I purchased a pair of Outdoor Research Flex-Tex Gaiters last spring. I had owned the full-length Rocky Mountain High Gaiters from Outdoor Research for a year, and was a big fan of them. They are not completely waterproof, but are highly water-resistant, and still maintain a level of breathability that makes them appropriate for year-round use. I find them adequate for protecting my legs when bushwhacking and for keeping me warm and dry when traveling in rain and snow – but I’m always looking to loose weight. My eye had been on the Flex-Tex gaiters for a while. I thought that they would be a good alternative to full-length gaiters during the warmer months: something lighter and cooler which could provide protection from debris but would also handle the wet and snow that is often found in the alpine summer.
When I went to purchase the gaiters, I found that sizing was an issue. Unlike Outdoor Research’s other gaiters, the Flex-Tex do not come in normal sizes. They are offered only in the combination sizes of Small/Medium and Large/Extra Large. In the Rocky Mountain High gaiters I wear a medium. The Small/Medium Flex-Tex gaiters were far too small for me to even get on. The Large/Extra Large gaiters fit well around my footwear, but were loose at the top around my calf. Unlike other gaiters from Outdoor Research, the Flex-Tex had no adjustment to tighten the fit.
I purchased them anyway, thinking to give them a shot. After using them on an early season trip in the snow, it was evident that they would not work. The loose top allowed too much snow to enter the gaiter.
Rather than giving up on the gaiters and immediately returning them, I held on to them for a while. I thought that it would be simple enough to modify the gaiters by adding a new cuff on top of the gaiter, creating a channel of material through which could run a thin piece of webbing. The webbing could be cinched down around the leg and secured with a camlock. This would provide the same adjustment mechanism as that found on my full-length gaiters. It would not be a perfect seal, but short gaiters will never keep out as much debris as tall ones.
The gaiters lay neglected for a while. A few months later I found myself in Seattle Fabrics and wound up purchasing the needed webbing, as well as some stretchy Lycra material which I thought would serve as the added cuff. Then I forgot about the project again.
Eventually, I remembered the gaiters, and wanted to get them done. At that time I had some material left over from hemming a new pair of Kuiu Attack Pants. The Kuiu pants are made out of Toray Primeflex, an impressive soft-shell which I discussed in my review of the Kuiu Guide Gloves. While heavier than the Lycra, I thought that Primeflex would provide more durability and be a better match to the soft-shell of the Flex-Tex gaiters.
The project was a success. With the Primeflex cuff sewn atop the gaiters’ normal cuff and a piece of webbing put through it, I can cinch down the top of the gaiter around my calf and secure it with the camlock buckle. Because the top of the gaiter has not been modified to be permanently smaller, I can still wear the gaiters over pants – although I almost always wear them next to skin. I have not done much post-holing in snow this summer, but the new cuff has provided a tight enough seal to keep out flying snow that comes from glissading down snowy slopes and kicking steps on the way up. Neither rocks, dirt, nor twigs have yet to find their way in.
Now that I have a proper fit, the Flex-Tex gaiters have become my preferred wear. They are breathable, water-resistant, and tough. At 5.29 ounces, the modified gaiters are only slightly lighter than the 6.98 ounces Rocky Mountain High gaiters. It is not a huge difference, but I find that I still prefer the Flex-Tex gaiters. The Rocky Mountain gaiters I never wore specifically for debris. They stayed in my pack until I encountered wet or snow. The Flex-Tex gaiters are comfortable and breathable enough to wear all the time – even when gaiters are not necessarily needed – which makes them more efficient at keeping out debris. For my type of travel, I find the Flex-Tex gaiters more functional than short gaiters that I’ve tried from other companies, such as Integral Designs and Dirty Girl.