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Backpacker Magazine – May 2013

Get a Grip

5 ways to boost traction on snow-covered, early-season routes.

by: Allison Woods

STABILicers Lite (Photo By Ben Fullerton)
STABILicers Lite (Photo By Ben Fullerton)
Kako Diamond Grip Icetrekkers (Photo by Ben Fullerton)
Kako Diamond Grip Icetrekkers (Photo by Ben Fullerton)
Kahtoola MICROspikes
Kahtoola MICROspikes
Kahtoola K-10 Hiking Crampons (Photo by Ben Fullerton)
Kahtoola K-10 Hiking Crampons (Photo by Ben Fullerton)
Grivel G10 Crampons (Photo by Ben Fullerton)
Grivel G10 Crampons (Photo by Ben Fullerton)

[bargain]
STABILicers Lite
Slip into these wispy, great-fitting (they come in five sizes) anti-sliders for good traction on moderate inclines—up to about 15 degrees. From one Washington tester: “I felt like I needed more on steeper pitches, but for the price, these provided great grip on flats and very gentle slopes.” Come winter, these ultra-bare-bones walkers will also get you safely home from icy walks with the dog. Caveats: The low-profile design won’t fit over shoes with bulky toe rands. And keep an eye on them while postholing—one tester had a STABILicer slip off in snowy muck. $22; 11 oz. (M); XS-XL; 32north.com

[versatile and light]
Kako Diamond Grip Icetrekkers
For mixed ice-and-snow conditions, go up a grade to this slightly grippier (than the STABILicer) model. “We got a ton of wet snow, and then a nasty ice cap formed on top, making the whole mess slicker than snot. The only thing that kept me on my feet was the Icetrekkers,” says an Oregon tester. Nice: Flat-packing and fang-free—their traction comes from chiseled metal “beads” strung onto a thin-but-bomber steel cable—the Icetrekkers didn’t snag on anything, even when testers threw them loose into their packs. $42; 10 oz. (M); S-XL; icetrekkers.com

[best all-around]
Kahtoola MICROspikes
This long-time BACKPACKER favorite earned an Editors’ Choice Gold Award last year for its ease of use, low weight, grippy steel spikes, and security on low- to moderate-angle ice and snow. See backpacker.com/kahtoola for the full review. $60; 14.4 oz. (L); XS-XL; kahtoola.com

[glacier walking]
Kahtoola K-10 Hiking Crampons
The relatively light K-10s fill the niche between simple slip-on models and full-blown crampons, providing aggressive traction for anything you’d attempt unroped. On a trip into the Cascades near Salmon La Sac, one tester plowed confidently up consolidated, slick snow and steep frozen dirt. Shallower spikes (¾-inch compared to 1-inch or longer on heavier models) and a lack of front-pointing fangs mean that these 10-point crampons are less grabby when you hike with a normal gait on mellow terrain. $100; 1 lb. 6 oz.; one size; kahtoola.com

[mountaineering]
Grivel G10 Crampons
Sometimes there’s nothing that’ll do the job like a set of full-blown technical crampons. These 10-pointers will take you all the way to the top with superior gripping power. The 1-inch front-pointing fangs proved sufficient even on steep, wet ice (up to about 40 degrees) on the domestic Haute Route, a ski traverse in Washington’s Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The integrated anti-balling plates—flexible bubbles under the forefoot and heel areas—shed snow effectively. Four horizontal stabilizing bars strengthen the G10 against lateral and torsional flexing, and provided one tester with critical edging stability on a steep descent off Washington’s Vasiliki Ridge. $130; 1 lb. 14 oz.; one size; libertymountain.com

PREVENT SNOW BUILDUP Learn how to make anti-balling plates for your crampons using a plastic milk jug and duct tape: backpacker.com/cleancrampons

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