One of the most challenging aspects of winter hiking isn’t necessarily the cold, it’s traction. When traversing trails that have repeatedly thawed and frozen over, they create dangerous situations of solid sheets of ice. The Kathoola Microspikes are lightweight, tough crampons designed to even up the odds by biting into that very ice that’s threatening to dump you off the mountain.
The Microspikes are designed to pair with practically any boot by simply being pulled over the boots of the wearer. Tuck the toes of the boot in first, then pull the heal up over the back and you’re all set. They’re built from a stretchy elastomer for the harness itself, which allows them to be pulled over any boot type quickly and easily. The extra traction comes from a series of solid stainless steel spiked plates that run along the bottom of the boot. These are chained together and strategically placed under specific points of impact, such as the heel and ball of the foot for a maximum performance without being too heavy. They retail for 69.95, weight about 12 oz and come in four sizes to fit a wide range of boots.
What I liked
Simplicity is king, and the Kathoola Microspikes reign indeed. The straight forward construction results in a traction device that’s very simple to use, and is also quite reliable. Pulling the crampons on over a boot is very easy and requires no real adjustment. The toes slide in with no resistance, and a quick pull is all that’s required to get the heel on. I was even able to get them on easily while wearing mittens thanks to the wide pull grip on the heal of the device. Once they were on, I never found them slipping off or shifting around on my boot, largely due to the grippy elastomer body hugging my footwear.
Traction was excellent in ever condition. While traversing frozen rivers of solid, steeply inclined ice, I was able to maintain my momentum and scale the formation with not a single slip. The spike dig in true, without having to bash them into the surface. A simple, natural walking motion was all I needed. Plowing through snow and transitioning onto solid rock also worked really well, with neither surface causing any issues and while picking up minimal ice in the spikes along the way.
Durability has been greatl, with the solid spikes taking miles of abuse on terrain that constantly shifted between snow, ice, and solid rock. I’m yet to bend a spike, the chains show no wear, and the estastomer harness has no tell tale signs of breaking down, like whitening of the bands or stretch marks.
They include a nice storage sack that does a great job of protecting other gear like jackets and gloves from the metal spikes. This is especially handy when carrying a full pack that’s stuffed to the brim. They also do double work of keep everything clean and organized, as any mud or gunk that might be picked up along with them will be contained inside the sack.
They come in red or black, so they’ll blend in with most boots, and I actually found them to look quite nice.
What I didn’t like
Although they’re lighter than most comparable crampons, having the microspikes on does add some weight to the boots. Covering just over two miles of trail through the already burdening resistance of thick powder started to have an impact on my calves. The extra weight, paired with occasional snow and ice build up on the boots and spikes can result in a workout. The tradeoff is certainly worth the exertion it in most situations however, as I’d much rather take a tired leg over sliding off of a cliff face or taking a fall on a plate of ice.
The Kathoola Microspikes are an excellent option for those who are looking for more traction at minimal costs. In daunting situations that would have otherwise been possible with a bare boot, I was able to safely and effortlessly traverse some rather sketchy terrtain of ice and snow. The construction all around is quite solid, with zero visible wear even after hiking along frozen gravel, ice, granite and spurts of pavement. They’re easy to put on, stay in place, and do exactly what they’re supposed to do.
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For more information on Kathoola and their Microspikes, check out https://kahtoola.com/product/microspikes/
I wanted to send a special thanks out to Kathoola for their support and for providing this excellent piece of equipment to review. We couldn’t do this without their help. Thank you so much! Our full disclosure can be found on the about me/contact page.