The REI Co-op On The Trail gaiter is meant to keep out dust and debris on trail runs and hikes. They are lightweight and stretchy, which means that they move with you. They have some nice features that should make them a quality model, but ultimately, we feel like their lower price point catches up to them and performance suffers for it. We have some questions about the long-term durability, and the lycra spandex also is not water-resistant. If you are a distance hiker, or someone who likes to have a just-in-case gaiter on hand without really adding any noticeable weight, this model would fit the bill in those circumstances as well. The reflective logo on the heel also makes them slightly preferable as an addition to a nighttime running kit. It is also better in drier environments where precipitation protection is less of a concern. However, we would opt for other models before we laced up again with these gaiters.
REI Co-op On the Trail Review
Cons: Not water resistant, velcro must be permanently attached to shoes
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
Our Analysis and Test Results
We had mixed experiences with these gaiters during testing. They are easy-on, easy-off once you have velcro attached to your shoes, but if you wear multiple pairs, you need velcro for each of them. They keep debris out to an extent but aren't ideal for folks with skinny ankles. They also aren't water-resistant. We don't dislike them; they just don't offer a whole lot to rave about.
Comfort and Breathability
As far as gaiters go, this model is one of the least restrictive that we tested. Once they are on, it is relatively easy to forget that they are there, even against bare skin. Though they will fit most people, we wish that there was an active ankle tightness adjuster, as opposed to just the elasticity that the fabric offers.
Their breathability leaves something to be desired. The lycra spandex is hot and comparatively thick next to other low-cut models in this review. They are also slightly higher than other trail runners. During side-by-side testing, we found that our legs got sweatier faster than with other low-cut models.
The bottom line with these gaiters is that the quality of debris protection depends on the size of your ankle. For most folks, they will be secure and snug, creating a quality seal. This model even comes with a rubberized liner on the inside of the ankle to prevent them from sliding down (which works especially well over pants).
However, we also noticed that on skinny ankles, it is tough to keep them up throughout an entire day of hiking or jogging. For the same reason, finer debris and pine needles tend to find their way into the gaiter.
The durability of this pair doesn't wow us. We had some concerns right off the bat when we put them on and noticed that the instep strap pulls against the direction of the stitching that holds it in place. We think in the long or mid-term those threads are likely to give way. The instep strap itself is also thinner gauge elastic cord. On the plus side, if and when it does eventually wear or stretch out, it would be easily replaceable, unlike models with fixed straps.
Ease of Attachment
Once you have the startup work done, these gaiters are simple to attach. Slide them up over your foot, put your shoes on, attach the front lace hook and the rear velcro, and position the two segments of the instep strap. Right and left aren't officially marked on this model like on some other gaiters, but you should have the instep toggles on the outside of your feet.
To secure them correctly to begin with, you have to attach an included rectangle of velcro to the back of whatever shoes you are planning to wear them with. Some trail runners come with a built-in velcro swatch for that very purpose. If yours don't, then you should check to make sure that your sneakers can accommodate the velcro addition before making the purchase. This also means, of course, that if you wear multiple pairs of shoes or if you swap shoes after so many miles that you will have to reapply the velcro (which you would have to buy separately). In most instances, this isn't a big deal, but it does mean that they aren't quite as versatile as a pair that attaches without velcro.
This model wasn't designed to be water-resistant, and it doesn't offer any. During testing and in the field, moisture absorbed immediately into the lycra spandex. We will acknowledge that the material dried fairly quickly as well. However, if you are doing your hiking on the east coast of the U.S. or any area susceptible to high humidity, you are probably going to want to look elsewhere.
This pair is lightweight. Each gaiter comes in at 0.8 ounces, meaning that they are worth tucking away in your pocket or just wearing around your ankles unattached, even if you don't want to use them.
These gaiters are one of the least expensive models that we tested. However, the reason for that price point becomes more noticeable under scrutiny. They will certainly get the job done, but because of the durability concerns discussed above, we wouldn't consider them an exceptional value.
The REI Co-op On The Trail is a lightweight, trail running gaiter. They are stretchy and relatively comfortable, but not all that breathable. They are inexpensive, so if the bottom line is your top priority, they could be worthwhile. However, we think that there are other low cut models with better value. They absorb water, so they aren't ideal for wet weather. We like the concept, but these gaiters are missing a few key components that keep them from being one of the top performers.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch