The Kahtoola INSTAgaiter Low is a solid choice for trail runners and distance hikers. It provides some of the best water resistance of any low cut gaiter that we have tested. It also offers excellent debris protection because of how securely it cinches around the ankle. Its primary drawback is that we never really could forget that it was there. The drawcord is just very tight around bare skin and even mid-weight wool socks. If you want something that will perform its purpose well (at the cost of a little comfort), then this gaiter is just what you need.
Kahtoola INSTAgaiters Low Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Lightweight, good water resistance, interchangeable instep strap
Cons: Tight ankle cinch, stiff instep strap
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Testing indicates that this model does some things really well and misses the mark on others. It kept our feet free of debris and sheds moisture better than any of its direct competitors in this review. However, there are some factors that keep it from climbing higher.
Comfort and Breathability
There are some comfort issues with these gaiters. The cinch cord that secures the gaiter around your ankle is thin and digs into your skin. We wore this pair with low socks (so the gaiters were against our bare skin), mid-height medium weight wool socks, and over hiking pants. Unsurprisingly, they are more comfortable the more padding you have on underneath them, but we never were able to forget that they were there totally.
On the underside, we were surprised to discover that the really stiff plastic instep strap is also noticeable. These are low gaiters that are meant to be worn with low-volume shoes, so it was all the more surprising to us during testing that we could feel it under the arch of our sneakers. Its redemption is the breathability, which, despite this pair being fairly water-resistant, is still notable. The combination of the very low cut and super thin fabric makes for a gaiter that is almost as good as any at breathing. Side-by-side, we definitely noticed a difference between them and other trail running models with thicker fabric.
These gaiters offer excellent debris protection. Though the elastic cord at the ankle is somewhat uncomfortable, there is no doubt that it cinches down tightly. The adjustable instep strap also ensures that gunk has a tough time sneaking its way in through the underside.
Because of their height, we wore these gaiters primarily with sneakers and trail runners. During field testing, these gaiters were so effective we found that the larger liability was the vent holes in the tops of our sneakers, which were responsible for way more of the dust and grit that found its way in than the gaiters were.
These low-cut gaiters are lightweight and thin, but we like their durability. The instep strap is thick, which bodes well for it. Even if it did eventually wear down, it is easily removable and replaceable. Though it is worth noting that it is a proprietary strap, so unlike other models that have grommets that can accommodate almost any piece of cord, the INSTAgaiter Low requires a specific strap.
We never had any issues during testing. We do feel like there are more small parts, including the toggle and the zipper pull, that might be more susceptible to damage in the long run.
Ease of Attachment
There are a couple of steps to attaching these gaiters compared to other lows, but they still go on in less than a minute. We needed to adjust the instep straps the first time we put them on. Then it's just a matter of connecting the toe hook, zipping the zipper, and cinching the ankle elastic. We also ended up tucking the extra elastic cord under our laces because it otherwise would have been a tripping hazard.
We noticed that if you pull too hard and too quickly on the elastic cord, the zipper comes slightly unzipped if the tab is flipped down. Flicking it up before tightening the elastic will help remedy the issue.
We are pleasantly surprised by the water-resistance of this model. Water beads up and rolls off, much more easily than similar models of trail running gaiters. We didn't experience any moisture penetration during our spray test. We also found in field testing that water seeped through our footwear before it made its way through these gaiters.
This pair weighs in at 0.8 ounces per gaiter, making it less than a couple of ounces. They also come with a little carrying pouch in case you want to tuck them away on days that you don't wear them. They are very discreet and one of the lightest gaiters that we have ever tested.
We would say there is good value in these gaiters. They are well-made, and the piece that would likely wear out the fastest is replaceable. We think that this model is a worthwhile investment for anyone who prioritizes debris protection (potentially over comfort).
The Kahtoola INSTAgaiter Low is a lightweight, fairly durable gaiter. We love its debris protection, but that comes at the cost of a bit of comfort. There are other lows that we would generally reach for first, but if you want light but sturdy and water-resistant ankle protection, this pair is worth a sincere look.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch