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Reviews > Footwear > Accessories > Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiters > Test Report by Andrea Murland

Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiters
Test Series by Andrea Murland

Initial Report - December 4, 2014
Field Report - February 10, 2015
Long Term Report - April 14, 2015

Tester Information

Name: Andrea Murland
Email: amurland AT shaw DOT ca
Age: 29
Location: Elkford, British Columbia, Canada
Gender: Female
Height: 5 ft 2 in (1.57 m)
Weight: 130 lb (59 kg)
Shoe Size: US Women's 6-6.5

I began hiking frequently in 2006 and have since hiked in Western Canada, Australia, and spent 2 months backpacking in the Alps. I spend most weekends either day-hiking or on 2-3 day backpacking trips, with some longer trips when I can manage them. I also snowshoe and ski in the winter, but don’t have a lot of experience with winter in the backcountry yet. Elevation is typically 500-3,000 m (1,600-10,000 ft), in the Canadian Rockies and the Selkirk, Purcell, and Monashee ranges. I try for a light pack, but I don’t consider myself a lightweight backpacker.

Photo: Hillsound Equipment, Inc.
Manufacturer Image

Initial Report – December 4, 2014

Product Information

Manufacturer: Hillsound Equipment Inc.
Manufacturer's URL: www.hillsound.com
Model: Armadillo LT Gaiter
Year of Manufacture: 2014
MSRP: US $49.00
Size Tested: XS then exchanged for S
Sizes Available: XS, S, M, L, XL
Listed Weight: 259 g (9.1 oz), size XS
270 g (9.5 oz), size XS
Measured Weight: 250 g (8.8 oz) for the pair, size XS
265 g (9.3 oz) for the pair, size S
Care Instructions (from tag): Hand wash warm, do not bleach, do not iron, do not dry clean,
no fabric softeners, hang to dry

Description & Initial Impressions

The Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiters are knee-height gaiters, measuring 36 cm (14.2 in) from top to bottom for the XS size. The circumference of the gaiters is 35 cm (13.8 in) at the top and about 42 cm (16.5 in) at the bottom.

The gaiters are made from two distinct fabrics. The top section of the gaiters is constructed from a thin, slightly stretchy fabric which the manufacturer calls “Flexia” and the tag specifies as 79% nylon, 12% polyurethane, and 9% Elastin. The lower section of the gaiters is made from 1000 Denier nylon, and shown on the tag as 88% nylon and 12% polyurethane. The manufacturer states that the gaiters are waterproof, breathable, and have a durable water resistant (DWR) coating which is good for fifty washes.

The front of the gaiter has a full-length waterproof zipper, which starts at the top and zips down. The teeth of the zipper are coated plastic, but the pull is metal and seems quite sturdy. Behind the zipper is a 4.5 cm (1.8 in) wide flap, which feels like it has some kind of padding inside of it. At the bottom of the zipper a flap with hook-and-loop closures covers the zipper pull. Below the zipper, a sturdy double-wire hook is present for hooking into boot laces. The hook is open to the top. At the very top of the gaiter, a red nylon webbing strap with a side release buckle allows for cinching the top of the gaiter. At the bottom of the gaiters, a 1.6 cm (0.6 in) wide, 26 cm (10.2 in) long strap runs between the instep and outside of the foot. This stirrup strap is attached on one side by a slide buckle, making it replaceable. The loose end on this side tucks up into a little pocket to keep it tidy. The other side of the gaiter has a heel roller buckle for adjustment of the length of the strap. Above the buckle is a small loop of webbing which the strap end can slide up through, keeping it up against my leg. The strap itself has twelve holes and is very stiff.
The gaiters

Trying Them Out

I tried the Armadillo LT gaiters with both pairs of my hiking boots. On my light hikers, the gaiters seemed a bit large around the bottom, and I had to cinch the stirrup strap down to the point where I was almost stepping on the buckles. On my beefier hiking boots, the bottom of the gaiters fit better, though seemed to still be loose at the front of the boot.

I found that the zippers ran smoothly when I first tried them. When it came time to put the gaiters on my legs, I discovered that I almost needed a second person to hold the zipper together, they were so tight. I managed to get them on over lightly insulated loose tights, which are sufficient as a layer down to about -5 C (23 F). As this test will be conducted in the winter, that isn’t going to be adequate. While I may be able to make the extra-small gaiters work in the summer, I won’t in the winter, and they are rather uncomfortable. I can feel them compressing my calves when I have them on, and although the fabric flexes with my leg, it won’t move on my leg, and I can’t pull the gaiter up, down, or side to side on my leg to adjust it. The padded flap behind the zipper seems, at this point, to mostly take up space unnecessarily. On the other hand, despite the tightness of the gaiters, I can’t feel any discomfort from the zipper.

I found that on both pairs of boots, the hook at the front of the boot wanted to sit out in front of the laces, and especially on the lightweight boots, the hook actually seemed to be preventing the fabric of the gaiters from extending as far towards my toes as it wanted to. I have never used gaiters with the hook open towards the top before. With the hook going underneath the laces, I found that I have to make sure I hook it on before zipping up the gaiters, or I can’t flex the fabric of the gaiters enough to get it under. However, it certainly doesn’t look like it’s going to be slipping off my laces.

The stirrup strap is extremely difficult to adjust with the gaiters on my feet. I can’t twist my knee enough to comfortably be able to pull hard enough on the extremely stiff strap to pull it tight in the roller buckle. I plan to mark which holes go with which boots, so that I can adjust the straps prior to putting on the gaiters. I typically wear my beefier boots in the winter, so I don’t expect too much adjustment being required through the test. However, I did find that with the strap already done up, I was unable to get the zipper to close. Because the top of the gaiter is so tight, I have to have it right up below my knee, at the smallest point of my calf, to get it to start. With the stirrup strap already in place, I can’t pull hard enough to get the gaiter quite high enough. I also found that the strap sat quite far back towards my heel on my boot.
Trying Them On

When I was choosing which size of gaiters I needed, the first thing I looked at was the sizing chart on the website. It indicated that, by shoe size, I was right in the middle of the range of the XS. However, there is a second size chart as well, listing measurements for “top calf round” and “mid calf round”. It looked like I was between an extra-small and a small by these measurements, but I wasn’t really sure where I was supposed to be measuring, as these were not size descriptions I was familiar with. I contacted Hillsound and the representative was unable to give me great descriptions of where to measure, and indicated that if I was close to go with the shoe size measurement. I guess I should have used the calf measurement!
The zipper does not want to come together!
Zipper Separation

Summary

The Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiter seems like a great gaiter, with a bunch of features I am looking forward to evaluating over the next few months. The sizing doesn’t seem to work for me so far, but I am hopeful that the next size up will solve the difficulties I was having with getting the gaiters on and adjusted.

Field Report – February 10, 2015

Sizing & Fit

I was able to exchange the size XS gaiters for a size small. Although Hillsound doesn’t sell directly from their website, customer service was very helpful in arranging an exchange from their warehouse. Once I received the small, I found that they worked quite well with my larger hiking boots. The gaiters come down quite far on the boots and the hook through the laces sits out towards the toe. I was able to zip the gaiters with only a bit of effort, though they are still snug. I still don’t need the strap at the top of the gaiters to hold them in place. I was able to adjust the stirrup straps to the right length and then remove and put on the gaiters without needing to undo the strap, which is nice. The size small gaiters are too big on my lighter hikers. They measure 38 cm (15.0 in) from top to bottom. The circumference is 36 cm (14.1 in) at the top and about 43 cm (16.9 in) at the bottom.
Size Small

Field Conditions

Once I received the size small gaiters, I was able to use the gaiters for three day hikes (just in boots and traction spikes), one snowshoeing trip, and one overnight snowshoeing trip. The hikes were between 6 km (3.7 mi) and 17 km (10.6 mi) long, the day snowshoeing trip was 9.1 km (5.7 mi) long, and the overnight snowshoeing trip was 10 km (6.2 mi) long. All of the trips were a few degrees on either side of freezing, mostly just above freezing. We’ve had a strange winter. In all cases, I’ve worn the gaiters over a mid-weight baselayer and an outer layer, either rain pants or hiking pants. I have not washed the gaiters, and have hung them to dry after each use.
Field Use

Observations

The Armadillo LT gaiters have performed well so far in winter (well, more like spring) situations with wet snow. I have not had any snow get into my boots or get up under the gaiters. The exterior of my boots are dry above the edge of the gaiters. On the day snowshoeing trip, we chose a descent route that involved a lot of sliding on my bottom, and although my pants were soaked everywhere else, below the knees (under the gaiters) was dry.

The gaiters are comfortable once I have them on, and I haven’t thought much about them while wearing them. That’s a good thing! My pant legs bunch up around my knees quite a lot when I’m wearing them, but that’s not much different than with other gaiters that I’ve used. It’s perhaps a bit more pronounced with these because they’re so snug through the calf area. I have not adjusted or undone the stirrup strap since initially adjusting it after receiving the size small gaiters. I can put them on by just stepping into the strap.

I have some major concerns about the durability of the buckles on these gaiters. Despite not adjusting the strap or using the gaiters in cold temperatures, I have broken the pin of the buckle on both gaiters and also the frame of the buckle on one. I noticed the strap flapping around on the fully broken one once I removed my snowshoes in camp on my overnight snowshoe just this past weekend. Because the strap is so stiff, it was difficult to tuck it anywhere to keep it out of the way. I was able to snowshoe down with no issue, as the binding of my snowshoe kept things in place. Once home, I examined the other gaiter and discovered that the pin on it is broken as well, though the strap is held in place by the frame of the buckle. As this just happened, I have not yet had a chance to contact customer service. I also have observed some broken and loose stitching on one of the buckle connections to the gaiter.
Broken Buckle

Summary

The Hillsound gaiters have performed well to keep snow out of my boots and my socks and pants dry. However, I have major concerns about the durability of the buckles.

Long Term Report – April 14, 2015

Field Conditions

I took the Armadillo LT Gaiters out on another three day hikes over the past two months. On all of them I was wearing them just over my boots, with no snowshoes or traction spikes. Temperatures ranged from about freezing up to 15 C (59 F). Trail included logging roads, dirt trail, scree, and snow. I wore similar clothing under the gaiters, generally hiking pants with lightweight long underwear. I haven’t really washed the gaiters, but I have rinsed mud out of them.
Table Mountain

Observations

First of all, I have been very impressed with customer service from Hillsound. I contacted them after writing my Field Report about the broken buckles. They asked for a picture of the buckles and immediately sent me a new pair.

The gaiters have continued to perform well. They are comfortable, water resistant, and have prevented snow or scree from getting into my boots. I have found a benefit of them being so tight on my calves, and that is protection from ticks. I’ve found a couple crawling on me already this year, but on the outside of the gaiters. I don’t think they could get inside them if they tried! I rinsed mud out of the gaiters after each use this spring. They washed up easily and seemed to dry quite quickly.

Unfortunately, my concerns about the buckles haven’t been remedied. On the second dayhike that I took the new pair on, I came home with one of the pins broken already. The buckle frame is still intact, so I can still use them, but I don’t expect them to be a long-lasting item.

Summary

I have been happy with the performance of the Hillsound Armadillo LT gaiters, keeping me dry and comfortable. However, the concerns about the buckles means that they will remain a day-hiking item or gaiters that I wear when it won’t matter if they break. They will also remain an item I use only on my heavy-duty hikers, so that I don’t have to struggle to adjust the stiff strap.

Thumbs Up:
Comfortable
Breathable
Water resistant

Thumbs Down:
Stiff strap – hard to adjust
Buckle durability

Thanks to Hillsound and BackpackGearTest.org for the chance to test the Armadillo LT Gaiters!



Read more reviews of Hillsound gear
Read more gear reviews by Andrea Murland

Reviews > Footwear > Accessories > Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiters > Test Report by Andrea Murland



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