Updated: Jun 30
Author: Lutz Otto
Letting you in a on a top-tip, we almost always wear our gaiters whilst on a walking safari. Folk that don't know their purpose often giggle when they first see them, they are not the most stylish fashion accessory, BUT then wish for them an hour into trail.
So why is this style/ design of gaiter loved on our African savanna and the Australian outback?
These "beauties" are absolutely brilliant at keeping grass seeds and burs off our socks, as well as sand, etc. out of your boots.
Depending on the season, grass seeds can literally destroy hiking socks, and cause huge irritation, in a matter of hours. If you own a pair, within a very short time, you will come to love them.
So lets get straight into it. What are the characteristics of a “classic bush gaiter”?
For our purposes they are best constructed of a tough denim type material. This is fast drying, light weight, machine washable and highly breathable [they do not get excessively hot or sweaty]. This type of material is also not noisy, which his is particularly important when we are stealthily approaching animals to view them without disturbance.
In the context of our application, the best ones have an elasticated top which you pull over your feet before putting on your boots/ shoes. This simple design is absolutely great. For our American clients we suggest the Boyt safari gaiter and for our South African clients we suggest the Rogue safari gaiter [see the picture].
They should not be made from a heavy weight canvas material, like those sold in many shops. These are uncomfortable, sweaty and noisy. Overly sweaty feet create a different set of problems that becomes accentuated when out for a couple of days. Noise chases away the animals we are trying to observe without intruding.
Leather is often used in gaiters as it breathes, is robust and looks better. They cannot just be thrown into the wash and if you want to keep them in good shape you must feed them with leather food. When they get wet, from either dew or rain, they take hours and hours to dry - Consequently your socks, boots and feet will stay wet. We all know that wet feet are seriously problematic on longer trails.
Regardless of material choice avoid those with a velcro closure at the back. These closures cause chaffing problems for many people. Zips are not as rigid and thus do not cause the same problems. The reason for using these types of closing mechanisms is to allow you put them on/ take them off without taking your shoes off. Although this has value in other hiking, backpacking or mountaineering applications, where bigger boots and weather conditions are part of the equation, it adds no real value in the bush.
With regards other variations of gaiter.
The traditional hiking or mountaineering gaiters [both the short and/ or long ones], made of gortex or a similar material, are primarily focused on keeping moisture or snow out of boots. They help keep frost bite and foot rot at bay. They are too hot and sweaty for the bush and further this the materials are easily destroyed by the vegetation we encounter. Most of them are also noisy.
The gaiters used by trail runners work very well but, based on the type of material used, have very low durability within this type of environment.
Gaiters used by snake catchers are for exactly that and are no good for us.
Gaiters form part of the "happy feet" equation
Good gaiters are close friends with clean feet, good socks and appropriate footwear. Healthy feet are critical to enjoying longer walks, wilderness trails and backpacking safaris. Our article on boots is an informative must read.
Love them or hate them, these short gaiters make bush life even more enjoyable. We recommend them wholeheartedly 😊.
Choose right, look after your feet, focus on the incredible experience and have fun. See you soon!
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