STABILicers — Traction Devices
Owner Review by Hollis Easter
6 November 2008
STABILicers are versatile traction devices that strap easily onto my footgear.
Name: Hollis Easter
Height: 6'0" (1.8 m)
Weight: 205 lb (93 kg)
Shoe size: 13 US
Email address: backpackgeartest[a@t)holliseaster(dah.t]com
City, State, Country: Potsdam, New York, USA
Backpacking Background: I started hiking as a child in the Adirondack Mountains
of New York. As a teenager, I hiked my way to an Eagle Scout award. I
love winter climbing, and long days through rough terrain abound. The
peaks have become my year-round friends.
I am a midweight backpacker: I don't carry unnecessary gear, but neither
do I cut the edges from my maps. I hike in all seasons, at altitudes from
sea level to 5,300 ft (1,600 m), and in temperatures from -30 F (-34 C)
to 100 F (38 C).
Top and bottom of STABILicers
Manufacturer: 32north, Inc.
Year of manufacture: 2007
Size: XL (fits 12.5–14 US)
Listed weight: none
Measured weight (pair, size XL): 28.5 oz (808 g)
MSRP: $49.95 US
Product features (from manufacturer's website):
- Custom designed self-cleaning chevron tread throws off snow, preventing build-up
- Durable sole with cleats contacts walking surface simultaneously to maximize traction over the widest range of outdoor winter conditions
- Perimeter cleat placement maximizes traction and stability through [my] natural stride
- Replaceable case-hardened cleats, custom-designed to grip ice, rock, snow, etc.
- Attach easily with Velcro fasteners
- Flexible sole provides comfort and traction
- 34 cleats bite into ice and snow
- Straps fit snugly with easy on/off design
- More comfortable than creepers or crampons
- Can be worn with virtually any shoes, boots, or athletic shoes, but not with high heels
- Replacement cleats are available in bags of 50, but only a few will need replacement at a time, which saves money
STABILicers on my hiking boots
STABILicers are traction devices that strap onto the bottom of my footgear. At their heart, they comprise a heavily-lugged sole fitted with replaceable steel cleats. When I bought my STABILicers, they advertised a Vibram sole; the current listing does not mention the Vibram name.
The sole is a two-layer affair: an outsole of hard black rubber with thick lugs in the center and raised mounting points for the steel cleats around the periphery. The cleats protrude farther than the lugged sole, so that they are the only contact point when I stand on a hard surface like ice. When I'm standing on snow or ground, the cleats engage but I sink in far enough to also use the lugs for traction.
The second layer of the sole, stitched to the first, provides the interface between my boot and the STABILicers. The topsole is a heavily-textured sticky rubber that's grooved in a diamond pattern. It provides a non-skid surface for my boot's sole to rest upon.
The STABILicers strap onto my footgear using two groups of webbing straps: a toe strap section at the front, and a heel strap section at the back. All of the straps secure with Velcro hook-and-loop fasteners. The front strap features a strap that runs between anchors near the ball of my foot and near my little toe; it runs through a loop in another strap that runs to the front of the STABILicers. These straps keep my foot from sliding forward or sideways off the STABILicer platform.
The back of my foot gets anchored by a pair of straps that attach to the STABILicers near the front of my ankle. The straps cross behind my ankle and are stitched together at that point. From there, they continue around my ankle and are tensioned with Velcro that runs across the front of my ankle. The system works well to keep my heels from slipping backward or sideways off the STABILicers.
I don't always tighten the STABILicers using the method 32north advises: they recommend adjusting the heel straps first, positioning the heel at the back of the platform, and then tightening the toe straps. I always mean to do it this way, but I sometimes do it backwards. This hasn't posed any problems.
Hiking locations used: I carry the STABILicers whenever I hike in winter or the shoulder seasons. I have used them on many trips; a representative sample includes Big Slide Mountain, St. Regis Mountain, the Red Sandstone Trail, Allen's Falls, and Lyon Mountain, all in the Adirondack Mountain region of New York state. Some of the terrain was flat; some of it very steep. I've used the STABILicers on snow, mud, running water, ice, and various combinations of the above.
Non-hiking locations used: I wear STABILicers when my driveway ices up in the winter; they allow me to move easily across the surface to chop out the ice and disperse icemelter.
Top view of STABILicers
I've used other brands of traction devices before, ranging from full crampons to simple rubber-and-metal contraptions that stretched into place. In terms of traction on ice and snow, the STABILicers occupy the middle ground: much more grip than the simpler products, somewhat less than full crampons. However, I can put the STABILicers on my boots much more easily than I can put on crampons or the other devices. I just rest my boot on the Vibram sole, tighten the back straps, tighten the front strap, and I'm good. Velcro makes them easy to adjust, and the initial setting is quick. Since the Velcro isn't under tension (unlike the rubber-and-metal products), the STABILicers have never gone flying off my feet while I was trying to put them on.
It's easy to get a good fit with the STABILicers. I sometimes over tightened them at first, to the point where my feet began feeling cold after a full day's climbing. It works just as well to leave them slightly looser; my feet stay warm and I haven't noticed any lack of traction.
STABILicers are much lighter than my full crampons, and they do away with the risk of slashing open my shell pants and calves with the front points of crampons. Crampons do provide better grip on steep ice and hard-packed snow, so I still carry them when I expect those conditions.
Cleats and lugged sole give good traction
Another pleasing difference concerns snow balling up underfoot. The STABILicers don't include any sort of anti-Bott device to prevent snow buildup, but they don't need one. 32north claims that the sole is self-cleaning, and I have to agree.
STABILicers excel in the wet, late-season snow that lasts for months in northern New York. That snow is often patchy, but where it exists, it's slippery, alternately crusty and soft, and a real pain to deal with. STABILicers eat it right up. I feel very sure-footed when I'm walking with the STABILicers on.
I found the STABILicers invaluable on my recent climb of Lyon Mountain, a 3,820 ft (1,165) peak that stands in isolation on the northeastern side of New York's Adirondack Park. The STABILicers were literally a lifesaver on that trip. Much of the trail involved scrambling over precipitous terrain that might have been easy in dry conditions, but the combination of ice, swiftly-running water, mud, and moss made it very treacherous footing. A fall would have been extremely bad news.
There wasn't enough ice for crampons, and boots didn't give enough traction. STABILicers fit the bill perfectly: the steel cleats around the edges gave traction on the ice, snow, and moss-covered rocks, while the Vibram center allowed me to stand comfortably on smaller rocks without skating around. It was still a very difficult ascent and descent, but the STABILicers made it possible to do it without falling.
After the hike, it seemed like every stitch of my clothing was saturated with mud. The STABILicers were no exception, with mud crusted thickly in the straps and cleats. This was the first time I'd gotten the STABILicers really dirty, and it was a joy to discover how easily they cleaned up. I held them under cool running water while I scrubbed gently with an old toothbrush, and the mud came right off. It took less than five minutes to clean the pair.
The STABILicers come along every time there's a chance of snow or ice. When I'm not wearing them, I put them together, cleats in, and strap them together with the Velcro straps. I then clip them to the side of my pack with its compression straps. Simple, easy, and very fast. I can have them on my feet in only a minute or two, which makes me more likely to wear them when I need them.
I am extremely satisfied with the STABILicers, and will instantly replace them should they ever break.
- Provide excellent traction in varied conditions
- Fit comfortably
- Work with a variety of footgear
- Cleats can be replaced
- Very quick to put on
- Lighter than crampons
Read more reviews of 32North gear
Read more gear reviews by Hollis Easter