Must Have Accessory for Summer Kayaking Adventures: Gaiters
From Austin Canoe & Kayak guest blogger Joel Cowen:
Whether you’re kayaking in the Deep South or close to Canada, near the coast or in the mountains, you’ll have a reason to consider packing your gaiters this summer. They are a significant aid in providing defense from the elements and in helping you remain comfortable during your paddle. You would be surprised what ultimately finds its way into your boots or the leg of your pants on an adventure at any time of the year, but summertime brings with it its own challenges.
Before your kayaking expedition there are a few things to consider when choosing the right gaiter for you. On one hand you’ll need to keep the type of terrain you are embarking on in mind. It’s important to consider the surrounding temperature and vegetation. Then you can decide which type of gaiter you will need based on the type of material and length.
Consider Your Location
If you know that your kayak launching spot is surrounded by thick brush, or if your boat portage location is from a particularly challenging spot on the river, you may find that wearing high gaiters is invaluable to your comfort and safety. If the grass is high or you’re having to battle with log jams, thorny mesquite, wet brush and even cactus, then you’ll be relieved when the day is over that you remembered your must-have summer kayaking accessory!
Gaiters generally come in one of two designs. They are long, up to the mid-calf, or short, from the ankle and down over your boot. High gaiters are mainly used in the cooler months or for mountainous ranges where there’s a chance of icy waters and snow. However, you would be surprised how effective long gaiters can be in the hot summer months too, provided the material is thin and breathable.
Protection from Snakes
One benefit of wearing gaiters that some people overlook is for protection against snakes. Long gaiters, which are usually 15 to 18 inches high, and those made of a Cordura type nylon, are fantastic protection against snakes, especially when used with a boot or other enclosed shoe. Long, breathable gaiters, while probably not optimal for protection against snakes in the summertime, are still very capable of fending off razor-sharp sedge leaves, keeping the mud out and minimizing hard abrasion.
Short Gaiter’s Amazing Protection
Shorter gaiters, which are typically made 8 to 12 inches high, work well when it’s hot and the chance of encountering obstacles is low or if you plan on mainly sandy beach landings. A shorter pair of gaiters, made from Gore-Tex fabric, is a lower-cost option and still very effective at keeping the rain, sand and burrs out of your adventure.
Typical features of all gaiters are the type of entry, top closure point and the instep strap. A gaiter is designed with its opening and closure system along the length of the gaiter, sometimes on the outside of the leg. It can be located on the back for a “step-in” rear-entry in some older products, but for most it’s at the front for ease of access. Closure systems are normally a VELCRO-type fastener or zippered in some more expensive gaiters.
Gaiters are snug at the top, around the calf. This is called the top closure point and can be a snap button, toggle and elastic draw cord, or a buckle and strap on some of the more expensive gaiters. The elastic is usually the most popular, due to its simplicity and affordability.
When you step into the gaiter, the instep strap is a feature which keeps the bottom edge close to the bottom of your boot and stops it from riding up your leg, preventing snow or burrs from penetrating your comfort zone. Instep straps range from a simple length of thin cord to thick, durable leather straps depending on the quality, purpose and price.
When you’re planning your next kayaking adventure this summer make sure one of the first items on your list are gaiters. These handy accessories provide a great deal more protection than you first might think and increase your overall comfort on the river by keeping things out when you can’t avoid them. While summer adventures can be hot, and your preference for shorter gaiters might prevail, sometimes if you’re not launching from a flat sandy beach but instead portaging through deep snake-infested grass, you might want to consider the longer pair with the durable material. Either way, a pair of gaiters is an invaluable accessory for a summer kayaking adventure.