GripGrab’s Explorer might be some of the best overshoes available if you want above zero degree weather proofing comfort with extra protection for scuffing around off-road. They’re not heavily insulated though and barbed plants can pull threads easily.
The Explorers are a development of GripGrab’s Flandrien road overshoes (€73.95 in four colors). They are based on a similar stretchy knitted sock which has a waterproof membrane sandwiched into the fabric. The Explorers are reinforced with TPU toe caps and a grip panel under the sole between the cut outs for the cleats and forward tread and the heel tread. The holes are also reinforced to stop fraying and the lower part of the sock also gets an extra toughening coating to protect the soft knitted fabric. The Explorers come in four different sizes, all of which stretch to mid calf but are only available in black at the moment.
The whole concept of the Flandriens and the Explorers is to mimic the old skool roadie trick of pulling socks over your shoes for extra insulation. That means some wrestling to get them up over your shoe and then re-arranging to make sure the tread pokes through properly and the toe cap is in place. As you’ll get the best top seal if you wear your tights over the oversocks, that means pulling your tights up your legs first so they work best with zipped legs. The fact there are no zips to break/get sticky or Velcro to get dirty and come undone is a big bonus though. They’ll pull over every gravel/XC MTB shoe (basically anything with separate tread ‘pontoons’ rather than continuous tread) I tried, they’ve got a pleasingly low profile aesthetic and you can even tighten Boa dials through them if you need to.
The fabric works really well too. It shrugs water off the surface initially thanks to a DWR (durable water repellent) coating, but even when that gets overwhelmed your feet will stay dry inside. They’re snug enough not to flood immediately from underneath if you step in a puddle too, although taking some time to seal the cleat slots or other perforations in your shoes will definitely help protect from water coming from below.
Impressive breathability means sweat is managed really well even on long climbs on warmer days, so your feet don’t get sodden from the inside like they do with neoprene overshoes. And while they’re OK up to double digit degrees they roll up pocketably small if the weather really improves.
Because they keep your shoe and inside sock dry and warm, they also provide more ‘system insulation’ than a waterproof sock inside a wet shoe. They are noticeably colder when wet though as the water in them obviously means faster heat loss. On dry, cold days they stay comfortable well into the frost zone though. I’d definitely recommend going for the larger of the sizes if you’re between choices though as the snug fit can squeeze circulation if you go too small.
In terms of durability, the toe bumper and midsole grip definitely help protect the knitted fabric when you’re kicking around on foot or clattering around on trails where rocks are flying off the front wheel. That means they work well for XC MTB as well as gravel. We’ve had no issues with stretching or worn/torn holes in the fabric after several months of winter use. They clean up pretty well when hand washed, although you need to be careful when drying them, as from experience laminate knits like this don’t like excess heat. The top of the Explorers are getting tufty from torn threads caused by bushes and other snagging incidents on the trail though so they’re not the best choice if you ride narrow, wood/scrubland singletrack.
GripGrab’s Explorers are really easy to pull over most gravel/XC shoes and provide useful wind/water protection right down to freezing point without getting too sweaty if things warm up. The extra protection helps them survive off-road life and they provide a better overall ‘system’ than waterproof socks too. They’re also about twice the price though and you’ll need to avoid pointy plants and be careful with your washing and drying to make them last.
Tech specs: GripGrab Explorer
- Price: $89.95 / £79.95 / €89.95
- Sizes: S (36-38) M (39-41) L (42-44) XL (45-47)
- Options: Black only
- Weight: 180g
- Available from: gripgrab.com