REI Co-op Alpine 3/4 Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
We took these gaiters into the White Mountains of New Hampshire through the snowpack and rushing waters of early spring melt. This pair kept our feet dry and debris-free, which is not surprising, considering how securely it attaches to footwear. We sometimes felt like the material was misallocated across the model; we needed a little more at the bottom and a little less in the middle, but that didn't detract from its ability to keep moisture and crud out of our footwear.
The Alpine 3/4 didn't let us down when it came to water resistance. We stomped through snow, mud, and water crossings without issue--or at least none that were the gaiters' fault.
Both the thick, reinforced bottom nylon panel and the thinner top portion kept moisture out. It definitely didn't bead up and roll off, but our feet were dry from beginning from to end.
This pair does what we wish all gaiters would: keep junk out. They fasten securely with a thick, hearty piece of velcro and cinch down really tightly. There was one instance where they got caught in some thick bramble and slipped up over some low-cut footwear, but that was definitely not the norm. They create a seal at the top and bottom that just prevents pieces of forest from getting into footwear.
We went on hikes that really tested the durability of these things, and they stood up well. We scrambled up granite, wedging our feet between rocks along the way, kicked our way up the icy remains of winter on our way to mountain summits, and of course, splashed through miles of saturated, muddy forest floor.
As with many gaiters, the instep strap is sewn directly into the main body, so once this goes there's no way to swap it out. On the plus side, it is a thick rubber so we don't have any reason to believe that would happen anytime soon.
Comfort and Breathability
We definitely felt the pinch of this pair. The elastic cord at the top that secures gaiter to calf is very tight. They are always noticeable against bare skin or socks and still a little distracting when worn over a pair of light hiking pants. Unless they are being worn over a sturdier fabric like denim, you will feel them on your leg. We also found that they bunch aggressively. Though sometimes it feels like they are sliding down, the upper elastic drawcord mostly keeps them in place. The issue seems to be that there is just more fabric than there needs to be around the mid-section, even with beefy, high-ankle hiking boots.
The other sacrifice for their sturdiness is breathability. We found that they were most comfortable when the weather was sub-55 degrees- cool enough that foot sweat was a little more tolerable in general.
Ease of Attachment
There's a lot going on with this gaiter. We count six different ways that they either attach to footwear or secure themselves in place: 1. instep strap 2. lace hook 3. velcro along their length 4. elastic pull over a second hook at the bottom 5. elastic calf draw cord 6. snap at the top. Phew.
Contrary to what we would have expected based on their design, we found that they actually fit better with low-cut hiking shoes. With high-ankle boots, we had a ton of trouble getting the bottom portion of the velcro to line up- the material just isn't stretchable.
Coming in at a spritely 3 ounces each, these gaiters definitely take up a little bit of space in a pack, but are still relatively lightweight, given the protection they provide.
This pair is best used as a lifelong one-stop-shop hiking gaiter. It's made from durable material, so we would expect it to last for a very long time. Of all of the pairs we tested, we think this would be the best one to balance heartier winter hikes and warmer weather adventures.
At $55, they aren't a steal. If you are just looking for a single trip, see if the less expensive Black Diamond Talus will work for you. However, considering the longevity we think they will provide, these gaiters are a good investment for the regular hiker.
It's not for mountaineering, and it's not for trail running, but the REI Co-Op Alpine 3/4 aims for the middle ground. We had some issues with comfort and fit, but it's a sturdy and durable gaiter that we think would get you many years of use if you are willing to give it chance.
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