KAHTOOLA - MICROSPIKES 2013
TEST SERIES BY MIKE PEARL
INITIAL REPORT - December 05, 2013
FIELD REPORT - February 04, 2014
LONG TERM REPORT - April 08, 2014
Hanover, New Hampshire, USA
5' 9" (1.75 m)
155 lb (70.30 kg)
I have a great appreciation for the outdoors and get out at every opportunity. I am a three-season backpacker and year round hiker. Currently, my trips are two to three days long as well as an annual week-long trip. I utilize the abundant trail shelters in my locale and pack a backup tarp-tent. I like to cover big distances while still taking in the views. I have lightweight leanings but function and reliability are the priority. I mostly travel woodland mountain terrain but enjoy hiking beautiful trails anywhere.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Year of Manufacture: 2013
Manufacturer's Website: www.kahtoola.com
MSRP: US $64.95
Listed Weight: Medium 13.6 oz (386 g)
Measured Weight: Medium 13.7 oz (388 g)
Size Tested: Medium
Sizes Available: Extra-Small through Extra-Large
Spike Length: 3/8 in (1 cm), 12 spikes per foot
Spike Material: Heat treated 400 series stainless steel
Uppers Material: Elastomer
Colors Available: Red and Black
Color Tested: Black
Warranty: 2 year
Made in Korea
The Kahtoola MICROspikes are footwear devices made to be worn over hiking boots and shoes. The traction is provided by a combination of spikes and chains. The chains are attached to an elastomer harness that stretches over the top of the footwear holding the MICROspikes in place.
The MICROspikes arrived packaged in a sturdy cardboard box. At first glance they look like a tangle of chain and rubber. After separating them, the top and bottom of the MICROspikes are apparent. The chains and spikes look well made. The spikes are free of any burrs and securely attached to the chains. The chains are well formed and each link tightly closed. The chains are attached to the elastomer at a fairly thick, approximately 3/8 in (1 cm) section of elastomer. I can pull on the chain with a good amount of force, stretching the elastomer. It feels strong and snaps right back when released. But this is still an area of concern. How much wear and tear can the elastomer withstand? And how will it be affected by cold temperatures?
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
I found an instructional card in the box along with a Kahtoola sticker. The card is easy to understand and helpful. The sticker is just cool, I like stickers! Holding the MICROspikes in my hand the best way to get them on my foot is not 100% obvious. Holding the sticker I know just where to put it. A pictorial on the card shows how to attach the MICROspikes to boots in two steps. The sticker is on my Thule roof box.
1. Push toe into the front of the MICROspikes.
2. Pull the back up and over the heel of the boot.
After finding the part labeled "front", attaching the MICROspikes really is that easy.
Cleaning and maintenance instructions are also provided.
Clean and inspect for damage after each use. Look for damage or excessive wear. Retire or have product repaired by the manufacturer if any component is suspect. Avoid storage in excessive heat.
TRYING IT OUT
The MICROspikes quickly and easily attach to my hiking boots (size 9) while sitting on the rec room floor. When attached to the boot there are spikes located under the forefoot and four under the heel. The spikes feel like they are positioned well under my foot. The ground outside is not frozen yet. Any snow or ice is a few hours north in the higher hills. So I gently stand on the plushest carpet in the house and take a few steps. I feel slightly taller. The spikes sink into the carpet, but my steps feel natural and the spikes secure. I do not feel any discomfort or unsteadiness. I sit back down on the floor and the MICROspikes come off just as easy.
I have been on many winter hikes made very difficult by icy conditions. The MICROspikes look like a great way to make hiking at such times much easier and safer. There appears to be ample traction without being bulky or cumbersome. The overnight flurries have started and I am excited to get out on some frozen trails with the MICROspikes.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Pine Park / Girl Brook, New Hampshire - 6 mi (9.5 km) 600 down to 400 ft (180 to 120 m), 20 F (-6 C) calm and clear skies. 3 in (7.5 cm) of fresh snow covering the trail that hugs and crosses small icy streams. No pack carried. No Pack carried.
Balch Hill, New Hampshire - 5 mi (8 km) to 950 ft (290 m), 30 F (-8 C) and windy. Hard-packed snow and ice covered rocky trails. Pack weight - 15 lb (6.8 kg).
Burnt Mountain Trail at Boston Lot Lake, New Hampshire - 8 mi (9 km) to 1000 ft (300 m), 10 F (-12 C) with light snow. 6 in (15 cm) of snow on unbroken trail. Pack weight - 15 lb (6.8 kg).
Velvet Rocks, Appalachian Trail, New Hampshire - 10 mi (16 km) to 1,240 ft (380 m), 35 F (0.5 C) and sunny. Variable snow and ice conditions. Pack weight - 15 lb (6.8 kg).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Wow! I wish I had a pair of these for past winters. The Kahtoola MICROspikes make traveling in snowy and icy conditions much easier. They have provided excellent traction on all hikes thus far. Everything from fresh snow to crusty, chunky snow to hard-packed snow to sheer ice has not posed a problem.
On my first hike I did not carry a pack. I wanted to see if wearing the MICROspikes caused any changes to my stride or balance. I walked for about 30 minutes without the MICROspikes. I could make forward progress but had to adjust my footing regularly to the frozen footstep under the fresh snow. Several times my foot slid back as I applied too much force on unseen slick spots.
After a few energy wasting and frustrating "spin outs" I put the MICROspikes on. I had to remove a pair of mid-weight fleece glove to get them on. But I was able to get them on wearing a pair of thin wool glove liners. I was also able to remain standing and got the spikes on by support my foot on my opposing knee. The spikes went on fast enough that my hands did not get cold.
The benefit of the MICROspikes was immediate. I could hike without focusing on my foot placement. Every step stuck and on harder surfaces with an audible crunching sound. In all but the hardest snow the spikes fully embed. There is no noticeable difference from bare boots, other than the added traction. On solid ice only the tips of the spikes bite in and I felt a slight elevated sensation. The only time I found the MICROspikes to be mildly uncomfortable was on a few bare patches of trail. When stepping on frozen ground, bare rocks and sticks one or a few spikes made contact with the object. This acts as a pivot point and I feel like one small spot of my foot is making contact. I never fell because of it, but it is unsettling.
The MICROspikes are simple to remove from a standing position with gloves on. A firm grip on the tab at the heel and peel toward the toe. Shake off any snow or ice and done. Only question I had was where to store them on the way home. I didn't want a wet pocket! I looked on Kathoola's website and they sell a tote sack for $9.95. I rummaged through my gear bin and found a spare sack made of 210 Denier water resistant nylon that's the perfect size.
On subsequent hikes I a carried a small day pack. With the MICROspikes in the re-purposed sack to and from the trail the inside of my pack is protected and dry. I can get the spikes on wearing mid-weight gloves if I put the spikes on early in the hike. I guess the elastomer is still warm and "stretchier".
On the warmest day out the snow was wet and sticky. I did experience some balling of snow on the MICROspikes. This obviously caused a loss of traction. But a gently tap on a nearby tree knocked off all clumps of snow.
The Kahtoola MICROspikes have been amazing thus far. The difference between hiking with and without them is dramatic. I feel confident negotiating rather steep ice and snow covered terrain on or off trail. The MICROspikes make winter hiking more enjoyable as I can think about things other than my footing constantly. I cannot find anything but good things to say about them. During the next phase of testing I hope to challenge the MICROspikes and myself with terrain of greater difficulty.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Mt. Moosilauke, New Hampshire - 10 mi (16 km) to 4,802-foot-high (1,464 m). Clear skies and 20 F (-7 C). Steep climbs through dense forest with snow of varying conditions. Pack weight - 30 lb (13.5 kg).
Velvet Rocks, New Hampshire - 10 mi (16 km) to 1,240 ft (380 m) elevation. Clear and calm day time high of 40 F (4 C) with slushy snow and melting ice. Overnight low 15 F (-9 C) with crusty snow and solid ice in the morning. Pack weight - 30 lb (13.5 kg).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I sadly for the first time have no photos to accompany my report. I foolishly misplaced my camera before I transferred any images. Oh well enough of my woes, back to task.
The MICROspikes continue to impress me. They significantly decrease the energy-zapping, backward slipping-foot on steep trail. I had a sense of stability as I walked over slick, slippery trails even with the higher center of gravity from the heavier load. It felt like the spikes dug in sharper with the additional weight I carried on these hikes.
I hiked on hard-packed, slushy, granular, and sheer ice-covered trails. In all conditions the MICROspikes proved useful. Again only the one minor problem was snow clumping on the bottoms in slushy conditions.
On the way out on the overnight hike I crossed one section of trail that the snow was not well consolidated. The temperature was above freezing and I post holed in about 10 in (25 cm) of snow. Wearing the MICROspikes did not provide an obvious benefit. Nor did they make things more difficult under these conditions. I wished had brought snowshoes after all. But the next morning with temperatures below freezing the snow was firm. I was again able to move at a fluid pace over the frozen ground with the additional grip from the MICROspikes.
The MICROspikes are an excellent addition to my winter gear. They have worked great in many conditions and made dangerous icy ones much easier. There are minimal scratches on the spikes and a few dings to the chains. This most likely occurring when stepping on snow-covered and bare rocks. Other than that the MICROspikes are as good as new. Their weight and packed size make them easy to bring along as a 'just-in-case'. I will continue to do just that whenever there is a possibility of icy trails.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.
This concludes my Long-Term Report. Thank you to Kahtoola and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Kahtoola MICROspikes 2013.
Read more reviews of Kahtoola gear
Read more gear reviews by Michael Pearl