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Outdoor Research Crocodile Review
Cons: Expensive, not breathable, heavy.
Bottom line: For the big mountain grind, this gaiter is hard to beat.
Tried, true, and mysteriously named after an aquatic reptile, the Outdoor Research Crocodile is an ultra-classic gaiter with some modern tech. Made for cold weather and to fit over mountaineering boots, these gaiters are commensurately beefy and heavy. Though they are very stiff out of the store, after ten or so years you'll have a well-worn in pair of gaiters that will keep snow out of your boots and your pants from getting torn for seasons to come. More at home on the slog-aneering peaks than on technical terrain, this isn't the right gaiter for every adventure. For a lighter, more versatile pair of gaiters, check out our Editors' Choice winner, the Rab Latok Alpine.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Outdoor Research Crocodile gaiter ain't broke and don't need fixing. They're also a little boring, heavy and stiff. They do one thing so incredibly well that it is kind of all they're good for. They are ultra-durable, waterproof, fit over your clunky double mountaineering boots, and are stiff enough to keep themselves from sliding down the back of your calves every other step. For everything else, they are a little too bulky, too spacious and too heavy. At a solid 10.2 ounces a pair, these gaiters weigh more than the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer down jacket! If weight is a big consideration for you and you're only using single boots, take a look at the Rab Latok Alpine. Or, if this model isn't tough and warm enough, check out the Outdoor Research Expedition Crocodiles, designed for even burlier conditions and with a higher volume to accommodate your double plastics and some extra insulation.
Just like its namesake, the Outdoor Research Crocodile thrives in the wet. They are about as close to waterproof as a gaiter can get, keeping in mind that if you are wading through an ankle-high stream water can still creep up the inside of the gaiter and wet your feet that way. With a three-layer Gore-Tex upper and 1000 denier foot panel, this gaiter is virtually impenetrable from the outside. It continuously shed water in our dousing test, and no part of the gaiter wetted through even after a prolonged soaking. Keep in mind, though, that the real trick with this gaiter is keeping your feet dry from the inside on warmer days when you still need to wear them. Poor breathability makes this model a less than ideal choice for warmer weather mountaineering. Even the coldest climbs can become sweltering in the heat of the day or on the descent. While there will never be a perfect solution, being able to adapt is still the easiest way to keep yourself comfortable and healthy.
The gaiters work well at keeping debris out of your boots, but you have to be using them for the right thing. They are meant to go over bigger boots, which doesn't necessarily mean doubles, but using them with smaller shoes leaves a gap that debris can penetrate. They do not fit as well over hiking boots and do not really work at all with approach or running shoes. They are stiff enough to support themselves and keep from sliding down your calves, and have a cinch at the top that holds fast and keeps the snow out from above if you are on foot and it's really that deep (seriously, get some skis). They hold snugly in place with a clip for the laces at the front and the great adjustability of the underfoot strap.
These gaiters held up in our side-by-side testing like a champ. After a big trip in the mountains, everything you take with you will look more than a little worn (including yourself). We used these gaiters while guiding on Denali, and after walking down the Kahiltna glacier with our Crocodiles intact, they still looked brand new after a quick wash. These things are as close to indestructible as can be. The 1000D foot panel will resist even the most errant crampon spikes, and the foot buckles are triple bar tacked and made with a solid piece of metal (unlike the buckle on the Mountain Hardwear Ascent, which broke the first time we put it on). It'd be hard to find a mountaineer in the country who hasn't owned a pair of these (and probably still do), and the one universally agreed upon statement about them is that they last.
Comfort & Breathability
Out of the plastic, these gaiters are stiff and a little clunky, and they stay that way for quite a while. The long break-in period is a little annoying but won't cause too much discomfort. The real downside to all the beefiness and durability is the loss of breathability of the fabric. A perfect recipe for super wet and miserable feet is a combination of warmish weather, double plastic boots, thick pants and these gaiters. Our Editors' Choice winner, the Rab Latok Alpine, uses breathable eVent fabric throughout and is a much better choice than these gaiters for moderate weather mountaineering.
Ease of Attachment
The folks at OR have this pretty dialed and made it easy to use this product in almost any conditions. Once you have the instep strap adjusted, they Velcro in place and have a cam buckle top closure. While you can adjust the cam buckle with gloves on, you'll need to take your gloves off to adjust the instep strap, which is another area that the Rab Latok Alpine has a slight advantage. Also, the bootlace hook is on the top of the gaiter, which means you need to close them first and then finagle the hook down. We really like the way the Latoks have the hook on the bottom flap of the gaiter, so that you can hook first, get the desired fit, and then close them up. Small details but they add up.
These gaiters are solid, and weigh 5 ounces each. The Rab Latok Alpine gaiters weigh an ounce less apiece, and weight conscious climbers should consider that difference. But, in terms of their durability relative to their weight, there is absolutely no comparing these gaiters to any of the other models we tested. These are hands down the most durable gaiters we tested and will easily outlast the Rab Latok Alpine, and particularly the Mountain Hardwear Ascent.
Not to be confused with the heavier Expedition Crocodiles, the regular Crocodile gaiters are compatible with double plastic boots but may not be the best choice for a week-long expedition. They are perfect for your Cascades volcano slogs and cold weather hikes at lower altitudes.
You'll only have to buy these gaiters once or twice in your climbing career, and that's assuming your climbing career lasts long enough to get through the first pair, so for $85 that's a pretty good deal.
These gaiters have a specialized niche - you won't want to wear them on a warm day hike, but they are hard to beat in their element, and will last forever.
If you're looking for a burlier gaiter with a larger circumference to fit over plastic mountaineering boots and insulated pants, check out the Outdoor Research Expedition Crocodile. If you're looking for something less intense and lighter weight, take a peek at the Outdoor Research Verglas.
— Thomas Greene
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