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Reviews > Footwear > Accessories > Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiters > Test Report by Theresa Lawrence

HILLSOUND ARMADILLO LT GAITERS
Test Series by Theresa Lawrence
Initial Report - November 30, 2014

Field Report - February 8, 2015

Long Term Report - April 14, 2015

TESTER INFORMATION

Name: Theresa Lawrence
Email: theresa_newell AT yahoo DOT com
Age: 36
Location: Sparwood, British Columbia, Canada
Gender: Female
Height: 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)
Weight: 130 lb (59 kg)

I have more than 15 years of backpacking experience. Day hikes and 2-3 day backpacking trips take place on most weekends throughout the year while longer trips are only occasional. I backpack predominantly in mountain terrain (Coast Range, Cascades and Canadian Rockies) with the goal of summiting peaks. Activities I use my gear with include mountaineering, ski touring, rock climbing, kayaking, biking, trail running, Search and Rescue and overseas travel. I like my gear to be reasonably light, convenient and simple to use though I would not claim to be a lightweight hiker.

Initial Report - November 30, 2014
PRODUCT INFORMATION

Manufacturer: Hillsound
Manufacturer's URL: www.hillsound.com
Year of Manufacture: 2014

Made in:
China
MSRP: $49 US
Listed Weight (size M): 300g (per pair), 10 oz
Measured Weight (size M): 284 g (per pair), 10 oz
Color Available: Black with orange
Sizes Available:
Unisex: XS, S, M, L, XL
Size Tested:
M (fits shoe size Women 9-11, Men 8-10)
Dimensions Listed
(for size medium):
Top calf round: 40 cm (15.75 in)
Mid calf round: 36 cm (14.2 in)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                                                                        Image Courtesy of Website
DESCRIPTION & FEATURES                                                                                   

The Armadillo LT gaiter, as can be seen from the photo, looks like a typical outdoor gaiter used for hiking, snowshoeing and the like. Key features that I feel are different from gaiters that I have used in the past are that the main body material is slim-fitting, stretchy and it has a zipper closure. My previous experience was with rigid materials and a Velcro closure. The stretchy material featured here is branded Flexia (79% nylon, 12% polyurethane, 9% elastin) and for the technical junkies that know what the following means; it is said to be waterproof  to 20,000 nm and have a breathability rating of 6RET, 15.000 + g. The manufacturer also boasts that it has a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating that will stay intact for up to 50 washes. I see now that it also has a unique and beefy 2-wire hook that hooks under the laces to secure the gaiter in place. I would wager that with this set up, the chance of it unhooking while wearing would be a highly unlikely event. The lower gaiter material is made from highly abrasion resistant 1000 Denier nylon with a Velcro closure. The zipper zips from the top-down and is meant to be waterproof. Underneath the zipper closure is a strip of padded nylon. I believe this is to offer protection along the shin from the zipper. A piece of orange nylon webbing with a plastic quick-release buckle allows for adjustment at the top of the gaiter. The manufacturer has provided some washing instructions, which recommends hand-washing in warm water and hanging them up to dry.

TRYING THEM ON & FIRST IMPRESSIONS

When I first tried them I found the zipper easy to undo and zip down. I liked that it started from the top as I found the materials lighter at this end making it easier to start the zipper. And when the gaiter is already hooked on the boot and the only thing left to do is zip down to close, it made for putting them on very timely and in reverse, easy to undo. I  was surprised at how slim they were, I don't have big calves, in fact I'd say I had no calves and there doesn't seem to be much room in there for extra fabric. Or so I thought, until I put a base layer, a mid-weight fleece layer and an outer shell on and was able to close the gaiters with no problem, but anymore layers I'd be in trouble. Given that I was dressed for -25 C (- 13 F), I am not worried. What I found useful was the rigidity that the zipper gave along with having less extra room in the gaiter, which meant that they stood upright without having the webbing cinched up. My past experience with gaiters was that they would fall down around my calves if they weren't pulled tight at the top. What this means for me now is that I can keep them open at the top so more air can get in and vent them, without them falling down. I also really liked the hook, that was big and goes underneath the laces. There is no chance that this will undo while wearing. This gives me confidence that I will have a secure seal from snow creeping up from the bottom, something I've unpleasantly experienced with other gaiters.

Although it was a close fit, they did in fact fit all of my boots that I would use with gaiters. My light hikers, which are quite small were almost too small. They required the smallest hole on the stirrup and were nearly encompassed by the gaiter, as shown in the photo. My other hiking boots, which would be predominantly worn and my big plastic boots fit the gaiters well. The stirrup is quite hefty and apparently can be replaced. I do find the stirrup difficult to do up and undo. However, once I know which boots I'm wearing for the outing, I will already have adjusted the stirrup at home, so this would not be something I'd need to do in the field.

I found the stretchy material to be soft and light against my calf and the padded strip along the zipper works well to protect my shin from the zipper. I'm wondering if the zipper will get gummed up in the field and be difficult to do up and undo. They seem to be quite comfortable to wear on bare skin. I am curious however, how well they will breath. I 'm typically doing something of high intensity when I'm wearing gaiters such as snow shoeing, cross-country skiing or hiking, and in my experience I tend to overheat and become very sweaty when wearing gaiters.

The craftsmanship appears to be of high quality and I have no concerns over their durability at this point.

SUMMARY

Overall, my first impressions were that Hillsound may have indeed made some very high quality and functional gaiters that are also very affordable. I will be able to confirm or refute this in the next coming months after I've had time in the field. I am pleased with the craftsmanship and the features such as a large hook to secure them in place, replaceable stirrups, sturdy abrasion resistant materials combined with soft and conforming upper materials. All the features described appear to make these gaiters both functional and comfortable. I am very relieved they fit all my boots and now look forward to some action. Stay tuned for some meaningful observations made after my first 2 months in the field.


Field Report - February 8, 2015

FIELD CONDITIONS


The field conditions consisted of 3 day hikes in the Southern Canadian Rocky Mountains wearing hiking boots and Microspikes in mixed ice, snow and rock. The hikes ranged from 5.5 km (3.4 mi) to 16 km (9.9 mi) and had an elevation gain between 364 m (1194 ft) and 1025 m (3363 ft). Temperatures ranged from -6 C (21 F) to 1 C (34 F) and weather included brilliant sun, clouds, snow and periodic strong winds. I also used them on two Search and Rescue practices in the snow on foot and with a snowmobile in temperatures around -5 C (23 F) to -2 C (28 F). The gaiters also came in handy while kayaking down a toboggan run ('Snow-Boating') in 91 cm (3 ft) of fresh powder at -23 C (-9 F).


OBSERVATIONS

My first experiences with the Hillsound Armadillo LT gaiters were initially very positive as they were easy to put on and take off. I wore them with my full grain leather hiking boots (size 9) and found they fit really well. They were comfortable and breathed well even while wearing a base layer, a mid layer and a gortex shell, which was perfect for below freezing temperatures. I found the metal hook for the shoelace attachment quite large making it difficult to get underneath my shoelaces. This was more noticeable on my large plastic mountaineering boots because the plastic doesn't have any give like my leather boots. This was only a minor complaint and with this beefy clasp I at least know the gaiters will stay secured to my shoelaces. On the other hand, the adjustable stirrup strap was annoyingly stiff making it difficult to change the size. It wasn't a big deal for the first several uses because I was using them with the same boots and once they were set to size I didn't need to adjust them. But, on my last outing, I wore my plastic mountaineering boots, which were much larger and I forgot to spend the time adjusting them at home prior to needing them. In this instance I found myself wrestling with them in below freezing temperatures and unfortunately broke the buckle pins (not sure if that is what they are called) on both gaiters during the process. So, now they cannot be adjusted to any size. However, because the straps were so stiff against the buckle, they didn't really move out of position on this trip. The gaiters remained secured to the laces with the big metal clasp and the cuff fit snuggly around the plastic boot that no snow had any chance to enter. I haven't had the chance to use them since with my regular hiking boots. I'll have to see how they function and likely will need to contact the manufacturer to get some replacement parts. I know the strap is replaceable, but the buckle is sewn in, so it may not be possible to replace them and may need to be fixed by the manufacturer. I will update what happens with that in the longterm report.


Pins broken off the buckles

Apart from the buckle mishap, the fabric has held up well and proved to be snow, wind and waterproof. My layers have stayed dry and they have been enjoyable to wear. I found the zipper access easy to undo and put back together when my boots needed to be retied.  I also found them to be light, fast drying and easy to carry and pack.

SUMMARY

To summarize my first experiences, I would say the Armadillo LT gaiters were comfortable and a good fit for my size and with what I wear. In the few times I've used them they proved to shed snow and keep my layers dry. I would also say they were lightweight and breathable, which was great for all my winter activities and were very easy to get on and off. However, they were very difficult to adjust the size and I am quite concerned by the fact that I have broken the buckle pins on both gaiters despite that I haven't really used them all that much and in fact only had to adjust them four times (3 times when I first got them to test out all my boots and once in the field when they broke). I have another 2 months of testing before reporting my longterm observations and in that time I hope I will have them fixed and have them out and about on more adventures.

Long Term Report - April 14, 2015

LONG TERM FIELD CONDITIONS

 Since the field report I have used the Hillsound Armadillo LT gaiters on three additional day hikes. All hikes were in South Western Alberta in and around Waterton Lakes National Park. Hikes ranged from 3-10 km (1.9-6.2 mi), with elevation gains of 110-685 m (360-2250 ft) and maximum elevations encountered of 1610-2150 m (5282-7050 ft). The first hike consisted of a steep rocky trail with some compact ice and snow, followed by some wet, crusty snow packs. The second hike consisted of a short muddy section followed by compact snow and ice where MicroSpikes came in handy, followed by deeper wet snow, then some nice foot deep powder, where snowshoes became necessary. The last hike consisted of a muddy, rocky trail intermittent with compact snow and ice. Some noteworthy weather experienced was a short snow storm and winds with gusts up to 60 km/h (37 mi/h).

OBSERVATIONS

 To recount my last outing of the field test, it resulted in the buckle pins breaking off of both gaiters, which limited their function of fitting the strap around the boot. The week following this incident, I emailed Hillsound customer service and received a reply the same day requesting photos of the broken buckles. I emailed the above photos and they said they would be mailing out a new pair right away, which I promptly received a week later. That was probably the best, least hassle and least time consuming customer service experience I have ever encountered. Thank you Hillsound!

While I still have difficulty with the stiff strap and continue to struggle to change the size of the strap, the buckles have remained intact to date. It takes a good 10 minutes of fighting with the strap and buckle to change the size of the strap for different boots. I have even been so frustrated as to pass them over to my partner so he can fiddle with them, which I am embarrassed to admit. However, once they are set, they don’t need to be undone to put them on or take them off.

On a more positive note, through all the wet snow encountered, they have been completely waterproof and appear to breathe well. I have used them with both MicroSpikes and snowshoes and they have kept snow and debris out of my boots and have kept my pants dry and clean. I have rinsed all the mud and debris off these gaiters with warm water and have come clean as new after several muddy uses and continue to be waterproof. I have observed that they dry fairly quickly.

While I still have concerns over the integrity of the buckles and whether they will continue to hold up in the long term, I do not have such concerns over the durability and integrity of the other materials of the gaiter. The zipper I found worked well, was easy to use and didn’t stick. Undoing the zipper at the toe, to get to my shoelaces when they needed to be retied, was very smooth and convenient. As these gaiters fit me really well, and so long as the buckles hold up, I will gladly continue to use these gaiters for future hiking trips.  

SUMMARY

With the exception of the buckles breaking and the challenge with the stiff strap, I have really enjoyed wearing and using these gaiters. I found the fit to be very comfortable, not too warm, light weight and flexible and most importantly for snowy and wet conditions, waterproof. Once the strap size is set, they were easy to put on and take off. I think they are a high quality gaiter, but room for improvement on the buckle and strap remains. I fully intend to continue using these as my go-to gaiters for all my gaiter needs.

 Likes

- Lightweight
- Waterproof
- Breathable
- Easy zipper access to shoelaces
- Easy on and off
- Easy to clean
- Comfortable fit

Dislikes

- Difficult to adjust strap
- Buckles have broken on first pair

I'd like to thank Hillsound and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to take part in this test series.


Read more reviews of Hillsound gear
Read more gear reviews by Theresa Lawrence

Reviews > Footwear > Accessories > Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiters > Test Report by Theresa Lawrence



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