiter down against the boot. There is also a lace hook or to hold the gaiter in place near the front of the boot.
Gaiters should always be worn outside the trouser leg. Be sure that the gaiters fit well around your boot/shoe and lower leg. If they are too small, they will either not fit at all, not close around the shoe or leg, or ride too high on the leg. If they are too big, they will have a large gap between the shoe and gaiter, or slide down while trekking.
Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain High Gaiters
These water resistant, breathable gaiters from Outdoor Research feature durable construction and no-bulk design. They have a velcro front closure, buckle top closure and a boot lace hook.
The Outdoor Research Rock Mountain High Gaiters retail for $45.
Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiters
These heavy duty, full length gaiters are waterproof and breathable. They have a velcro front closure, buckle top closure and a boot lace hook. This gaiter has a larger circumference, made for bigger boots, so opt for a different gaiter if you intend to wear trail shoes.
The Crocodile Gaiter is made by Outdoor Research and can be purchased for about $80.
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