Kahtoola MICROspikes

Review by Arnie P

The MICROspikes were provided by Kahtoola for the purpose of this review.

I am a big fan of light weight traction devices. Over the past several years I have used 4 different types of traction devices. The MICROspikes I got about 3 years ago are still in excellent shape, with no signs of rust or wear. The only noticeable change is that the elastomer is a dull red and not shiny anymore. This review will be about the new MICROspikes I received, but I will be noting any differences I find.

Putting them on is very easy. There is no right or left. The front is clearly marked and there is a curved wire between the 2 front chains at the front of the MICROspikes. I slip the front end over the toe of my boots and when the toe end is adjusted I stretch the webbing until I can pull it over the heel end of my boots. I check and make small adjustments as required. I then repeat for the other boot. The MICROspikes are made of an elastomer webbing which is used to connect stainless steel chains that hold the plates with 2 spikes on each plate. The webbing has extra reinforcement where the chains are connected to the webbing. Elastomer is a fancy name for rubber. An interesting property of elastomers is its ability to return to their its shape after being stretched.

Of the various traction devices I have used, I liked the MICROspikes best because they were the easiest to put on and they were the best at staying on my boots. Once on, they very seldom required a small amount of adjustment. They are light, weighing in at about 12.6 ounces. I compared the ones I just received to the ones I have been using for 3 years. The only design difference I could find was that the number of spikes increased from 8 to 10. The current model has 5 stainless plates with 2 spikes per plate. The older design had 3 plates with 2 spikes per plate and 2 plates with single spikes. The plates with single spikes were about half the size of the double plate spikes. I had noticed a few times that the single plate spikes did twist a little occasionally. I think the wider plates may be more stable. I like the ease of carrying the MICROspikes in my pack or in a jacket pocket. I usually put them in a plastic bag to keep any moisture from melting snow contained. The spikes are pointed enough for ice but not likely to be a problem with my clothing or the plastic bag I carry them in. I like that they are a product of the USA, being designed and made in Flagstaff, Arizona since 1999.

Kahtoola MICROspikes

bottom view Kahtoola

top view Kahtoola

top view Kahtoola

top view on boots

top view on boots

Kahtoola's from the outer side of boots

Kahtoola’s from the outer side of boots

Kahtoola's from inner view on boots

Kahtoola’s from inner view on boots

I hope to be writing more about the MICROspikes in the next couple months. I will be testing the MICROspikes with my Columbia Bugathermo Techlite boots. Please check back in about a month for an update.

Update Kahtoola MICROspikes

2-25-2011

We have had a lot of snow this year and most of the hiking trails have at least 3 feet of snow. Without snow shoes or some kind of flotation device it was very difficult to hike without sinking deep into the snow with each step. However I did use the MICROspikes in three different ways which are described below. During this test I wore the MICROspikes I received for this test and when my wife is mentioned wearing MICROspikes it was the ones I got about 3 years ago.

One day, my daughter informed me that a news team had visited our local Plaza to film a 30 foot high pile of snow that morning. I went to the Plaza and donned my Columbia boots and Kahtoola MICROspikes and climbed up this very steep pile of snow. I have climbed a lot of snow covered mountains with heights over 4000 feet during the winter in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Climbing the pile of snow was as difficult as climbing any section of snow-covered trail I have encountered in the New Hampshire mountains. In some places the snow was very hard and icy, and other places I would start sinking about halfway to my knees. I would not have been able to do this without traction devices and the ascent would have been very difficult with most snowshoes.

putting on MICROspikes

putting on MICROspikes

near top of snow hill

near top of snow hill

This was a good test for balance and maneuverability. I was completely stable going up, as well as coming down. Despite post-holing, the MICROspikes remained firmly attached to my boots. Post-holing is when one or both feet sink into the snow. When your foot is removed the hole that remains looks like a post hole. This is one of the reasons to use snow shoes when the snow is deep.
There was a day when the enough snow had melted in my driveway that when the temperature dropped, the surface was extremely slippery. This was followed shortly by several inches of snow. This was an excellent time to use the MICROspikes. Without them it was almost impossible to remain stable on my feet. There is a very reassuring sound when you hear the 10 spikes biting into the ice with each foot step. I was able to shovel without any sliding of my feet.
We had a brief warming period where day temperatures were above freezing and one day it was close to reaching 50 F. My wife and I decided that it might be good to hike in the Horn Pond Reservation since it usually has a large number of hikers each day. The temperature had dropped to single digits during the night, so we went in the morning hoping that the trail would be sufficiently packed by hikers and frozen enough to hold our weight. The parking lot had several icy spots. Our MICROspikes were in the back of the car. I did have trouble walking on the ice just to get to the back of the car. With MICROspikes and hiking poles we started out to hike around Horn Pond. The path was not as well traveled as I expected. The traveled path was very narrow and very uneven. A dusting of about 2 inches had fallen just before we got to the hiking area. Although I did not know the condition of the surface I was walking on due to the light dusting, I could tell by the noise of the MICROspikes making contact with the surface that it was icy. Basically the louder the noise upon contact the icier the underneath layer. This kind of hiking requires a lot more concentration as the surface is unpredictable. The MICROspikes along with trekking poles made this a lot easier and allowed us to maintain a reasonable speed.
I will probably be using the MICROspikes more as the snow cover gets more condensed over the next few weeks, There will be melting days followed by freezing days that usually will leave a lot of icy patches on the trail. The MICROspikes fit very easily into the pocket of the vest which I have been wearing a lot this winter. The spikes are not sharp enough to cause damage to my vest; however, usually I put the MICROspikes in a plastic bag to keep my jacket pocket dry in case I can’t get all the snow or ice off them. Please check back in about a month for my last look at my Kahtoola MICROspikes.

A last look

3-27-2011

To me the Kahtoola MICROspikes are like an insurance policy, most of the time you don’t need them.  When the need arises I am very glad to have them in my pocket.  This past winter season has been mostly a lot of snow and not many occasions to need this kind of traction.

We have a hill in town that is used for skiing and tobogganing.  We had a brief warm spell quickly followed by cold weather.  I visited the ski hill and it was a combination of icy snow and patches of ice.  Not something you could climb without traction devices.  I put the MICROspikes and proceeded to walk up the hill just like there was no ice at all. There was a reassuring crunches with each step, telling me I had a firm grip on the ice.  Going up is always easier than going down.  When I got to the top of the hill I turned around and proceeded down. This has always been a bit scary for me.  I started going downward going diagonally, then as I gained confidence I walked  straight down.  I did not slip at all.  I went back a week later after a warmer spell and the ice, though still several inches thick, was no longer firm.  The ice was crumbling into crystals and made for an unstable condition.  I went up hill slowly but decided it was too risky to try going back down on the ice under these conditions. I have included a few pictures of the icy spots.

 

icy spots near top of hill

icy spots near top of hill

In summary I like and trust the Kahtoola MICROspikes for my traction needs in icy conditions.  They do the task of keeping me from falling.  They are light weight and easy to carry in my jacket pockets.  They are easy to put on and are very durable.  I am very satisfied with them.  I hope to be using my MICROspikes for many years.  I wish to thank Kahtoola and 4alloutdoors.org for the opportunity to test the MICROspikes.

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