Q:

What material will protect me from snakebites?

What types of materials in gaiters are best for snake protection? I know of Teflon, but is a heavy canvas also suitable? (If you're wondering how my question has any relation to where I'm from, it doesn't. I'm moving to Australia.) Karen Vancouver, British Columbia

Sep 18, 2003
Outside
Outside Magazine
A: Oh, I love questions like this! You see, had I not become the Knower of All Things Gearly, I would surely have made a career as a herpetologist, aka Knower of All Things Reptilian (and Amphibian).

The problem, of course, is this. Poisonous snakes use sharp fangs to transfer their venom to the unfortunate victim. While only a few poisonous snakes are truly capable of killing a human with a single bite, Australia happens to be the home of one that can—the Taipan, or Fierce Snake.

So it behooves one to wear snake-resistant clothing, which is meant to keep the snake's fangs away from your skin. For starters, wear tall leather boots—few snake fangs can penetrate leather. Then, wear loose-fitting trousers that extend well below the top of the boot (or that can be secured around the boot so that they billow out above the boot). These should be made of the heaviest, yet most comfortable material. Canvas or heavy denim is pretty good, the main thing is that you don't want it close to the skin—make the snake bite through the fabric and an inch or two of "dead air" before its fangs hit the skin. You can supplement the pants with anti-snake gaiters or chaps, usually made of a tough nylon material such as Cordura (I haven't heard of the Teflon angle before!). Some leggings are even made of hard plastic. Forestry Suppliers, Inc. sells a Kevlar-based snake gaiter for $70. Easy to put on, and very snake-proof.

Beyond all that, keep in mind that even the Taipan is more apt to be afraid of you than you are of it, and likely will scoot before you even see it. Be cautious around places where snakes like to hide—rock formations, downed logs, that sort of thing. Most snakes are ambush-stalkers, lying in wait for prey to pass by rather than actively seeking it.

If you do find a Taipan, send me a picture!

The WhisperLite Snake Gaiters from the Forestry Suppliers are available here.

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