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Reviews > Snow Gear > Traction Aids > Kahtoola K10 Hiking Crampons > Test Report by Richard Lyon

Test Series by Richard Lyon

Kahtoola in the box

Initial Report February 8, 2016
Field Report expected early winter 2016
Long Term Report due mid-winter 2016

Personal Details and Backpacking Background

Male, 69 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 205 lb (93 kg)
Shoe size: 13 US / 47 European
Email address: Montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Bozeman, Montana USA

I'm in my fifth decade of backpacking, undertaken mostly in the Northern Rockies. Where I now live.  I do a weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips.  I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 13000 ft (1500-4000 m).  I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp.  I’m always seeking ways to reduce my pack load, but still usually choose a bit more weight over foregoing camp conveniences I've come to expect.  Winter expeditions are often in search of backcountry skiing opportunities.

INITIAL REPORT - February 8, 2016

Product Description and Details

The K-10 Hiking Crampons with LeafSpring Flex Bar (K-10s or Crampons for short) are a new offering from longtime traction aid manufacturer Kahtoola.  These look like crampons, not the more familiar (to me) microspikes. Each Crampon's heel piece and toe piece have three-quarter inch (2 cm) triangular steel spikes, four on the heel and six in front. The LeafSpring, a 6.5 x 0.7 inch (23 x 2 cm) steel extender bar, runs through a slot on each spiked piece from the front of the toe to the middle of the heel. A metal bar on the front of the heel piece snaps into one of ten small holes on the bar, allowing adjustment to fit the user's shoe or boot.   The Crampons are left-and right-specific, with the LeafSpring indicating which is which.

Kahtoola out of the boxManufacturer: Kahtoola, Inc.
Weight, listed: 21.4 oz / 608 g per pair [which Kahtoola claims makes the K-10 "the lightest steel crampon on the market"]
Weight, measured: 23.5 oz / 666 g per pair [I measured with the longer LeafSpring plate, described in the following section.]
MSRP: $99.95 US
Includes: Snow release skins [discussed below; pictured to the left and right of the Crampons in the photo], two pairs of replacement LeafSpring bars – one slightly shorter, the other considerably longer; printed instructions (in French and Japanese as well as English).  I believe the extra LeafSpring bars enable a change in size; XS and XL as well as regular are listed as sizes on Kahtoola's website.
Warranty: Three years against defects in workmanship or material; lifetime on the LeafSpring.

How They Work

Some assembly is required. As with every pair of cleats or crampons I fit them first indoors, where it's warm and light. Three steps:

1. Given the K-10s' adjustable length, that means lifting a small clip on the heel piece and adjusting the length to fit the particular footgear I'm wearing.  A snug but not confining fit is recommended.  

2. Then I fit the shoe into the toe piece by releasing a snap-in buckle and adjusting the strap to fit; again a snug but not-too-tight fit is best.  The idea is to avoid any play between the boot and the strap. Excess strap may be threaded back through the strap slot to get it out of the way.

3. The heel piece is similarly fitted by unbuckling the buckle and adjusting the strap to fit over the boot.  Excess strap here may be threaded through a strap keeper band on the rear strap. There's one more nifty detail.  A small metal lace hook may be fitted over shoe laces to hold the rear strap in place should the user be wearing low-cut footwear. I needed this for one pair of hiking shoes.

The standard LeafSpring plate when fully extended was just slightly short for my low-cut hiking boots. With the longer bar I used a hole at the mid-point of the plate for my (US) size 13s.

Adjusting the Crampons to fit my first pair of boots, even including switching out the plates, took less time than writing the foregoing description – three or four minutes. The procedure is intuitive, the instructions are concise, and fitting is very easy.  The only mildly sticky wicket was lifting the clip on one of the Crampons, which requires placing a finger or coin between the clip and the extender plate. This process was most easily done for me with the crampons facing me, meaning with my shoe off.

Kahtoola offers an optional fourth step. The snow release skins (STS) may be stretched to fit over the bottom of the heel and toe plates. When so attached the STS pieces, which are made of rubber, are said to prevent or minimize snow build-up on the bottom of the crampons. While again the instructions are easy, actual fitting is not. I had considerable difficulty stretching the skins into place when the K-10s held my hiking shoes. This was indoors, remember, and I could hold the boot in my hand. I have no intention of undertaking this exercise in the snow or asking a hiking companion to do so. If I think I'll need the skins to repel sticky snow I'll affix them before I start out.

First Impressions

I've indicated my very first impression, that the K-10s look more like crampons than the spike-studded bands that many manufacturers, Kahtoola included, have offered for years. Like many things in life, that can be good news and bad news. The good news is a deeper and in my experience more reliable grip on a truly icy surface. The bad news is that walking on an impermeable surface such as a sidewalk can be a bit awkward. I experienced this on the concrete floor of my garage after donning the K-10s for the first time.

These are the first pair of hiking traction aids that I have fit by using manual adjustment (as with a climbing crampon), rather than simply stretching a rubber band over the toe and heel of footgear. It's a bit more work to manipulate the LeafSpring adjustment but the fit was fine and held in place during my trial run.

On a two-mile (3 km) walk with my puppy yesterday I found the K-10s' performance to be outstanding, in conditions in which this was much appreciated by a user on a dirt road with many steep sections and hard-packed snow and ice made slick by a couple of freeze-and-thaw days. Not even an eager hound's frequent tugs to pursue another canine could dislodge their grip. These are stout crampons.


My Initial Report ends here. Check this space in two months for a report on the Crampons' performance on the trail. Thanks to Kahtoola and for the opportunity to test this product.

ANNOUNCEMENT - April 15, 2016

A torn quadriceps tendon in March ended my backpacking for the spring. I'd like to say it occurred when skiing Bridger Bowl's Ridge or scaling a tough climb, but the cause was a bad fall on my way to my woodshed. (Yes, I know I should have been wearing the Crampons . . . . ) On doctor's orders I'm to stay off ice and snow whenever possible, and my rehab is not expected to end for several months.  After discussion with's management we determined that I'll continue this Test when the snow starts settling next fall or winter. I did use the Crampons a couple of times, once on a day hike and once around my yard, and was impressed with their gripping ability and how easy it was to put them on and take them off. Thanks for your patience.

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Reviews > Snow Gear > Traction Aids > Kahtoola K10 Hiking Crampons > Test Report by Richard Lyon

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