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Although they have been around for many years, not a lot is known about snake gaiters in Africa. Snake gaiters are sometimes referred to as snake chaps, snake kammaste, snake putties or simply snakebite leg protection.
What are snake gaiters?
Snake gaiters are a form of leg protection, they fit the lower leg from the top of the boot to just below the knee. Never confuse gaiters available from camping and outdoor stores with snake gaiters – they are designed to keep burrs and blackjacks off your socks and do not prevent snakebite.
What are they made of?
There are a wide range of gaiters on the market in Africa, and their composition varies from Riptech canvas to Nylon Cordura, Kevlar ® and sometimes even leather.
Who wears them?
We offer snake awareness, first aid for snakebite and venomous snake handling training in 19 African countries, and most of our corporate clients have equipped their on-site staff with snake gaiters. This includes industries such as the mining sector, solar and wind farms, roads departments, sanitation workers, electrical workers, construction companies and protection services.
On several corporate sites, wearing snake gaiters is mandatory as part of the employees’ (and visiting contractors) personal protective equipment. Snake gaiters also form part of the personal protective equipment required for the designated on-site snake removers on many mines and solar farms.
Avid outdoor enthusiasts such as hunters, birders, fly fishermen, hikers and cyclists also wear snake gaiters, as their focus may be drawn elsewhere.
Why wear them?
The snakebite statistics in Africa reveal that 84% of snakebites occur below the knee. These bites usually occur when someone accidentally stands on a snake and it bites in self-defence. Therefore, by protecting this area, one greatly reduces the risk of snakebite.
How do you choose a pair?
There are a few important factors to consider when buying snake gaiters:
- Are you buying from a reputable source? There are a number of companies advertising snake gaiters and a large percentage of them are cheap Chinese imports that have never been tested in African conditions.
- Have the gaiters been tried and tested? It is very important to know that what you are buying has been tested against snakebite from African snakes.
- Weight is an important factor, especially for those who are going to be wearing gaiters for extended periods. The lighter the gaiter, the more comfortable they are for long wear. Weight also affects wearing temperatures, and thick and heavy gaiters are a lot hotter than the lighter versions.
- Fasteners – There are three main methods for fastening gaiters to the legs, the first is Velcro strips – these are positioned on the outside of the legs to avoid rubbing or catching. These are great for quick fitment and removal but are not ideal if you’re working in areas where there is long grass and grass seeds (brush cutting teams) as the Velcro does eventually get filled with debris. The second option is to get non-slip buckle gaiters – these are great and adjust easily. Once the straps are adjusted to the person’s legs and the ends tied off, they fit comfortably. The third option is zip-up gaiters – usually used on lightweight gaiters. They are quick to put on, very comfortable and allow for airflow as they are not a tight fit.
Some gaiters have an eyehole for you to thread a bootlace through, which prevents the gaiter from riding up as you walk, whilst others have an under-foot strap, which keeps the gaiter in place.
- Colour – Pick what works for you. Do you require reflective strips? Or perhaps you are a hunter who prefers camouflage?
How to look after your gaiters?
Most gaiters can be hand washed and dried out of direct sunlight.
When purchasing snake gaiters, make sure they have been tested against African snakes – some of our adders have fangs that vary from 2 – 4 cm in length. Avoid going for the cheapest on the market – they are often cheap Chinese imports and do not last long.
The African Snakebite Institute stocks the widest range of snake handling equipment and quality snake gaiters in Africa. You can see the full range of gaiters here. Please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org for any queries.
Find our helpful guide to buying snake handling equipment here.