Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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Finding good gaiters is a real challenge. Most mass-produced gaiters are made of shitty material that doesn’t last more than a season (if that). Others lose their straps on first trip and don’t necessarily keep you dry and warm. Until you ford a river with crampons on and rip your gaiters because they’re hanging loose around your ankles, you don’t fully appreciate the value of a nice pair of gaiters. Based on my experience in rather extreme conditions, the Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiters are easily the best pair of gaiters I’ve ever had.
To test the Armadillo Hillsound gaiters, I took them on a winter trip to Scotland in the Cairngorms. If you’ve never heard of the Cairngorms, it’s a mountainous plateau with Arctic habitat and one of the most difficult hiking terrains in the UK. It’s known for unpredictable weather and challenging terrain but as a reward, you get some of the most beautiful and remote views anywere on the British Isles.
The Cairngorms in winter steps the difficulty up a notch so for this expedition, we hired a mountain guide to take the four of us (my two girls ages 11 and 13, my husband and I) on a round trip over Cairngorm starting at Glenmore Lodge, with a night by Nynack Beg and another one at the Fords of Avon. You can full our guide’s full story here.
Here is how the Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiters behaved in sub-zero, boggy and wet conditions. My 11-year-old wore them as she is skinny and is the most prone to getting cold. Her hiking boots are also not the best, so good gaiters could really make a difference for her.
It’s easy to overlook the user-friendliness of gaiters as they’re not exactly a rocket science item in anybody’s outdoor cupboard. Fabric, zipper, hooks–done, right? Not so. Most gaiters I’ve had are zipped from the bottom up but the Hillsound Armadillo LT gaiters are zipped from the top down. The zipper slider is tucked at the bottom under a velcro flap and doesn’t get in the way.
It sounds like a detail, which side you zip your gaiters, up or down, but on a very cold morning when my numb fingers refused to operate outside of thick winter gloves, it was super convenient. I struggled mightily with all our other gaiters which were, of course, bottom up gaiters.
Some might not like it or it might not be the best fit if your calves are big, but I really like that these gaiters are snug around the lower legs. It definitely makes it easier to move through thick underbrush such as peat bogs with heather, as they don’t get caught up in small branches.
Here is a short video explaining the construction of these gaiters.
Another plus in the design. Instead of a drawstring to tighten up the gaiters at the top, it’s a buckle system. Again, in thick underbrush, this is priceless as there are no loose ends that flap around. Also, in cold weather, the buckle system is easy to open and close with gloves.
With these gaiters, we forded two rivers. I slipped in the first one and went in the water mid-calf deep with my cheap gaiters. I spent the evening and following morning with wet shoes, which was really not fun. My daughter, wearing the Armadillo Hillsound LT gaiters, crossed the river a little more upstream and may have slipped on a rock but arrived dry on the other side.
Following day, another river crossing, less treacherous but with one to two feet of snow on the trail. She was completely dry (and warm inside) whereas my own feet was on the cold side and damp.
One of the big gripes of winter hikers is snagging gaiters on the spikes of crampons and ruining them in the process of walking all day. This would be a problem indeed if the gaiters were a bit baggy or loose around the ankle, but as mentioned above, the Hillsound Armadillo LT gaiters are a snug fit and we didn’t have the issue. They are also made of a rather thick if flexible fabric, which ensures that they don’t fall off when you walk long distances. My daughter didn’t report any issues walking roughly 3 hours with crampons on a mix of rock, ice and snow.
They are neither the cheapest not the most expensive but compared to most, I find that the Hillsound Armadillo LT gaiters are well worth the investment. My only regret is not having more than one pair, as I received this pair as a freebie in exchange for a review.
Even if they are lightweight, these gaiters are more adapted to colder seasons than warm seasons. A friend recently completed the Wadi Rum ultra-marathon in the desert in Jordan and she needed gaiters as part of her kit. I described the Hillsound Armadillo LT gaiters and we came to the conclusion that they were too heavy duty for her purposes. I would think that they are perfect from fall to spring and at higher altitudes in the summer. However, you might overheat at sea level in the summer.
Disclaimer: I received a pair of Hillsound Armadillo LT gaiters in exchange for a review, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own.