Gaiters are the best thing ever for a hiker. Cheap, DIY, hiking gaiters are even better! They keep rocks and dirt out of your shoes preventing you from having to stop every few hundred metres and empty rocks out of your shoes. They protect your ankles from sharp grass and bushes and they’re also really good for sun protection.
My gaiters also had extra benefits. Hiking the Te Araroa in New Zealand the sun is very strong and burns you very quickly. One day I didn’t put my gaiters on and by evening I had two burnt bands of skin above the top of my shoes where my tights didn’t cover. Even now, a few months later I have interesting tanned bands around my ankles!
What you need for DIY Gaiters
Some synthetic stretch fabric. I used a chuck of lycra dance fabric from the op-shop for some of them and a pair of mum’s old running tights for the others.
A scrap of cotton or some other woven fabric.
Big Hook and Eye hooks make sure they’re big enough to hook onto your shoelaces.
Strong, waterproof glue, the most hardcore stuff you can find as it’ll be put under quite a lot of strain.
You will also need a ruler, sewing machine, thread, paper, a pencil, pins and scissors, just your standard sewing stuff.
Pattern for Gaiters
Cut out a rectangle of paper 22 by 48 cm.
Fold it in half, mark nine centimetres out from the fold and rule a line from there down to the other corner.
Cut along the diagonal line and unfold.
There you go, your pattern is done. Now you just need to find some fabric and start cutting.
Sewing The DIY Gaiters
Using the pattern you just drafted cut out two from your lycra.
Pin the hems at the top and bottom
I only folded it down once as lycra doesn’t fray and I didn’t want to make the seams too bulky.
Sew the seams with a stretch stitch. I used a fancy stitch, but zig-zag would do the job. Some people have a lot of trouble sewing stretch fabrics. Don’t worry if your seam looks a bit ripply. It doesn’t have to look pretty so long as it does the job.
Swap to a straight stretch stitch if your machine has one. If not use zig-zag but with a short stitch length.
Fold it in half, right sides together, and sew down the angled side.
It should look like this.
Flip it out the right way and trim the corner off the bottom.
Put it aside and move on to making the tab.
Make the Tab
Cut an 8 by 11 cm rectangle out of a scrap of cotton. Or, if you’re from the US, Liberia or Myanmar (or like me, only have an inch ruler) cut out a 3 by 5-inch rectangle.
You’ll only need to cut one out for both gaiters.
Fold in half lengthways and sew the short edges with narrow seams.
Trim the top corners.
Now flatten it out on the table in an origami sort of way so it looks like this.
Cut off the first triangle. Then cut the extra fabric off the other.
They should look like this.
Flip them the right way out.
Now pin, then sew on the tab. Make sure that your seam starts in the little corner and ends in the opposite corner.
Flip the tab down and pin, ready to topstitch.
Now all you have to do is sew on the fasteners.
Cut off about 3 of the hook side of the velcro (the prickly one).
Work out where the centre back of the inside of the gaiter and pin the velcro on.
Sew around the velcro in a rectangle.
Make the hook face into the fabric and securely stitch tit onto the tab.
Prepare Your Shoes
All you need to do now is glue a piece of the loop side of velcro (the soft one) onto the heel of your shoe.
Let the glue dry fully before trying the gaiters on.
Try and remember to glue the velcro on a few days before you leave! I only remembered to the morning of our leaving day. I spent all morning glueing velcro on the backs of sixteen shoes. It took me forever and we were walking around the airport with half-dried glue holding the velcro on!
To put the gaiters on, pull them on like a sock BEFORE you put your shoes on (My dad found out It’s really hard to yank them over top of your shoes, plus it tears the stitching at the top). Put your shoes on, attach the velcro on the backs of the gaiters to the backs of your shoes and hook the hook around the bottom rung of your shoelaces.
After 685 kilometres of wear and tear my gaiters are going strong. My shoes, on the other hand, have holes in them.
My gaiters turned out to be one of my favourite items of clothing. I never took them off. Even when I was walking through rivers I didn’t get gravel in my shoes.
As you can see here my shoes and gaiters are completely caked with mud. But my socks are only slightly dirty. If you’re planning on hiking through the Raita forest then gaiters are a must-have. You can read about the muddiest day of my life in this post.