Monday, September 15, 2014

Gear Review: Outdoor Research Sparkplug Gaiters

Outdoor Research Sparkplug gaiter:  A gear review on minimalist trail gaiters

Today’s post will be the blog’s second gear review.  The piece of gear under review is the Outdoor Research Sparkplug gaiter.  Gaiters have become an important part of the clothing system I wear.  While I don’t wear gaiters on every trip, I wear them when there is a high risk of getting ticks on me or uncomfortable objects in my shoes.  You can find the Sparkplug gaiters at REI.com.

get a sense of how they will feel when wearing them
Wearing the Sparkplug Gaiters

The Background

If you were like me, you have no idea what gaiters are.  I didn’t learn until recently after doing research into what Soldiers were wearing on their legs in movies like Band of Brothers.  It’s that khaki colored that covers the shin and some of the boot.  Leg gaiters are used to keep, snow, water, and debris out of your shoes or boots.  They also keep your body’s heat trapped, keeping you warmer.  The gaiters I wear are made by Outdoor Research, a Seattle based gear manufacturer, which was established in 1981. They are stretchy, lightweight, and breathable.  

Purpose

The Sparkplug gaiters’ main purpose is to be as lightweight as possible while keeping bugs out of your shoes.  The gaiters weigh less than an ounce each, which qualifies as very lightweight.  In addition, the gaiters are water resistant and they will prevent light rain from soaking your shoes.  Also, as I mentioned earlier, the gaiters will keep bugs off you when worn with pants. 

The gaiters extend about 5 inches above my ankle.  They have a beefy metal hook in the front to latch on to the shoelaces.  In the back, the gaiters attach by a Velcro pad.  The top has loops in the top to add a string (not included) to reduce the gaiter sliding down your legs. 

 at the front of the Sparkplug gaiter
The metal shoelace hook at the front of the gaiter

How I Use Them 

I have used the gaiters for 3 different outdoor activities: hiking, trail running, and mountain biking.  I wear gaiters in conjunction with pants to keep debris away when hiking overgrown, extremely rocky, and/or tick infested trails.  I have also used the gaiters for trail running.  When trail running, I wear running shorts and running shoes and will provide the same level of protection as when hiking.  The final activity is mountain biking.  I have worn the gaiters out on a few rides on particularly overgrown trails to keep vegetation from touching me and leaving seeds in my socks. 

 at the top of the Sparkplug gaiter
The drawstring loop at the top of the gaiter

Performance  

The performance of the Sparkplug gaiters has been excellent so far and I predict that will be the case in the future.  While hiking in the knee-deep swamps of the Neusiok Trail, NC, my shoes remained dirt and swamp muck free.  Moreover, on the return hike through the swamps, I lost a Velcro stick pad and the gaiters still kept me debris free.  No matter how muddy and thick the water became, I could always count on my gaiters.  On another hike where the trail was infested with ticks, I took my shoes and gaiters off for a quick rest.  After the rest, I did not put my gaiters back on and within half an hour I had to pull the trip’s first and only tick off my shin.  Finally, when wearing the gaiters biking, it always seems like plants grow just high enough to attack your ankles.  However, wearing the gaiters reduces the seeds left in my socks/shoes and helps reduce the itchy feeling I get when encountering skin to vegetation contact.   

Issues

The Sparkplug gaiters are not without their issues albeit very minor ones.  The first issue is that the gaiters sag some when I wear them without pants. However, even sagging they have kept me debris free.  Plus they have the loops for drawstrings.  The second issue is with the Velcro pads.  The pads are easily lost when hiking and even more so if they get wet.  The gaiters also only come with one pair of Velcro pads so you cannot wear the gaiters with multiple shoes unless you get more Velcro.  Fortunately, the Sparkplugs are covered by a lifetime warranty and OR will ship more pads hassle free. 

this pad is a little lose already
Velcro pad in the back: this pad is a little loose already

Final Thoughts

I have really enjoyed the benefits of owning the Sparkplug gaiters and I will continue to wear them as needed.  I am planning a trip to Matagorda Island and will be wearing them to walk through the grass when I’m not on a bike.  I highly suggest these gaiters if you are new to the gaiter world and are looking for something lightweight and comfortable.

Let us know your thoughts on the Sparkplug gaiters or your favorite pair of gaiters.  Also, if you enjoy the blog, please follow us on Facebook

2 comments:

  1. Do you or one of your readers have suggestions for beggars lice on clothing and pets?

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    1. The best and most difficult method would be prevention. "Try" to avoid beggars lice or wear clothing that they don't attach to. Try not to wear denim, but nylon pants or similar smooth synthetics. Nylon is harder to latch onto. If you do get them on your clothing, scrape them with a fine tooth comb or a butter knife. This will get ride of a lot, but some will still need to be removed hand. For pets, it is a lot harder. Start by using a pet comb, which should remove most. Then hand remove as the left overs. Finally, some are going to be impossible to remove and will fall out naturally.

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