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Reviews > Rain Gear > Gaiters > Outdoor Research Salamander Gaiters > Test Report by David Wilkes

Ingals Pass and Mt StuartTest series by David Wilkes

Outdoor Research 
Salamander Gaiters

Initial Report - May 8 2009
Field Report - 11 August 2009
Long Term Report - 13 October 2009

Tester Information

Name: David Wilkes
E-Mail: amatbrewer@yahoo.net
Age: 42
Location: Yakima Washington USA
Gender: M
Height: 5'11" (1.80 m)
Weight: 197 lb (89.40 kg)

Biography:

I started backpacking in 1995 when I moved to Washington State. Since then, I have backpacked in all seasons and conditions.  I am currently getting into condition to summit some of the higher peaks in Washington, Oregon, and California. I prefer trips on rugged trails with plenty of elevation gain. While I continuously strive to lighten my load, comfort and safety are most important to me. My current pack is around 30 lbs (14 kg), not including consumables.

Product Information

Manufacturer:

Outdoor Research

Year of Manufacture:

2009

Manufacturer’s Website:

https://www.outdoorresearch.com

MSRP:

US $45.00
Listed Weight: 6.2 oz / 176 g
Measured Weight: 6.3 oz / 179 g (L/XL)

Material:

Leg Section : 3-Layer 50D ripstop Ventia fabric
Boot Section: Cordura with a polyethylene sheet.

Product Images
Image courtesy of Outdoor Research

Product Description:
The Outdoor Research Salamander Gaiters are a mid-height water proof gaiter with a unique Cordura and polyethylene boot section molded to conform to the shape of the top of the user's footwear.


Initial Report

Raingear for my boots?

I received the L/XL size as requested. They arrived attached to a cardboard hangtag. The hangtag listed features, sizing information, and instructions, along with contact information for Outdoor Research.
Front of product with hangtagBack of product with hangtag
I have used a pair of Outdoor Research Cascadia Gaiters for a number of years and they have not let me down. When I applied to test the Salamanders I was expecting a mid-length version of the Cascadias, but these are something entirely different. Where the Cascadias are constructed out of materials like a good rugged backpack, the Slanders are more like a high quality rain shell. The uppers are made of a slick rain shell-like material, with a check pattern from the rip-stop material. There is a in (2 cm) wide elastic cuff around the top. The gaiters open in the back with hook-and-loop fasteners, with additional hook-and-loop shear tabs at the top and bottom. The lower section of the gaiters is made of lined pack cloth (similar to what is used for the uppers of the Cascadia gaiters) that extends down the sides of my boots almost to the ground. The front part of the lower section extends out like the bill of a hat with a stiff Cordura liner and a lace hook. Also attached to the lower section of the gaiters is an instep strap. The instep straps look to be of much higher quality than what they used on their older products (the old style was good but these look better). Since this component probably takes the most abuse, it is the part I worry the most about. In looking at the materials, stitching and buckle it is clear that these are made to last.
Inside of GaitersThe inside of the gaiters is where I really get the impression of rain gear, with their flat-sewn and taped seams. Here is where I found one possible defect in the construction. Both gaiters have tape over the front seam and where the upper and lower sections meet. On the buckle side of each gaiter is a small section of material used to keep the end of the instep strap from flapping loose; on one gaiter there is seam tape over the stitches but not the other. I am not concerned about this minor flaw, and only mention it in order to be through and in case of the unlikely event that it becomes an issue during the testing. I do not see this as being a reason to return the product and in fact doubt I would have ever noticed if I were not inspecting them for this review.

The fitting instructions on the hangtag are as follows:
  • Wrap the gaiter around leg and boot top with OR logo on the outside of ankle.
  • Close hook-and-loop closure and fasten shear tabs.
  • Attach hook through boot laces.
  • Fasten instep strap.
I tried putting them on this way but I found that if I hooked the lace hook first it was easier to fasten the hook-and-loop closures. I found buckling the instep strap was a bit difficult and thought that it was not something I would want to try with cold or gloved hands. With the other gaiters I own, I leave the instep strap attached and slip it over my boots so I don’t have to mess with them. I tried this with these and found it not only worked but also made putting them on quicker and easier.

I am really looking forward to using these gaiters. I use gaiters for most of my hiking to help keep dirt and debris out of my boots, ticks out of my pants, and to help keep the legs of my pants dry. Except for snow and very cold conditions I prefer non-waterproof boots as I find they allow my feet to ventilate more and are normally more comfortable. Unfortunately this means that rain or even just wet brush can quickly soak my feet if I am not careful. These gaiters, if they work as advertised, should give me the best of both worlds.

Field Report

Usage:
  • Day hike – Rainier National Forest – humid, but no rain
  • Backpacking 1 night - Eastern Sierras (California) in a pine-forested valley at about 10000’ (3000 m) – deep wet snow, no rain
  • Half day hike - Eastern Sierras (California) in a pine-forested valley at about 10000’ (3000 m) – some deep wet snow, no rain
  • Day hike – Shoe lake, Eastern Cascades (Washington) – mud, wet brush, fog & freezing fog, light mist and some deep wet snow
  • Backpacking two nights – Pacific Crest Trail Eastern Cascades (Washington) – mud, wet brush, dense fog, and light rain

Since receiving the Salamander Gaiters the weather has been horrible! Nothing but warm sunny days. As spring fades into summer I have been increasingly annoyed as I awake to yet another clear blue sky.
No, it is not necessary to have a few screws loose to be a gear tester…but I am finding that it sure helps.

CondensationPrior to the gaiters arriving we were having a wonderfully cold and wet spring, but as luck would have it nary a drop of rain once the gaiters arrived. So when I heard my daughter's class was going over to the west (read “WET”) side of the mountains for a fieldtrip in the Rainer National Forest, I jumped at the chance and volunteered. Conditions looked promising with clouds building up against the mountains, but I was not that lucky, no actual rain. The trip did give me a chance to evaluate how breathable the gaiters are and I found them wanting. I spent the better part of a day chasing up and down the trail trying to keep a bunch of 5th and 6th graders from falling into the river, over the falls, or into the mud, and lecturing them about staying on the trail and not tossing their trash on the ground. The weather was comfortable and slightly humid. When I pulled off the gaiters I noticed moisture had condensed on the bottom side of the section that covers the top of my boots (and I have repeated this experience on subsequent trips) and some of the moisture soaked into the boot, but not my socks. This really surprised me; I figured the stiff material over the shoe would allow air circulation and prevent this.
Dirty gators
These gaiters are clearly not intended for snow. So far I have used them three times in soft snow and the result has been the same, the section that covers the boot act as scoops, and as my foot would sink into the snow, snow would get shoved between the gator and the top of my boot, where it would become trapped. When I did not remove it immediately the heat from my feet would quickly start melting the snow and my feet would become soaked (I foolishly did not use my winter boots for these trips as I had not expected much snow on any of them…I just never learn).

While enduring yet another warm sunny weekend I heard on the news that there would be thunderstorms in the mountains that Monday, so I took a vacation day and headed into the mountains towards the darkest nastiest clouds I could locate. I hiked up part of the Pacific Crest Trail into the Goat Rocks Wilderness towards picturesque Shoe Lake. I found predictably steep muddy trail and very wet brush. The gaiters did a fine job at repelling the water from the underbrush. They covered my boots almost entirely and did a good job at keeping them dry. As the day wore on and my altitude increased, I entered thick (sometimes freezing) fog, but the closest thing I got to rain was an occasional sprinkle blown down from the trees and a light mist. Like my other trips the mud and dirt that collected on the gaiters easily came off. I was able to brush most off when it dried, and the rest came off with a simple rinse in the sink.

Wet gatorsDuring my final trip of my field testing I finally managed to locate some wet weather. No real rain, but mud, dense fog, light sprinkles and some large heavy drips coming out of the trees. The underbrush was also soaked. I was surprised at how quickly the water seemed to soak into the gaiters and expected my boots to become soaked. However it appears that this only occurred on the outside of the gaiters and aside from the aforementioned condensation, I could find no evidence that any of the water penetrated the gaiters. The gaiters did a fine job at keeping my boots dry. In similar conditions I would have had to wear my heaver waterproof boots, so I was glad to have the Salamanders.

In my Initial Report I mentioned that one gator seemed to be missing a piece of seam tape, and after looking at the pictures from the other testers, I believe that to be true. I considered contacting customer service to see what they had to say and if they would replace them, but realized that if I had purchased them I probably would not have even noticed the defect and would not have returned them (unless the gaiters leaked), so I decided to wait to see how they performed. So far I have seen no indication that the missing seam tape affects their performance. I have looked closely to see if water has soaked through that area and it has not.

Over the years, I have used gaiters that open in the front, back and side. When it comes to putting them on and taking them off, I find the front-opening ones are easiest, with side-opening ones second. However, front-opening rain gaiters would be kind of an oxymoron. I consider myself to be of about average flexibility, and I find getting the opening of the gaiters to line up and close properly a bit tricky, especially with stiff boots. It is a bit easier with my trail running shoes. The instep strap is a bit stiff and the holes for the buckle seem too small, but as I use them I find they are loosening up a bit and getting easier to adjust. I still don’t think I could operate them with gloves, even thin liners.

The gaiters seem well made and durable. So far I have seen few signs of wear despite some rather rough use. I have brushed them against a few trees and rocks during some of my trips, at least once or twice hard enough for me to stop and inspect the buckles for damage. So far the only signs of damage I can find are a bit of frayed material over one of my boot lace clips where I jammed it against a rock. And this damage looks to be quite superficial, not affecting the performance at all. As far as I can tell they are at least as durable as the other gaiters I have owned.

Overall I think the gaiters are a well-made product best suited for rainy conditions. While they seem very effective at keeping water from rain and wet brush off my boots, they are not effective in soft snow, and they don’t seem to breathe well. This makes them slightly less versatile than other gaiters I have owned, but they are far superior at keeping my footwear dry, thereby allowing me to wear lighter more breathable footwear in wet conditions. The instep strap while a bit difficult to adjust at first look to be a much more durable and ascetically pleasing design  than on my older gaiters (no rough edges or loose threads). As I use them more I am finding it easier to put them on and take them off.

Long Term Report

Long Term Report 13 October 2009

When dressing to head up Mt Addams I noticed the pin in one of the buckles was bent. I can not be sure what caused the damage, but I presume it was due to a combination of having the straps very tight and striking them against rocks and trees. While probably still serviceable, I chose to leave them behind to avoid doing any more damage. As is my luck, I ended up spending an hour hiding under a tree in the pouring rain later that day...with no gaiters.
I sent an e-mail to the Outdoor Research Customer service on Sunday when I returned, explaining the problem and requesting they be repaired. I received an RMA number first thing Monday morning. I put them in the mail on Tuesday and received a brand new set on Saturday. I inspected these and found no deficiencies.
Damaged buckle
The night before our scheduled Adopt-A-Highway* we got a light dusting of snow in the mountains and the forecast was for rain. While it did not rain on us there was a thin layer of snow on the ground and all of the grass and brush was wet. The [replacement] gaiters kept my socks dry as well as the upper part of my boots and lower paint legs. However when I removed the gaiters, I noticed that the left side of my left boot was quite wet, but the insides of the gaiters were dry (aside from some condensation near the upper part of my foot). It appears as if some moisture managed to get under the lower part of the gaiters and thereby soak up into my boots. Adopt-A-Highway
*Adopt-A-Highway is a program where individuals or groups can volunteer to clean up one or more section of a highway. I participate in cleaning up part of a scenic highway (HWY410) in the Washington Cascades as part of the outdoor group called the Cascadians.
Overall I am rather disappointed in the Salamander Gaiters. While they do appear to be waterproof, they do not seem to breathe nearly enough, resulting in condensation wetting my boots. And since the lower section is stiff (something I originally assumed would provide good ventilation), they do not conform to the shape of my boot enough thereby allowing snow, mud, and wet brush to get up under them. As with other OR products they do appear to be well constructed, and despite the broken buckle they seem quite durable. So the result is that they simply do not provide significant moisture protection for my non-waterproof boots and are redundant with my waterproof ones. I just have not found any conditions where these will work for me, which is highly disappointing since these looked to be such a good idea.

This concludes my Report. I would like to thank the folks at Outdoor Research and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.

 



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