I bought a pair of MICROspikes after testing a pair last year. This is something I never thought I would buy since already own instep crampons, a pair of Camp “6 points” and MSR’s EVO snowshoes. Let’s talk about these options a bit…
I mention the snowshoes because, for years, they have been my crampons. These hard plastic snowshoes from MSR are kinda small but are well suited for New England “chuffing”. Yeah, they can be tough for breaking trail in the deep stuff as they have very little surface area to float on the snow, especially when wearing a full pack. What they lack in surface area they more than make up with their grip and durability.
Not only have I had these “bad larrys” for a decade, I’ve let friends use them over the years as well. They still rip up the trail with no issues. The great thing about these snowshoes is they work on exposed rock and icy trail. Yeah, they can be extremely loud on the ice, but you get over that fairly quickly. The easy to use ice claw bindings rarely loosen and they do a great job climbing the slick stuff. Because they have two metal saw-tooth strips running the length of the snowshoe, side stepping on the steeps is very stable and offers an adequate amount of grip, even with a pack.
The instep crampons work OK. The simple strap system doesn’t always perform and I find myself constantly re-adjusting. Additionally, the instep design leaves me feeling as though I’m balancing on a ball of ice/snow under my arch. I haven’t used them in years but, for some reason, I can’t bring myself to throw them out. Gear hoarding is a disease.
My Camp Six Point crampons are great at gripping the real icy stuff. The problem with these, however, is they won’t work with my Sorel Pac boots, my choice for longer winter expeditions. They work great with my leather boots but only if I strap them up correctly. I had to search for the instructions for lacing them up after last year’s issues climbing Moriah. The crampon on my right boot was constantly coming loose. I eventually had to remove it and climb on a single crampon. I realized it was an operator error when I reread the instructions.
So now I am the proud owner of Microspikes. I had a bit of stress over choosing the right size. I wanted to use them with both my big honking leather boots AND my Sorels. I decided to size them to my leather boots only as I fear the larger Sorels would stretch them too large for the smaller boot. I am thinking it may be smarter have a pair for my Sorels and another pair for my leather boots as I suspect stretching the “binding” over different sized boots might affect the fit over time.
Putting on the Microspikes is nearly a no-brainer. I say “nearly” because it took me a minute to arrange the chains before pulling on the rubber “binding” over my boot. The elastomer harness has a lot of stretch and holds the chains fast against the sole. The Microspikes slip on in seconds with no adjusting or resizing straps.
A trip on the Beaver Brook Trail wearing the Microspikes was the ultimate test. The steep trail up Moosilauke featured ice, rock and snow on a slippery and technical climb alongside a half frozen waterfall. Despite the conditions, a heavy pack and my inexperience with Microspikes, I was able to blast right up the side of Moosilauke without incident. They stayed put and never required readjustment. I was impressed with the Microspikes grip.
The two factors that delayed my acquisition of Microspikes were the weight and the cost. At $60.00, they may seem a bit pricy, especially when there seems to be “similar” products out there for less cash. The high price is quickly overshadowed by the warrantee offered by Kahtoola covering defects and damage during normal use. Apparently they stand behind their products and swiftly replace damaged gear as reported by one hiker I know that has experienced this first hand.
There is not too much that can be done about the weight. The Kahtoola designers have shaved off a few grams with each successive model, but they still have some heft. That weight feels much less with every slip-free step.
The Kahtoola MICROspikes are a worthy addition to any hikers gear list. If you live in New England, you most definitely need a pair of these. The Kahtoola company makes other traction gear worth checking out as well:
Website link: Kahtoola Microspikes
There are a number of traction devices out there with a similar design as the MICROspikes. The stretch-over-the-boot concept works well enough to produce many copy cat products that should be examined carefully before purchase. There are some great ones out there, like Hillsound of Canada. I urge you to actually examine them and the fit on your own boots before you buy them on faith.