Tromping across the spring countryside means encounters with messy conditions, including mud, snow and wet underbrush. To keep grit and slop from spilling down the tops of your boots, get a leg up with a pair of gaiters. Typically made of a waterproof, breathable fabric such as Gore-Tex, these leg sleeves fit snugly over the tops of your boots and extend up your shins. They’re held in place by lacing, Velcro or zippers, and a strap that wraps under the sole of the boot.

Styles

Gaiters include lightweight trail models offering basic protection from rocks and light rain; more abrasion- and water-resistant alpine gaiters for skiing, snowshoeing and all-weather hiking; and insulated, heavy-duty expedition gaiters for serious mountaineering.

Cut

Low-cut gaiters fit at the ankle, and are fine for keeping out pebbles and dirt on light trails in mild weather. But high-cut gaiters are more useful for all-round bushwhacking. They come to the top of the calf, and are ideal for thick brush, tall grass, snow and foul weather. High-cuts are more expensive, however, and offer less ventilation on warm days.

Fit

The fit around your leg should be snug, but not constricting, and the gaiters should seal tightly at both the top and instep of your outdoor footwear. Get the fit wrong and the muck will find a way it. But get it right and you’ll have dry, comfortable feet all day long.