Design Is In Our DNA

If there’s one thing everyone at Kahtoola can get excited about, it’s design. Designing exceptional products is in our DNA, and it’s been that way since our first product—the KTS Hiking Crampon—was hand-crafted by Kahtoola owner Danny Giovale in his family shop more than twenty years ago.

Insightful Design

Whether we’re designing something totally new or tweaking an existing product, that development needs to provide something that’s missing and make a real difference in people’s outdoor experiences. In order to achieve this, we use what we call insightful design. We hone in on product opportunities that will make a meaningful contribution to the market with insight gained through research, listening to other outdoor users and through our own outdoor user experiences. Our goal is to become experts, so we can identify needs and design effective solutions. From concept to completion, insightful design informs the entire product development process.

Take MICROspikes® traction—our flagship traction product—for example. When it was introduced, nothing like it existed, and it helped people get outside and explore ice and snow covered terrain that had previously been either inaccessible or too dangerous. And for more than a decade, MICROspikes® traction has continued to evolve. It’s gone through numerous innovative design tweaks, each aimed squarely at improving performance, comfort or ease of use, and we’ve applied our insightful design philosophy every step of the way.

Meaningful Innovation

Once we’ve identified an opportunity where a new product or design change can be made, we start to look at what it means to do that successfully. What are the core problems these innovations need to solve, and how can we provide meaningful solutions in the simplest way possible? These are important questions for us, because if we can cut through all of the clutter and focus on what will really make the outdoor experience more rewarding, we’re able to dive deeper and design more effective solutions.

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Our gaiters are a great example of this commitment to meaningful innovation. When we decided to design a modern gaiter that people actually want to wear, we didn’t add more bells and whistles, we kept it simple and focused on three core elements, which we believed would improve performance and ease of use: the fit, instep strap and closure. That focus allowed us to go deep into each of those three elements and design truly insightful solutions—a replaceable, ultra durable instep strap, a comfortable, high performing fit and a zipper closure that is comfortable, easy to use and allows for a greater range of motion. All with the goal of helping you forget about the gear so you can enjoy the experience.

An Iterative Process

Of course, the initial design process is just the beginning. It can only take an idea so far, and eventually the rubber needs to hit the road and prototyping and testing begins. At Kahtoola, this is an iterative process, and one that we take very seriously. It takes many people through many different phases to produce something that will live up to our expectations.

Going through this exhaustive design and testing process means that when we put a product out on the market, it’s already in what many others would consider its 2nd design generation.

Possibly no other product exemplifies this commitment to getting things right the first time better than EXOspikes™ traction. With it, we set out to design the most versatile traction product on the market. We wanted people to be able to use them on ice, snow, rock and pavement while hiking, walking or running. But designing something that performs in such a wide range of conditions is no easy task. To get there, EXOspikes™ traction went through years of design and prototyping, changes and tweaks. They were tested by hundreds of people—from Kahtoola associates, to professional athletes, to everyday users—and with their generous feedback, that single product went through countless redesigns and iterations. In the end, we released a 2nd (or 3rd) generation product that exceeded our expectations when it comes to making the outdoors more accessible and more rewarding for more people.

The Kahtoola Difference

As a privately owned company, we’re able to invest more in our design and development processes. We don’t rush our products to market, and we don’t waste time chasing trends, overcomplicating our products or doing things others have already done. We take design seriously, and we’re proud to say that when we design something new, we know it will make a positive, lasting, difference in your outdoor experience.