17 February 2014

MYOG: trail spats (gaiters)

I have a pair of low hiking boots, which would have been considered a contradiction in terms when I was little.  They're light and fun and almost stiff enough, but they sure let in a lot of dirt.  Days with a bit of off trail miles especially leave my socks full of burrs and shoes full of rocks.  While I'm sure the stretchy gaiters are great against a bit of scree, they really don't keep the grass seeds out.  The waterproof gaiters are wonderful when trying to keep out the snow, but just hold in sweat when the temperature rises.  These seem to be my choices for gaiters, so I made my own.

The first pair were out of a canvas fabric the weight of denim.  I cut at least three different shapes before deciding I liked one and sewing it up.  They attach to my boots in a quick and dirty way: bits of string.  I pulled one length through the top hem to close off the top against dirt, I attached a short piece to the toe end to tie around my laces, and I attached a loop on the outside edge and a string to go through it on the inside edge to strap under the boot.  The strings were all long enough to tie in a bow with a double knot.

The resulting light canvas gaiters.

These went off trail and bashed through a lot of ever thickening sages, but not a lot of the grasses I encountered near Townsend peak.  At least I didn't notice any.  I got lots of burrs in the string, but none in the gaiters themselves.  They performed beautifully at the function of keeping crud out of my shoes.  However, the string is too slick and the bows would come untied, even when triple knotted, and I would get to stepping on those toe strings.  A few burrs to rough up the cord helped, but not enough.  I took these out a second time, around minimalist trail runners that are slightly smaller than my boots.  The front got untied on those and the left one managed to drop under my heal, so I managed to destroy that one quite quickly.  Not that it didn't keep out the crud on that Wednesday evening hike to the top on Romero even as it was being ripped up in the back.  Anyway, light canvas can get warm.

I made a second pair out of a scrap of fabric shower curtain that was shortened.  It is extremely light and tough, treated to shed water, but does not form a waterproof barrier and is very breathable.  I used the same tie points, but the strings are only long enough to tie a square knot.  When these get untied, they aren't long enough to step on.  The knots come undone less than the bows did, but they sometimes slip a bit.  I don't seem to really need to tie up the top and often leave it loose.  The problem reduces as the cords roughen from exposure to elements, so pre-roughening could be useful.  They do let fine dirt in, but so do my trail runners at the toes.

Super light weight gaiters after about 100 miles, modeled on my trail runners.

These won't stretch to fit a wide variety of shoes and feet, so start by measuring.  First, they have to get over the thickest bit of the ankle, so measure around your heal and divide by 2 to get measurement "a".  Decide how tall you want them to be to get "b".  Measure the shoe they will go on from the center of the back to the front attachment point to get "c".  This is the size before seem allowances, so add that and cut out two like this and two mirror images.  For mine, a=6.5", b=6" and c=10".

Gaiter pattern.

Take one of each and sew the front and back side.  This would be best done with some flatlock seams, but as mine are quick and dirty, they're normal seams with running stitch.  Don't sew all the way to the edge so it will have the flexibility required to hem the top and bottom.  Add button holes at the top of the front for the cord to cinch up the top if desired.  (Although mine just have a snipped hole done at the end.)  Hem the bottom and top.  Pull the cord a little longer than twice "a" through the top hem and tack it down at either side so it will only cinch up at the front.  Attach the center of a 2" cord on the inside of the front to tie onto the front of the shoe.  Attach a small loop on the left side of one and the right side of the other.  While a hole in the side may work, it will also weaken the fabric and could tear out.  Placement should be decided based on the boot, but is generally a little forward of center.  Attach the center of one last cord long enough to pass underneath the boot twice at the other side.  Cord ends need to be melted if they are nylon.

Attachment of cords on the gaiters.

Securing the gaiters with cord is lighter, but also can be less convenient for actual use.  They do sometimes get loose while hiking and they're a little harder to secure.  Typically, straps with buckles are used under the shoes and a hook near the toe.  Using velcro at the heal instead of straps underneath is also popular.  I'm rather surprised by how well these do work as they were only put together to test the pattern before trying to figure out where to get hooks and straps.


Joan West said...

Shower curtain material sounds like an interesting solution. Been wanting ones that are a bit more water resistant than lycra. Gotta give this a try.

Valerie Norton said...

You've got to choose it right, which probably means boring. Some solid white ones have been quite durable. Unfortunately I don't know the brand because these are scraps from someone wanting short shower curtains for bathroom windows. I was trying some that had nice stripes in the fabric while also trying elastic string for the top and under my feet. The fabric was thin and very fluffy from wear by the time I wore through the first elastic under my shoes, which was around 200 miles. Elastic at the top worked really well. Elastic holding them down was very convenient except that lifetime is not enough. A tougher strap and buttons will probably come next.