Microspikes – a solution for hiking in icy conditions?

Having trouble hiking or bushwalking on icy tracks?
Want to stop falling over on your next winter trek?
Are conditions too good (or not good enough) for snowshoes but icy and slippery?

What is the best footwear for hiking in the snow or ice?

Hiking in Tasmania in winter can be a treacherous experience. The snow is not consistent and there are many sections of track that remain icy all day or , just to add to the fun, the duck boarding is covered with compressed, slippery snow and ice. When we were there a couple of years ago, walking was slow and dangerous as we constantly tested our footing to avoid slipping and a serious fall.

We needed a solution for our Overland Track hike in mid September (early Spring)

Snow shoes were impractical to wear all the time because of the inconsistancy in snow cover. In addition, the narrowness of the track or it’s condition meant it was dangerous to wear snowshoes as they can easily be caught in roots or rocks.


In an attempt to solve this problem we recently purchased some Kahtoola Microspikes. This weekend we tested them around Falls Creek in Victoria on a family skiing trip and were very happy with our purchase.


What are they?
“Lightweight” (300 – 400gms depending on size) boot / shoe “chains” WITH spikes

Background:
The microspikes were recommended by Alan, a mate from the east coast of the USA, who walked the Overland Track with us a couple of years ago. (we have never seen them for sale in Oz)
We researched them and according to the “blurb” the Microspikes are OK for rock, concrete, scree, ice, snow. Perfect for the type of conditions we would be facing.

Four pairs were ordered from Kahtoola – the prices (in Australian dollars) worked out to $90 each including freight.

Incredibly, they were ordered on a Monday night and were delivered Friday of the same week!

Test
We went to Falls Creek in Victoria last weekend on a family ski trip. The conditions were snowy, icy and very slippery on the roads etc around the village.

Threw on our Microspikes and they were great:
1) Really easy to put on (almost one handed)
2) Did not feel too weird to wear on solid surfaces like road and gravel – (Thought it would be like being perched up in the air on unstable chains)
3) Worked a treat on icy surfaces. Just like walking normally
4) Worked really well on compressed / icy snow (like you get on duck boarding) Including one section that was almost a 40 degree angle.
5) Did not move around or slip off the boot – just held in position

Possible risks/ problems / issues
– This was an hour long test in “civilised” conditions – no pack or tree roots or bog holes – therefore untested in rough conditions (not that the OT is very rough)
– not sure of durability of (to quote) “tough elastomer shoe harness” if hooked in branches , roots etc. It does fit very snugly to your boot / shoe so that is a bonus.
– NOT designed to replace snow shoes in deep snow – we bought them to improve traction where snow shoes are a pain i.e. wearing big and clumpy duck like feet trying to walk up an icy rock face or down a very slippery section of duck boarding

Conclusion
– Look the goods for us even if they assist with increasing our speed on icy sections by 20%
– adding another 400g is acceptable if we can save a few falls and bruises
– will probably still take snow shoes (we have Yowies and have used them in the area before) on the chance there is a good dump of snow and we can do some off track walking
– We will do a follow up post on how they perform in real conditions

Related Topics:
Living on the Edge – or was it cold? Pictures of Walls of Jerusalem to Overland Track via the Never Never
Launceston to Dixon Kingdom Hut – Walls of Jerusalem – Winter
Walls of Jerusalem – Mt Jerusalem – Winter
Dixon Kingdom Hut to Meston Hut – Winter
Meston Hut to Kia Ora Hut – via the Never Never – Winter
Kia Ora Hut to Pelion Hut – Winter
Pelion Hut to Windemere Hut – Winter
Windemere Hut to Cradle Mountain Lodge – Winter

Comments

  1. wolfix says

    Hi! It's great to finally find a good hiking blog (and well laid out) for Aussie hikes.

    I'm planning on doing the OT in winter as well and wasn't sure there'd be enough snow to make snow shoes worthwhile. Having read this post I'm very keen to know how the microspikes perform. Have you done the OT in them yet?

    Also, on walking through the dreaded Frog Flats (our least favourite day on the Overland), how does it compare in winter to summer? Less slippery balancing acts and feet in bogs or is it much the same ankle-twisting muddiness?

    Thanks for blogging. I think most adventurers spend too much time outdoors to bother putting up a decent site.

    Look forward to hearing from you.

    Wolfix

  2. Frank and Sue says

    Hi ya Wolfix,
    Thanks for the great comments and questions. We just finished the Overland Track and unfortunately the weather was too warm for ice :-( and we did not need to use the Microspikes at all!
    There was a fair bit of snow up around Kitchen Hut and we used Yowies BUT the snow was so soft and soggy we still sunk into the snow – made for a slow tough first day!
    There was a heap of water around but not as much as expected at Frog Flats. All the watherfalls etc were booming.

    Will throw up a post about the trip soon and thanks for the king words!
    Frank

  3. says

    G’day Frank,

    I’ve been thinking about this post of yours for the past few weeks or so, so thought I’d dig it up and post a comment. Have you used your micro spikes much since posting this?

    I was reminded of your post because I was hiking in a very slippery area, but slippery with slime and sludge, rather than ice. It just got me thinking how it would be great to have some greater traction that could reach through the slippery surface and ground me on the stable rock below. I was reminded of it again when I was down in the Otways recently, around the Yannathan Falls area, again with lots of slippery surfaces as we scrambled up over the falls to head further upstream.

    From your time playing with them, do you think the micro spikes would help in these sorts of terrains? Or does their ‘spikiness’ make them really just mini crampons, and so only ideally suitable for ice? Would love to hear how you’ve gone with them, I’m thinking of treating myself to a couple gifts courtesy of the tax man :)

    Cheers,
    Steve

    • Frank says

      Hi Steve,
      We have worn them on three different occasions. Mainly in ice and snow. They were fantastic on ice where it was frozen on rocks, (in a thin film) worked a treat because they gripped enough to stop you slipping. Also wore them at Falls Creek (in Australia) to get around the ice covered roads in the village. Again, perfect. After a while you don’t even think they are on.

      We have also worn them in the snow for a while but in the end they were not necessary.

      Re slippery surface. They DO work well on rocks and roots. They are not long spikes or sharp points that “dig in” It is more like adding car chains to tyres. Hard to say go ahead and splash your cash but if you have a bit spare would not hurt! (btw, if you go to the Otways, we are in Geelong, happy to show you one day)

      Frank

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