If one is looking for exceptionally capable winter footwear traction, it is widely known that Kahtoola is one of the top manufacturers in the world. I knew this long before I began work as part of the production crew at Kahtoola’s Flagstaff, Arizona facility. Years before there were any golden awards associated with the Kahtoola Microspikes, I had coveted them, but instead opted for a pair of much cheaper four-point instep crampons. Myself and a good friend proceeded to do a November overnight trip up on the San Francisco Peaks, armed with this single pair of instep crampons and one pair of trekking poles between the two of us. Let me be the first to say that self-arresting with a trekking pole is quite exciting, but nevertheless inspired me to shell out the $60 for Microspikes upon our return. The next opportunity to try out my new gear came later that season when a backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon was suggested. The rim of the canyon receives a fair bit of snowfall during the winter, and almost none at the bottom. Temperatures during the day at the river are pleasant, and backpacking the canyon during the winter ensures a lack of crowds. The only issue is getting safely past the first mile or two of icy trail near the rim. One slip, and the consequences in such a steep environment can easily be fatal. Kahtoola’s Microspikes made this upper bit of trail a breeze, and we nonchalantly cruised past many frightened and less well equipped day hikers.
I was immediately impressed with how easily the Microspikes can be put on and removed. For those who are unfamiliar with the Microspikes, they are composed of an upper elastomer, which is connected via stainless steel chains to an arrangement of ¼ inch stainless steel spikes. The elastomer allows for an easily customizable fit, ensuring that there is minimal movement between the bottom of your boot and the spikes. Backpackers love the Microspikes, due to the fact that they are incredibly lightweight, yet can handle an immense amount of abuse. My pair shows only slight rounding on the spikes after much mashing on mixed icy and rocky terrain. Since I purchased this pair, Kahtoola has upgraded the elastomer with a pull tab at the heel, and reinforced the chain eyelets. I also highly recommend purchasing the tote sack that Kahtoola sells for the Microspikes, as the jingling of chains on the outside of a pack is annoying, and the spikes might puncture other gear inside your pack.
Now that I have had a season under my belt as an employee of Kahtoola, I have had the opportunity to try out our other products. The Kahtoola Traction System(or KTS) crampons are Kahtoola’s first product, and continued refinements have produced a lightweight, flexible, and adjustable platform. I have utilized the KTS Steel and Aluminum crampons in a variety of scenarios, and have found them to provide exceptional traction and stability in more technical situations where Microspikes are less ideal. The Microspikes excel on packed icy trails, but for off-trail adventures, glacier travel, or steeper icy terrain, the KTS crampons are the traction of choice. The KTS crampons as well as the new K10 crampons both feature the LeafSpring extender bar, which allows for easy fitting and great flexibility. This flexibility means that the KTS and K10 crampons are as comfortable to wear on a running shoe as they are on a rigid boot. The K10 features a new attachment system, designed to facilitate ease of installation and removal. It is also lighter than the KTS Steel, and at a more attractive price point.
As a member of the production team here at Kahtoola, it is always apparent that safety is at the forefront of what we do. We know that winter enthusiasts around the world rely on our products to enjoy the outdoors safely, and so every step that goes into building a pair of crampons or snowshoes has a quality control process associated with it. We don’t just check each pair as it goes out the door, we are maintaining a high standard of quality throughout the assembly process. It is this mindset that keeps Kahtoola at the top of the game when it comes to producing innovative, functional, and high value winter footwear traction.