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Thread: Product Review: Kahtoola MICROspikes

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  1. #1
    Senior Member MonadnockVol's Avatar
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    Product Review: Kahtoola MICROspikes

    As most readers probably know, Kahtoola released their MICROspikes (hereafter referred to as MS), last fall. I got my MS in early January. I have now used them over a dozen times under various conditions and thought I'd tell you how it has gone.

    The product: http://www.kahtoola.com/microspikes.html

    Category: Traction control devices

    Similar products that I own to which I am comparing this product: Grivel step-in crampons. Black diamond crampons, Stabilicers, and instep-crampons.

    Where the product was tested: mostly on Mt. Monadnock as well as Goose Pond and the Horatio Colony Preserve (both in Keene, NH).

    Types of surfaces tested on: Bare rock, rain-covered rock, soft wet snow, soft dry snow, corn snow, hard-packed snow, soft ice, hard ice, mud, and dirt.

    Biggest advantages: (A1) The MS are lightweight (mine are 12 ounces) and compact (they ball up when not in use and can fit in a pocket). (A2) They are easy to put on and off (similar to Yak-trax in this regard). (A3) They give traction which is superior to Stabilicers (with one exception - see D3 below) but far inferior to regular crampons. (A4) Because of their stretch binding they fit a variety of different boots/shoes/sneakers and they do not shift like Stabilicers do. (A5) The problems of screw loss and screw wear so familiar to Stabilicer users isn't a problem (but see D4 below).

    Biggest disadvantages: (D1) In soft wet snow, they ball up snow worse than anything else I have ever used. (D2) They do not hold well on very cold, hard ice, nor on ice faces steeper than 40 degrees (although that is an estimated slope). (D3) Unlike Stabilicers, which have the screws around the edge, the cleats on MS are under the ball of the foot and the heel on the mid-line. The only traction on the edges of the foot are provided by the stainless-steel chains. This means in situations where one has a thin ledge of rock, the MS do not hold well. (D4) Although the rate of wear for the MS cleats seems to be much, much slower than the wear rate for Stabilicer screws, they still wear. One can always buy new screws but it seems that one would have to buy a new set of MS every few years under heavy use.

    Biggest unanswered questions: Durability. I have only used mine a dozen times. I know about a dozen people who also have them. None of us has had any problems with them yet. But I do not know anyone who has used one pair a hundred or two hundred times. The binding is a stretchy material and I wonder if it will become brittle or weak with use/age. There are also a number of small fasteners/parts (e.g. the wire that goes across the toe of the boot) that seem flimsy. Nor have I used my MS in temperatures colder than -5 degrees F, so their performance under extreme cold is another unanswered question.

    Overall impressions: I love my MS. If I made Stabilicers, I'd be very worried about the future. Except for D3, I can't think of any reason why I'd rather have Stabilicers in my pack instead of MS. The balling of snow was a problem, but only happened to me once with very soft, moist snow. They are NO SUBSTITUTE FOR CRAMPONS and I went rocketing down 30 feet near the summit of Monadnock because my MS didn't hold on hard, cold ice, but for most conditions where one would use Stabilicers, they were great.

    Needless to say, I have no affiliation with Kahtoola or any other maker, distributer or retailer of outdoor equipment.

    - Monadnock Volunteer (sjc)

    P.S. Oops, almost forgot: Unlike Stabilicers, one can't "ski" in MS under most conditions (a measure of their superior grip). But they are so easy to put on and take off that I know some people who wear them on the ascent and then take them off to ski down.
    Last edited by MonadnockVol; 02-15-2008 at 08:33 AM.

  2. #2
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    Thank you for this info. I am keeping note of peoples reaction to the microspikes for my future reference.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Tom Rankin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MonadnockVol
    ...
    Just to be fair, I believe the issue with the screws falling out of Stabilicers was a manufacturing problem, that has been corrected in the newest shipments. I have never had any screw losses, FWIW.

    I may have a few loose, but that's another thread!

    In any case, thank you for a very informative post.
    Tom Rankin
    Volunteer Balsam Lake Mountain
    Past President Catskill 3500 Club
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  4. #4
    Senior Member MonadnockVol's Avatar
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    That hasn't been my experience

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Rankin
    Just to be fair, I believe the issue with the screws falling out of Stabilicers was a manufacturing problem, that has been corrected in the newest shipments. I have never had any screw losses, FWIW.

    I may have a few loose, but that's another thread!

    In any case, thank you for a very informative post.
    Dear Tom,

    Wow. I'm impressed that you've never lost a screw. I wish I could say the same. I have two pairs of Stabilicers. I bought the first many years ago, and the second pair a year ago. I really like Stabilicers and until I got my microspikes, they were my "traction-device-of-first resort." But I have always lost screws (and before anyone asks: yes, I check and tighten before and after every hike). I've lost the original screws, the official replacement screws, and some motorcyle ice racing screws that also fit. Maybe it's the hiking I do. There are a few places on Monadnock where one is required to place the edge of one's boot on a small ledge or in a crack to hang on and this may rip the screws out. I notice that I usually lose the screws near the ball of the foot.

    As far as your screws being loose... they seem pretty secure to me, IMHO.

    -sjc

  5. #5
    Moderator bikehikeskifish's Avatar
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    My Stabilicers now occupy a space on the shelf, where I imagine they will spend a very long and lonely existence. The Microspikes are better, lighter, more secure (don't slide around at all.)

    Yes, you must put your foot down differently, but the traction at the edge of your boot (advantage to the Stabilicers) also causes the Velcro webbing to get worn away. After only two trips with them, I'm not sure I trust them to not get cut through.

    Tim
    Bike, Hike, Ski, Sleep. Eat, Fish, Repeat.

  6. #6
    Senior Member MichaelJ's Avatar
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    I *LOVE* my MicroSpikes. They stay on my boots with a nice, tight grip, and on several different kinds of ice have excellent grip.

    The only shortcoming I've found is snowpack. The spikes are short and don't penetrate enough to generate a strong enough grip. For crossing snowpack, stick to crampons.

    However, for those in-between seasons I love 'em. For dealing with ice patches on an otherwise clear trail in fall or spring they are the best choice we've tried. In fact, they'd be perfect on our dog walks in our nearby conservation land right now.
    May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. - Edward Abbey

  7. #7
    Senior Member Paradox's Avatar
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    I have used MS, stabilicers, yaktraks, and another one, forgot the name, with small carbide studs in replacable plastic rivets. IMHO the MS are far more durable and hold better under a wider range of conditions than any of the others.
    WNH4K:48/48, SLAT50:50/50, NEHH:100/100, NE115:115/115,
    TW72:60/72, WADK46: 18/46, 52WAV:16/52, Cat35:9/35(39)

  8. #8
    Senior Member evilhanz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MonadnockVol
    I've lost the original screws, the official replacement screws, and some motorcyle ice racing screws that also fit. Maybe it's the hiking I do.
    It's not just you. Every time I use them, I lose almost all the screws even in relatively moderate conditions. After hiking with a few people who have micro spikes and love them, I plan to ditch the stabilicers at the end of this season.

  9. #9
    Senior Member SAR-EMT40's Avatar
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    Love mine and think very highly of them. So much so I bought a pair for my wife and she loves them also. Short of needing my Grivels they are the perfect solution for any Ice/snow combination.

    Keith
    "The real work of men was hunting meat. The invention of agriculture was a giant step in the wrong direction, leading to serfdom, cities, and empire. From a race of hunters, artists, warriors, and tamers of horses, we degraded ourselves to what we are now: clerks, functionaries, laborers, entertainers, processors of information."- Ed Abbey

  10. #10
    Senior Member Mad Townie's Avatar
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    Used my new MicroSpikes (thanks for the Christmas present, kids!) for the first time last Sunday, coming down the hard-as-rock Crawford Path from Clinton. I was moving right along, almost running at times, and the only thing that happened was that one slid sideways just a tiny bit in the front. And that was wearing them over plastics.

    I'm very pleased with them, and my Stabilicers are going back to Bean's. Wore them three times, even got replacement screws, and I never got off the trail with a full set of screws intact. I loved the Stabilicers idea, but the MSes are much better for what I do.
    Mad Townie

    Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary. - H. D. Thoreau

    Easy trails, nice days and comfort are good, too. - M. Townie

  11. #11
    Member Lou Hale's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SAR-EMT40
    Love mine and think very highly of them. So much so I bought a pair for my wife and she loves them also. Short of needing my Grivels they are the perfect solution for any Ice/snow combination.

    Keith
    I can't get my wife to get a pair. I think its her way of saying I don't want to go hiking in the cold.

    Lou

  12. #12
    Senior Member Ed'n Lauky's Avatar
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    A good report and I agree pretty much with what was said. But, I'll tell you why I still use Stableicers. I'm working with a young dog who is still on a leash and who tends from time to time to get under foot. For that reason I have determined to leave my crampons home this year. My aluminum frame snowshoes have been OK. At times I've wanted some other type of traction so Stableicers have been the item.

    Maybe next year I'll get the microspikes. But this year I have managed with Stableicers and my hiking partner has his paws intact.
    I used to look at my dog and think 'If you were a little smarter you could tell me what your were thinking', and he'd look at me like he was saying 'If you were a little smarter I wouldn't have to'. Fred Jungclaus

    Some of our greatest historical and artistic treasures we place with curators in museums; others we take for walks. Roger Caras

    100/100 NEHH with Duffy
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    48 X 4 including 1 winter Lauky
    48 X 6 Ed
    12 X 12 Belknaps with Lauky

  13. #13
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    Used MS five hikes in a row and love them, despite turning back once on low angle solid ice. In that situation, they are dangerous (or is it the hiker?).

  14. #14
    Senior Member Solitary's Avatar
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    Have to plant your foot differently

    Quote Originally Posted by Grayjay
    Used MS five hikes in a row and love them, despite turning back once on low angle solid ice. In that situation, they are dangerous (or is it the hiker?).
    Well I don't think it's the hiker but I did have to learn how to plant my foot differently with MS on: can't edge, the whole sole has to hit the ice.

    By the way... my first post on VFTT

    - Linda

  15. #15
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    Been shown 3 product failures due to heavy wear so far:

    2 different users had a metal ring pull through (split) rubber on fronts.

    One of same user had metal spike plate crack and split.

    Both had used MS on over 20 hikes and are strong fast hikers. Both still love 'em regardless.

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