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Kahtoola INSTAgaiters Low Review

A low gaiter with excellent water resistance and debris protection
Kahtoola INSTAgaiters Low
Credit: Kahtoola
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Price:  $40 List | Check Price at REI
Pros:  Lightweight, good water resistance, interchangeable instep strap
Cons:  Tight ankle cinch, stiff instep strap
Manufacturer:   Kahtoola
By Ben Applebaum-Bauch ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 29, 2019
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57
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 12
  • Comfort and Breathability - 25% 5.0
  • Debris Protection - 25% 6.0
  • Durability - 15% 6.0
  • Ease of Attachment - 15% 5.0
  • Water Resistance - 10% 6.0
  • Weight - 10% 7.0

Our Verdict

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.

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Pros Lightweight, good water resistance, interchangeable instep strapDurable, secure, waterproofLightweight, secure, inexpensiveEasy on and off, instep cord is replaceableSuper lightweight, easy to attach, flexible
Cons Tight ankle cinch, stiff instep strapHeavy for length, chunky-lookingNot waterproof, requires velcro installation on shoesNot versatile, instep cord wears quicklyNot waterproof, requires velcro on shoes
Bottom Line A low gaiter with excellent water resistance and debris protectionA pair of mid-length rugged gaiters with the versatility for multiple seasonsA lightweight and comfortable pair of gaiters that are meant for the long haulA simple, old school gaiter that is easy to put on and take offAn ultralight pair of gaiters that are made for trail running and UL backpacking
Rating Categories Kahtoola INSTAgaite... REI Co-op Backpacke... Dirty Girl Gaiter Black Diamond Talus Altra Trail Gaiter
Comfort and Breathability (25%)
5.0
7.0
9.0
6.0
9.0
Debris Protection (25%)
6.0
7.0
5.0
7.0
4.0
Durability (15%)
6.0
8.0
5.0
6.0
3.0
Ease of Attachment (15%)
5.0
6.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
Water Resistance (10%)
6.0
8.0
5.0
6.0
3.0
Weight (10%)
7.0
4.0
9.0
5.0
10.0
Specs Kahtoola INSTAgaite... REI Co-op Backpacke... Dirty Girl Gaiter Black Diamond Talus Altra Trail Gaiter
Weight (each) 0.8 oz 3.5 oz 0.7 oz 1.8 oz 0.5 oz
Length 5 in 10 in 7 in 7 in 6.5 in
Material Stretch-woven nylon/polyester blend with DWR finish Nylon Polyester Soft Shell/Hard Shell Nylon
Water Resistant? Yes Yes, 3-layer waterproof/breathable fabric No No No
Attachment Instep strap Hook and loop, instep strap Hook and loop, velcro heel Nylon cord instep strap, lace hook, velcro, snap Hook and loop, velcro heel

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.

Performance Comparison


Kahtoola INSTAgaiters Low gaiters - this low model is lightweight and streamlined.
This low model is lightweight and streamlined.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

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.

Kahtoola INSTAgaiters Low gaiters - we worked up a sweat as fast as we could and were pleasantly...
We worked up a sweat as fast as we could and were pleasantly surprised by how breathable these gaiters are.
Credit: Piper Van Cleve

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.

Debris Protection


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.

Kahtoola INSTAgaiters Low gaiters - the debris protection of these gaiters is high because of how...
The debris protection of these gaiters is high because of how tightly the ankle cinches down.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

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.

Durability


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.

Kahtoola INSTAgaiters Low gaiters - the instep strap is easily replaceable if and when it does wear out.
The instep strap is easily replaceable if and when it does wear out.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

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.

Kahtoola INSTAgaiters Low gaiters - the strap is a more rigid plastic than that of many other models...
The strap is a more rigid plastic than that of many other models, but we think it will hold up for a long time if you primarily run on surfaces with more give.
Credit: Piper Van Cleve

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.

Kahtoola INSTAgaiters Low gaiters - this model hooks and zips easily.
This model hooks and zips easily.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

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.

Kahtoola INSTAgaiters Low gaiters - the elastic cinch cord at the ankle is extremely long, so we tucked...
The elastic cinch cord at the ankle is extremely long, so we tucked it into the top lace to prevent it from being a tripping hazard.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Water Resistance


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.

Kahtoola INSTAgaiters Low gaiters - in our spray test, these gaiters proved to have above average water...
In our spray test, these gaiters proved to have above average water resistance, especially for trail runners.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Weight


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.

Kahtoola INSTAgaiters Low gaiters - this lightweight contender is one of the airiest that we have ever...
This lightweight contender is one of the airiest that we have ever tested.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Value


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).

Kahtoola INSTAgaiters Low gaiters - this model is worth a look for those who value debris protection and...
This model is worth a look for those who value debris protection and water resistance.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Conclusion


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.

Kahtoola INSTAgaiters Low gaiters - they won't make it easier to run up a dune, but they will keep the...
They won't make it easier to run up a dune, but they will keep the inside of your shoes less sandy.
Credit: Piper Van Cleve

Ben Applebaum-Bauch
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