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Reviews > Snow Gear > Traction Aids > 32North STABILicers Maxx > Owner Review by Richard Lyon

STABILicer MAXX traction aids
Owner Review by Richard Lyon
February 23, 2017


PERSONAL DETAILS and BACKPACKING BACKGROUND

Male, 70 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 205 lb (91 kg)
Shoe size: 13 US; 47 European
Email address: Montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Outside Bozeman, Montana USA, in the Bridger Mountains

I've been backpacking for nearly half a century, most often in the Rockies. I do at least one weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips.  I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 10000 ft (1500 - 3000 m).  I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp.  Though always looking for ways to reduce my pack weight, I still tend to include my favorite camp conveniences. I always sleep in a floored tent and like hot meals. Summer adventures are often centered on fly fishing opportunities, winter on backcountry skiing or ski touring.

THE PRODUCT

The STABILicer MAXX is a traction aid designed for both working folks ["Postal letter carriers, police, rescue teams, and crews everywhere who brave icy winter conditions to get the job done"] and cold-weather outdoor people ["Passionate winter enthusiasts who enjoy ice fishing or other outdoor activities in heavy ice and snow."]

Manufacturer: 32north Corporation, Biddeford, Maine USA
Website: stabilgear.com
Size: XL. Available in seven sizes from XXSmall to XX-Large. There is an easy-to-use sizing guide on the website.
Dimensions, size XL, measured 13.75 x 5.0 in [35 x 13 cm], width measured at the instep
Weight, size XL, measured 13.0 oz/ 369 g per pair
MSRP: $57.95 US.  A box of 50 replacement cleats is available, MSRP $6 US.
Option: Brass cleats [to reduce the risk of sparking] MSRP $8 US for a box of 50.
Lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects
Country of manufacture: USA
Purchased: January 2016

I purchased this product after seeing a pair at the Outdoor Retailer Show. What attracted my attention was the unusual cleat. Rather than a maze of spikes linked by metal chains the MAXX has cleats that look like screws. These are in fact screwed into fixed holes on the hard rubber soles, as shown below. Each piece has seventeen cleats distributed around the heel and toe. Another distinction from other traction aids is the hard rubber sole that completely covers the sole of my boot or shoe. The MAXX is a full sole with cleats, not simply cleats that supplement the footgear's sole.  This design and two adjustable SureFit hook-and-look straps that permit adjustment to fit the MAXX to various footwear make the MAXX, if viewed from the top, look more like water sandals than crampons.
bottom viewtop view

















FIELD CONDITIONS


In ten letters, ice and snow. Over about five fall and winter months I have worn the MAXX on day hikes, weekend backpack trips, and very often in the front country. The MAXX are advertised as functional in both ice and snow and have been used often on everything from veritable sheet ice to deep powder snow, in temperatures from -25 to 50 F [-32 to 10 C] and in all weathers. Snow conditions have run the gamut from the cold smoke [dry powder snow] for which Montana is famous to spring slush.

SorelI've worn the MAXX while carrying a forty-pound [18 kg] pack, a much lighter day pack, no pack at all, big carriers of firewood in each hand, and on city sidewalks and backcountry roads while walking my dog. Footgear has included two or three pairs of low-cut hiking shoes, the Oboz Insulated Bridger boots that I am currently testing, a pair of skate ski boots, and the apres-ski boots mentioned below and pictured here.

PERFORMANCE

Putting the MAXX on. A different design means a different way to strap on the MAXX. It's rather like donning crampons only much easier. I insert the toe cap of my boot into the toe strap of the MAXX, which I have pre-adjusted to fit the particular footgear I'm wearing. Then I simply lash the top strap of the MAXX using the hook-and-loop connector. [This is illustrated in a short video on the manufacturer's website.] If I'm about to start a hike I'll take a minute or two to fit the top strap so that the one end is exactly aligned with the other, to eliminate a tag end that might catch on something. But for outdoor chores or a dog walk, usually of shorter duration and in more familiar terrain, all that's needed is to crisscross the two straps with the connector across the top of my boot if it's an over-the-ankle boot or my socks if I'm in a trail runner. So far the smaller connection has not worked loose, though every once in a while a tag end has caught on a twig or the fence surrounding my woodshed. I don't even need to tighten the toe strap completely if the top strap is securely cinched. The top face of the sole is pebble-grained and grippy enough to keep the front of my boot from slipping laterally.

Ease of use is what makes the MAXX my favorite traction aid. This I notice most in the front country, when a traction aid is often needed for a relatively short period of time, such as from the parking lot to the front door of a restaurant, on steep icy roads around my house (dog walk terrain), and slick spots on the slope down to the wood shed. The MAXX slip on and off as easily as sandals, a big improvement over stretch-to-fit traction aids or slipping into trail crampons with a metal slider to adjust.

Another bonus from this design is that the toe strap is large enough for my fleece-lined apres-ski boots, which also serve as chore and dog walking boots on the coldest days. This is the first set of traction aids able to manage this. [STABIL does have another solution. It has partnered with a Maine outfitter, famous for its boots (which just happen to have a design similar to mine), to offer traction aids designed specifically for those boots.]

Grip. While ease of use is my biggest "like," as with any traction aid the product's grip is its most important functional character trait. So far the MAXX has shone in this category, grabbing the various wintry surfaces quite as well as any other traction aid in all but the steepest slope. On one hike, the College M, I used heavier trail crampons because of the steep descent, but everywhere else I stuck with the MAXX, with excellent results. On my first couple of outings, around the house, it took some tentative steps to adjust to the platform beneath my boots, but now that I'm used to it I can walk with confidence, thanks in large part to the sure fit of the SureFit hook-and-loop. This keeps the sole firmly in place under my boot and has prevented an unfortunate ankle slip. The screw grips seem to me to grab the ice just as firmly as the spikes on my other traction aids.

Storage. I stow the MAXX in my pack sole-to-sole, using the hook-and-loop straps to keep them that way. That's another plus flowing from the product design. Trail crampons or stretch-to-fit traction aids require a separate strap, spike guard, or other means of keeping the spikes from damaging pack contents.

Maintenance. None so far. When not in use the MAXX reside in a tray in the garage or mud room. In Montana's dry air any accumulated snow evaporates quickly. I haven't timed it but on a weekend trip to a Forest Service cabin the straps were dry when we went to bed less than one hour after my last outdoor jaunt.

I haven't needed to change the screws yet but may do so as preventive maintenance when the MAXX go on the shelf this spring. In theory use of the replaceable screws should save money. The $6 US I spent for a box of replacement screws should provide almost three complete change-outs, considerably less than purchasing one new pair of traction aids, much less three. That of course depends on the sturdiness of the rubber platform, ease of replacing the screws, and reliability of replacements installed at home rather than at the factory. I promise to update this Review with those data when the time comes.

WHAT I LIKE

Ease of use. By far the best I've found in a traction aid.

Great grip.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
toe strap
The toe strap is a bit too long; the tag end can extend a bit on the outside of my boot.  Hasn't caused a problem yet, but I'm thinking of cutting off a small piece so long as I can still fit the toe piece over my fleece boots.



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Reviews > Snow Gear > Traction Aids > 32North STABILicers Maxx > Owner Review by Richard Lyon



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