When it comes to desert camping and backpacking gear, shoe gaiters are sometimes overlooked. These protective ankle and lower leg coverings can really make a difference when hiking across sand dunes in the hot desert sun, as they offer an extra layer of protection against debris, scorching sand, and snake bites. You will want to opt for sturdier, high gaiters if you are going on a desert expedition with lots of hiking, whereas a choice of more lightweight, breathable low gaiters is best for desert running, and make an especially good choice if you are planning to take part in the Marathon des Sables or a similar desert marathon event.
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Best Desert Gaiters
Trekking & Hiking
High desert gaiters (which are longer and cover the whole lower part of your leg, almost up to the knee) are ideal for extreme climates and rough terrain conditions as they are a bit harder and offer an extra layer of protection against rocks, debris and nasty animal bites (depending on where you go – be wary of snakes and scorpions!).
Running & Backpacking
Low gaiters are better suited for casual backpacking and trail running in the desert and on arid terrains. These shoe gaiters are ankle height, more lightweight and breathable, offering less protection but without sacrificing speed of movement.
Neck gaiters for desert hiking
Neck gaiters or balaclavas are particularly useful when the weather is windy or prone to sandstorms, as they can prevent sand granules from flying into your mouth. They are also useful as mouth protection for sand surfing, dirt biking and similar activities.
How to put on shoe gaiters
Stitch the gaiter directly to the shoe or, if your desert gaiter has a Velcro loop strap attached, stitch and glue a Velcro hook strap around the shoe for more flexibility. If at all possible, avoid glueing the Velcro or gaiter without stitching. This may be appealing, but it will most certainly not be enough to keep it in place. Fitting your gaiter higher on the shank can be advantageous: it will help hold it off the ground as much as possible. However, you must make sure that any parts of your shoes that aren’t fully sand-proof are protected by the gaiter. As a result, gaiters are usually placed just above the sole of most boots and shoes.
Desert Gaiter Socks
Socks are just as important as shoes and gaiters when hiking in the desert. A quality pair of socks will not only shield your feet from hot sand, but they will also absorb sweat and ensure sufficient perspiration, avoiding blisters and other foot issues. Merino wool is a special type of material that is particularly good at trapping away moisture from sweating and keeping your feet dry. The best socks for your desert hike are made with a high percentage of Merino wool:
Desert hiking and backpacking recommendations
You won’t find much use for gaiters if you don’t pair them with a decent pair of desert hiking shoes or desert hiking boots. If you or someone you know are about to go on a desert expedition, you might also find it useful to have a look at our especially curated list of desert hiking essentials. Alternatively, check out our selection of gifts for desert explorers for an interesting read.