I was always a gaiter wearer but in recent years I’ve been in softshell pants more often that not where internal gaiters were keeping out the crap or in trainers where gaiters were kinda superfluous. But manky legs are rubbish in a tent, and it’s manky out there just now, wet and muddy instead of snowy. So when Hillsound gave me a shout from their side of the Atlantic to flag up their new models, I raised an eyebrow at the gaiters. I love their Trail Crampons which are now available in the UK, but would that sharp designers eye of theirs work as well on other kit?
The model that arrived were the range-topping Super Armadillo Nano Gaiters, full of techy stuff. The first thing you notice is the mix of fabrics, a very soft upper and very stiff lower section, and that’s the story on the Nano’s. The lower section that fits over your boot is cut from Superfabric, the dimpled surface of which has been seen on here many times on my Haglöfs Grym boots. This stuff is incredibly abrasion resistant and doesn’t absorb moisture, which makes it in great in the boots but potentially better in the gaiter application as my gaiters have always taken hole-punching crampon slashes. The stiffness also makes for a nicely shaped cuff around your boot that doesn’t fold or roll when plunged into murky horror, the seal around boots is excellent as I’ve discovered, with just enough flex to keep them feeling anonymous.
The upper half is Schoeller C_change, a breathable and waterproof membrane fabric with a huge amount of stretch to it. It also comes with NanoSphere treatment, essentially a super-duper water repellancy
I was right in-between an medium and large in the charts and it was a medium that arrived. The first time I tried them on was over baggy jeans and trainers and I could barely get them fastened, oh dear I thought.
The next time I tried them on was over slim fitting Montane softshell pants in the car park at Ben Donich and it all started to make sense. The zip starts at the “wrong” end, at the top, so with the slim-fit design you have to start the zip around your ankle, then pull the gaiter up like a sock as you zip them up. It’s a little awkward, but when the gaiter is pulled up, it’s like it just clunks into place above you calf. There’s a buckle at the top as well, this will protect the zip from pressure that might open it, but it’s still on an adjustable stretch webbing so security doesn’t come at the cost of comfort.
The zip is a YKK water resistant type so should be durable enough and behind it is a lightly padded storm flap to catch any drip and stop any pressure on your leg from the zip. The zip terminates under a velcro flap to keep it safe.
The hook is the right way around, that is, it hooks underneath your laces. This design is the only one that makes sense, it never comes out, once I had my pair of Mountain Hardwear gaiters with the hooks like this I never looked back.
For underfoot security there’s a fat replaceable nylon strap fixed onto buckles which are in turn attached to the Superfabric with beefy fabric tabs. The metal parts look a little on the wiry side for the weight of all the other components, so I’ll be keeping my eye on them for durability.
In use is where it all matters, and by the time I has walked ten paces the first time I wore them, I forgot I was wearing them. Over lightweight softshell and socks, the super-slim fit upper Schoeller section was perfect, the stretch in the fabric means there’s no sensation at all. Even awkward foot placements or stretches that I would have expected to at least tug the buckled top cuff down onto my calf failed to cause any issues, it’s like they’re made of powerstretch.
The Superfabric section sits there and warns the crap and rocks away from your boots quite effectively and where it joins the Schoeller bit becomes an external ankle of sorts, the Schoeller stretches into the Superfabric and it all moves without pulling down the leg section at all. Even plunging into bogs that you might expect to leave a shoe in when you pull your foot out didn’t upset it. While the tight fit might feel odd when you first try it, it works very well, just make sure you wear trousers that work with it.
The other aspect of the fabrics is moisture management. The lower section keeps the crap out, keeps water out too as boots stay dry, but the Schoeller upper really surprised me. On the Ben Donich trip where I was calf-deep in wet peaty horror a lot of the time, when I got back to the motor and peeled them off I was completely dry underneath, sure my socks were a little damp from hours of exertion, but no patches of trapped condensation on either my trousers of the inner face of the gaiters. I just stuck my Vans back on over the socks I was wearing and drove home.
I’m really impressed by the fabric performance, the Superfabric was a known, but the Schoeller is really what makes the gaiter work as well as it does along with the neat design.
The initially scary slim fit actually makes so much sense and works so well, besides, for bigger calves or heavier trousers you could get the size up (I’m UK9 and these gaiters are a medium). Weight for mine is 338g for the pair, is that good compared to other gaiters? No idea, but they don’t feel weighty when worn.
Bottom line is I like these, they fit me fine and it’ll be great to take them off in the porch of the tent and jump into my sleeping bag without having to roll up my muddy trousers first.
Gaiters are back, didn’t expect that.