July 06, 2021
By Joe Ferronato
A necessary and often overlooked piece of gear is the gaiter. It seems as if gaiters are an afterthought for most hunters. Their kits are made up of high-quality, mountain-ready gear, but often gaiters are lacking. Depending on its quality and performance, this small piece of gear can make or break a hunt.
Gaiters act as the first line of defense to protect your boots—and in turn your feet—from being damaged or uncomfortable while in the field. Gaiters are an extension of your boot, they fit tightly around the calf to keep debris out while hiking. They even prevent moisture from rain or snow from saturating the insides of your boots.
While an essential piece of gear, many gaiters are tough to fit and have a few key points that tend to fail after repeated abuse in the field. When Stone Glacier began their design of the SQ2 Alpine gaiter—over three years ago—they took all the common gaiter issues into account. Their mission was to solve the repetitive flaws found in other designs and create a gaiter that will hold up to the abuses serious hunters put their gear through. As with other Stone Glacier products, these gaiters tote an innovative design that boasts perfect fit and comfort, lasting durability, and lightweight construction.
The most common failing point of any gaiter is at the ground level—literally. The strap that goes under your boot is usually secured by a classic belt-buckle system and most straps don’t exactly scream strength. I have had several pairs of gaiters fail at the buckle, sending me to the store for a replacement pair. The design team at Stone Glacier took this issue head-on and designed a new system: The Contrail Bootstrap which uses high-strength Dyneema rope and a pin-less heavy-duty aluminum buckle.
The area where the bootstrap attaches to the gaiter is another common failure point. Traditional designs usually feature a single webbing attachment sewn vertically into the gaiter. On the SQ2 you will find that the attachment point features a V-shaped webbing loop that attaches to the Dyneema to help disperse the stress on critical sewing points while under tension. To adjust the bootstrap, simply pull on the buckle to lengthen and sinch the strap snug with the tail end of the webbing that sits on the outside of the gaiter. Having a buckle without pins negates the possibility of the pin snagging and breaking while hiking through rough terrain.
At first glance, the rope didn’t inspire confidence, though, after some research, the Dyneema earned my trust. I quickly realized that it's the same rope that is used for many winches used on 4x4 rigs. I figured if I could trust it to pull my truck, I can trust it to support my gaiters.
Stone Glacier decided to use their trusted and proven materials to construct both the upper and lower sections. The lower—the part that sits on your boot—is constructed from X-Pac waterproof material. X-Pac has been used on a variety of Stone Glacier products, such as their packs and frames. The material is tough and abrasion-resistant meaning you won’t have to tiptoe through the brush.
The upper—the section the covers your shins and calves—is made from a 3-layer Ripstop HydraShield—X-Pac material runs up the shin to offer extra durability for the Velcro. This material has been used in the construction of both the M5 and M7 raingear. The material is waterproof, breathable and holds up against the terrain and the elements. While I haven’t had the gaiters long, I am confident that both materials will hold up to the abuse I put my gear through. I haven’t had a failure in either the X-Pac or HydraShield materials over several seasons of use.
Comfort and Fit
As I mentioned previously, gaiters are often tough to fit and can be uncomfortable. To work properly, a snug fit is required, and it helps keep the gaiters from slipping down while hiking—a common problem I run into having ludicrously long legs.
When I first put Stone Glacier’s new gaiters on, I realized how easy it was to adjust the Contrail Bootstrap. The pin-less buckle made it quick and easy to fit the gaiters to my boot. I can easily snug them down to ensure the lower fits snug—an important aspect to keep debris and snow from getting wedged between the gaiter and boot. A metal hook can be found at the front of the lower as well to help keep the gaiter in place and keep the Velcro sealed.
When looking at the SQ2 it is easy to notice that there is extra Velcro running up the inside front of the gaiter. The Velcro is offset to either side to allow the user to adjust how the gaiter sits around their calf. Rather than just sinching down the upper cuff of the gaiter, leaving the rest of the material loose around your calf, you can overlap the front of the material to ensure a perfect fit. The system is very similar to that of the De Havilland waist adjustment system.
The upper cuff of the gaiter is easy to secure and adjust as well. To secure the gaiter simply snap the side-release buckle into place then sinch the webbing down so it is sung against your leg. The webbing in the cuff is elastic to allow for dynamic movement while you are hiking, and your muscles are flexing. This keeps you from having an uncomfortable pinch and prevents the gaiters from sliding down over your calf. When fitted properly, the gaiter works with you. I didn’t notice any material slipping over my calf and the elastic material in the cuff stretched with me instead of pulling or pinching when I took long, reaching steps.
These gaiters fit tremendously well. The ability to adjust the upper to fit over my calf makes this one of the most comfortable gaiters that I have worn. Combined with the lightweight design, I barely notice them when hiking. One of my favorite parts of these gaiters—one that shows the attention to detail in design—is the ease of replacing the extra webbing once you have adjusted them to fit perfectly.
Stone Glacier took the time to ensure these gaiters were built to meet the needs of the serious adventure hunter and they delivered. I am excited to have these gaiters as a part of my kit in the upcoming seasons.
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