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Reviews > Snow Gear > Traction Aids > 32North STABILicers Lite > Test Report by John Waters
July 9, 2007
Tester's Biographical Information <back to top>
Name: John R. Waters
My backpacking began in 1999. I've hiked rainforests in Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico, on glaciers in New Zealand and Iceland, 14ers in Colorado and Death Valley's deserts. I hike or snowshoe 6-8 miles (10 km-13 km) 2-3 times weekly in Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, with other day-long hikes on various SE Michigan trails. I also hike in Colorado and am relocating there, which will increase my hiking time and trail variety tremendously.
My daypack is 18 lb (8 kg); overnights' weigh over 25 lb (11 kg). I'm aiming to reduce my weight load by 40% or more.
Features: "Full foot slip protection with heel and forefoot cleats maintains traction throughout your natural stride while walking. Lightweight TPE Elastomer holds STABILicers Lite securely in place. Traction tread outsole and cleats simultaneously contact walking surface, providing superior grip on ice, snow, rock, and pavement. Multidirectional, case-hardened non-replaceable cleats bite into ice and snow."
Product Information (from tester)
Description and First Impressions <back to top>
The STABILicers Lite is made of elastomer which looks like black rubber. It's designed to be pulled over the nose of shoes and boots, extend underneath and then over the heel. It's best to think of the STABILicers Lite structure as a base area that goes under the sole of the shoe or boot and a top ring of rubber about 3/8 of an inch (2 cm) that is connected to the base layer by vertical ribs that vary in width from 3/8 to ½ inch (2-1.3 cm). This structure is very stretchable so it fits over a range of shoe sizes in each of the small, medium, large and x-large sizes offered. The nose of the STABILicers Lite provides about 1.5 inches (4 cm) of height to grip over the toe and this front part is comprised of one ½ inch (1.3 cm) strip. There is another vertical support on each side of the toe 1 ¼ inches (3 cm) away from the front toe support. Then there are two supports on each side of the toe-bed, one on each side in the middle, two at the back quarter section over the heel. The rear has an additional middle horizontal support that wraps around the heel 180 degrees. The length of the STABILicers Lite stretched out is 9 ¾ inches (23 cm) long. It's shaped in the form of a shoe sole. I was able to grab the top ring and stretch it out to approximately 15 inches (38 cm).
Looking at the bottom of the STABILicers Lite, there are three rectangular hard rubber sections molded to the sole. These are approximately 1 ¼ inches by 2 ¼ inches (3 cm by 6 cm) on each side and are approximately ¼ inch (.6 cm) high and are placed so that the long dimension goes side to side. Each section has 8 cleats in two perpendicular rows, with one row being slightly curved and the other straight from side to side. There are also three 3/8 inch (2 cm) round rubber pylons to the sides of the middle section and each area has what can best be described as a wedge of rubber to its side that sticks up as high as the cleats. Two of these sections are under the front area of the sole from the toe to the insole and one is under the heel. There are also fancy embossings on the vertical members that look like boomerangs.
The material is a dull black rubber much like what is seen on an automobile tire and has a mottled sheen.
This should be interesting. I received a MEDIUM pair of STABILicers Lite which according to the 32 North website is supposed to fit up to a size 10 US boot. When positioned over the toe of my running shoes or boots, before they are stretched over the heel, the STABILicers Lite lay just ahead of the heel on both shoes (less then 2/3 of the way to the back of the heel). That means that they are being stretched about 50% to fit behind the heel. That's a lot of stretching and it appears to really be putting a lot of stress on the sides of the units. Since I am a size 10 and that was the top of the medium range, I would figure that there would be some extra play, but now I'm wondering if I should have gotten a large and if the large would not stretch so much. I reasoned that since the manufacturer skipped from a 10 at the high end of a size medium to a 10 ½ in the large size, there might be too much play for my size 10 if I ordered a large. Now, I'm thinking maybe not.
Anyway, my first attempts at getting these on my boots make me worry about the STABILicers Lite's durability. I cannot get the rear bottom (sole) square platform with the lugs to be parallel to the sides of either boot. It wants to be at a 45 degree angle. I will have to see if that is an issue in performance. It's just annoying for me as an engineer to not have things line up properly. The front bottom section lines up okay, it's just the back section because of the way the sides grip the front half of the shoe, which is not linear along the sides.
I am also surprised about how far out the sides of the STABILicers Lite stick out. They are a good ½ inch (1 cm) away from the shoe or boot at the middle where my shoes curve in at the insole. This very much creates an area that can catch on branches and rocks, and I wonder if possibly they will pull right off my feet as I hike. Not to mention that I can twang them if I get bored, but I will be looking to see if they'll break right off if they get caught on anything since they are stretched so far with so much tension.
Field Report <back to top>
When I first considered testing the STABILicers, I was in Colorado in January and February hiking through rugged rocky terrain about 4 to 6 mi (6-10 km) each day just to get back and forth to our tower sites. I was using another brand of over-the-shoe ice studs that got an extensive workout on rocks covered in solid glossy ice. By the time I received the STABILicers for testing it was almost March and most of the really good ice was gone. There was snow, but it wasn't cold enough for a long enough period to test these the way I could have if I had them in the middle of winter, especially under the conditions I needed them for this past winter. The snow in winter here melts in the bright sun then freezes at night to sheets of ice and then continues that cycle for days to make some nice ice covered terrain. In the spring there could be a 5 in (13 cm) snow fall even at 10,000 ft (3048 m), but the temperature doesn't stay below freezing, so the sun melts the snow and just mud remains.
That being said, I was able to test the STABILicers on snow and solid packed snow that was icy, but nothing like the sheer solid ice of winter. I'm hoping that I can provide an extended report addendum for the winter of 2007-2008 so I can get that slippery glass-like ice that these need to be tested on.
I used my Asolo boots for the latest test on a 5 mi (8 km) hike southwest of Westcliffe, Colorado on Easter Sunday 2007. The trailhead starts at the end of CR-140 at 9,050 ft (2758 m) and runs for 2.5 mi (4 km) through timber and aspen up to Venable Falls at about 10,700 ft (3261 m). That's a 1,700 ft (518 m) rise in 2 mi (3 km). The temperature was 47 F (8 C) and it was drizzling rain and misty so that ice was forming on everything and coating the trees. On the way to this trail, passing through the San Louis range, the trees were coated with ice crystals creating a beautiful wonderland of ice, but it was warm enough that there was no ice on the ground. So I had to drive farther into the Sangre de Cristo range to get snow. Sure do wish I had these earlier in the year (I promise to not whine about that any more ... I'm done.)
When I hike alone, I always have a pretty full daypack with snacks, water, headlamp, etc. and I always carry a hunting knife, camera, GPS. I had a lot of stuff for a short hike like this, but in foul weather it's nice to be prepared. My point is that aside from the rain gear and wind jacket and stuff I was wearing (the wind was whipping up to 45 mph (72 km/h)), I was carrying probably another 20 lb (9 kg) in my backpack. Of course I always use hiking poles, too.
So now I'm ready to get out of the car, get my gear together and get on the trail. Picture 8883 (above) shows the trail. Yes, it just keeps going up. The snow is packed solid and is icy and very slippery in spots.
I'd like to point out in Picture 8884 and 8885 that the sides of the STABILicers are a half inch or more away from the side of my boots. Although I was initially concerned that in brush this would cause sticks, grass, weeds, etc. to get between my boot and the STABILicer and pull it away from my boot, or perhaps even cause me to trip, I didn't have any issues with this that I can point to. I need to test this more in terrain with low brush, like the trails I was on in January and February where I could have really tested them well (I promised not to bring this up again didn't I?)
I know these are STABILicers but parts of the trail turned to slippery mud. Really slippery mud. Super slippery mud. So when going along a trail covered in icy snow and coming around a bend, I have no desire to remove my STABILicers for a 100 ft (30 m) trek through mud to only have to wrestle with putting them on again later, especially since there is no place to sit. So I left them on through muddy patches. I have to admit they seem to make it easier to get across muddy areas, but they do come off easier. And when they do come off in mud, the fun begins.
I got them back on, watched my feet carefully at the expense of sightseeing and only lost one off each foot another 3 times along the way, mostly in the mud.
Under these conditions, I'm not sure what the benefit was of using them. I spent more time keeping an eye on them and fixing them then if I had just not had them. However, these are not the optimum conditions for their use and I would really have been able to test them very well if I had them in January and February (I said that already, didn't I?)
My observation is that these need to be tried on in the store over the exact model of boots or shoes that will be worn. I think that the mediums I received may be stretched a little too far over my 10 1/2 Asolos, but I don't know if the large size would be too loose. They definitely provide extra traction on ice and packed snow and even on slippery mud. I would feel so much more comfortable wearing these if there was a buckle or strap that kept them locked to my boots. I also think each set should come with Handi-wipes. I was wiping my hands on tree leaves and my pants frequently.
Long Term Report <back to top>
Due to unseasonably dry weather during the Long Term Report stage of my testing, I was not able to use the STABILicers for any additional testing after my above posted Field Report. I continued to carry them in my backpack on all outings, hoping for a hint of snow and or ice, but no luck. Carrying these babies is no big deal since they take up almost no room in my pack and certainly don't add much weight (11 oz/312 g).
While this concludes my testing of the STABILicers Lite traction device. I intend to continue using the STABILicers during the upcoming 2007-2008 winter season and will post an addendum at the end of that season.
Please check back then (approximately end of March 2008) for those results. Thank you to 32 North and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the STABILicers Lite traction device.
John R. Waters
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