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Rab Latok Alpine Review
Cons: Not as durable as other full-length gaiters.
The Rab Latok Alpine is about as exciting as a flap of fabric and Velcro can get. With waterproof and breathable eVent fabric, tough Robic nylon and a Stretch Watergate back panel, this gaiter has more tech than the average small car. A well-thought out design provides you with a low profile gaiter that is supremely easy to adjust. This gaiter stays in place easily thanks to a drawcord adjustment at the top and a flexible polymer strip that holds the gaiter in place at the back. It's designed to fit low volume hiking or mountaineering boots, and it has a sleek look, particularly when compared with the old-school Outdoor Research Crocodile. While there are various pros and cons when it comes to wearing gaiters in big mountain situations, as we discuss in detail in our Buying Advice guide, if you decide that you need a pair then these are by far superior to every other model we tested and well deserving of our Editors' Choice award.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Rab Latok Alpine gaiter sports some impressive materials technology with space age sounding names. It has an eVent waterproof outer, a Stretch Watergate fabric rear panel, and Robic nylon around the ankle for added durability. However, its true strength lies in a functional design stripped of distracting, impractical, and hard to use features. We used them for wet snow slogs up Mt. Olympus in Washington state and kept them on for the short 5.fun pitch at the top without fear of them getting in the way of the climbing or getting torn up. They kept our feet dry in spite of putting our legs in what seemed like every crevasse on Mt. Baker after a fresh layer of wind-driven snow covered over the cracks that a sweltering summer had exposed. We managed a ton of climbs in a variety of conditions and barely noticed that these gaiters were there, but we were grateful that they were. They are light, supremely functional and won't require taking a hammer to your piggy bank to afford. Keep in mind that they are designed for single mountaineering boots and hiking boots, and won't fit over double mountaineering boots (though they do make the Latok Extreme for that application). Each gaiter weighs 4 ounces and has a 15.5-inch rise, and they currently come in Black or Dark Shark colors in sizes M or L.
This gaiter is as close to waterproof as gaiters come. In side-by-side testing where we sprayed water on the gaiters for several minutes, the eVent fabric worked similarly to a high-end rain or hardshell jacket. Water beaded up and rolled off immediately, and even after prolonged dousing it did not saturate through. The Stretch Watergate fabric and Robic nylon proved to be less water resistant, but still held up well in testing, and overall this gaiter was just slightly less water resistant than the Outdoor Research Crocodile.
This testing method is a bit extreme since we rarely submerge our feet with the expectation of them staying dry. But, it does serve to demonstrate the efficacy of these materials. Like any gaiter, this will never be a watertight system - don't expect to have dry feet after a river crossing. Instead, you can quietly marvel (or at a minimum nod appreciatively) at how dry your pant legs and boot tops are at the end of a long slog through the snow, wet bush, or in a rainstorm.
With a low volume fit designed for single mountaineering or hiking boots, this gaiter has a snug fit that prevents debris from accumulating at the bottom of them. The drawcord adjustment point at the top helps keep the gaiter sealed high and tight over your calf. This model was one of the best performers in this regard of all the gaiters we tested.
This gaiter is remarkably waterproof, supremely breathable, and if you're not careful, you'll kick a hole in them with your crampons your first day out. The upper is not nearly as robust as the 1000D Cordura of the Outdoor Research Crocodile or the 420D Pack Cloth of the Mountain Hardwear Ascent. This gaiter will not be as forgiving of clumsy footwork as other gaiters, so practicing good footwork will keep them looking good for longer (and just might save your life). For most other purposes they will withstand all the normal wear and tear that gaiters could be expected to encounter. We particularly liked the beefy rubber instep strap, which uses a Velcro closure as opposed to a buckle system. One less thing to break, which did indeed happen with the Mountain Hardwear Ascent.
Comfort & Breathability
Once the instep strap is properly adjusted you put the gaiter on and forget about it. We found ourselves throwing them on at the trailhead to save a little space in our packs because we weren't worried about our feet getting soaked with sweat or having to constantly tend our gaiters. The eVent fabric is so remarkably breathable that even on the hottest days of a very drought-plagued and smokey summer we were able to wear this gaiter without discomfort. The material is supple enough not to restrict motion yet maintains its position over your calf without the need for over tightening.
Ease of Attachment
As we said earlier, this gaiter is a low maintenance piece of kit. Once you have properly adjusted the Velcro instep strap on the inside of the gaiter, you close the main Velcro flap and give the adjustable cinch at the top a little tug. We also liked that the bootlace hook was on the lower panel of fabric - that lets you hook your laces first, then close them up, ensuring a close fit every time. While the Outdoor Research Wrapid might be a hair easier to attach, these are a breeze compared to trying to fiddle with a buckle closure with a pair of gloves on. These gaiters were designed to go over lower volume single mountaineering boots, so make sure you size them appropriately and realize that you aren't likely to get as good a fit over hiking boots.
At 4 ounces each, this model is the lightest of the full-sized alpine/expedition gaiters that we tested. That's something you'll appreciate after a few miles, though if you are new to climbing or wearing crampons, the heavier Outdoor Research Crocodile may just be a better choice, if only because they will be able to withstand an errant crampon spike better.
Whether you're headed out on wet cross-country treks, high desert rambles up flakey granite slabs, ice climbs or other forays into the mountains, the Rab Latok Alpine will do it all. This gaiter is great for mid-altitude climbing where single boots are appropriate or other winter adventures where you'll be wearing heavier boots.
Considering all of the high-end materials used in this gaiter, it's actually quite affordable. If you don't hesitate to spend a lot of money on your hardshell jacket, then you shouldn't think twice about purchasing something similar for your feet.
The Rab Latok Alpine is a supremely well-crafted and well-designed gaiter. This is the type of accessory that feels like it was designed by people who actually use it, and Rab seems to be eclipsing the old standard bearer of gaiter technology, Outdoor Research, with their new and exciting options. It's one of the most waterproof and breathable gaiters that we tested, and if you've been leaning towards the I-don't-wear-gaiters-anymore camp lately, these might just bring you back into the fold.
— Thomas Greene
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