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Reviews > Snow Gear > Traction Aids > Kahtoola Gaiters and Spikes 2019 > Test Report by Robb Pratt

KAHTOOLA NANOSPIKES AND CONNECT LOW GAIT
TEST SERIES BY ROBB PRATT
LONG-TERM REPORT
June 15, 2019

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TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Robb Pratt
EMAIL: unicornv007 AT yahoo.com
AGE: 48
LOCATION: Canton, Michigan, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 10" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (74.80 kg)

I backpacked sporadically growing up and rediscovered it back in 2011. Since then, I've taken several weekend trips a year. I also car camp with my family roughly a dozen nights a year when we use tents unless I can convince them I might snore and it would be better for all for me to use my hammock rig. I prefer a light pack (weight without food or water under 20 pounds / 9 kg). My backpacking stomping ground is northern Michigan that has small hills and I typically camp late spring, summer and early fall months.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Kahtoola Nanospikes and Connect Low Gaiters
Product information
a. Manufacturer: Kahtoola
b. Year of manufacture: 2019
c. Website: https://kahtoola.com/
d. Listed Weight:
- Nanospikes: 8.3 oz. (236 g) for Large size
- Low-Profile Gaiters: None listed
e. Weight as Delivered:
- Nanospikes (Pair), Size Large: 8.5 oz. (242 g)
- Connect Low Gaiters (Pair), Size Large:1.9 oz. (53 g)
- Small Carrying Bag: 0.4 oz. (12 g)
f. MSRP:
- Nanospikes: $49.95
- Connect Low Gaiters: $39.95
g. Product description:
Nanospikes provide increased traction on snow and ice by connecting directly to hiking or trail-running shoes. The bottoms are made out of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) with tungsten carbide spikes (10 per shoe) imbedded in the plastic. The bottoms connect to a thick thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) that holds the spikes firmly against the bottom of the shoe. The toe bale section is designed with a recessed location to permit the front to be secured firmly in place. The heel section has a thick, raised tab to allow easy pull-back and removal. They are designed to function down to -30F (-34C). They come in either black or teal (I received the teal). Kahtoola states that they have a 2-year warranty and that the material should last at least 5 years. Care instructions state simply to wash with lukewarm water and air-dry (do not dry with heat).

Low Connect Gaiters are designed to work with the Nanospikes for the purpose of keeping debris and water out of the shoes. Using several clips, they connect directly to the rubber on the Nanospikes. A zipper holds each one around the ankle while a drawcord at the top is used to cinch them tight. The zippers have an asymmetric design to them to optimize comfort as the ankle flexes. They also have a reflective trim piece near the base for added visibility at night. The entire cloth section is noted as water resistant and breathable. They come in either charcoal, plum or teal (I received the charcoal).

IMAGE 1
Packaging for Both Nanospikes & Gaiters

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Kahtoola Nanospikes came in a small, well-designed package. After opening up the box, I found a small, black carrying sack that contained the Nanospikes. They were easy to remove from the sack which, thankfully, had a large enough opening. What first caught my eye was the colorful teal rubber. I really do like colors and, of course, they are easier to find whenever I inevitably drop or misplace them. In this case, they looked beautiful and I thought they would stand out on my black trail runners.

From a weight standpoint, the Nanospikes came in slightly heavier than listed, but I consider this within the measurement error of my cheap scale. But the weight listed does not include the carrying sack which I believe would be necessary for bringing on any trip to protect my gear from spike damage.

The Kahtoola Low Connect Gaiters came connected to a near flat cardboard package. I had some initial concerns about breaking one of the clips but I slowly and carefully removed them from the package and did not damage them. I was amazed at how light the gaiters felt.

CONSTRUCTION

Nanospikes: I found the overall construction very solid with no obvious signs of manufacturing flaws. The bottom sections are roughly the thickness of three credit cards. The spikes were imbedded / molded into the plastic with several expanding rings to provide support and durability. The bottoms were connected at six spots to the rubber section that grips the sides of the shoes. Each of these had small, reinforced eyelets put into the rubber. The transitions were completed with oval-shaped rings made out of aluminum. From an overall robustness, the rubber section felt very thick and based on my past experience working with elastomers at work, I feel it would be quite durable. The toe section is shaped to fit into the front of my toe and I noticed later that the word FRONT is even imprinted in the gray area. The thicker pull-tab at the rear is easy to grasp and pull on. The side sections have several gaps in them that are specifically designed to connect into the gaiters. The inside of each tread that butts up to the bottom of my shoes has small raised posts to provide points of contact to my shoe. Each one has a total of 48 posts.

I found it very difficult to measure the dimensions but I was able to use a ruler and get a rough idea. The treads are split into two sections - the front of the foot and under the heel.
* Overall size: 11.5 x 3.25 inches (29.2 x 8.3 cm)
* Ball of Foot: 4.75 x 3.25 inches (12.1 x 8.3 cm)
* Heel: 3 x 2.25 inches (7.6 x 5.7 cm)
* Arch Area: This is 3.5 inch (8.9 cm) long area where there is no material at all.

Gaiters: I studied the stitching first and found it to be very clean overall. The clips were sewn in tightly and the transition between the reflective fabric, the charcoal gray and the lighter gray was very good. Behind the zipper was also a small piece of fabric designed to provide additional protection from the elements. The material was very stretchy and I was not surprised to see it was 84% nylon and 16% polyurethane. The cord connecting to the cordlock is easy to pull tight.

Measuring the gaiters was just as difficult to do as the Nanospikes. For these measurements, I used a piece of string and ran it along the various edges, then measured the string. I had to do it this way because the shape is not linear.
* Top: 11 inches (28 cm)
* Back: 6.5 inches (16.5 cm)
* Bottom: 20.5 inches (52 cm)
* Front: 6.5 inches (16.5 cm)

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

I found that they made sense after reading and trying to install things the first time. I did have a few failures on my part (more on that later) but that was my fault entirely. The instructions are clear, easy to read and come in multiple languages. Only someone very tired or not paying attention could get it wrong. I'll consider myself as being tired as I had stayed up late the night before - my wife was out of town for the weekend and it means I could watch garbage TV and eat junk food long into the night. That's my excuse and I'm sticking with it.

IMAGE 2
Nanospike Instructions


IMAGE 3
Gaiter Instructions

TRYING THEM ON

With the weather turning warmer in the next few days, I was eager to break these out and go for a walk before the ice melted. I pulled out the Kahtoola Nanospikes first. Studying the instructions carefully, I put the first one on the left foot. It was a tough fit and something didn't seem quite right to me. The aluminum connecting links were partially on the bottom of the tread. Feeling tired but not paying too much attention, I put the other one on the right foot and it went much smoother and the metal pieces were now on the side of the shoe. Strange. I studied them and noticed that I had actually installed the heel section under the toe area and vice-versa on the first shoe. Rolling my eyes, I quickly fixed the incorrect setup. No worries there - it was easy to do, just an ID-TEN-T error (or as I like to call it, an "idiot" mistake on my part). As a side note - the next day I even noticed that the front of the Nanospikes has a large "FRONT" imprinted into the gray plastic. It's even written in such a way that only the person putting their foot into it can read it correctly. Anyone else would see it as upside-down. Honestly, I was pretty tired yesterday.

With the Kahtoola Nanospikes connected correctly now, I turned to the gaiters. They were a little more confusing to me as I had never worn gaiters but the instructions were very clear about connecting the plastic hooks into various sections of the rubber on the Kahtoola Nanospikes. When I went to zip the first one together, it wouldn't connect. I finally understood the instructions that said the zipper should be on the outside of the foot and I must have installed the first one backwards. Of course I did. Two for two here. I fixed that, grumbling the entire time that there should be some marking on them to tell me which one was LEFT and which one was RIGHT.

I looked closer at the gaiter as I reinstalled it. Of course there is. It's clearly printed on the small label. In blank ink. On a white label. Insert more eye rolling on my part. I really should have slept in another hour.

IMAGE 4
Label on Gaiter - Yup - this is the LEFT


Once the correct gaiter was on the correct shoe, it was easy to zip things down. That sounds weird as I am very used to zipping things up, but in this case, the zipper runs top to bottom. Skipping the wording gymnastics, I connected the zipper, and pulled the draw string at the top of the ankle to tighten the gaiters for a good, snug fit. This last step was not listed in the instructions but was pretty intuitive.

IMAGE 5
Cordlock on Gaiter


Everything fit correctly on the shoe and fit comfortably on my ankle. Now all I needed to do was grab some hiking gear and take a quick walk around the neighborhood.

I took only one shaky step from the soft carpeting toward the kitchen when it dawned on me the exact expression my wife would give me if she even thought I might take a single step on our hardwood floor with 10 tungsten steel spikes on the bottom of my shoe.

I safely took off both shoes, gathered my equipment and put my shoes back on once outside.

As a side note here, the shoes were very easy to remove without disconnecting either the gaiters or the Nanospikes. Everything was all set for me to just put on my shoes and zip the gaiters in place.

IMAGE 6
Shoe Ready with Gaiters & Nanospikes


NanIMAGE 7
All Together Hooked on a Foot

TAKING A WALK

My initial trial was a short walk around the neighborhood to check comfort and traction. I actively sought out icy areas, deeper snow and even a small river crossing.

IMAGE 8
Walking on Ice


On icy sections, the Kahtoola Nanospikes had a fantastic grip. Honestly, these things are just amazing. I had complete traction and no slipping or sliding. At one point on the return trip, I actually removed the Nanospikes/Gaiters from the left foot just to see if maybe the ice wasn't very slippery. Nooooo... I was sliding all over the place on one foot like some crazy cartoon scene with a banana on it. The other foot held solid.

On pavement sections that were clear, the Nanospikes made slight clicking sounds. I expected this and it wasn't really very distracting, just noticeable. I was overall surprised at how comfortable they felt too. I could feel light pressure points on my feet to tell me I was wearing them but otherwise, they did not cause me any pains.

On dirt, grass or snowy sections, I could barely tell the Nanospikes were even on my feet. The noise was gone and the cushion was enough to prevent feeling them.

For the gaiters, I have less to say about them though as it wasn't actively raining. I did step in snow that was over the top of the shoes and they never got wet. I did not kick up a lot of dirt and it was not raining so I am not (yet) sure how well they will work for keeping out debris or shedding water. My impression though, is based on how well they seal near the top of my ankles and I think they will serve me well.

I did have one small issue with the gaiters but this also may be a learning curve for me to figure out. Near the end of my stroll, I found that one of the gaiters had come partially unzipped from the bottom. It still would have provided sealing from the top of the ankle. I am not sure if this was me not doing it correctly or if it had come undone on its own. I will watch this over time.

IMAGE 9
Gaiter Zipper Loose


After I got done with my hike, I removed the Nanospikes and Gaiters from my shoes. It was a little difficult to get to the pull tab with the Gaiters in the way and even then, they are designed to fit quite snugly, adding a small bit of difficulty to this task. Ultimately though, I was able to remove them and everything packed up in the small carrying bag without any trouble. Everything (both Nanospikes and Gaiters) fit comfortably inside which is a great change from how I usually find outdoor gear fitting with respect to storage bags.

IMAGE 10
Nanospikes & Gaiters in Bag


Over the next few months, I am looking forward to testing these further. I am intrigued to see how well they hold up for miles of hiking in cold and icy conditions.

SUMMARY

For the quick trial that I wore the Nanospikes and Gaiters, they both performed well. After a brief mistake or two on my part, I found them easy to install and only mildly difficult to remove. They performed great on the ice and were nearly unnoticeable on other terrain.

This concludes my initial report. The field report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.

I also want to thank both BackpackGearTest.org and Kahtoola for letting me take part in this test.


LONG-TERM REPORT

FIELD CONDITIONS SUMMARY

High Level Summary: I've used the Nanospikes on 7 different backpacking shakedown hikes, putting in over 32 miles (51.5 km) during the winter months. The temperatures ranged from 15F to 40F (-9 to 4.4C) while the terrain I traveled over generally had snow, ice, mud and water. During these hikes, my backpacking loads were between 20 to 24 lbs (9 to 11 kg). The terrain was mostly flat with gentle rolling hills.

TREKS

* Trek #1
-- Distance: 3 miles (4.8 km)
-- Pack Weight: 22.4 lbs (10.1 kg)
-- Temperature: 27F (-3C)
-- Location: Around Subdivision Area
-- Ground Cover: Pavement, Dirt Road, Sidewalk. At least 2 inches (5 cm) of snow on the ground.

* Trek #2
-- Distance: 6 miles (9.7 km)
-- Pack Weight: 24 lbs (10.9 kg)
-- Temperature: 25F (-4C)
-- Location: Proud Lake Recreational Area
-- Ground Cover: Dirt trails, mostly flat with small hills. At least 2 inches (5 cm) of snow on the ground with occasional long stretches of ice.

* Trek #3
-- Distance: 3 miles (4.8 km)
-- Pack Weight: 23 lbs (10.4 kg)
-- Temperature: 20F (-7C)
-- Location: Proud Lake Recreational Area
-- Ground Cover: Mountain Biking Trails. Narrow, dirty with lots of roots. Minimal snow spots but lots of ice in long stretches.

* Trek #4
-- Distance: 3 miles (4.8 km)
-- Pack Weight: 23.4 lbs (10.6 kg)
-- Temperature: 15F (-9C)
-- Location: Maybury State Park
-- Ground Cover: Snow to depth of 3 inches (7.6 cm) with occasional icy patches covering dirt trails.

Trek #5
-- Distance: 7 miles (11.3 km)
-- Pack Weight: 23.4 lbs (10.6 kg).-
-- Temperature: 20F (-7C)
-- Location: Maybury State Park
-- Ground Cover: Dirt trails with slight hills. Snow depth of 2 inches (5 cm) with occasional icy patches.

* Trek #6
-- Distance: 8 miles (12.9 km)
-- Pack Weight: 22.8 (10.3 kg)
-- Temperature: 35F (2C)
-- Location: Maybury State Park
-- Ground Cover: No snow but frozen mud and sections with ice. Areas with mud occasionally were not frozen, resulting in a lot of mud kicking up.

Trek #7
-- Distance: 4 miles (6.4 km).
-- Pack Weight: 20 lbs (9.1 kg)
-- Temperature: 60F (16C)
-- Location: Maybury State Park
-- Ground Cover: Dirt trails with some hills - some muddy sections. Note: did not wear Nanospikes for this hike specifically to draw comparison.

* Trek #8:
-- Distance: 2 Miles (3.2 km)
-- Pack Weight: 20 lbs (9.1 kg)
-- Temperature: 40F (4C)
-- Location: Maybury State Park
-- Ground Cover: Mostly pavement with brief sections of grass or wet leaves.

* Trek #9
-- Distance: 0 Miles (9 km)
-- Pack Weight: Was base camping trip.
-- Temperature: 26F to 55F (-3C to 13C) over weekend.
-- Location: Kensington Metro Park Group Site
-- Ground Cover: Grass, Dirt, Leaves with minimal ice. Nanospikes traveled in pack and were used only briefly on one morning.

PERFORMANCE

EASE OF ASSEMBLY
After my initial mistakes putting the Nanospikes and Gaiters on, I found them very easy to assembly on my shoes. I timed it on my first trip and found it took me only 3 minutes and 38 seconds to fully install them. I left them attached to my trail runners for most of my treks and only removed them twice to clean and store them properly in the bag. Each time I re-attached them to my trail runners, I thought it was even easier and faster although I only timed it once.

COMFORT
Once on the shoes and with the gaiters zipped up, I found they were very comfortable. I would not notice they were on my feet unless I hit pavement. For these sections, they would make loud clicking noises unless I was on snow or ice.

EFFECTIVENESS
SNOW/ICE: These things did a fantastic job for backpacking on the trails. They provided great grip on the icy sections, including both uphill and downhill sections. I can remember one area specifically where there was another person walking through the park wearing tennis shoes. He was barely able to stand on one of the sharp downhills. I watched him from the top of the hill struggle and nearly fall several times. Once he cleared that section, I strutted right down like a small mountain goat and quickly passed him on a flat section.

IMAGE 1
Icy Trail Conditions



The only time the Nanospikes did not perform well was in sections where fresh snow had fallen on top of the ice. In these sections, they would slide a little until digging into the ice. If the spikes were longer, I believe I might have had better traction, but that would have come at an added weight penalty. The Nanospikes are light enough that I felt quite comfortable adding them into my pack even when I was unsure if I was going to use them.
IMAGE 2
Standing in Front of Lake


MUD/WATER: For the sections that had large puddles that would normally cover my shoes completely, I walked right through the center. Water was definitely over the top of the gaiters. I use trail runners that are not waterproof so my shoes flooded each time from the mesh panels on the side and toe box. While my feet were wet, I never did struggle with any debris like mud, sticks or rocks coming down into my shoes.
IMAGE 3
Weatherman said Miserable Outside. I thought it was fun!


WET LEAVES: There were sections on pavement and packed dirt that had wet leaves. In the past, these have been my nemesis sections and I've gotten a couple of ankle sprains from hitting these in full stride and stumbling. I never had any slips or falls even when moving fast.

PACKING: For a few of the trips, the weather was warmer and I wanted to do a compare and contrast. For the spring camping trip, we also did not have any rain or ice. On these trips, I had the Nanospikes and Gaiters packed up in their carrying bag and stored in my backpack. I found they were easy to fit in the bag as it was designed with a nice wide opening and enough storage room to hold both the Nanospikes and the Gaiters. As the Nanospikes were designed to fold onto themselves such that the spikes were aimed toward each other, I never had any concerns about the spikes puncturing the bag or damaging my other gear inside my backpack.

CLEANING
Several times, I removed them from my shoes for cleaning and storage. In each case, a simple rinse with warm water was enough to remove the majority of the mud and dirt. The Nanospikes I could shake off and they were dry almost immediately. The gaiters dried in less than an hour after hanging on a line.

I found it also interesting how well the gaiters protected my shoes from mud and debris. As can be seen in the picture below, my shoes have a distinct line where they were shielded from trail mud. My white sock liners had a similar line as well.
IMAGE 4
Shoe Mud Line

DURABILITY

I had no issues with any failure or wear of the gaiter cloth or clips. The plastic and rubber on the Nanospikes also look nearly pristine. The actual spikes on the bottom show signs of shiny metal, indicating wear, but I never had a loss of traction and all of the spikes upon close inspection, have a significant amount of material protruding from the surface. Furthermore, having stored them for the last month, I removed them from their bag and inspected the rubber again. They still have the same amount of stretchiness as when I received them.

SUMMARY

Overall, the Nanospikes and Gaiters performed great. I will definitely be using these in the future during winter hikes as they address one of my primary concerns with snow and ice hiking - traction. I actually found I really enjoyed backpacking through the woods during the cold seasons when everything was covered with snow and ice. It was beautiful and very peaceful. I was actually secretly disappointed that the weather warmed up so quickly this season. I say secretly because we live in Michigan. If I said that publically, especially to my family, I think I might be flogged. With their light weight, I also will be packing them for some of the shoulder season trips as well.

POSITIVES

1. Traction: performed great on snow, ice, mud and wet leaves.
2. Assembly Ease: fast to install and remove. I could even just leave them on my shoes.
3. Light weight: total size and mass small enough that I would feel comfortable packing these on winter and shoulder season trips.
4. Good packaging. I never had a problem with these damaging any of my other gear in my backpack, even when not in use.

NEGATIVES

1. Gaiter Use Limited - can only use the gaiters when they are connected directly to the Nanospikes means unless I want to wear the spikes during the summer months, I can't use these gaiters again until the winter-time next year. If I were to nitpick on anything, I would love a way to attach the gaiters to my feet without having to wear the Nanospikes. That would extend their usage to 4 seasons.

This concludes my Long term Report. Thank you to both BackpackGearTest.org and Kahtoola for allowing me to test the Nanospikes and Gaiters. This was a really fun test and I learned a lot.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

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