Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Gaiters
6 September 2008
The Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low gaiters are short gaiters that fit over my hiking boots to keep trail debris from entering.
Name: Hollis Easter
Height: 6'0" (1.8 m)
Weight: 205 lb (93 kg)
Shoe size: 13 US
Preferred hiking footgear: light boots
Email address: backpackgeartest[a@t)holliseaster(dah.t]com
City, State, Country: Potsdam, New York, USA
Backpacking Background: I started hiking as a child in the Adirondack Mountains
of New York. As a teenager, I hiked my way to an Eagle Scout award. I
love winter climbing, and long days through rough terrain abound. The
peaks have become my year-round friends.
I am a midweight backpacker: I don't carry unnecessary gear, but neither
do I cut the edges from my maps. I hike in all seasons, at altitudes from
sea level to 5,300 ft (1,600 m), and in temperatures from -30 F (-34 C)
to 100 F (38 C).
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
Year of manufacture: 2006
Listed weight: 4.8 oz (136 g)
Actual weight: 4.3 oz (122 g)
Size: L/XL fits 8–12 US (41–46 Euro) shoes
MSRP: $22.00 US
Product features (from website):
- Traditional uncoated 8 oz (226 g) packcloth construction
- All-season performance
- Intended for use over hiking, backpacking, and cross-country ski boots
- One-inch-wide hook/loop front closure
- Boot lace hook
- Snaps at bottom and top
- Elastic bottom and top edges
- Nylon instep lace provided
Hiking locations used: Most of my spring, summer, and fall hiking during the last two years, including mountains in New York's Adirondack Mountains and Vermont's Green Mountains. I wore them most recently on a section hike of the Appalachian and Long Trails near Stratton Mountain in Vermont. I have also worn them for most of my rock climbing approaches during that time.
Description of locations: trails and forest bushwhacks, mountains up to
5,100 ft (1500 m). Highly varied.
Weather conditions: I've worn the Rocky Mountain Lows in bright sun well above 90 F (32 C), in pouring rain at 40 F (4 C), and in lots of conditions in between. I haven't taken them out in snow, as I have taller gaiters for that.
Inside view of gaiters
I bought the Rocky Mountain Low gaiters after a particularly irritating approach hike to a day of rock climbing. We had to bushwhack the whole way, through waist-high plants that were covered in dew. There was burdock everywhere, and the little burrs got stuck in my socks constantly, cutting my ankles unless I pulled them out immediately. It seemed as though I was stopping to pull rocks and bits of mud out of my boots every five paces. Something had to change.
I bought the gaiters before my next hike, and I've been wearing them ever since. They're small, lightweight, and effective at their job. Every once in a while, a bit of dirt or a stick will sneak its way down into my boots, but it happens very rarely, where it once was commonplace. I'll take it!
Outdoor Research recommends their "WRAP IT, THEN STRAP IT" approach to putting gaiters on: they recommend wrapping the gaiter around the leg with the logo on the outside, closing the hook/loop fastener and securing it with the snaps at top and bottom, putting the hook through the front boot laces, and then doing up the instep lace.
I did that the first time. Now I leave the instep lace tied, and just step into the gaiters. I move the lace so it passes under my instep, put the hook in place, and then do up the Velcro and snaps. Easy and quick! I find that the hook/loop fastener will stick to my boot laces if I'm not careful, so I move them out of the way before donning the gaiters.
Boots with and without gaiters
The gaiters fit me reasonably well, even though I wear a size 13 US (47 Euro) boot—a size too large for the L/XL gaiters. The calf opening is a little tight on me, so I push the tops down until they're just above my socks, and that works for me. The elastic edges of the gaiters work well to keep out rocks, twigs, and mud.
The hook/loop closure was a big selling point for me, since it means I can put on my gaiters without taking off my boots. I don't like to wear the gaiters in the car, and this makes it easy to get ready at the trailhead. Outdoor Research has installed snaps at the top and bottom of the hook/loop strip, and these keep everything securely fastened until I choose to change.
The gaiters work well in rain, too. I've hiked all day in rain wearing them, and found my socks dry. The elastic edges work well keeping out water along with everything else. Although the gaiters are made with uncoated fabric and are therefore not waterproof, I've found that my socks don't get really wet from rain. A happy discovery!
The gaiters fit my boots pretty closely, which is good. They don't catch on underbrush, they do protect my ankles against cuts, and they keep my boot laces from being snagged. I've added a piece of tubular webbing as a sleeve for each instep lace, to help protect it—so far so good.
The gaiters are easy to keep clean: even when they've been out in serious mud, it brushes easily off once it dries. I wish I could say the same for some other pieces of gear. I have never yet washed the gaiters, and they do not smell. I don't notice that my feet smell more or are much sweatier after wearing the gaiters, although the gaiters can be quite warm in bright sunlight. I wear wicking liner socks, and I've been comfortable.
A few things I've learned: it's important to apply sunscreen before putting the gaiters on. Hiking moves the edges of the gaiters around, and I got pretty bad sunburns around both ankles before I figured this one out.
The knots on the instep laces tend to loosen slightly. I think this is about the material and the fact that, with my oversized boots, most of the lace is taken up by surrounding my foot. I retie the knots periodically, and it doesn't seem to matter which knots I choose: they're usually a bit loose. This isn't a problem and doesn't affect much.
Gaiters in use (second from left)
I have been very happy with the Rocky Mountain Low gaiters. They keep dirt and other trail junk out of my boots, and that keeps my feet content. They're pretty good in rain, even though they aren't marketed for that.
Short gaiters don't look entirely cool, and my hiking buddies make fun of me. My feet are happy, though, and that's the test for me. I plan to keep using these gaiters.
- Keep out trail debris
- Protect my ankles from slashing by plants
- Fit pretty comfortably
- Weigh relatively little
- Don't turn my boots into saunas
- Instep lace begins to come undone sometimes
- I wish they made a size XXL for my big feet!
Read more gear reviews by Hollis Easter