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Reviews > Footwear > Accessories > Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiters > Test Report by joe schaffer
Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiters
by Joe Schaffer
November 29, 2014
NAME: Joe Schaffer
HEIGHT: 5'9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 175 lb (79.4 kg)
HOME: Hayward, California USA
I frequent California's central Sierras, camping every month with a goal to match my age in nights out each year; about half the time solo. As a comfort camper I lug tent, mattress, chair, etc. Summer trips last typically a week to 10 days; 40 lbs (18 kg), about half food related; about 5 miles (8 km) per hiking day. I winter camp most often at 6,000' to 7,000' (1,800 to 2,000 m); 2 to 3 nights; 50 lbs (23 kg); 1 to 4 miles (1.6 to 6.4 km) on snowshoes.
Manufacturer: Hillsound Equipment, Inc.
Web site: www.hillsound.com
Product: Armadillo LT gaiters
MSRP: $49 US
My measures: Large
weight: 10 1/2 oz (299 g)
height: 16 3/4" (42.5 cm)
circumference, top: 8" (15 cm)
circumference, bottom: 9 1/4" (23.5 cm)
MANUFACTURER’S WEIGHT: Large 295 g (10.41 oz)
KEY FEATURES (excerpted from manufacturer web site)
stretchy for contour fitting
waterproof to 20,000 mm
breathability rating: 6 RET, 15,000 + g three-layer fabric
1000D high-density nylon
Easy zipper access
Easy-on & off
Sizes: Unisex XS, S, M, L, XL
I want to get these gaiters dirtied up before I post my own pics, so thank you Hillsound for the product shots presently shown.
ATTACHMENT: A double-wire hook in front about 3/4" (2 cm) long and about 5/16" (8 mm) wide grabs the shoe lace from a 3/4" (2 cm) webbing loop 3/8" (1 cm) long, sewn into the zipper backing. A plastic stirrup 9/16" (1.3 cm) wide travels under the arch of the foot, slightly in front of the shoe heel ridge. The stirrup is about 1/8" (3 mm) thick and 9 1/4" (23.5 cm) long. The outboard side adjusts with a metal tongue buckle and 12 holes in the stirrup set on 7/16" (1.1 cm) centers. The end can be tucked under a webbing port 3/4" x 1 1/8" (2 x 2.9 cm). The buckle mount is a neoprene loop about 5/8" wide by 3/4" long (1.6 x 1 cm) formed from a single piece that is a reinforcing pad about 1 1/2" x 1 3/4" (3.8 x 4.5 cm). The inboard side of the stirrup has the same loop and pad anchoring a tri-glide through which the stirrup passes and into the underneath of the pad.
OPEN/CLOSE: The full length front of the gaiter zips using a plastic zipper of the waterproof style. The zipper starts at the top. A tapered Velcro gusset roughly 1 1/2" x 3 1/2" (3.8 x 8.9 cm) covers and supports the bottom of the zipper. The zipper is backed by a sleeve 16 3/4" (42.6 cm) long by 2" (5 cm) of nylon taffeta with some type of ticking inside, making the sleeve about 3/16" (5 mm) thick.
A 1 1/4" (3.2 cm) tunnel at the top of the gaiter houses an 11/16" (1.8 cm) nylon webbing strap about 18" (45.7 cm) long with a side release buckle, the female end being anchored 2" (5 cm) from the zipper. About 2" (5 cm) of the strap inside the tunnel is elastic.
UPPER BODY: The upper part of the gaiter measures about 11 1/4" (28.6 cm) from the top of the tunnel to the bottom of the seam. The 9 1/2" (24 cm) between is slightly stretchy and waterproof/breathable. Mid-way and 2" (5 cm) from the zipper is a threaded red logo design about 3/4" x 1 1/2" (2 x 4 cm).
LOWER BODY: The 6" (15 cm) lower body is heavy nylon on the outside with a layer of lighter nylon inside.
I started using gaiters about 12 years ago and immediately became a convicted year-round devotee. For many years I used mini's as my priority was simply to keep debris out of the shoe. Several years ago I finally tired of torn up hide from XC adventures and switched to full-length. I like to hike in shorts, and longer gaiters also let me avoid leggings pretty much all year. I've also become paranoid about snake bite, and gaiters give me some relief whether rational or otherwise. I briefly tried waterproof/non-breathable gaiters and returned them to the retailer as one of the worst product choices I've ever made. I am jittery with joy at being able to test a breathable waterproof gaiter.
At first glance these gaiters seem really well-made; and poring over them further convinces me. It's clear to me the folks who designed this product have a lot of experience with gaiters.
Sitting here in my house I'm having no issue of moisture build-up. That's not a big test for breathable fabric, but it's a start. And of course I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't at least nit-pick. So, starting at the top:
Webbing adjustment: I don't know if this is even necessary, but certainly it functions highly to close the top of the gaiter to a point of "sealing" it shut. That could be wonderful when it's snowing or raining cats and dogs and I'm bolting for the car before I drown and I don't have long pants to shed rain over the gaiter top. The rest of the time the top can be loosened to let heat out.
Zipper: Maybe after I've used them a bit I'll find it easier to get the zipper started. Makes great sense to have it start at the top. I rarely remove gaiters or wait to put them on during a hike, so even if I can't get used to the zipper, this may not be an issue. This is the tightest "waterproof" zipper I've ever seen, so perhaps it will be fairly water resistant. The zipper opens the gaiter very quickly; and there's no Velcro picking up debris or grabbing sock fuzz. I do wonder if the Velcro tab at the bottom will suffer from brush attack.
Stirrup: Certainly looks beefy enough, and most of the dirt-time I keep the strap over the top of the foot anyway. It seems a little stiff and I wonder if it will misbehave when cold.
Fit: I could not abide a taller gaiter or any bigger at the ankle, but I'd prefer a looser fit at the fat of the calf. I suspect the waterproof fabric pressed against bare skin may get mucky. I'd also like a looser fit if it's so cold I have to install leggings (wherein starting the zipper could become an issue). And to the paranoia issue, a looser fit would be closer to making them "snaiters" for 3-season hiking. That's not a fair nit for a product probably intended primarily for snow, where a looser fit could invite conflict from crampons.
January 20, 2015
Dodge Ridge, California, USA, for 4 days. I started with a 34 lb (15 kg) pack and tugged a 40 lb (18 kg) firewood sled 1.4 mi (2.2 km) 500 ft (150 m) uphill on groomed snow and 0.1 mi (0.16 km) XC on 6 in (15 cm) dry powder. I hiked about about 1.5 hrs. Second hiking day was same route back to the car to drag up the balance of the firewood; and last day a mostly empty sled back to the car for a total of about 6 mi (10 k) and about 5 hours hiking plus a couple more fiddling in camp. Hiking temps probably about 60 F (16 C) in sun and 40 F (4 C) in shade.
My test priority was whether these gaiters would breathe well enough to keep dry inside, especially on bare skin. This was a short test, but I did stay dry. I worked pretty hard tugging the loaded sled uphill; and zipped along pretty fast downhill. I got sweaty under my shirt, so I think I reached test parameters.
Next I wanted to see how the zipper fared. It's OK. Getting the zipper started requires a precision fit of zipper parts, and when my fingers were cold I fumbled a bit. It's also necessary to keep a finger under the zipper to get the zipper over the 'hump' at the shoe top. The zipper starting at the top, it is therefore not possible to open wide on a warm day. Of course starting at the top is easier than starting at the bottom. The zipper is not stiff enough to keep the gaiters standing tall. I like that the zipper doesn't latch onto socks as Velcro does; but overall I'd probably rather have the latter for closure.
I found the gaiter likes to sag below the calf and twist a fourth of the way around. (Note red webbing buckle in the right hand picture has rotated far from the front of the leg.) With a layer of material under the gaiter that may not happen, or happen as much; and it's a minor issue. Pulling the webbing tight also prevents that annoyance, but I don't like having to keep the top tight.
The stirrup gets stiff in the snow; no matter as no continuing adjustment needs to be made. For summer hiking I usually don't want to walk on the stirrup and instead run it over the top of the shoe. The stirrup is so stiff I have trouble doing that.
The gaiter fits around my shoe nicely and no snow found it's way inside.
It seems I don't care as much for the mechanics of this product as for how well the material breathes. Perhaps the next test will find sloppy enough conditions to form a conclusion about how well the material resists incoming water.
Long Term Report
April 15, 2015
I've gone backpacking 5 more times in California, USA, bringing total mileage in these gaiters to 84 (135 km).
a) Pt. Reyes National Sea Shore, 3 days and 13 mi (21 km). Sunny, warm, dirt road and dirt trail.
b) Rancheria Falls in the Hetch Hetchy area of Yosemite National Park, 4 days and 20 mi (32 km) with the longest day 9 mi (14 km). Sunny, hot, mostly rocky trail; some wallowing in muck.
c) Preston Falls in Stanislaus National Forest, 2 hiking days, 10 mi (16 km), sunny, hot, mostly dirt trail; a mile (1.6 km) or so of wet grass on the way out.
d) Herring Creek in Stanislaus National Forest, 2 days, 8 mi (13 km), sunny, hot, half pavement, half dirt road and trail.
e) Rancheria Falls again, 4 days and 15 mi (24 km) in two hiking days of 7 1/2 mi (12 km) each. Sunny, hot.
With the exception of a teensie bit of precipitation and wet brush on the Preston Falls hike, I have not managed to get these gaiters wet! The high point of these gaiters remains how well they breathe. All of my hiking has been in temps so warm I didn't wear long pants or leggings. On the longest hikes and warmest days I got some moisture buildup inside, but a surprisingly small amount. Even on bare skin, the fabric does not feel wet and gooey; nor did I feel any itching, poking or rubbing. The product performs really well in that regard. The gaiters stayed down over the shoe in back even with the stirrup over the top. I've had no issues with dust or pebbles getting in under the gaiter. The material has held up well against a limited amount of brush encounter, with no snags, tears, holes or pilling. I expected the supple material might be sensitive to puncturing or snagging, but no issues so far.
I still have the same nits as before:
The top twists (rotates) off center.
The zipper requires precision to start. Evidently I prefer slap-fast Velcro.
The stirrup is unmanageably stiff. Hereafter I will reserve these gaiters for snow hikes where the stirrup needn't be changed.
With breathability as the key measure, I am completely and fully satisfied.
UPDATE: Just returned from cavorting 22 mi (35 km) in these gaiters on a Mt. Whitney (CA, USA) hike. Alas, one of the buckle pins broke.
a) highly breathable
b) great value
c) finicky zipper start
d) a bit floppy
Thank you Hillsound and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product. This concludes my test.
Read more reviews of Hillsound gear
Read more gear reviews by joe schaffer
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