A good pair of gaiters is an indispensable part of any avid outdoorsman’s wardrobe. Not only do gaiters keep irritating debris from finding its way into your boots, but they also shield your lower legs from thorns, brambles, sharp rocks, and dense, clutching underbrush.

Anyone who’s ever done any deep woods tracking will tell you that navigating treacherous terrain can quickly take a toll on the structural integrity of your clothing. Even the kind of heavy-duty, double-ply hunting pants that are supposedly built to withstand such conditions.

For the practical hunter, gaiters aren’t just a plus—they’re a must.

If you recently picked up your first pair of gaiters, you might be wondering about the proper way to wear them. More specifically, should you wear gaiters over or under pants?

Let’s take a closer look at these accessories and how to make the most of the protection they offer.

When to Wear Gaiters Over Hunting Pants

Let’s keep this real simple: as a general rule, you should almost always wear your gaiters over your pants.

Gaiters serve two primary functions. One is to prevent rocks, wood chips, and other small objects from sifting down into your footwear and causing discomfort on long treks. The other is to fortify your lower extremities against cuts, scratches, and scrapes, as well as snake bites and other fauna-related dangers.

This fortification applies to your pants as well as your limbs themselves.

Strictly speaking, gaiters aren’t a necessity for hunting, hiking, and other outdoor activities. You’re free to forego them, and many hunters do. But by opting out, you’ll be letting your pant legs bear the brunt of the abuse you receive while tramping through overgrown thickets.

Should you choose to go gaiter-less on your next hunting trip, don’t be surprised if you find your hunting pants riddled with holes, ripped seams, broken zippers, and other assorted wear and tear by the time you return home.

Conversely, wearing gaiters is a great way to extend the lifespan of your hunting pants. The latter tend to be quite a bit pricier than the former, so it doesn’t make much sense to subject them to unnecessary wear if you have an affordable alternative available.

When to Wear Gaiters Under Hunting Pants

There is one scenario in which it’s wise to put your gaiters on underneath your pants, and that’s when it’s wet out.

Gaiters are designed to cinch up securely against the wearer’s legs, but they don’t create a watertight seal, no matter how tight they are.

If you wear them on the outside of your pants during a heavy downpour, water will seep in through the narrow opening at the top. You will eventually be soaked through to your base layer and socks.

That simply won’t do, especially if it’s going to be a while before you can change clothes.

If the forecast calls for rain, sleet, snow, or similar precipitation ahead of your trip, begin gearing up like normal by slipping into your pants and boots, then strap on your gaiters. Once you’ve done that, pull on an additional pair of waterproof pants. Make sure the bottom hem covers as much of your lower legs as possible.

Layering your bottoms in this way will deflect falling water and environmental moisture away from your body rather than allowing it to roll right into your boots.

Choosing the Right Size Gaiters

Gaiters are not a one-size-fits-all accessory. They come in several different sizes, and it’s essential to select the size that’s right for you in order to take full advantage of their protective benefits.

We’ll provide a brief gaiters size guide here to give you a starting point when you start your search.

ankle gaiters to protect against debris

A single gaiter size typically covers a range of men’s boot sizes. For example, a size-Medium set of gaiters might be made to fit footwear sizes 5-8, while a Large will accommodate sizes 9-12, and an XL will provide ample room for sizes 13-15.

As with other garments and accessories, the best way to ensure that you’re getting the size you need is to try on a few pairs and see how they fit. A well-fitted pair of gaiters should hug your boots and lower legs snugly without being overly tight or difficult to get on.

If it isn’t possible to give your new gaiters a test run, as may be the case if you’re ordering online, your next best bet is to refer to the sizing chart provided by the manufacturer. Keep in mind that you may need to size up if you plan on wearing your gaiters over bulkier types of boots, such as snow or mountaineering boots.

Types of Gaiters

To make things a little easier, we will divide gaiters into two types: mountaineering gaiters and hiking gaiters.

Mountaineering Gaiters

These are going to be the more heavyweight gaiters because they’re going to have to do some hard work in pretty harsh conditions.

They will be made of a waterproof, breathable fabric that is suited to rain or snow conditions.

As well as wearing them in rough, high country where rocks and spiky bushes are prevalent, you might also take them out backcountry skiing or snowshoeing.

Header

Make/Model

Length

Material

MSRP

16.5"

300D nylon, PU coating

$79.95

17.5"

Gore-tex leg panel, Cordura Nylon foot panel

$89.00

13.0"

Gore-tex 3-layer

$79.95

Hiking Gaiters

These are more lightweight and smaller than the mountaineering kind. They are going to be used to prevent small stones, grit and moisture from getting into the top of your boot.

This type of gaiter protects the lower leg to about mid-calf as well as providing a barrier against debris from entering your boots.

If you’re an active hunter doing a lot of trekking, particularly through difficult terrain with lots of rubble and dirt, these are the gaiters you’re going to need.

Header

Make/Model

Length

Material

MSRP

9"

Double Weave stretch

$45.00

8.5"

Pertex Shield, Cordura

$48.00

15” // S

15.5 // M

16.5” // L

 17” // XL

eVent, Robic Nylon

$74.95

Conclusion

To recap: always wear your gaiters over your regular hunting pants, unless it’s raining, in which case you’ll want to put them on under your waterproofs to ward off invading moisture.

By following the correct order of operations for your hunting attire, you can guarantee that your feet remain comfy, your legs remain dry, and your favorite hunting pants stay intact.

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