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Reviews > Snow Gear > Traction Aids > Kahtoola Micro Spikes > Owner Review by Mark Thompson

OWNER REVIEW - Kahtoola's MICROspikes
BY Mark Thompson
OWNER REVIEW
January 20, 2011

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Mark Thompson
EMAIL: markthompson 242 at gmail dot com
AGE: 46
LOCATION: Castle Rock, CO
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 0" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 190 lb (86.20 kg)

Outdoor adventures started for me at a very early age, undoubtedly the result of adventurous parents. Over the years, my passions have bounced from sport to sport, but being in the mountains has always made me feel at home, whether it's the Sierras, Rockies, Adirondacks or the Alps, I am always planning my next adventure. After a 24 year separation, I am finally back home in the Rockies. My near term goals include climbing the Colorado 14ers (8 down, 46 to go) and increasing my climbing skill level (presently comfortable to Class 3, but need/want to get to 5.0).

PRODUCT INFORMATION

Manufacturer: Kahtoola Inc
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.kahtoola.com
MSRP: US $59.95
Listed Weight: 14.4 oz (408 g)
Measured Weight: 14.5 oz (411 g)
Size: Large
Color: Red or Black
Accessories: Storage Sack

IMAGE 1
Photo courtesy of Kahtoola Inc.


Kahtoola Inc. designed their "MICROspikes" product to provide a quick and easy way to add traction improving spikes to shoes and boots. The design looks like a combination of crampons and tire chains. A polymer band serves as the attaching mechanism to footwear and, according to Kahtoola's web site, is flexible to -76 deg F (-60 deg C). A web of stainless steel chain is attached to the polymer band at 8 points. The stainless steel chain is fitted with 10 stainless steel spikes (for size large) each being 3/8" (9.5 mm) long. Kahtoola's website has a sizing chart (also printed on the product box) that helped me select the correct size. I wear a size 11 hiking boot which falls in the lower end of the spectrum for size large.

The MICROspikes are very easy to put on and take off. They do have a front but not a left or right. Raised lettering in the polymer band points to the front and there is a small metal band that contacts the front of my boot. The raised lettering is somewhat difficult to see, but the small metal band is all I need to find the front. I simply place the front of MICROspikes over toe of my boot and then pull the polymer band around the outside of my boots. There is a short video on Kahtoola's website showing how to do this. Removal is even easier, I simply insert my finger between the polymer band and my boot, slide around to the heal and pull down. I have put these on and taken them off using bare hands and thin gloves without a problem and only normal issues with thick gloves.

FIELD USE

I purchased the MICROspikes in the Fall of 2010, to facilitate winter hiking in Colorado and with the expectation of improved traction. I have used the MICROspikes on several day trips and have accumulated approximately 45 trail miles (72 km) on 7 - 10 trips in winter weather conditions on several different trails with varying terrain, including:

- day hike in the foothills of Colorado's Front Range (Heil Valley Ranch):
- elevation: began and ended at approximately 5,500' (1,676 m)
- max elevation: 6,500' (1,981 m)
- distance: 15 miles (24 km)
- elevation gain: 2,000' (610 m)
- weather: sunny, cold and breezy
- temperature: 34 deg F (1 deg C)
- winds: calm to 18 mph (29 km/h)
- precipitation: none
- trail conditions: 2 - 6 inches (5 - 15 cm) snow and snow pack

- day hike - Quandary Peak:
- elevation: began and ended at 10,300' ( m)
- max elevation: 14,265' (4,348 m)
- distance: 5.6 miles (9.0 km)
- elevation gain: 3,965' (1209 m)
- weather: started with significant cloud cover then opening up above 12,000' (3,658 m)
- temperature range: 14 to 34 deg F (-10 to 1 deg C)
- winds: calm to 25 mph (40 km/h), above timberline - gusts to 35 mph (56 km/h)
- precipitation: none
- trail conditions: 1 - 2 feet (0.3 - 0.6 m) of snow pack turning to soft deep snow below timberline, hard snow and ice above timberline - I used the MICROspikes until the snow pack wasn't strong enough to support my weight, then removed the spikes and donned snowshoes

I found that the MICROspikes are especially well suited for those trail situations that fall between clear trails and the need for snowshoes. I noticed a significant improvement in traction in shallow snow (2 - 10"/ 5 - 25 cm) and packed snow conditions (regardless of depth). Initially, the spikes worked very well on ice, but after 10 - 15 miles (16 - 24 km), the spikes lost their sharp points and became less effective. Even so, the spikes are much better on ice than boots alone. I also noticed that the spikes were initially prone to snagging material (especially inside my pack) when new. This decreased significantly with wear. Kahtoola does offer a storage bag, but I did not purchase one.

The MICROspikes have been especially secure and have remained firmly in place on my boot throughout all of my hikes. I experienced some ice/snow build up on one trip, but this was easily removed. I also noted that my hiking companions had similar ice/snow build up when wearing boots alone so I would attribute this to snow conditions and not a characteristic of the MICROspikes.

Also, the manufacturer's web site claims improved traction in virtually all situations. I found that the spikes are not well suited for traction on rock or wet rock surfaces. While hiking in Heil Valley Ranch, I found that the spikes actually decreased traction on rock and wet rock surfaces so I intentionally hiked in the snow and avoided the rocks. This experience was repeated on my hike on Flattop Mountain.

SUMMARY

I found the MICROspikes to be especially useful and have certainly enjoyed the product. The product significantly improves traction and enables me to maintain a much faster pace on snow and snow pack surfaces when compared to boots alone or snowshoes. For me, the product fills the gap between boots, snowshoes or crampons.

Things I like:
- The attaching mechanism is quick, easy and secure.
- The polymer remains flexible even at 14 deg F (-10 deg C) - this was the coldest that I have experienced with the MICROspikes.
- Significantly improves traction in shallow snow, snow pack and ice.

Things I feel could be improved:
- The spikes are made from stainless steel which effectively prevents rust, but is much softer than ferrous metals or alloys and thus reduces durability and longevity. Increasing the spike harness, either through improved materials or a hardening process would improve product value.
- Price: the item is great and met my expectations, but the durability should be improved or the retail price significantly lowered.

SIGNATURE

Mark Thompson
markthompson 242 at gmail dot com
"Mark242" on cmc dot org
"CDR242" on 14ers dot com
"Horse" on bikejournal dot com

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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