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Trekmates Gaiters - range overview Review

© Dan Bailey

I don't love gaiters, and avoid them if I can get away with it, preferring to dance light-footed over the bogs and just put up with the occasional damp trouser leg. It's funny how many hillwalkers you see wearing them on dry days and well-drained paths, but I guess like chunky leather boots and map cases around the neck, they're a reflex part of the walking get-up. Going gaiter-free will always be cooler, lighter, more comfy and of course more pro-looking - until suddenly it's none of those things, and you have a foot full of sludge. 

Embracing baggy knees in the Cairngorm Gaiter - useful on Fionn Bheinn, a hill that's half mud  © Dan Bailey
Embracing baggy knees in the Cairngorm Gaiter - useful on Fionn Bheinn, a hill that's half mud
© Dan Bailey

Whether it's snowy or rainy, or you're venturing off-path through bogs or scratchy heather, gaiters certainly have their uses. On winter mountains they're often close to a necessity, unless you have trousers with a built-in snow skirt. In summer they can offer an extra layer of tick protection. All things considered, my gaiter-snobbishness is probably quite silly. It's just a shame they look so geeky, with that unfetching baggy-kneed-trouser effect (note to self: consider leggings... or on second thoughts, don't).  

Not just for winter or wet weather, gaiters can be welcome if, for example, it's a sunny day on spring snow   © Dan Bailey
Not just for winter or wet weather, gaiters can be welcome if, for example, it's a sunny day on spring snow
© Dan Bailey

With options in both Gore-Tex and more wallet-friendly alternatives, the Trekmates range includes something for pretty much every gaiter-worthy occasion, from long-cut and durable models for winter mountaineering, to ankle-length gaiters better suited to summer. They even do kids. Eating my words and embracing the geek look, this spring I've been using three different pairs from the Gore-Tex end of the range.

  • Nevis GTX
  • Laggan GTX
  • Cairngorm GTX

Useful for stream crossings, too  © Dan Bailey
Useful for stream crossings, too
© Dan Bailey

Fit

All these gaiters come in three sizes, based on a user's height and/or shoe size:

  • Size 1 - Height 5'3 - 5'7   Shoe size 35-40
  • Size 2 - Height 5'6 - 5'10 Shoe size 38-44
  • Size 3 - Height 5'8 - 6'2   Shoe size 42-48

I'm towards the upper end on both measures, so my notes on fit and weight refer to the size 3 versions.

Summary

There's plenty of detail below - but let's be frank, gaiters are not the most riveting subject. If you just want the basic gist then I won't be offended:

All three models are well designed, and each has a specific niche. If you're winter climbing or mountaineering (the main use for which I'd consider gaiters, personally), then go for the Nevis. Perhaps you want a lightweight and well-cut model for all seasons? If so, look at the Laggan. On the other hand, no-nonsense traditionalists who just want something tough and reliable for plodding through rainy bogs should be more than happy with the Cairngorm. For Gore-Tex gaiters, all three models seem reasonably priced.

Nevis GTX Gaiter - £45

As the name might suggest, Trekmates' top-of-the-range model is designed for winter climbers, and the more committed winter hillwalker. From a brand with more climbing cachet you could spend upwards of £60 on something similar, and while you might get a slightly more refined design and build quality for your money, the Nevis does the same job. At the end of the day we're talking about something that's likely to get trashed sooner or later, so I think the £45 price tag represents good value.

The knee-length cut and sturdy fabric make them a good bet for snowy conditions  © Dan Bailey
The knee-length cut and sturdy fabric make them a good bet for snowy conditions
© Dan Bailey

Nevis gaiters, also good for the Cairngorms  © Dan Bailey
Nevis gaiters, also good for the Cairngorms
© Dan Bailey

Weight

Weighing 206g for my pair of size 3 (Trekmates overestimate at 225g/pair), the Nevis Gaiter seems pretty light for what you're getting. You'll certainly find heavier mountaineering-style gaiters, and being thinner and more supple than some I've used, they can be folded down quite small for packing.

Fit

The Nevis is cut long for maximum protection, coming right up over the calves to just below the crease on the inside of the knee. The length fits me perfectly: any higher and I'd find it annoying. While there's sufficient room at the bottom to accommodate a bulky winter boot, the lower leg is still trim enough to minimise the risk of crampon snags. I've been using them with the Scarpa Mata Tech GTX, not a notably compact boot for a B2; they also fit fine on my more climbing-oriented Salewa Vultur Vertical GTX, again not the most slimline B3 you'll see. Of course the tradeoff is that the Nevis is really cut too loose to go neatly over summer footwear, making this more of a winter-only gaiter. 

Some snazzier climbing-oriented gaiters have a more pronounced hourglass shape, with a narrower ankle section to create cleaner lines; the slightly straighter-cut shape of the Nevis is a bit less refined, but perhaps that's to be expected at the price. I can't say it has affected me in use, though I've only been hillwalking and easy mountaineering in them to date. I have pretty big calves, and the fit of the upper part is close on me without being too tight to go over my usual winter combo of softshell trousers and thermal leggings; if you have truly tree-trunk-like lower legs however, then you might want to try them on for size before buying. 

Nevis Gaiters, more than a match for slushy spring snow  © Dan Bailey
Nevis Gaiters, more than a match for slushy spring snow
© Dan Bailey

Fabric

The 100% polyester 3-layer Gore-Tex fabric used on the upper calf feels durable enough to take some abuse, but it's softer and a bit less armour-like than some gaiters I have worn in the past, which makes the Nevis pretty comfy as these things go. I've found them as breathable as you can expect of any gaiter, which is to say they're hot and sweaty in warmer conditions but fine when it's cool. In colder weather the extra insulation and windproofing for the lower leg is actually a good thing. Down at crampon-nicking height you get a big area of tough polyamide/elastane fabric, which is stiffer and a lot more abrasion-resistant than the upper, and which also has a bit of stretch for a better fit over winter boots.

Wearing the Nevis gaiters under a pair of Paramo trousers - one way to avoid the baggy knee syndrome  © Allan Gorman
Wearing the Nevis gaiters under a pair of Paramo trousers - one way to avoid the baggy knee syndrome
© Allan Gorman

Closure, hooks and straps

You get no front zip with the Nevis Gaiter, just a wide and robust 'hook and loop' (generic Velcro) strip with a popper at top and bottom. This is slightly less faff to get into than a zip-and-velcro design, and makes for a marginally lower profile fit at the front. It seems to work as securely as a zip, and so far I've not noticed it getting clogged with snow; makes you wonder why any gaiters have a zip. While the main fabric is soft, the relative stiffness of the closure strip helps the gaiter hold its shape without slipping down the leg. For a tighter seal at the top there's an elastic drawcord with a toggle that you can operate one-handed. While this has no retainer for the loose ends of elastic, these tails are not long so they don't flop about annoyingly.

At the front is the usual metal lace hook, while the under-boot strap is a thin but seemingly tough rubbery strip. Easily removed or replaced, this strap is directed up the top side of the gaiter on the outside of the ankle so that you can easily adjust it for length, while on the inside leg the boot strap tucks up inside to reduce the risk of snags and trips. At least that's the idea; however on one of my review pair the sewn retaining loop for the boot strap is external on both sides of the gaiter. This is clearly a manufacturing mistake, and may suggest sloppy quality control. 

Trekmates say:

Designed for adventures higher up the mountain, our Nevis puts the focus on high performance and functionality. The 3-layer GORE-TEX upper panels provide exceptional winter weather protection, while the abrasion-resistant polyamide stretch lower panels protect against rocks, scuffs and misplaced crampon spikes. The three size fit goes by height as well as shoe size to give a better indication of calf length. The reliable hook and loop closure with snap fastener provide a secure fit, creating an effective protective sleeve around the top of the boot and lower calf, keeping out loose debris as well as the elements.

  • Sizes: 1-3
  • Weight: 206g/pair size 3 (our weight)
  • 3-layer GORE-TEX upper panels
  • Abrasion-resistant Nylon stretch lower panels
  • Alpine fit, works with most mountain walking boots
  • Replaceable, durable, non-slip under boot strap
  • Hook and loop front closure with snap fastener for easy alignment
  • Adjustable calf, with snag-free split drawcord
  • Metal laces hook at front hem

For info see trekmates.co.uk

Laggan GTX Gaiter - £42

Very similar in design to the Nevis, the Laggan Gaiter has a slightly closer fit that better suits standard walking boots than mountaineering boots, making this a bit more of a year-round all-rounder and less of a winter specialist. Here Trekmates have used Gore-Tex Paclite rather than straight-up Gore Tex, and this helps to save a bit of weight. Does it make much difference to breathabilty? As an end user, I really can't say... 

Laggan Gaiters, proving their worth on a day with lots of bog, and a couple of decent stream crossings  © Dan Bailey
Laggan Gaiters, proving their worth on a day with lots of bog, and a couple of decent stream crossings
© Dan Bailey

Weight

These are the lightweights of the pack, at just 194g for my size 3 review pair, making the Laggan a good choice for weight conscious users. Being a bit lighter makes them seem more seasonally versatile than the Nevis too.

Fit

As tall as the Nevis, coming up to just below the knee, the Laggan offers full lower leg protection. This would be welcome in deep snow, when crossing swollen burns, and in colder weather; but in summer that extra length is bound to feel excessive at times, and it'll inevitably be hotter and sweatier than a lower gaiter in the same fabric. On the upper calf the cut feels marginally closer than the Nevis, which I've found makes layering over other legwear just a little more of a squeeze. Again, I do have chunky legs, and if your pins are skinny there'll be no issue, but it's possible that folk with extra massive calves could find the Laggan too tight.

Laggan Gaiters, fitting well even on La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Mids, which are less bulky than most boots  © Dan Bailey
Laggan Gaiters, fitting well even on La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Mids, which are less bulky than most boots
© Dan Bailey

While the lower section of the Nevis is sized to fit winter mountaineering boots, the closer 'trekking fit' on the Laggan is designed for less bulky non-technical walking boots. I've found they work very well on 3-season walking boots such as the Scarpa R-Evo GTX, and even marry nicely with something like the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Mid, which is basically a trainer with a bit of cuff. I can just about force them over B2 and B3 boots, but it's a tight fit and the match isn't optimal, so this model is less winter-oriented despite its length and general look.

Fabric

Here Trekmates have gone with a recycled Gore-Tex Paclite membrane, paired with a soft and supple polyester face fabric. This 2-layer fabric feels slightly thinner and less durable than the 3-layer Gore-Tex used on the Nevis, which again says all rounder rather than winter specialist. It clearly isn't up to quite as much rough treatment, abrasion on rocks and the like, but instead it's made for lightness and packability. If you're shoving them in a rucksack, each Laggan gaiter can be squashed down to about the size of a satsuma.

While it is impossible as an end user to compare their breathability with that of the Nevis - and Gore do not publish breathability performance figures, unhelpfully - their lightness and thinness alone suggest that the Laggan are the ones you'd want to be wearing in warmer weather. Having used them on sunny spring days, I'd say they are as cool and comfy as you can expect of a gaiter (all things being relative).

As on the Nevis, the lower portion of the Laggan is a tough polyamide/elastane, which provides protection from rocks and careless crampons, with a slight stretch that helps give a nice boot-hugging fit. You get a smaller panel of this on the Laggan, in keeping with its broader seasonal remit.

On the instep side, the strap runs under the gaiter to avoid tripping  © Dan Bailey
On the instep side, the strap runs under the gaiter to avoid tripping
© Dan Bailey

On the outer side, it's external to make it easier to adjust  © Dan Bailey
On the outer side, it's external to make it easier to adjust
© Dan Bailey

Closure, hooks and straps

I can't think why, but in this case Trekmates provide a chunky zip for the closure, with the addition of a hook and loop (non-branded Velcro) storm flap. Having two things to open is more fiddly, it weighs slightly more, and it's hard to see what advantage a zip may have over pure velcro in any case. 

Again, there's a big metal lace hook which is easy to use when wearing gloves, and the same narrow-but-tough removable under-boot strap, which tails over the gaiter for easy adjustment on the outside of the ankle, and underneath the gaiter on the inside of the ankle to reduce the risk of trips and snags.  

Trekmates say:

Combining abrasion resistant polyamide stretch lower panels with a recycled GORE-TEX Paclite upper to create a lightweight packable gaiter with premium weatherproof performance.

  • Sizes: 1-3
  • Weight: 194g/pair size 3 (our weight)
  • Recycled GORE-TEX paclite plus product technology upper panels
  • Abrasion resistant polyamide stretch lower panels
  • Replaceable and durable, non-slip under boot strap
  • Zip closure with hook and loop storm flap
  • Metal laces hook at front hem
  • Adjustable calf with snag-free split drawcord

For info see trekmates.co.uk

Cairngorm GTX Gaiter - £35

A more traditional walker-oriented design, the Cairngorm looks like every other gaiter you'll see out on the summer hills, with a slightly shorter and more boxy shape, and the customary elasticated ankle section. For many walkers this type of gaiter is ideal, and this well-priced Gore-Tex model will be all they need. However it's a bit baggy for deft footwork when wearing crampons, and being a less refined offering it is also comparatively weighty.

Cairngorm Gaiter - also good for the soggy northwest  © Dan Bailey
Cairngorm Gaiter - also good for the soggy northwest
© Dan Bailey

Weight

I make my size 3 pair 252g, which is by some margin the heaviest of the three on review (Trekmates say 230g). For the all-round hillwalker who isn't looking to save every last gram, this weight won't matter at all.

Shorter but slightly looser fitting than the Laggan and Nevis, and with an elasticated ankle section  © Dan Bailey
Shorter but slightly looser fitting than the Laggan and Nevis, and with an elasticated ankle section
© Dan Bailey

Fit

The Cairngorm sits a fraction lower on the calf than the others, which I guess will make it slightly cooler (these things are hard to gauge in use). While the elasticated section around the ankle helps give you a close seal at the top of the boot, above this the gaiter bulges out so it has a roomier feel in the upper calf than the Nevis or Laggan. These looser lines suggest it'd be more likely than its siblings to catch a stray crampon point. While the lower section readily fits over my size 47 summer leather boots, it's perhaps a little spacious on less bulky footwear such as the Ultra Raptors. At the other extreme, it's a struggle (though just possible) to stretch it onto a 4-season boot. Overall the cut feels less refined and fitted than the higher priced alternatives, and this is the one I'd be least likely to use in winter, or for climbing, for which you want a clean snag-free lower leg. 

Fabric

As per the Nevis there's a 3-layer Gore-Tex upper section, which is soft and supple but feels noticeably thicker and tougher than the 2-layer Paclite on the Laggan. Here, the lower panel is a ripstop polyester rather than the polyamide/elastane reinforcement found on the Nevis and the Laggan, and though this fabric seems very durable it also feels somehow cheaper and not as snazzy. There's no stretch in the fabric itself - that's what the sewn-in elastic strips at the ankle and hem are for.

The calf adjustment toggles have no retainer, and you occasionally notice them flop around a bit  © Dan Bailey
The calf adjustment toggles have no retainer, and you occasionally notice them flop around a bit
© Dan Bailey

Closure, hooks and straps

Again, you get both a zip and a hook-and-loop closure on the Cairngorm, and at risk of repeating myself this seems unnecessarily belt-and-braces where a strip of hook-and-loop would probably have been enough. There's the same big metal lace hook (it makes sense to share some basic components), and the arrangement of the boot strap is identical to the others too - except that there's no sewn-in strap-retaining loop on the inside in this case.

At the top, the Cairngorm's elastic drawcord has a bulkier toggle than on the pricier alternatives. Between this and the fact that the elastic tails are rather longer, and do not feature any kind of tail-neatening loop, the drawcords can flop about - annoying when you remember to notice them.

Trekmates say:

A much-loved classic amongst hillwalkers, our Cairngorm GTX gaiter uses ripstop polyester reinforcement lower panels and 3-layer GORE-TEX upper panels to give premium weatherproof performance without a premium price. An elasticated ankle and rear hem keep the gaiter secure around the boot, while the zip and hook and loop storm flap prevent any mud or debris sneaking in. The snug trekking fit, durable abrasion-resistant lower panelling and snag-free split drawcords make these perfect for days walking through the wet autumn brush.

  • Sizes: 1-3
  • Weight: 252g/pair size 3 (our weight)
  • 3-layer GORE-TEX upper panels
  • Ripstop polyester reinforcement lower panels
  • Trekking fit, works with most standard boots
  • Replaceable, durable, non-slip under boot strap
  • Zip closure with hook and loop storm flap
  • Adjustable calf, with snag-free split drawcord
  • Elasticated ankle
  • Metal laces hook at front hem

For info see trekmates.co.uk



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25 May

Ever get the impression that someone doesn't like gaiters, didn't really want to do this review, ditched the gaiters as soon as the photo's were taken :)

What do folks think of different types of integrated gaiter?

I have a pair of ME karakorum with integrated gaiter that hook onto your boots. I find them to be rubbish. The back of the gaiter is elasticated and ends up over the top of my boot and when stepping high your knee pulls on the gaiter which limits how high you can step.

I've had boots with the ankle seal on and whilst it was a bit better for the odd patch of snow they still weren't the answer for long duration stuff.

so I wear gaiters when there's soft snow on the ground but I share Dan's lack of love for the things.

is there a better way?

25 May

Mrs Airborne has voiced a desire to tick the Wainwrights so I'm mulling gaiters. Never thought I'd type those words. Anybody used any shorter gaiters and rate them?

25 May

If you are regularly in very wet conditions then Yeti gaiters glued to your boots is an option.

25 May

Is there a link to Ebay where these test models can be bought yet?

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