The Kahtoola INSTAgaiter is a lightweight trail running (or backpacking) gaiter that uses an under-the-shoe band, hook, and zipper) instead of the more typical velcro), to secure to your shoe (or low-profile boot).
I've been wearing gaiters when backpacking for a long time now – they're lightweight, keep debris out of your shoes, keep your feet cleaner, and help extend the life of your precious socks.
I used the INSTAgaiters for approximately 210 mi / 338 km of on and off-trail hiking in California's Sierra Nevada. For the first chunk of these miles, I was wearing a pair of Merrell Moab 2 Vent (12 Wide) and for the second half, I was using a pair of HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat 4 (12 Wide).
Notes on the Kahtoola INSTAgaiter
- As noted above, I used a pair of Merrell Moab 2 Vent (12 Wide) and HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat 4 (12 Wide) with the INSTAgaiter
- The INSTAgaiter is available in two sizes, S/M and L/XL; I used a pair of L/XL
- These gaiters do not use any velcro
- Weight (S/M): 1.7 oz / 48 g
- Weight (L/XL): 2 oz / 57 g
- Material: Stretch-woven nylon/polyester blend with DWR finish
- Height: 5 in / 12.7 cm
- Lace Hooks: Yes
- Velcro: No
- Gender: Unisex
- Colors: Black, Blue, Gray, Purple
- Sizes: S/M, L/XL
- MSRP: $40
- Breathable fabric
- Lightweight fabric packs down small
- Elasticized drawcord for the top of your shoes
- Asymmetrical coil zippers
- Adjustable thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) instep strap
- Durable water repellent (DWR) finish
The No Velcro: When I first got the INSTAgaiters, my favorite part about them was that I no longer needed to worry about attaching velcro to the backs of my shoes to get my gaiters to be effective; the velcro always falls off. With the combination of the laces hook, the zipper, and the underfoot strap, there's no need to worry about messing about modifying your shoes.
The Putting Them On: The Kahtoola INSTAgaiter does not require that you put it on before putting on your shoes (putting on your shoes and then realizing that you've forgotten to put on your gaiters is very frustrating). In fact, you can't put them on before putting on your shoes. That said, you also can't take your shoes off without first removing the INSTAgaiter. More on this below.
The Gaiter-ness: Ultimately, if you're getting a pair of INSTAgaiters, you want them for one thing – to keep your shoes (and socks) free of debris. These gaiters will do exactly that. They have an elastic band at the top (around your ankle) that can be adjusted to keep to cuff tight against your ankle (some gaiters' cuffs loosen with extended use which makes the gaiters basically worthless).
The Cuff: The cuff of the Kahtoola INSTAgaiter is nice because it cinches down to stop debris from invading your shoe (the point of a gaiter), but I found the material and the band to be quite irritating when wearing socks shorter than the cuff. The cuff would rub when I walked and ended up cutting into my skin around my ankle – not pleasant at all. I would definitely not recommend these gaiters unless you're going to be wearing socks that extend above the top of them (like these beauties).
The Sizing: The Kahtoola INSTAgaiter is available in two sizes: S/M and L/XL. I wear a wide US 12 shoe and used an L/XL INSTAgaiter. It was not terribly easy to get the gaiter onto my shoe and I felt as though I needed it to be perfectly positioned to get it on. I would not have much faith in being able to cope with the L/XL if my shoe were any bigger.
The Zippers: The zippers on the Kahtoola INSTAgaiter are great for putting the gaiters on after you've already put on your shoes, but I had a really difficult time zipping them up after more than two days on the trail. I honestly would not have been able to zip them up most mornings if not for the help of my hiking partner. Kahtoola says that you need to care for the zippers in very dusty environments, but I found them to need maintenance far too often. If you're using these for single-day activities, this may not be an issue, but for multi-day hikes, the zippers can be extremely frustrating (to the point of just not using the gaiters).
The Underfoot Band: I was worried that the strap (that goes under your show) on the Kahtoola INSTAgaiter would wear out after a couple of hundred trail miles. However, what ended up happening with my pair was that the strap failed at the point where it attaches to the fabric of the gaiter. It didn't happen right away, but it made one of the gaiters virtually useless. I ended up having to cut off the opposite side of the strap to salvage what I could for the remainder of my trip.
Who are they for?
If you're looking for a gaiter that you can use for day hikes, runs, or maybe weekend trips, then the INSTAgaiter could be a good fit for you. However, I wouldn't recommend these for any long-distance hiking as you will most certainly become frustrated with the zipper and, if you're unlucky, you might even end up with the underfoot strap breaking (as mine did).
|Kahtoola Connect Gaiter||$40||N/A||100% Nylon||Hook/Zipper||Low|
|Rab Hunza Stretch Mid Gaiter||$55||3.5 oz / 99 g||69% nylon, 21% PU, 10% spandex||Hook/Strap||Mid|
|Outdoor Research Thru Gaiter||$39||1.9 oz / 54 g||91% polyester, 9% spandex with ActiveIce||Hook/Strap||Mid|
|Black Diamond Distance Gaiter||$48||2.6 oz / 74 g||N/A||Hook/Velcro||Low|
|Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Gaiter||$39||4.8 oz / 136 g||420D nylon||Hook/Strap||Low|
The Kahtoola INSTAgaiter does its job and has a unique attachment method that I was really on board with when I first started using them. However, after putting these through the wringer, I think I'm going to make the move back to something like an Outdoor Research Thru Gaiter instead.
I really wanted to like these gaiters, but after the problems with the zippers and the bottom strap breaking free from the fabric on one of the gaiters, I don't know that these can stand up to the long-term battery of the trail.
Check out the Kahtoola INSTAgaiter here.
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