Review: Harwich Half Chaps

Another Review Wednesday!

Featured today are the Smartpak Harwich Half chaps. They’re advertised as having soft, full-grain leather with reinforced calf panels to support use. There’s an elastic panel to help keep a close fit and allow stretch. It has a YKK zipper and double snaps.

Picture from Smartpak website

The short of it is that I really like these. They’ve really become my favorite half chap. Now these also seem to be a “love ’em or hate ’em” item from Smartpak because of the fit. Since the fit has been tricky with many people, I’ll outline my experience with the fit first and continue on to everything else after. This might be a little long, but on things that can be on either side of the extreme I appreciate when someone can be really thorough, even if some of the information isn’t necessary or pertinent.

I bought the XL regular. The Smartpak size chart outlines that as 15″ calf and 17.5″ height. I hadn’t measured my calves for a while when I bought these, and pretty much since high school I’ve usually worn 16″ for the calves. I scoured the reviews since they were very polarizing, but about 5 of them caught my eye – they all said the chaps were small, but stretched to a perfect fit. I decided to trust those people and buy them. And those 5 reviewers have been right. Right now, my calves measure just a hair over 15″ at their widest point with bare skin. Obviously that widens with breeches and socks if you wear the tall socks (I don’t). But these half chaps have stretched with me, and don’t feel like they’re going to give out any time soon. The calf actually has stretched to be a little baggy, but I think that’s in part because the half chaps have fallen with use, and I really should’ve gone with the taller option. The XL tall is 18.5″ and the chaps probably would’ve fallen enough to where the 18.5 would end up being 17.5. As a quick note, however, I absolutely loathe all things too tall on my legs. My lower legs get a little numb if the tall boot/half chap is too tall and cuts into the backs of my knees. So If you like tall things, just know that these only go up to an 18.5″ height.

A wee bit short

I admit that Smartpak’s sizing with these is a little funky compared to other half chaps. I would say that if you have a calf wider than 17.5″, these probably aren’t the half chaps for you. Plus, they don’t make any chaps wider than that. But they fit me well, and I am ALWAYS difficult to fit – it’s a reason why I’ve put off tall boots for so long. For me it’s worse than saddle shopping.

To continue on the line of fit and to give you an idea of sizing, there were two huge reasons I bought these – many people said the ankles were small, and that the elastic to the bottom of the boot was too tight: music to my ears. You now know my calf has usually measured 15″-16″. My ankles at their smallest point measure 9″. That’s a whole 6″-7″ difference, which is why tall boots rarely fit me well (so many bruises and thick socks and ice packs). If you add an inch, maybe an inch and a half to include the paddock boot, that’s still a big difference between calf and ankle size. I really wanted something that actually fit my ankles. The other problem I have is I have small feet. Not in size – they’re still 9s, but they don’t have much height. The elastic on other half chaps was forever stretching out and bagging horribly underneath my boots.

In action

But these half chaps fit my legs like gloves. FINALLY something that will fit around my ankle without bagging! Since these stretch I actually think my calf could maybe go smaller, but these fit so well around my ankles that I don’t think I could size smaller. Which I am fine with since these are my every day use and abuse chaps. There are many reviews stating the elastic under the foot is tight, but again, this is something that is perfect for me. So far, even after getting wet a lot and tons of dirt, the elastic on the bottom is still nice and tight.

Fits my ankle and the elastic strap is nice and tight! (you can also see a bit of the extra space around the calf)

I haven’t been kind to these. I’ve really put these through the ringer. I’ve cleaned them once, and Amber is a massive sweater, so these have mostly stayed gross and used and abused.

Icky, stiff and nice and sweat-stained

The reinforced calf panel has stretched with use, but these have stayed very soft. They also clean up very well. Er, except for the elastic. But….I’m really not sure how to clean elastic so…..

The Spanish cut has a nice clean look, but as you can see they have some space between the leather and my leg. Honestly, I don’t know if that’s normal or not because I’ve been out of the English scene and it looks like Spanish cut is popular but this is the one of the first “boots” I’ve owned to have the Spanish cut so I am horribly uneducated in that.

Honestly though, I really like these. I also got them because I was going to get my calfskin saddle soon, and I wanted something very soft that wouldn’t rub my saddle. These haven’t rubbed at all, and remain one of my favorite pieces.

However, I strongly encourage you to check out the reviews on Smartpak’s website. Some people have had issues with them, and that’s important to look at. I myself haven’t had any issues with them so far, but I am only one person who uses them on a day to day basis, but not for multiple horses. Hopefully though, I have helped you find out more about the Harwich half chap.

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