The days are shorter and snow is falling over our mountains but that doesn’t mean hiking has to stop. Get yourself a pair of crampons like Kahtoola MICROspikes! A small, lightweight traction device you put over your boot, crampons are a must-have addition to your winter hiking gear giving you grip to safely hike on snow and ice.
What are microspikes?
The word microspikes is commonly used to refer to medium-traction devices for securely walking on snow and ice, but it’s originally from Kahtoola’s trademarked product MICROspikes®, which are simply a type of crampon. As Kahtoola states on their website, they are “stainless steel spikes and welded chains tough enough to handle any adventure, they are now designed with an integrated toe bale and reinforced eyelets, allowing for a 50% lower profile elastomer harness.”
They come in two different colours: red and black. They also come in four different sizes, which are unisex. Below is a sizing chart.
Where to buy Kahtoola MICROspikes
You can buy Kahtoola MICROspikes online at Amazon.ca or in some local stores like Valhalla Pure Outfitters or Mountain Equipment Co-op.
I have had my Kahootla MICROspikes over 5 years now and they are still like brand new. I have worn them a lot and they haven’t stretched or broken or bent out of shape. I’ve even walked over rock faces and gravel paths in them (which you’re not supposed to do!) and still they’re in perfect condition.
They fit easily over my hiking shoes and my bulky winter boots. They’re super easy to put on and take off.
Easily one of the best equipment investments I’ve made.
How to use microspikes
Kahtoola microspikes are easy to use. You simply slip them over top of your shoe or boot and you’re ready to go! They are marked with the word front so you know which way around they go. Both are the same size and shape so they can go on either foot; there is no left or right.
They are very lightweight and pliable so you can easily stuff them in your backpack for easy carrying. They are a bit sharp though so be sure to keep them in a stuff sack or at least away from anything you don’t want to rip, like your expensive down jacket
I like to bring them along anytime I’m snowshoeing because microspikes are much easier to walk in. Often I will swap out my snowshoes and carry them so I can wear my microspikes instead if trail conditions permit (which is almost always!) – like the photo above night hiking back from Dog Mountain in North Vancouver’s Mount Seymour Provincial Park.
Read more: Snowshoeing For Beginners
There are a few companies that make similar products, like the trail crampon ultra by local Vancouver company Hillsound Equipment, which is a bit cheaper than Kahtoola MICROspikes, selling for CAD $64.99 at Atmosphere. I can’t comment on quality as I’ve never personally used them but I’ve heard friends saying good things about them.
Other traction devices include nanospikes which are not sufficient – they’re more for things like trail running in winter or shoveling your driveway when an ice storm has just hit. There are also some types of crampons which are way more heavy duty than you need. The ones with super long and sharp spikes are for activities like mountaineering or ice climbing.
Where to use your microspikes
You can usually wear your microspikes on most marked trails that get regular foot traffic as the snow gets packed down. They are not sufficient for hiking in deep snow. Instead you will need snowshoes to help avoid breaking through the surface. For a more extensive list of trails, read my Snowshoe Trails Near Vancouver blog post. Below are some of the hikes near Vancouver that I’ve worn my microspikes.
Make sure that like with any hike, you always carry The 10 Essentials!
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