The Snow Gaiter

Do you know what a snow gaiter is? And no, its not some white animal created by Peter Jackson with big teeth that chases computer generated people around the snow. Although a snow gaiter does share a resemblance in function with the "gators" found in southern swamps.

The "Drawstring" Gaiter, which is the nylon on top of the boot

Snow gaiters are special designs of various snow boots that are helpful if you plan on wandering around in deep snow. To illustrate their use, have you ever tromped through snow in a low cut shoe (like a running shoe), only to find the snow sneaking down between your foot and the inner shell of your shoe? If so, you know how cold and wet that makes your foot feel , although it does help to wake a person up.

Well, a snow gaiter is designed to prevent this problem. A snow gaiter is something that is built into quality snow boots. Snow gaiters in snow boots take one of two forms.

The first form consists of a nylon cover that is built around the top of the boot and then, using a drawstring, snugged tight around the lower leg just above the boot. The gaiter essentially prevents the snow from falling down inside the boot, and instead sheds all snow to the outside of the boot. This is the most effective type and is highly recommended if you will be wading through lots of deep snow.

The second form of snow gaiter consists of fuzzy fleece or similar types of fur that is found at the top of the boot. This fuzzy fleece/fur gaiter will essentially snug up to your leg once your foot is in the boot, providing a barrier against snow from falling into the boot. For occasional deep snow wandering, this type of gaiter works just fine. However, if you will be spending lots of time in deep snow, eventually, snow will find its way inside the boot as the fuzzy fleece does not provide a perfect barrier. Plus, snow will also accumulate on top of the fuzzy fleece, chilling that area of the leg.

The "Furry Fleece" gaiter, on a Sorel Caribou Boot.

So is a snow gaiter mandatory? No. While virtually all "snow boots" have gaiters, very few "winter boots" have them. And the reason for that is simple. A snow boot is designed for playing in the snow. A winter boot is designed for a multitude of cold weather uses, but taking long walks through deep snow isn’t one of them. Indeed, the presence or lack of a snow gaiter is an easy to determine whether or not a particular boot is a "snow boot" or a "winter boot."

What if you have a winter boot you like, but want to plow through deep snow? Do you need to buy new boots? The answer to that is no. In addition to the "built-in" gaiters found on snow boots, snow gaiters (usually made of nylon with a built-in drawstring and a strap that runs beneath the heel of the boot) can also be bought separately. These gaiters wrap around the leg and part of the boot and are quite effective at shedding snow, if a bit of a pain to put on at times.

If you are in the market for a separate snow gaiter to attach to your winter boots, Backcountry.Com and REI are both fine places to find one, since they sell quality, technical outdoor gear that isn't available at many other sporting good stores, let alone Wal-Mart.

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