- Sunday, 30 September 2012
My personal disposition is to use gaiters when out in the fields, for all activities from walking, to bothering rabbits with my 12 gauge, to slipping through the autumn woodland while seeking out the basking Roe. Which is fine - it's personal preference, after all. So why write a blog about it?
Well, personally I think that gaiters are a massively overlooked and underused utensil in the shooting world, especially amongst us townies who flinch at cold puddles, squeal when stung by nettles, and startle the doe in the long grass by cursing at the thistle stuck in my leg.
So for the completely uninitiated, what are they? Gaiters are what spats used to be for well-heeled city gents in the days of top hats and genteel society. They serve to create a marriage between the trouser leg and the shoe. They recognise that things can get up the trouser or down the boot (think midges, nettles, anything that's uncomfortable), and attempt to stop it by sealing the gap. They are to me what spinach is to Popeye - they instil confidence!
Being made of materials such as polyester, these days, they are waterproof.
But what, I hear you cry, why waterproof? They don't make a watertight seal, so what's the point? That is true. But what they can do is protect the bottom third of your trouser from splashes when stepping in puddles, the morning dew on all the tall grass that you walk through, and the large lump of mud on the side of the Land Rover you've been meaning to clean off since this morning but didn't get around to doing. In essence, they protect the bit of your trousers most likely to get the rough end of the deal when shooting, the bit that, as the day wears on, will probably start to feel a little cold from all that water splashed against it.
After all, we wear hats to keep our heads warm (and shield our faces from the eyes of our quarry), so why not invest a little tender loving care in the ankles region?
Sure, they come at a disadvantage. If you do decide to apply them, try doing so in the comfort of your own home first. They are an absolute fiddle to apply (usually involving a wire coil underneath, a zip, some Velcro and often push-stud buttons as well) and will slow you down when getting ready. Trying to put these on in a hurry will invariably result in falling over. So, just like the great shots of the Edwardian country house brigade, caught late at night in the drawing room with their loader, practising the loading and swapping of guns for the big drive, I too may be caught improving my gaiter technique - much to the amusement of my wife.
But! Once they are on they do earn their keep, allowing me to charge through patches of nettles with ease and abandonment. And after all, if the other side of the nettles has the perfect line of sight on the elusive buck we've been pushing towards, I'd be happy to endure the slight delay when starting out.
Gaiters are available from all the usual shops, sites and fares, and are commonly between £20 and £35, depending on the build quality and brand. I've never felt the need to hunt out an "elite" pair of gaiters (even I recognise when affection becomes an obsession) but my mid-price, known-brand set do the job just fine.
Next time you find yourself in the gun-shop, and have already passed the legendary 'oh dear I should have stopped buying things by now, I only came in for some gun oil' stage, make room amongst the gizmos and toys for a pair of gaiters. After all, season after season they will earn their keep, probably more so than the rangefinder with built in thermos flask that you were eyeing up anyway!
Matthew is a regular client of County Deer Stalking and enjoys writing reviews and treatise on subjects of interest to stalkers and the wider shooting community. He has some twenty years experience as a generalist shooter but only recently converted to stalking.