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Outdoor Research Ultra Trail Review
Cons: Lacks versatility, not waterproof, slides down easily.
The Outdoor Research Ultra Trail gaiter was designed for an Abu Dhabi Adventure Race team, and if you need a gaiter for desert running conditions only then this model is a good choice. It is lightweight and breathable, and will keep the sand out of your runners. It is not at all waterproof or even water resistant though; water soaks right in and through the nylon/spandex main fabric. We also had some fit issues, and while we appreciate the adjustable top closure, the only way to get this gaiter to stay up our legs was to crank it down so tight that it left a mark. For a more versatile ankle length gaiter, check out our Top Pick for Lightweight and Breathability, the Rab Scree.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Despite the fact that the Outdoor Research Ultra Trail gaiter looks like a koozie, it is in fact a slick piece of kit for the avid desert trail runner or fast packer. It's made of a nylon/spandex blend, with stretch woven side panels, double front hooks, silicon anti-slip patches at the sides and heel along with a strip of Velcro. There are small grommets for an instep strap, which you can choose to use or not, and four Velcro patches that you can stick onto your runners. This gaiter is available in Black or Ember Black, and sizes M or L. Each gaiter weighs 2 ounces and have a rise of 8 inches.
The most pronounced shortcoming of this gaiter is its performance in wet conditions. The nylon/spandex jersey knit body saturates through with relatively minimal exposure to water. When wet, this gaiter tends to sag and bellow out. This makes it easier for debris to collect at the top of the gaiter and eventually in your socks. This gaiter was based off a design originally intended for an adventure race team in Abu Dhabi, where it probably doesn't rain that much. Consequently, if you anticipate running on muddy wet trails this gaiter might not work that well for you. The Outdoor Research Wrapid gaiter is a better option for wet and muddy trail situations.
Overall, this gaiter did an okay job keeping dirt, pebbles and other debris out of our shoes. Due to fit issues with the size of the gaiter vs the size of our shoes, they fit a little baggy on the sides, with gaps where sand and small rocks could enter. The instep strap helps keep the sides down more, but without it these gaiters don't have the best functionality.
This gaiter is light but reasonably tough. It will definitely outlast a couple pairs of trail runners, but don't have expectations of eternity. The front hooks are set on a piece of plastic instead of through the material, which should help increase their longevity. The nylon/spandex upper snags on bushes and other vegetation more easily than a hardfaced gaiter, which is something to consider if you plan on doing some bushwacking, though does anyone ever actually plan on doing that? The Velcro patch at the heel of the gaiter also collects mud and sand, and once Velcro is full of sand it is no longer very sticky.
Comfort & Breathability
This gaiter is fairly comfortable in dry conditions. The material is thin and soft against your skin, and after a few miles you'll likely forget they are there, unless they are sagging down your ankles. Since the jersey knit doesn't have a lot of structure, we had to cinch the top down quite tight to get them to stay up, which then left a mark if we weren't wearing high socks. They are decidedly uncomfortable when wet, alternately suctioning themselves onto your skin and bunching up at the top of our socks. They do breath well, though, and our feet never got unduly sweaty when using them.
When using these or any trail/running gaiters, you'll have less chafing around your legs if you wear socks that come up over the height of the gaiter.
Ease of Attachment
The sock-like feel of this gaiter belies the difficulty of getting them to function properly. You can definitely slip them on and attach the lace hooks at the front and call it good, but they feel sloppy and loose without the use of the optional instep strap. The adjustable cinch at the top needs to be relatively tight to keep debris out and the internal silicone anti-slip prints at the heel alone seem to do little to hold the gaiter in place. These gaiters come with four Velcro patches for your shoes, so you can outfit two pairs, and we'd recommend using them for a securer fit.
We had no complaints about the weight of this gaiter. They weigh about 2 ounces each, are highly compressible, and fit easily into a small day pack or Camelbak.
This gaiter is best used on dry terrain. For all the high desert hikers and runners out there, this is a good option, though we wish it was offered in a lighter color, as the black or mostly black with a touch of orange colors are sure to bake your feet in really sunny conditions. Also be wary wearing these gaiters through spiky brush, as the upper material snags easily.
At $47 retail, this gaiter seems relatively expensive to us given its limited usage. They will however, keep your socks and perhaps even your sanity in good shape on the trail. They are not tremendously versatile, so if you're looking for a do-it-all gaiter, check out our Best Buy winner, the Outdoor Research Wrapid.
If desert trail running or hiking is your thing and you're tired of getting sand in your shoes, the Outdoor Research Ultra Trail is a good options for keeping your feet debris free.
— Thomas Greene
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