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Reviews > Snow Gear > Traction Aids > Kahtoola Micro Spikes > Test Report by arnold peterson

KAHTOOLA MICROSPIKES
TEST SERIES BY ARNOLD PETERSON
LONG-TERM REPORT
May 21, 2008

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TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Arnold Peterson
EMAIL: alp4982(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
AGE: 69
LOCATION: Wilmington Massachusetts USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (74.80 kg)
BOOT SIZE: 9
TORSO: 19 in (48 cm)

Backpacking Background: Presently almost all my experience has been hiking in New Hampshire, Florida, Colorado USA, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia Canada using an 11 lb (5 kg) day pack. I have backpacked on Mt. Washington and at the Imp shelter located between North Carter and Mount Moriah mountains in New Hampshire. The gear I will be writing about has been used a lot hiking mostly all year around in New Hampshire. I have completed the forty-eight 4000 footers (1219 m) of New Hampshire. My day hikes have been as long as 12 hours covering almost 20 miles (32 km).


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Kahtoola Incorporated
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: www.kahtoola.com
MSRP: US $59
Listed Weight: 9.8 oz (280 g) Small
Listed Weight: 14.4 oz (411 g) Large
Measured Weight: 12.35 oz (350 g) Medium
Medium Size: 7-10.5 Men 8.5-12 Women
Color: Red and Stainless Steel
Spikes: 3/8 in (0.95 cm) long
Material: Elastomer and non magnetic stainless steel
Contact: 866.330.8030

Description

The MICROspikes are simple, well designed and well constructed. The stainless steel is non magnetic and should not rust. The chains and spikes are connected in a way to prevent binding. The elastomer is flexible and durable. The elastomer is reinforced where it connects to the chains. There are 2 kinds of spikes, single and double. The single spikes are held in place with 3 chains and the double spikes are held in place with 4 chains. Each chain has a separate hole for connection. On the elastomer where the word "front" appears, there is a curved wire that fits neatly over the toe of the shoe.

IMAGE 1
MICROspikes

IMAGE 2
a handful

IMAGE 5
top view

IMAGE 6
bottom view

IMAGE 7
side view

IMAGE 8
toe front detail

IMAGE 9
6 spikes under toe of boot

IMAGE 10
2 spikes under heel of boot



INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The MICROspikes were in a clear plastic bag. The circular shape of the elastomer webbing was deceiving at first. I felt compelled to put them on my shoe. I picked them up by a small wire handle, and I could see the word "front". I then slid the front of my shoe under the word "front" and pulled the back part of the elastomer until it had covered the back of my shoe. I was impressed on how effortlessly it went on. I was even more impressed when I tried to pull them off from the bottom of the shoe by the chains. They hardly budged until I reversed the action of putting them on.

The elastomer feels very durable. The elastomer is extra thick where the flexible chains attach to the elastomer. I think this construction should make the MICROspikes sturdy.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

Two side by side pictures told the whole story. The first showing the front part of the shoe inserted into the MICROspikes, with a hand stretching the elastomer over the heel. The second picture shows the MICROspikes on.

A warning reads: "This product cannot prevent all slips and falls."

Cleaning: "Clean with soap and water. Store dry."

TRYING IT OUT

I put my boots on and went in my back yard. We had had some rain over a large amount of snow, and now the snow was crusty and there were some icy patches. With my liner gloves on, I easily slid on the MICROspikes. I checked that the chains and spikes were snug. I then walked on packed snow and ice patches. There is a tree nearby that is slanted at a 45 degree angle. I was able to climb and be reasonably stable. I then checked the spikes to see if they had loosened. The front 6 spikes were solidly in place. The back pair had just a little slack so I walked some more and when I checked them again, they had not changed.

TESTING STRATEGY

I will be using a men's size 9 Garmont boot. I will be testing how easy it is to put on, adjust, and take off the MICROspikes with gloves on my hands. I hope to fully explore the strong and weak points of the MICROspikes as a traction device. I will be doing local walks in my neighborhood in addition to doing several one night backpack trips to a local forest. I will be doing more tests on one night backpacks in New Hampshire: East of Manchester and in the Grafton and Lincoln area in the National Forest. I will also be doing many day hikes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

SUMMARY

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.

My thanks to Kahtoola and Backpackgeartesters for the opportunity to test the MICROspikes traction devices.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

There is a forest in Auburn, New Hampshire where I like to backpack. It is relatively flat, with a lot of rocky hills and several ponds. The trees are a mixture of hardwoods and mostly pine. I also backpacked locally in Massachusetts when the temperatures were near or below 0 F (-17.8 C). My town has a lot of swamp land. There are small streams connecting many of these swamps. Most of this land is under conservation. I hiked or camped in four of these areas. One is flanked on the east side by the railroad. The west side is bordered by the Middlesex Canal (operational from 1793 to 1853). There is a small section of the canal that had been restored but now has gone back to nature. Beyond the canal is a cranberry bog that has not been harvested in over 45 years. Between this and the canal is a swamp once used as an aquifer for town water wells. The wells were closed due to contamination. The brush, thorny bushes and trees keep most people out of this area. Under certain conditions it is near ideal for radiational cooling, which means that the temperature drops lower just before dawn. On the south side of town there is a tract of land known as the town forest. It comprises a baseball field and hill high enough for sledding, skiing, etc. The Middlesex canal also passes through this area and there are some remnants that remain. There is a large swamp which is surrounded by an old pine forest stand. A third place is called Maple Meadows and is mostly owned by a club I belong to. This area has a lot of swamp and pine forest. Since I would be going to these places in the dark and most of this hiking would be without trail markings, I wanted places that I was familiar with. I picked evenings that had temperatures below 20 F (-6.7 C). A fourth place is Harold Parker State Forest, where the ponds are larger and there is a fish hatchery. The trees are mainly pine and the terrain is rocky with many small hills.

On Mt Monadnock 3165 ft ( 965 m) New Hampshire, the temperate hovered around freezing. The ground had 3 in ( 4.5 cm) of soft snow over mostly ice. The summit was rocky with a mixture of ice and bare rock. The wind was strong enough to push us around.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

All hikes were done using a size 9 Garmont hiking boot. We had a few warm days with some rain, then the temperature dropped to 20 F ( -6.7 C) and below. For the next several days I hiked in local forest where the ground was covered with mostly ice and ice covered snow.
Most of the icy areas were very rough. Without MICROspikes, it would have been difficult to walk without falling. The first hike was to a restored section of the Middlesex Canal. One of the access points was a steep embankment alongside a road. This embankment was covered with a mixture of snow and ice. I was able to descend without falling or resorting to sliding. The other areas were rough icy patches. I felt secure walking over any of the icy areas. On the second hike I went to a town forest that has a hill for sledding and tobogganing. The hill rises about 70 ft ( 21 m) and was almost completely ice covered on the north side. I was able to hike up the hill without any slipping. With each step I could hear the spikes penetrating the ice and that was very reassuring. Near the top the ice was patchy and that was where I turned around and descended the hill. Going down was slower but just as steady. Under these conditions my hiking poles were of little use. This area is mainly a pine forest in a hilly and rocky setting. I hiked on ice covered rock and bare rock. Walking on bare rock was not as secure as the ice covered rock. On the third hike I went to an area called Maple Meadows. The access point I choose was at the edge of a parking lot. Due to the large snowfall, the snow plows had made a hill of 7-9 ft ( 2-3 m) on the edge of the lot. I put my MICROspikes on and was able to climb this pile of ice and snow without slipping. On the other side was a combination of trees, swamp and boggy areas. I wandered around until I came to the road leading to the parking lot. I then walked the area on the other side of the road. Most of the hike was similar to the last hike. The fourth hike was in a conservation area which is mostly small ponds, boggy areas and pine forest. This area was mainly ice and some bare areas near the pine trees. I had no trouble hiking through any of this.

The next 2 occasions I had to use the MICROspikes were on a pair of single night backpacks. I was carrying a 30 lb ( 13.6 kg) Gregory Whitney backpack. This overnight backpack was started after dark and was in between the Middlesex canal and a cranberry bog. There were several icy patches and my footing was secure at all times. The second overnight backpack was in a forest east of Manchester, New Hampshire. I arrived after dark and was walking on ice and snow. I had no trouble with footing. The temperatures were about 15 F ( -9.4 C). I camped near a small pond which was probably frozen solid.

The first major hike was Mt Monadnock 3165 ft ( 865 m). Temperatures hovered around freezing. It has snowed the night before and there was 3 in ( 7.6 cm) of new soft snow covering mostly ice. We were some of the first hikers to use the trail after the snow and balling was a factor. Our plan was to hike the White Dot Trail to the summit. This trail goes up steadily until the top, with very few short flat areas. This is the shortest but the steepest trail. Due to balling, there was an almost constant tugging from the MICROspikes. About an hour into the hike, as I was going forward I felt a tug but could not stop before my foot was released. It was then I realized that something had happened to the MICROspikes. I was able to figure that one of the chains had come loose from one of the rubber grommets. I decided that since the damage had been done it was best to continue with the damaged MICROspike. At the next rest break I did take the damaged MICROspikes off and could see that the grommet had broken. At this point I decided not to put the damaged MICROspike back on. As we got near the top the wind was about 35 mph ( 56 km/hr). We were being pushed around by the wind and that was not a very good feeling. The surface was half rock and half ice. We were very close to the top which was not visible due to heavy overcast and winds. The safe thing to do was to turn around and proceed back. The trip down was slower due mainly to slipping. My hiking partner was using a different traction device and was having almost as much trouble as I was. The backpack I was carrying was about 10 lb ( 4.5 kg) more than I have been carrying. The trip took about 7 hours. The next business day I contacted Kahtoola and informed them of my problem, they were very good and put another pair in the mail. The new pair arrived and I will be using them as soon as conditions permit.

I am very pleased with my MICROspikes, although I have done a lot of winter hiking I have never run into a condition where my feet kept sticking to the snow. I think if we had started the hike a few hours later the trail would have been packed and this would not have been a problem. It is good to know that customer service is alive and well at Kahtoola.

SUMMARY

I have gone on 4, 2-3 hour hikes, 2 one night backpacking trips and a 7 hour climb of Mt Monadnock. At this time I have about 20 hours of use with the MICROspikes and I am very pleased with the performance. They are easy to put on, even with liner gloves on my hands, they are light and take up very little space. I feel very secure with them, on all kinds of icy conditions. I think the breakage I had was under abnormal conditions which I had not encountered before. Despite all the walking on rock there was little evidence of wear on the spike plates. Of the 18 places where the chains connect to the plates there was one connection where the loop had opened a slight amount.

TESTING STRATEGY

The replacement MICROspikes arrived as I was starting to write this FR. The weather at this point will determine how much testing that I can do. Locally if there is rain followed by cold weather there will be a lot of opportunity. The mountains of New Hampshire will be another possibility. As the spring approaches this will be more problematic. I will be carrying the Microspikes with me on all hikes until there is no chance of using them.

This concludes my Field Report. The Long Term 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 wish to thank BackpackGearTest.org and Kahtoola for the opportunity to test this fine product.

Arnold Peterson


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I did one backpack after dark near the Middlesex Canal in Middlesex County Massachusetts when the temperature was about 20 F (-7 C). The rest of my hiking trips were in the Franconia Notch area of New Hampshire. I did three hikes from the Kancamagus Highway at temperatures of about 20 F (-7 C), and with a snow depth of over 4 ft (122 cm) in the woods. I was staying at my ski club, and each day did a different trailhead. The remaining hikes were in the area of Mt Cannon and Mt Lafayette. I did a long hike on the Old Bridle Path leading to Mt Lafayette. It was a beautiful sunny day with the temperature over 70 F (21 C) and the ground was covered with over 3 ft (91 cm) of snow. Another weekend I hiked Bald Mt and Artist's Bluff. Temperatures were just below freezing and there was still a lot of snow on the trail. I did hikes at the Basin, the Flume, and the area between Profile Lake and Lafayette Campground. Temperatures were mostly below freezing and the ground was mostly snow covered. The final two hikes were done on very steep parts of mountains in the Franconia area in May when most of the snow was gone. Temperatures were about 50 F ( 10 C) and the slopes were a combination of sloping rock, grassy areas, and dense evergreens.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I found on my hikes that the Kahtoola MICROspikes were effective on steep slopes whether they were icy, snowy, rocky, or grassy. They are light weight and small enough to fit into a jacket pocket. I could easily put them on and take them off with one hand even with liner gloves on.

I wore the Kahtoola MICROspikes on my backpack after dark, with the temperature about 20 F (-7 C) and the ground covered with a combination of snow and ice. My footing was secure and I had no trouble descending a short but steep slope that had ice patches.

The next 3 hikes originated from the Kancamagus Highway. I was staying at my ski club and each day I did a different trailhead. The temperatures were about 20 F (-7 C) and the snow was over 4 ft (122 cm) in the woods. The parking lot for Greeley Pond Trail was greatly reduced in size due to all the snow and there were no cars in the lot. I put my Kahtoola MICROspikes on and hiked until the trail divided with one fork crossing the stream and the other going left along the bank. I followed the path on the bank until the snow was so high that I was walking in the upper branches of the evergreens. The trail seemed to disappear here, so I turned around. The next day I found an open trailhead lot at East Pond Trail. This parking lot also had a lot of snow and there was not much space to maneuver. Since mine was the first car, I parked so I could drive straight out. I hiked on this trail until I came to a stream I could not cross. I turned around, returned to my lodgings. The next day, I found another parking lot that looked cleared out enough to get in. The trail turned out to be a loop about 2 mi (3.2 km). It felt good to finally be able to finish something even though it was a short hike. Hiking in the winter, even with traction devices, is a slow process and can be quite tiring for me. I spent about 5-6 hours total for these 3 trails. The center of the trails was composed of hard packed snow and ice. It was very narrow, and without traction devices, it is easy to slip off and fall through the soft snow on the sides of the trail. The previously made post holes that I saw were often deeper than my 4 ft (120 cm) hiking poles. With the help mostly of the Kahtoola MICROspikes and hiking poles I was able to do these trails without slipping off the trail into the soft snow.

Another weekend, I hiked Bald Mt and Artist's Bluff with temperatures just below freezing and still a lot of snow on the trail. Without traction devices on, it would have been easy to slip off the trail's narrow ridged of packed snow. This trail has short steep sections, and other areas that were bare sloping rock that could be difficult to get traction on. With the Kahtoola MICROspikes I did not slip.

I hiked with 2 companions up the Old Bridle Path leading to Mt Lafayette. This is considered a moderate hike. It was a beautiful sunny day with the temperature over 70 F (21 C) and the ground was still covered with over 3 ft (91 cm) of snow. This trail is well traveled and early in the snow season the trail is lower than the surrounding snow. The snow continues to pack down until it starts to get warmer during the day and the surrounding snow shrinks down. When we hiked it, the trail had become almost a solid chunk of ice which was higher but only about the width of 2 snowshoes. My companions had snowshoes and I had Kahtoola traction devices. Hiking under these temperatures produced a slippery and unstable surface. Our progress was slow. We hiked about 2 mi (2.1 km) and stopped for lunch at the brink of the ravine where we had spectacular views of Franconia Ridge. The way back was a lot easier on the cardio, but was a constant strain on the legs. I did slide off the trail once and post holed up to my waist and did not reach bottom. Getting up after my fall was easier because of the traction provided by the Kahtoola MICROspikes. We were on the trail about 6-7 hours. The only thing that was wet was my feet, and that was because I had gotten snow between my socks and my boots. There were post holes in many places, so I was fortunate to have only slipped once.

I did a series of 3 hikes in Franconia Notch. I figured the Kahtoola MICROspikes would provide good traction on the snowmobile trails and near the Flume and the Basin. The snowmobile trail is a paved bicycle path in the non snow season. The trail has a lot of curves and most of them are banked, so the path is not level. It was like walking on a slant surface with occasional patches of ice. I hiked near the Flume first and then hiked the path around the Basin. I followed the Pemi Trail where it crossed the Basin Trail to a point where the stream was uncrossable. The trails in this area were well packed and narrow, again it was easy to slip off the trail without the use of a traction device. The following day I went a little further north and hiked on the snowmobile trail with another member from the ski club who was cross country skiing. This section of the trail is almost straight and has an almost moderate slope. These hikes were a good test of the Kahtoola MICROspikes. The temperature was slightly below freezing and the surfaces were slippery ice in places. I found it interesting that I could overtake and pass the cross country skier going up hill, but was easily passed going down hill. I did post hole once when I got too close to the edge of the snowmobile trail. Fortunately I was able to get out quickly. When I looked into the post hole the bottom was water. I was especially fortunate because I did not get wet.


I did another couple hikes on very steep parts of mountains in the Franconia area. It was May, temperatures were about 50 F ( 10 C) and most of the snow was gone. The slopes were a combination of sloping rock, grassy areas, and dense evergreens. There was snow off of the trail, but under evergreen trees and well protected. I was able to ascend with some difficulty. I have been on this mountain many times and have always had difficulty descending, due to the steepness of the mountain. In the past I have held onto trees to keep from falling. I put on my Kahtoola MICROspikes and started down. I did some switchbacks to reduce the slope. With the Kahtoola MICROspikes I was able to descend without holding unto trees. I have noted my times to climb and descend and with the MICROspikes I descended about 30% faster. I went to another part of the mountain the next day and repeated the climb. Again I did not wear the MICROspikes on the way up. I was concerned about being able to raise my foot high enough to clear the steep ground with the MICROspikes on. After about 90 minutes, I turned around and donned the MICROspikes. This time I went almost straight down most of the way. I felt sure footed and did not slip. Areas that were grassy and wet that appeared slippery were no problem. A few rocky areas were also no problem.


SUMMARY

During this phase of the test I used the replacement pair of Kahtoola MICROspikes for about 22 hours and they performed very well. They were used a lot on rocks, ice and granular snow. I could not find any evidence of damage, any separation in the links on the chains holding the spike plates. The rubber material holding the chains showed no signs of weakness. This second phase of testing was probably more demanding than the Field Report phase. I also did not experience conditions that would produce snowballing as experienced in the Field report. I can also say customer service was excellent.

Likes:

They provide excellent traction on slopping ice and rock.
I could easily put them on and take them off with one hand wearing a liner glove.
They are light, small, durable and store easily in my jacket pocket.

Dislikes:

I have mixed feelings about the color.
I was concerned about damage that might be caused by carrying them in my jacket pocket. I am still trying different materials to carry them in.

CONTINUED USE

I will be using the Kahtoola MICROspikes during the summer and early fall when I will be hiking on steep mountains where there are slopes that are mainly grassy with some rocks. When colder weather arrives in the fall, I will carry them for use when icy conditions occur. They have proven themselves as very good on ice and most slippery rocky areas.

I wish to thank BackpackGearTest.org and Kahtoola for the opportunity to test the MICROspikes.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of Kahtoola gear
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