Last Updated on August 26, 2023

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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Desert Gaiters for hiking in the desert
High Gaiters for Hiking in the Desert.

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!).

TurtleSkin SnakeArmor Gaiters

Especially designed to protect against snake bite, a must for hiking in the Sonoran desert. These desert gaiters are quite comfortable and lightweight. [Check Price]

Best Gaiters for desert hiking: TurtleSkin

Outdoor Research Bugout Gaiters

Versatile desert hiking gaiter, 100% nylon, designed to protect against insects and bugs. Somewhat lightweight, better suited for short hikes and backpacking trips rather than adventurous expeditions. [Check Price]

Best gaiters for desert hiking: Outdoor Research

Running & Backpacking

Low gaiters are better suited for casual backpacking and trail running in the desert and on arid terrains.

These sand gaiters are ankle height, more lightweight and breathable, offering less protection but without sacrificing speed of movement.

Kahtoola INSTAgaiter Low

Great pair of low sand running gaiters meant to fit your shoes and keep dirt and dust out while on a trail run. They are available in different colors, too. [Check Price]

Best gaiters for desert running: kahtoola

Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Gaiters

Another durable pair of running desert gaiters from Outdoor Research. 100% nylon, lightweight, and ideal for backpacking trips and trail running. [Check Price]

Best gaiters for desert running: outdoor research

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.

Terra Kuda Face Clothing Neck Gaiter

These microfiber neck gaiters are extremely lightweight and breathable, offering protection from sand and UV rays while not absorbing any sweat. [Check Price]

Neck gaiter / head scarf for desert

How to put on sand 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 trekking shoes and sand 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:

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75% Merino wool socks
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66% Merino wool socks

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40% Merino wool socks

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. logo icon

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