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Reviews > Footwear > Accessories > Gaiters > REI Desert Gaiters > Owner Review by Bob Dorenfeld

REI Desert Gaiter
By Bob Dorenfeld
August 06, 2013


NAME: Bob Dorenfeld
EMAIL: geartest(at)sageandspruce(dot)net
AGE: 55
LOCATION: Salida, Colorado, USA
HEIGHT: 5' 6" (1.68 m)
WEIGHT: 142 lb (64.40 kg)

I'm an active hiker, snowshoer, skier, backpacker, amateur geographer and naturalist. Home base is the Southern Colorado Rockies, where I usually journey from 7000 ft (2100 m) to above treeline, with an occasional desert trip to lower altitudes. Six to 12 miles (10 to 20 km) hiking in a day is my norm, including elevation change of as much as 4000 ft (1200 m) in a day. Most of my backpack trips are two or three nights, sometimes longer. Often I hike off-trail on challenging talus, snowfields, or willow brakes, with occasional bouldering.

Product Information

Manufacturer: Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI)
Year of Manufacture: 2013
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: US$26.50
Listed Weight: 3.9 oz (111 g)
Measured Weight: 3.9 oz (111 g)
Gaiter height: Over-the-ankle
Material: Nylon
Color (one available): Tan
Size: Small/Medium (also available in Large/X Large)
Gender: Unisex

Product Description

REI Desert Gaiters are light-duty low-rise gaiters for men or women. "Over-the-ankle" means that they rise about 4 in (10 cm) above the top of a mid-height backpacking boot. They are mainly intended to keep pebbles, grass, stickers, and other debris out of boots and off of socks (at least the part covered by the gaiter). Despite the name, they can be used in any environment, but with some limitations, since they are made of non-waterproof nylon. The hook-and-loop down the front facilitates attaching and removing them over shoes or boots, a snap at the bottom of the hook-and-loop keeps it from separating, and a loop at the bottom of the gaiter hooks onto shoelaces. An instep cord wraps around the boot's bottom to hold the gaiter in place, and the length of the cord is adjusted by retying the knot holding the cord in its grommet at the bottom of the gaiter. Elastic around the top and bottom of each gaiter holds it tight around both ankle and boot. These gaiters come in two sizes: "small/medium" and "large/X large", which REI matches to a range of shoe sizes for both men and women. I'm reviewing the small/medium size, to match my men's size 42 (9) boots. There is a small fabric loop at the top of each gaiter, presumably for pulling them up while on the boots, or for storage by tying them together or attaching to a pack or clothing.
REI Desert Gaiter
Photo: REI, Inc.

Field Use

I've been using my pair of REI Desert Gaiters for almost ten years - they are now part of my standard day pack and backpack gear. I'm glad to see that REI still has them available in their store at this writing. Although I don't wear them frequently, I've found that they come in handy on average for 2-3 hikes each year, for a total of about 20 miles (32 km) per year. I've worn them in all seasons, from hot summers to cold winters, as well as in a variety of terrains including desert, grasslands, rocky slopes, and in snow and rain.

The Desert Gaiters are easy to put on and take off, facilitated by the hook-and-loop down the front. I've had to occasionally adjust the instep cord's length over the years since I've worn different boots that have had slightly different dimensions. Some years ago I replaced the original cords with new shock cord because they had gotten abraded and had lost their elastic quality. However, I don't fault the product for the cords wearing out and consider it part of normal maintenance. The small/medium size I have fits just fine over my hiking boots.

The gaiters do a great job of keeping trail debris out of my boots and seeds and stickers off of my socks. My socks are medium height so these gaiters usually cover most of them above the boot collar; if not, I just roll down the socks a bit to keep them under the gaiter's top elastic. The nylon material has shown little wear over the years, despite some pretty good falls and slips over rocky or brushy terrain.

One of the best uses of these gaiters for me has been for unexpected snow hiking - usually in the spring, when the Rocky Mountains can hold snow and ice fields in shaded areas long into the beginning of the summer hiking season. They are just high enough to keep snow out of my boots, and despite REI's disclaimer that the material is not waterproof, I've found the nylon to be more than adequate at keeping my boot tops and ankles dry on shorter stretches across up to foot-deep (30 cm) snow. Some years ago I sprayed on a waterproofing compound, and I'm sure that has helped keep me dry. Once in a while I'll wear them if I get heavy rain on the trail, and they do keep water out of my boots (although some moisture soaks through the material onto the boots).

I have never felt the need to machine-wash these gaiters; rather, a simple wipe with a damp cloth or short soak in water with dish soap has cleaned off any dirt I've managed to get on them, and they dry quickly.

The Desert Gaiters roll up into a small bundle, about 4 in (10 cm) in diameter, and I usually wrap it with one of the instep cords, then stuff it into the bottom of my pack, where it lies inconspicuously until I need it.


The REI Desert Gaiter has been a standard part of my hiking gear for many years, and I highly recommend them as a simple and lightweight, but useful, gaiter in all kinds of terrain and weather. Although they won't keep out snow as well as a gaiter made for that purpose, they have worked great for me when I needed some unexpected protection from rain and snow and when I didn't wish to carry my larger, heavier snow gaiters. Their tan color is neutral and unobtrusive, and I've found them easy to put on and take off. They roll up into a small bundle and I can stash them in any pack or clothes pocket.

Reviewed By

Bob Dorenfeld
Southern Colorado Rocky Mountains

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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