Expert: Julie Goodnight, Poncha Springs, Colorado.
Purpose: “For trail riding” Goodnight explains, “chaps provide leg protection, which is more important than helping you ‘stick’ to the saddle. On the trail your knees, thighs, and lower legs can be scraped, poked, and rubbed by branches, brush, ropes, fence posts, and tree trunks. A tougher leather protects your legs from that impact and is more durable in a variety of weather conditions.”
Choose: High-quality leather and outstanding craftsmanship. “I prefer a smooth outer finish, which is plenty of friction for me. Select a pair that’s easy to put on or take off and allows for adjustability as your fit changes over time.”
Avoid: The clinician advises against baggy legs or a lot of bulk that wads up under the knee; chaps that you have to be a contortionist to buckle, snap, or zip; and full-length chaps that are too short.
Material: “Working cowboys who drag calves to the fire or bushwhack down the trail need tougher, thicker leather that’ll take a lifetime of abuse,” Goodnight warns. “I don’t do a lot of hardcore work in my chaps, so I prefer a softer, high-quality, split leather that’s soft and pliable so it can be well-tailored to my leg. Stay away from the ultrasuede and synthetics if you’re using your chaps for daily riding or rough use.”