Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Kahtoola Gaiters Round Up Review: LEVAgaiter, RENAgaiter, INSTAgaiter

 Article by Jeff Valliere and Sam Winebaum

Kahtoola is best known for being the leader in winter traction solutions, such as their original super grippy Microspikes for snow packed trails , EXOspikes for packed snow, ice and mixed conditions and NanoSpikes for more moderate use on icy surfaces. See our traction round up review which includes all the Kahtoola HERE

In addition to making the best traction devices on the market, they also offer a line of gaiters that are among, if not THE best out there that I have tested.  From light and low gaiters to keep out trail debris, to tall over the calf Gore Tex gaiters ideal for deep snow, Kahtoola has got you covered. In the review below we put them to the test!

LEVAgaiter Tall GTX

Gore Tex Packable Gaiter

Sizes: SM-LG

Colors: Black or Grey

$84.95 (also comes in mid height for $74.95)

The LEVAgaiter is the lightest Gore Tex gaiter on the market, at just 130 grams for a pair of size medium, this 13.5’ gaiter is constructed of 3 layer Gore-Tex that is thin enough to be easily packable, yet durable and sturdy enough for just about any conditions or activity that you can think of. The DuraLink instep strap is tough, easy to adjust and easily replaceable, with a 1,000 mile warranty.  

The LEVAgaiters are easy to put on and fit well and have  a 3D Performance Fit. The sturdy zipper stays in place and does not work its way down as on other gaiters I have owned tend to.  There is an easy to use pull cinch cord ay the top of the gaiter so that it does not slide down.  This is an especially good cinch, as I have not yet had them slide down on me (another common problem I have had with other gaiters).  These gaiters are so light, it is nothing to pack them along just in case and they are almost unnoticeable while wearing.  So far I have used them for snowy trail runs, off trail hikes in deep snow, snowshoeing and skiing and they perform amazingly well.

RENAgaiter Mid

Ultra Tough Breathable Gaiter

Sizes: S/M or L/XL

Colors: Graphite, Green, Purple

$59.95 (also comes in low height for $49.95)

The RENAgaiter is constructed using a highly durable DWR coated stretch-woven nylon that provides a moderate level of water resistance and a high level of abrasion resistance.  

As with the LEVAgaiter, the RENAgaiter has the same DuraLink instep strap which is super durable and easy to adjust/replace if necessary.  

The 3D Performance Fit ensures that they stay in place while providing maximum coverage and comfort.  The cinch cord on the collar is effective and keeps the gaiter from sliding down.  

I have been using the RENAgaiter for much of my trail running and hiking this winter, for just about everything short of consistently deep, deep snow, where I will instead pick the LEVAgaiter.  Additionally, the RENAgaiter has a rock guard over the outer stitch points for the instep strap, which those using for talus bashing or canyoneering will find helpful for that added durability.  I think this is the most versatile gaiter in the line because it is tough and water resistant enough for winter use and off trail use, but also light, breathable and minimal enough for summer use.

I have traipsed through a lot of slop and my ankles/shoes stay nice and dry.

The outer attachment for the Duralink underfoot strap is beefed up to reduce abrasion and essentially prevent failure.

Sam: I too have the mid RENA Gaiter. I tested it on sloppy wet trails runs in Maine, paired to the Saucony Xodus Ultra RunShield as well as on snow in Park City. I ran through water in a few places in Maine just above the height of the Saucony and stayed dry. 

They will easily work with trail running shoes as well as mid height lighter hiking boots such as the Topo Trailventure shown above.

I also ran them in Park City on groomed snow trails with the same Xodus Ultra RunShield (RTR Review), my trail shoe of the year 2022. Here too I was dry, warm and comfortable. 

I struggled a bit with initial adjustment of the Duralink strap. 

Once you find the correct slot hook (to set the length of instep strap) for your shoe or boot push the bar under the hook as shown above  

It is important to make sure you press the strap at your chosen hook location down firmly once the hook is engaged at its square end until it snaps to lock your adjustment in place as shown above. The instructions tag is not that clear on this. To release and adjust some more just pull up on the round end tab. Once I had it figured out no issues going forward as I adjusted for various shoes and boots.

I really like how fuss free putting them on is at the instep. Once you have your correct Duralink length snapped in just pull them over from the back and zip. 

The YKK zipper engages easily and doesn’t pop loose while you are hooking to the front of your shoe and when you need to adjust your laces. Trust me even as illustrated above with the zip all the way below the zipper stays securely hooked. 

The zipper is smooth and easy to pull up or down and also doesn’t creep down. The hook so far as easily caught all kinds of laces and built in metal toe gaiter loops and stayed put.

No extra snaps up top, just the draw cord and no metal pins to push through the strap on the outsole of the gaiter with the whole mechanism here on the inside well protected from trail wear. It is easy to tuck extra top draw cord into the top of the gaiter if you wish,

The height, weight, and breathable yet water resistant, thin, ever so slightly stretchy and pliable fabric is just right for multiple summer and moderate winter uses: running, hiking, and snowshoeing. The gaiter protects pretty much the entire shoe and stays put.  After my snow run in the mid 20’s F,  the gaiter had not absorbed much if any moisture, no snow came in, my socks and shoes were dry. 

In summer where I prefer non water resistant shoes for breathability I can have them along for extra coverage when needed.  I like the mid height in summer to also help protect and cover taller socks and also provide some lower leg protection from branches, brush and such.

My wife and I are planning a two week trek across Italy this spring and the RENAgaiter will be part of our kit as it will be for winter snow running in Utah and hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in summer.


Fast and Light Gaiter

Sizes: S/M or L/XL

Colors: Graphite, Green, Purple, Blue

$49.95 (also comes in low height for $39.95)

The INSTAgaiter is a slightly lighter gaiter best suited for trail running and hiking (vs. the more off trail intended RENAgaiter), but is still exceptionally durable and easy to use.  With 3D Performance fit, Duralink instep strap, DWR coated stretch material, easily blocks out trail dust/dirt/rocks and provides a moderate level of water resistance like the RENAgaiter.  I might not use them for prolonged use in deep postholing snow, but having used them plenty on snowy trails and have never experienced any issues.  They are so light (especially the low version), it is a no-brainer to wear them for any trail adventure where you want to keep dirt and snow out of your shoes.

Kahtoola Gaiters (and Traction) available at 

Kahtoola HERE 


Tester Profiles

Jeff Valliere loves to run and explore the mountains of Colorado, the steeper and more technical the better.  He has summited all of the 14ers in the state and can be found on mountain trails daily, no matter the weather, season, conditions or whether there is daylight or not.  On the side he loves to bike and hike, often with his family, as he introduces his 12 year old daughters to the outdoors.  Jeff was born and raised in New Hampshire, but has called Colorado home for over 25 years. He is 5’9” and 145 lbs.

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 65 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 will be Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range if he is very lucky, training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

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