AR Mini Gaiters – A Review
AR Mini Gaiters – A Review
Belinda and I have settled into a hiking lifestyle and we have pretty much got all the ‘must have’ equipment needed for most types of day walks and multi day hikes. I don’t think we ever really considered gaiters to be an essential part of a hiker’s apparel. The gaiters we were used to seeing were large and bulky. Although it is easy to see how those types of gaiters would help to keep your shoes and legs dry while walking through the long wet grass or sand, the concern we had was that our legs would get too hot and not be able to breathe properly on a long hike. Plus the extra weight on our legs may cause additional fatigue.
However, as we learned later, those were not the only types of gaiters that are available to you as an avid hiker. This review pertains to a very different type of gaiter that has all the benefits of a regular gaiter with very few of the drawbacks.
What are Gaiters?
Let us first talk briefly about what gaiters actually are and what they are supposed to do. Wikipedia describes gaiters as follows:
“Gaiters are a type of protective clothing for a person’s ankles and legs below the knee. Gaiters are worn when walking, hiking, running (especially orienteering and rogaining) outdoors amongst dense underbrush or in snow, with or without snowshoes. Heavy gaiters are often worn when using crampons, to protect the leg and ankle from the spikes of the opposite foot. Gaiters strap over the hiking boot and around the person’s leg to provide protection from branches and thorns and to prevent mud, snow, etc. from entering the top of the boot. Gaiters may also be worn as protection against snake bites.”
How Do Gaiters Work
The website called Section Hiker describes the functionality of gaiters like this:
“Gaiters attach to your boots in two locations: a front hook attaches to your boot or shoe laces at the bottom of the tongue and an adjustable strap made out of string, elastic or plastic extends under your boots where your heels meet the last of your boot. On trail or running shoes gaiters will sometimes attach to a velcro strip on the back of your shoe. When you put them on, they wrap around your lower leg, usually back to front, and seal with a velcro strip that runs from the top of the gaiter to the bottom.”
Belinda discovered AR Gaiters through a Facebook post a while ago. After browsing their website, the AR Mini Gaiters seemed the most fit-for-purpose of the three types of gaiters that they sell. The AR Gaiters website advertises the following features of the AR Mini Gaiters:
- “One size fits all thanks to four-way stretch lycra. BUT, if your ankles are smaller than 21cm circumference, or your shoe size is smaller than UK 5 or bigger than a UK 12, please let us know when you order so that we can customise the fit. This is unusual (we’ve only encountered a few thus far).
- Attaches to your bottom-most lace by a metal hook.
- Elastic in the bottom seam creates tension and prevents your gaiter from coming off your shoe.
- Squares of Velcro are stitched to the back of the AR Mini Gaiters. We provide you with the other side of the adhesive Velcro to attach to the back of your shoe.
- Any colour – if we can get the fabric in the colour of your choice, we’ll make it.”
The Field Test
Belinda and I first started using the AR Mini Gaiters on the Arangieskop hike in Robertson during March 2018. For those of you who are not familiar with Arangieskop, it is a challenging overnight hike that takes you through difficult and varied terrain. The elevation gain for an overnight hike is impressive, making it one of the most challenging overnight hikes in South Africa.
Since then we have used our AR Mini Gaiters on the following hiking trails:
- Newlands Forest [Day Hike] 3.5 km
- Boosmansbos [Overnight Hike] 30 km
- Woody’s Walk [Day Hike] 9.4 km
- Falke Full Moon [Day Hike] 9.1 km
- Lion’s Head x 2 [Day Hike] 4.8 km
- Elephant’s Eye [Day Hike] 5.3 km
- Steenbras Dam [Day Hike] 16 km
- Dikkop Trail x2 [Day Hike] 20 km
- Sphinx Trail [Overnight Hike] 18 km
- Waterfall Hike [Day Hike] 6 km
These hikes are spread all over the Western Cape and cover a wide range of hiking conditions, from dry, arid and rocky terrain to lush green vegetation, muddy paths and river crossings. We are satisfied that we have put these gaiters through their paces and that they have been tested under conditions that most South African hikers, based in the Western Cape, would be confronted with. The only real environmental condition we did not test these gaiters in was snow.
So where can I buy a pair?
The AR Mini Gaiters are advertised currently on the AR Gaiter website at R185 a pair excluding delivery (09 May 2018). At R185, it might sound like a lot of money, but it is really good value for what you get. There are a variety of colours and patterns to chose from. Whilst the company is based in Gauteng, we had no problem getting our gaiters to Cape Town via courier, at a very affordable cost.
The AR Mini Gaiters do exactly what they advertise they can do. They are easy to fit and protect your socks and feet from sand and dirt, and small stones and twigs from getting into your trail shoes or hiking boots. They are extremely flexible and are lightweight. They are not waterproof like their more robust cousins, but that was not a significant drawback for us. Due to the four-way stretch lycra material they are constructed from, they do tend to get quite a beating from trails that are not well maintained. They are more ideally suited to trails that have clear paths with soft sand and small stones that could end up in your shoes or hiking boots. The funky colours offered in the AR Mini Gaiter range also do a great job in ‘pimping’ up your dull and bland looking hiking boots.
We are both extremely happy with our AR Mini Gaiters and we have convinced some of our hiking companions to invest in a pair of AR Mini Gaiters too! They are a good all-round investment for any serious hiker.
Every time we have hiked with them, we have received great comments from others in our hiking party, and many people have asked where to order them. We have just put in a bulk order for our upcoming Fish River Canyon hike… watch this space for an update.