OR SALAMANDER GAITERS
TEST SERIES BY DAVID BAXTER
October 12, 2009
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binkly99 at yahoo dot com
Seattle, Washington, USA
5' 9" (1.75 m)
180 lb (81.60 kg)
Backpacking background: I have been hiking for six years and backpacking for five. I get out on the trails or snow every weekend, regardless of the weather. My trips range anywhere from fairly short dayhikes to longer multi-day backpacking trips. In the winter I snowshoe or snow-climb in moderate terrain and occasionally participate in a glaciated climb. My typical winter pack is about 15 lb (6.8 kg) for a day trip, and 35 - 45 lb (16 - 20 kg) for a glacier climb with an overnight camp. In the summer my pack is around 25 lb (11 kg).
INITIAL REPORT (June 5th 2009)
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.outdoorresearch.com
I am wearing size L/XL
Listed Weight: 6.2 oz (176 g)
Measured Weight: 6.25 oz (178 g)
Other details: Sizes S/M and L/XL are available. Black is the only color.
The Outdoor Research Salamander gaiters came attached to a simple cardboard hanger using plastic tabs. The hanger showed the size, highlighted the construction, and gave a brief description of their use. One side of the card was printed in English, the other side in French.
The leg section of the gaiters, above ankle height, is made of ripstop Ventia fabric. The lower portion, which covers the lace area and sides of the boots, is a heavier gauge of Cordura nylon. The toe area is also reinforced with a thick but flexible plastic beneath the nylon. Attached to this, a few inches back from the end of the gaiter, is a small metal hook to attach to the boot laces. A thick red rubberized belt-style strap runs from one side of the gaiter, under the boot instep, and around to the other side where it buckles into place. The gaiters open in the back for entry and exit. A thick stripe of hook-and-loop runs the whole length of the gaiter. A folding tab of hook-and-loop at the top of the leg opening keeps everything in place. At the bottom, around the back of the ankle, is an adjustable strap of hook-and-loop. The ankle opening is made of elastic to seal tight against any rocks and other debris. The gaiters are all black aside from the red instep strap and a single "OR" logo on the sides.
TRYING IT OUT
I first attempted to put the Salamander gaiters on my usual leather hiking boots. As I do with my other pairs of gaiters, I hooked the lace-hook onto the lowest lace and attempted to close the back but found they would not wrap around the heel. I had to move the lace hook up two laces in order for them to fully close. I have never used a pair of gaiters with a rear-closure and found it awkward to fasten the back strap. I believe it will become second nature for me after several uses. The hook-and-loop fasteners worked very well and closed the gaiter tightly. Finally I wrapped the instep strap under the boot and through the fastener on the other side. There was also a small black loop above the fastener to secure any extra length of the instep strap.
|Gaiters on boots.|
|The instep strap.|
The gaiters conformed fairly well to the shape of my boots. The molded toe section extended about an inch (2.5 cm) past the lowest lace and covered all other lace points on the boot. A section of folded fabric bulged over the point where the plastic molded section ends near the tongue of the boot but should allow for some flexibility as the boot moves. Outdoor Research mentions the gaiter fit will vary depending on boot style and I certainly observed this. The Salamander gaiters fit very well on my leather light hikers but did not fit nearly as well on my climbing boots. I was not able to fully secure the gaiters on the climbing boots and the heel would ride up no matter how tight I pulled the instep strap. My climbing boots are taller and heavier than my leather boots.
The gaiters felt comfortable around the boot and stayed in place well as I walked. I could not feel the instep strap. I did not find the elastic upper closure very comfortable however. They are designed to close tightly to keep debris out but on my legs they felt too tight. I was able to relieve this slightly by loosening the uppermost section of hook-and-loop closure and readjusting. My personal preference would be for another adjustable strap section similar to the lower closure replacing the elastic.
The OR Salamanders are mid-height gaiters for use in wet terrain and stormy weather. They have an extended toe section of pliable plastic that conforms to the boot and covers the laces to provide storm proofing. A thick instep strap and lace hook secures them in place. A full hook-and-loop strip in the back provides easy exit and entry while an elastic top keeps debris out.
The Salamander gaiters fit nicely over my boots and I look forward to trying them out. They will go on my feet anytime I am out in the rain, snow, mud, or pushing through wet brush.
FIELD REPORT (August 14th 2009)
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Since receiving the OR Salamander Gaiters we have had an unusual streak of sunny and dry weather in the Pacific Northwest. This is great news for hiking but certainly not helpful for testing gaiters designed for wet weather use. I have only managed a few uses of the Salamander gaiters because of this.
I wore the Salamanders while hiking Snoqualmie Mountain in early June. The trail gains about 3000 ft (914 m) in nearly 3 miles (5 km). Weather was overcast with a heavy mist in the air. The upper third of the trail was under deep fairly well-consolidated snow. Temperatures were around 40 F (5 C).
I carried the gaiters while attempting to backpack to Lake Byrne in late July. We had nearly reached the lake, covering about 8 miles (13 km) with 4000 ft (1219 m) of gain when distant thunderstorms started rolling in, causing us to abandon the trip. We were hit by a light drizzle while hiking out. Temperatures were in the mid 80 F (27 C) range and it was very humid.
I used the gaiters backpacking over Lyman Lakes to camp at Cloudy Pass in early August. Camp was made at 6200 ft (1890 m). Skies were clear most nights but a heavy mist rolled in while we camped at Cloudy, leaving everything soaking wet. Skies cleared in the morning but the brush was soaking wet. Temperatures dropped to about 45 F (7 C) overnight and rose to the mid 70 F (21 C) range during the day.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I am fairly pleased with the Salamander gaiter's performance so far. In all fairness though we have not yet had the weather conditions here in the Northwest which the gaiters are designed to tackle. I have carried the gaiters on my trips but they have spent their time residing down in the bottom of my pack. They pack down flat and take up little space. Because the toe covering area is so rigid I cannot roll them up but I've found if I place them back to back, with the lace hooks together, they take up little space.
My first use of the gaiters came while hiking Snoqualmie Mountain. There was a heavy wet mist in the air but I did not put the gaiters on until I reached the snow line. I did not find the gaiters well suited to snow travel. In the forested areas, where the snow was most compact, my feet stayed dry. As soon as I stepped out into the softer open snow the toe cover began to act like a big scoop and filled up with snow. As I walked snow was forced up through the sides and onto the tops of my toes, compressing into a solid mass and dripping down my boots. This was very cold and the ice block was uncomfortable. Removing this was difficult since I had to unhook the front of each gaiter, scrape out the snow, and reconnect it. After an hour I was annoyed by this and simply took the gaiters off.
In preparation for rainy weather near Lake Byrne I put on the gaiters but we were only hit with a very light drizzle. I found the gaiters to be more difficult to put on than my usual pair due to the rear opening. The best way I found was to get down on one knee, attach the lace hook, wrap the gaiters around my leg, and finally pull the instep strap tight. The instep strap is very rigid and the buckle fairly small. I had some trouble getting everything tightened fully. For my fairly thick legs I find the gaiters are very tight around the top. I would prefer some sort of sliding adjustment rather than the elastic band.
At Cloudy Pass I wore the gaiters for about two hours in the morning while walking through heavily dew-soaked plants. We hiked off trail through these conditions and up a steep grassy hillside to Cloudy Peak. The gaiters did an admirable job keeping my feet dry. They rose just high enough on my legs to keep the dew off my pants. Water would easily roll off the gaiter uppers but the toe coverage area seemed to soak up some liquid and felt damp to the touch on the top. The underside still remained dry, as did my boots. Once we were through the wet plants and onto the rocks I removed the gaiters and hung them on the outside of my pack to dry. They dried quickly in the sun and the little patches of dried mud brushed off easily. I found some pieces of plant had been shoved up underneath the toe cover through the gap around the sides of my boot. I am not sure if I fully tightened the instep strap, I will pay more attention to this on future trips.
The OR Salamander gaiters are mid-height gaiters with an extended rigid toe covering designed for protecting boots in wet conditions. I have found them very useful keeping my feet dry while hiking through wet brush. They shed water very well and the toe cover is useful keeping most of my boot dry. Due to our streak of dry weather I haven't given them a proper test in a downpour though. I have not found them well suited to snow travel. The toe cover, which is effective against water, acts like a shovel and funnels snow up through the sides to become trapped against the boot laces. This creates a drippy and uncomfortable lump against my toes.
I will continue to carry the Salamander gaiters on my trips throughout the next few months. Hopefully in that time the Cascades will receive some significant rain which will give the gaiters a challenge. Please check back in two months time for my long term report.
Thank you to Backpackgeartest.org and Outdoor Research for this opportunity.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I have used the OR Salamander Gaiters for three more trips during the past two months. I wore the gaiters on a dayhike to Three Fingers Mountain at the end of August. It had rained the night before and plants were very dew-covered. Temperatures rose to the low 70s F (21 C) range and it was sunny. The trail covers about 14 miles (22.5 km) gaining 5800 ft (1768 m).
I next wore the gaiters backpacking to Hadley Peak. It rained overnight but was sunny in the afternoon both days I was out. Temperatures overnight were mild and in the mid 70s F (21 C) during the day. I covered about 15 miles (24 km) total, gaining about 3500 ft (1067 m).
Finally I wore the gaiters the first weekend of October dayhiking to Cutthroat Lakes and Bald Mountain. Distance was about 10 miles (16 km) round trip with 3000 ft (900 m) of gain. The weather was sunny and temperatures rose to the low 60s F (15.5 C). It had snowed a few days earlier and I found about three inches (7.6 cm) of snow on the trail near the top, along with wet brush and mud down lower.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I continue to have mixed opinions for these gaiters. On the one hand they perform well for their intended use of protecting from rain. On the other hand they do not work very well with snow, mud, or standing water. While hiking to Bald Mountain I wore the gaiters through about three inches (7.6 cm) of fairly fresh snow. I again experienced the snow balling up on the top of my foot, beneath the tongue of the gaiters, just as I did at Snoqualmie Mountain a few months back. Down lower where the trail was muddy I had similar experiences. A few times I stepped into deep gooey mud which then shoved up underneath the tongue of the gaiters. Cleaning this out was messy and involved taking the gaiter off completely and wiping it on some pine needles.
I wore the gaiters, along with my full rain gear, returning to my tent at Hadley Peak from a dayhike. The gaiters did an excellent job of protecting my boots from the falling rain, especially in combination with the rain pants. I have worn the gaiters with simple nylon zip-off style pants on previous trips and had the water run down the soaking pant legs into the boots, behind the gaiter cuffs. With my rain pants worn over the tops of the gaiters this isn't a problem. The water sheets down the rain pant legs and off the tops of the gaiters well.
I have not found the gaiters very helpful protecting my boots from standing water. I have crossed through some shallow creeks with and without the gaiters and my boots become equally wet. The gaiters do not seal tight against the tops or sides of the boots, simply overhanging them instead, and as a result water can easily well up over the boots beneath the gaiters. They did not provide any additional protection for my non-waterproof boots.
Putting the gaiters on has become marginally easier with practice. I prefer a front-entry gaiter for easy on and off. With the Salamanders I have found I can put them on backwards and connect the upper half of the hook-and-loop fasteners. I then swivel the gaiter into the correct position, connect the lace-hook, and finish closing the hook-and-loop. This is a little faster and less awkward, in my opinion, than trying to put the whole thing on backwards from the start.
The Outdoor Research Salamander Gaiters are a pair of short length gaiters with extended toe coverage designed for protecting one's boots from water. I have found they do a decent job, in combination with a rain jacket and pants, of keeping my boots dry due to rain. While I was not able to take them out in a significant downpour due to an unseasonably dry summer, they performed well in moderate rain. I have also found them effective against dew-covered plants, though the low height of the gaiters minimizes their usefulness in this regard. I have not found the Salamander Gaiters well suited to snow, mud, or standing water. Mud and snow tend to become forced up underneath the tongue of the gaiters which extends over the boot laces. This is either cold or messy and irritating to stop and clean along a hike. Standing water simply wells up beneath them.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
While the gaiters do protect well from rain, and I will likely continue to use them if dayhiking on trail during a rainy day, I did not find they provided enough additional waterproofing to carry them on another backpacking trip. The waterproofing on my boots provided greater protection than the gaiters themselves.
This concludes my test report for the Outdoor Research Salamander Gaiters. Thank you to Backpackgeartest.org and Outdoor Research for this opportunity.
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