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Reviews > Snow Gear > Traction Aids > Kahtoola Gaiters and Spikes 2019 > Test Report by Alyssa Kimber

Kahtoola
MICROspikes and LEVAgaiter GTX


Test Series by Alyssa Kimber

Initial Report - March 8, 2019
Long Term Report - June 21, 2019

Tester Information
Name: Alyssa Kimber
Age: 25
Gender: Female
Height: 5' 10" (1.8 Meters)
Weight: 130 Pounds (59 Kilograms)
Email address: alyssakimber at hotmail dot com
City, Province, Country: Fernie, British Columbia, Canada

Backpacking Background: I started backpacking two years ago after moving from the prairies to the Kootenay region of British Columbia. I’m relatively new to backpacking but I have significant outdoors experience having enjoyed camping and day hiking for many years. My trip length is generally one to three nights and ranges from prairie hikes to mountainous terrain. I am a 4-season hiker and typically a 3-season backpacker. My pack weight varies depending on the trip, but I tend to sacrifice weight savings for comfort.

Initial Report

March 8, 2019

Product Information & Specifications
Manufacturer: Kahtoola
Year of manufacture: 2019
Manufacturer web site: https://kahtoola.com/

Manufacturer's listed specifications - MICROspikes:
  • Sizes available: Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large
  • 12 spikes per foot (on all sizes)
  • 3/8-inch (1cm) spike length
  • Spike Material: heat-treated 400 series stainless steel
  • Weight per pair for size tested (Medium): 11.9 oz (338 g)
  • Available Colours: Black, Red
  • MSRP from website: $69.95 USD
Actual Specifications - MICROspikes:
  • Size tested: Medium (corresponding to a shoe size of W9-12 and a boot size of W8-10)
  • Actual shoe size of tester: Size 9
  • Spike length: 3/8-inch (1cm)
  • Weight per pair: 12 oz (339 g)
  • Length: 9 in (22 cm)
  • Width: 5 in (13 cm)
  • Colour tested: Black
Manufacturer's listed specifications - LEVAgaiters GTX:
  • Sizes Available: Small, Medium, Large
  • Fabric: Three-layer GORE-TEX with polyester face fabric
  • Zipper: Waterproof AquaGuard coil zipper
  • Instep Strap: Adjustable and (if necessary) replaceable
  • Weight (per pair) for size tested (Medium): 4.4 oz (125g)
  • Height: 13.5 in (34.3 cm)
  • Available Colours: Light gray/dark gray, black with red stitching
  • MSRP from website: $79.95 USD
Actual Specifications - LEVAgaiters GTX:
  • Size tested: Medium (corresponding to a shoe size of W9-12)
  • Weight (per pair): 4.6 oz (130 g)
  • Height: 14 in (35 cm)
  • Colour tested: Black
The Kahtoola products arrived as advertised. The package included the MICROspikes (spikes), LEVAgaiters GTX (gaiters), and tote sacks and instructions for each. The MICROspikes are described on the Kahtoola website as designed for traction and performance on frozen surfaces while hiking, running, and trekking. The MICROspikes have 12 stainless steel spikes per foot, 8 in the front (around the ball of the foot) and 4 in the back (around the heel). The chains are welded from stainless steel. The harness is made of thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) which is essentially a stretchy rubber material. The eyelets of the harness are reinforced with Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU), which when I looked this up, is referred to as the bridge between rubbers and plastics. The TPU is to ensure longevity and prevent tearing along the harness and at the connection points. The harness includes a toe bale which secures the foot's position at the front of the shoe and a raised heel tab for putting on and removing the spikes. In addition to the written description on the website, the Kahtoola website also has a video describing the features of the spikes. Below are photos of the MICROspikes packaging, the bottom of the spikes, and the top of the spikes.

MICROspikes package    Spikes Bottom    Spikes Top

The gaiters are described on the Kahtoola website as designed for use with low-profile hiking and backpacking boots to keep out moisture and trail debris. The gaiters have an adjustable instep strap, a lace hook, an elasticized draw cord and offset asymmetrical zippers. The gaiters are constructed of a "breathable three-layer GORE-TEX" and the instep strap is constructed of TPU. The off-set asymmetrical zippers are described as providing increased comfort as the ankle flexes. In addition to the written description on the website, the Kahtoola website also has a video describing the features of the gaiters. Below are two photos of the gaiters with their packaging,

     LEVAgaiters package    Gaiters


Reading the Instructions
The spikes included an instructional booklet on how to put the spikes on your shoes. The Kahtoola website also includes a video describing how to put on the spikes. The basic steps are to pull the harness over the shoe, toe first followed by the heel. Adjust the harness by pulling up on the heel tab. Ensure the chains are not twisted. Care instructions are straightforward and state: Wash with lukewarm water and air-dry (do NOT dry with heat). Ensure the product is clean and dry before storage. Inspect before each use.

The gaiters included only a drawing of how the gaiters should fit on the boot with no real instructions to guide you. However, the Kahtoola website includes a video showing how to put on the gaiters. It shows the user adjusting and fastening the instep strap prior to sliding the gaiters on the boot. I did not watch the video until after I struggled fastening the gaiters (see below). It would be helpful for the user to have this type of instruction included in a written form rather than located on the website. After sliding the instep strap on the boot, the gaiter is zipped up and the drawstring at the top of the gaiter is tightened around the calf. The video also shows the user checking a tag inside the boot for "Left" and "Right". Care instructions are straight forward and state: Hand wash cold. Do not use bleach or fabric softeners. Line dry. Do not iron. Do not dry clean.

Trying It Out
I tried the spikes out on my winter hiking boots and my running shoes and was very happy to see the spikes fit comfortably over both types of footwear, making them very versatile. I did not need the instructions to put the spikes on; I found them very self explanatory. The harness has "FRONT" stamped on the front of the harness to indicate the toe side, and the heel tab indicates the back of the harness. The harness was stretchy and super easy to take on and off both types of footwear. I had to ensure I pulled the heel tab up on my running shoes, to ensure the chain was tight across the bottom of the shoe. I tried the spikes out on my driveway which was packed with hard snow and sloped toward the street. I have fallen several times this winter trying to traverse the driveway with normal shoes on, but with the spikes on my feet I felt very secure and did not fall or slip at all. Below are photos of the spikes on my winter hiking boots and on my running shoes.

Spikes on boots    Spikes on bottom of boots

Spikes on top of shoes    Spikes on side of shoes    Spikes on bottom of shoes

I tried the gaiters on my winter hiking boots and had more trouble with these. The TPU instep strap is not stretchy at all which, for me, made it difficult to attach to the other side of the boot. At first, I had my winter boot on my foot, with the spikes on, while trying to fasten the TPU strap. It was super awkward to try and pull and fasten the TPU strap with it on my foot so after a few minutes of trying I eventually took the boot off my foot. I then spent several more minutes trying to fasten the TPU strap, finally getting it to fasten after much adjusting and pulling. I put so much effort into it I was literally sweating by the time I got it fastened. The TPU strap was on its largest setting which led me to believe these gaiters would not be the best choice for a bulky winter boot. Once I did get the instep strap fastened, the gaiters were snug to the boot and I thought they looked great. The gaiters were easier to install once I saw the instructional video online. Below are a few photos of the gaiters on my winter boots.

Gaiters on boots    Gaiters on boots standing    Gaiters on boots - inside

Initial Impressions
I am initially impressed by both the spikes and the gaiters. They appear to be well constructed and fit over a variety of footwear. I also find them both to be fairly lightweight. The spikes were easy to put on and remove from both my winter boots and my running shoes and fit tight over each type of shoe. After I managed to get the gaiters on my winter boots, they fit snuggly and looked great. My only concern is the ease of fastening the gaiter instep strap on a bulky winter boot. I would have preferred some written instruction included with the gaiters on how to put them on, rather than having this only in a video on the Kahtoola website. The spikes provided fantastic traction on an initial test down my slippery, snow packed driveway. I'm really excited to test both of these products while hiking and running!

Long-term Report

June 21, 2019

Long-term Report Test Locations and Conditions

During the long-term test period I have worn the spikes and gaiters on one day hike, two overnight backpacking trips, and about five times while running outdoors. Trip conditions are listed below.

Location of Trip #1: Soren Sorenson Loop Trail near Revelstoke, British Columbia
Length: day hike
Distance: 5 km (3 mi)
Weather: Partly Cloudy
Precipitation: None
Temperature: -10 C (14 F)
Terrain: Hard, crusty snow in interior rainforest
Elevation: 600 m (2100 ft)

Location of Trip #2: Tunnel Creek Hut near Fernie, British Columbia
Length: 2 days, 1 night
Distance: 10 km (6 mi)
Pack Weight: 30 lb (13.6 kg)
Weather: Partly Cloudy
Precipitation: None
Temperature: -10 to 0 C (14 to 32 F)
Terrain: Hard, crusty snow in subalpine forest
Elevation: 1000 - 1715 m (3300 to 5600 ft)

Location of Trip #3: Various running trails, British Columbia
Length: day trips (about five)
Distance: about 50 km
Weather: Various - cloudy to sunny
Precipitation: none
Temperature: -5 to 3 C (23 to 37 F)
Elevation: 1000 to 1500 m (3300 to 4900 ft)

Location of Trip #4: Sunshine Coast Trail near Powell River, British Columbia (gaiters only)
Length: 5 days, 4 nights
Distance: 84 km (52 mi)
Pack Weight: 30 lb (13.6 kg)
Weather: Sunny
Precipitation: None
Temperature: 7 to 28 C (44 to 82 F)
Terrain: From rocky coastline to interior old growth forest to rocky alpine conditions
Elevation: 0 to 1200 m (0 to 3900 ft)

Performance in the Field

After receiving the spikes and gaiters I wore them on a few trail runs around my neighborhood. What I noticed right away was how well the spikes gripped on steep slopes. I ran down slopes as steep as 35-40 degrees and the spikes allowed me to keep my footing on an otherwise perilous and slippery slope. The same observation was made running up steep slopes; the spikes kept grip surprisingly well, even on softer (not crusty) snow conditions. In my opinion, the spikes work better on softer snow as it allowed the spikes to dig into the snow completely. However, the spikes still provide great traction on crusty snow and ice.

While wearing the spikes running and hiking, I would occasionally have to cross a dry asphalt road, gravel, or rocky surface not necessarily meant for spikes. I was at first concerned this would dull the spikes but I also thought it was too much of a hassle to take them on and off at these points. This is no fault of the manufacturer as the spikes are quite easy to pull on and off (I would estimate 10 seconds for each foot), however it is a hassle to do this multiple times while out for a run or a hike. Therefore I would often keep the spikes on through these sections unless they were relatively long (say over 100 m (300 ft)). Despite my use of the spikes on this type of terrain, I noticed no dulling of the spikes over the long-term test period. The rubber has also remained completely intact and no wear is evident. I am very pleased with their apparent durability.

The gaiters provided excellent protection against snow during my snowy hikes and trail runs. The gaiters are calf-height and prevented any snow from getting into my shoes/boots while wearing them. The gaiters were easy to remove and install simply by sliding them onto my shoes or booths, zipping them up, tightening the top drawstring, and hooking the bottom of the gaiter to my laces. The whole process can be completed in a minute. The instep strap does not have to be adjusted at all unless a size change is required when going from a smaller running shoe to a larger hiking boot. The gaiters were highly waterproof as they did not dampen even in wet snowy conditions. My only complaint with the gaiters is that when I wore them with a smooth pant like my running leggings, the gaiters would often slip down my calf, despite me tightening the drawstring. I could see this being prevented by a strip of grippy material at the top of the gaiter. I did not find this problem with regular hiking pants.

I also used the gaiters on their own while hiking on the Sunshine Coast Trail. The primary purpose of the gaiters there was to keep trail debris out of my hiking boots and prevent scratches to my legs from the underbrush. The gaiters worked pretty well for this purpose but I also found they tended to slide down my bare legs and I would re-adjust them several times through the day. I was also pleased with the durability of the gaiters, finding no wear after the long-term test period.

The spikes and gaiters were both convenient to carry in my pack or in a jacket pocket as they both pack away quite small. They were also easy to clean, just requiring a quick rinse or wipe down with a damp cloth and air dry.

The photos below show the gaiters and/or spikes in use on various terrain (soft snow/hiking boots and crusty snow/running shoes).

Soft snow    Crusty snow  

I enjoyed testing these gaiters and spikes and I am sure I will enjoy using them for seasons to come!

Summary


Pros
1. Both spikes and gaiters are lightweight and compact
2. Spikes and gaiters were easy to put on and remove from a variety of footwear
3. Spikes provided great traction on a variety of terrain
4. I like the aesthetic of the spikes and gaiters
5. Gaiters proved to be waterproof against wet and snowy conditions
6. Spikes and gaiters are durable

Cons
1. Gaiters were difficult to put on a bulkier boot without an instructional video
2. Gaiters eventually slide down my legs if wearing a smooth pant or bare legs

This concludes my long-term report. Thank you Kahtoola and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.


Read more reviews of Kahtoola gear
Read more gear reviews by Alyssa Kimber

Reviews > Snow Gear > Traction Aids > Kahtoola Gaiters and Spikes 2019 > Test Report by Alyssa Kimber



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