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Reviews > Snow Gear > Traction Aids > Kahtoola K10 Hiking Crampons > Test Report by Gail StaisilKahtoola K-10 Hiking Crampons
Test Series by: Gail Staisil, Marquette, Michigan
February 7, 2016
Name: Gail Staisil
Height: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
Weight: 160 lb (73 kg)
Location: Marquette, Michigan USA
Email: woodswoman 2001 AT yahoo DOT com
For the last 20 years, backpacking has become a passion. I am a four-season backpacker and an off-trail navigator. Although I do take yearly trips to the American West or Southwest, the majority of my trips are in Michigan. My pack weight varies considerably but my base weight is below 18 lb (8 kg). I am primarily a tarp camper who averages more than 50 nights a year backpacking in a huge variety of weather conditions including relentless rain, wet snow and sub-zero temps.
Initial Impressions and Product Description
The Kahtoola K-10 Crampons arrived in fine condition exhibiting fine workmanship. Snow Release Skins are included with the crampons. The manufacturer also sent additional sets of the LeafSpring Flex Bars for extra small and extra large boots that are different from the range for the normal set that comes with the crampons. The K-10's are an aggressive crampon made for winter hiking, running, glacier travel and non-technical mountaineering. They can be used with running shoes, hiking boots or rigid boots. They are touted to be the "lightest steel crampon on the market".
I have used another product of Kahtoola for the last 8 years (Microspikes). Having been overly pleased with the product, it is even more exciting to test a more aggressive-style traction device. The K-10 has a number of features which should be highlighted. The spikes number ten (six on forefoot and four on each heel) on each crampon and are a full 0.75 in (1.9 cm) in length. They are very pointed/sharp and I wouldn't want to accidentally step on someone's foot while wearing them (warning to friends).
The premier feature of the crampons is the patented LeafSpring Flex Bar. This is fabricated with 4130 Chromoly Steel. This is stainless steel applied in thin layers and it reportedly allows flexibility. This allows the crampon to flex naturally with the footwear of my choice. I hope to use the crampons with a variety of running and hiking shoes and winter boots and mukluks.
The crampons feature Quick-Fit Bindings which are two separate bindings that close with quick-release buckles. The first set goes across the top of the foot in a single strap featuring side guards complete with rigid steel bands (The front binding should be adjusted so that it is not too tight.) while the second set is more complex. The latter set surrounds or encloses the heel of the boot with a combination of rigid side guards and a steel strap and webbing strap across the heel. An adjustable strap secures the binding across the top of the boot. There is also a lace catcher hook to keep the strap in place especially when wearing low-cut shoes. The straps feature a keeper band so that the loose ends don't flop around.
Snow Release Skins are included with the crampons. They must be put on after the crampon is adjusted for the footwear of choice. The length of the crampons can be adjusted by lifting a horizontal bar on the bottom of the flex bars. Anyway, after that simple task is completed the skins can be put on. I must say they are rather difficult to place and I didn't succeed the first time around. My hands don't have a lot of strength so I will ask a friend to put them on and I will likely just keep them on (when needed) until I change footwear and need to readjust. To their credit the manufacturer does explain how to fit the skins and warns to caution to prevent injury from the spikes while putting them on. I first plan to use them without the skins to see if they are necessary in the conditions I encounter.
The crampons should be inspected after each wearing for cracks, damage or excessive wear. There is a three-year warranty on the product for defects in material and workmanship with a lifetime warranty on the LeafSpring Flex Bar.
I look forward to taking the crampons on many outings as it is in the middle of winter here. Conditions fluctuate between ice and newly fallen snow but exploring icy shorelines and ice caves are always present.
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February 12, 2016
USA Locations and Conditions
During the long term period I have spent 2 days backpacking, 5 days rustic cabin (pulled sled in) camping and have enjoyed the outdoors most other days. Locations of all trips were in the State of Michigan and ranged from lakeshore to boreal forest. Elevation ranged from above 600 ft (183 m) to over 2000 ft (610 m).
Location of Trip: Hiawatha National Forest
Length of Trip: 5 days, 4 nights (February 21 - 25)
Sled Weight: Approx 40 lb (18 kg)
Distance: 23 mi (37 km)
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy, a wee bit of new snow
Temperature Range: 2 F to 37 F/-17 C to 3 C (mostly about 25 F/- 4 C)
Location of Trip: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Length of Trip: 2 days, 1 night (March 4 - March 5)
Sled Weight: Approx 35 lb (16 kg)
Distance: 11 mi (17.7 mi)
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy, sunny, light wind and snow
Precipitation: About 1.5 in (3.81 cm) of new snow
Temperature Range: 12 F to 35 F (-11 C to 2 C)
Day Trips: Noquemanon Trails, Eben Caves, Lake Superior lakeshore (Michigan Counties of Marquette and Alger )
Distances: 4 to 10 mi (6 to 16 km)
Temperature Range: -8 F to 40 F (-22 C to 4 C)
During field testing, winter conditions were always available. Even though the calendar indicates that it is officially spring it is still winter here. For example, it has snowed every day so far this month. There had been a few periods where temps exceeded the freezing point last month (March). It only resulted in making more ice as soon as the temps went back to normal. I also live near the shores of Lake Superior. Although the entire lake did not freeze over this year (rarely does) the shoreline offered more changing ice formations than one can imagine.
So how did the K-10's work? First I would like to mention that they are so easy to put on over my footwear of choice. I found them easy to wear with everything from running shoes to hiking boots. I have also worn them with regular winter boots but what surprised me the most is that they can be worn with my super-wide mukluks that I wear winter camping (Empire Canvas Works/True North Boots). The toe strap has to be adjusted to full length and the longer LeafSpring Flex Bars have to be used to make it work. I have not used the skins as I haven't had any problems with snow sticking to the crampons base. I really like how the rigid side pieces support my footwear for sideways stability and the flexibility is much like wearing any of my footwear solo without a crampon.
On a hike to a group of ice caves, it was so cool to just walk inside at the base of the sloping formations without any fear of falling. Oftentimes I have witnessed people scooting on their bottom or slipping while wearing inferior ice cleats. Although I am always cautious on ice, I felt more confident than I ever have had before when dealing with slippery slopes.
As aforementioned, I live near one of the natural wonders of the world. Lake Superior and its imposing force forms amazing ice creations along the shoreline every winter. Not only that but it is also known for the spectacular ice climbing (will become more famous with the new IMAX national park film featuring it). Anyway I am not an ice climber but I do walk along the base of many of the formations that are accessible. Again, the K-10's which are somewhat between a recreational crampon and ice climbing crampon are amazing for exploring.
During my Pictured Rocks winter camping trip the ice formations were spectacular. As soon as we set up camp we spent hours walking the formations. I always do this with complete safety in mind as one would never want to trek over newly formed formations but ones that have been building up all winter.
During my sled-in cabin trip the trails were very icy and skiing was really barely an option twice. The rest of the time I donned my K-10's and hiked on the icy paths. The trails are very hilly (think sled-type hills) so having maximum grip is paramount for enjoyment.
I also live right off of a popular series of trails that are groomed for fat biking in the winter. These trails get fairly firm and icy but snowshoes would be overkill. The trails are very hilly and are built with swooping curves etc. The K-10's have been perfect for navigating the trails as I don't have to worry about grip.
I have kept the K-10's in my vehicle all winter as it is convenient to grab them whenever I am up for a quick walk /exploration.
During the next two months the end of winter will come fast. A long-term warming trend is coming the end of this week although most nights are projected to still be below freezing for awhile. I would imagine there will still be opportunity to use the crampons in this extended freeze-thaw cycle.
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Long Term Report:
June 20, 2016
USA Locations and Conditions
During the long term period I have wore the Kahtoola K-10's on three more outings. Locations of all hikes were in the State of Michigan. Elevation ranged from above 600 ft (183 m) to about 1800 ft (549 m).
Day Trips: Noquemanon Trail, Blueberry Ridge Trail and Marquette Mountain
Distances: 2 to 6 mi (3.2 to 9.7 km)
Temperature Range: 58 F to 31 F/14 C to -1 C (mostly around 40 F/4 C for daytime highs)
During the long term period, winter ended early with warm days but freezing nights (which slowed the snow melt thankfully). However I was quick to find three more opportunities to test the Kahtoola K-10 crampons before the opportunity disappeared. While these outings weren't extraordinary they showed me that the Kahtoolas can be comfortable wearing for longer distances. The first and third outing were similar, in that I hiked on frozen ski trails that were no longer suitable for skiing itself. On the first hike I walked over 4 mi (6.4 km) with the crampons trying to keep pace with others that had worn small snowshoes, no traction devices or struggled with skis. I happily walked along with excellent traction.
The K-10's drew a lot of attention from friends so I would assume there may be others that will get a pair. I think the great traction and the fact that they are easy to put on over footwear is what drew the most attention. The third outing (which was solo) had lesser amounts of ice/snow left (as seen in picture at left) so I zigzagged back and forth on the icy portions for several miles (5-6 mi/8-9.7 km). Actually it was fun because I have an awful time each year letting go of winter!!! I would rather be in the woods hiking on less than ideal cross country ski trail conditions rather than walk in the dismal late winter conditions on town trails..muddy and gloomy!
My second outing was climbing the frozen slopes of a nearby downhill ski area that was closed for the season. It was fun to traverse the slopes. I probably didn't cover more than 2 mi (3.2 km) but it was a fun workout for the Kahtoola K-10's.
On these outings I wore two different styles of boots. I had to adjust the flex bar as one pair wasn't quite as long..no problem.
Top picture of crampons is provided by the manufacturer.
Thanks to Kahtoola and BackpackGearTest for this opportunity to test the K-10 Crampons. This concludes my Long Term Report and the test series.
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Reviews > Snow Gear > Traction Aids > Kahtoola K10 Hiking Crampons > Test Report by Gail Staisil
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