SNOW: Crampons and gaiters help hiker stay upright and dry

SNOW: Crampons and gaiters help hiker stay upright and dry

Not all winter recreationists want to play in the snow. Even those of us who enjoy skiing and snowshoeing want a change of pace. We just want to hike during the long winter months. But even hikers who prefer not to resort to snowshoes or skis will run into snow and ice at times. Crampons are the obvious answer for hikers who want to safely negotiate ice-laden trails. However, traditional alpine crampons require climbing boots that are crampon-compatible. Heavy, semirigid boots, in other words. Enter Kahtoola. A few years ago this company burst onto the outdoor scene with a universal crampon that could be attached to virtually any footwear. That original Kahtoola crampon has been refined to become today's Kahtoola Traction System (KTS) crampon, a new tool to help hikers stay secure and upright on ice-laden trails. In the Northwest that's important since many of our foothills trails are ice-overed much of the winter, and our higher-elevation trails can be crusted by lingering snow packs well into July. Kahtoola offers two models of the KTS: steel and lightweight aluminum. Both are available in two sizes to fit men's shoe sizes 4 to 14 and women's sizes 5.5 to 12. The steel version proved a favorite of our team of testers. Weighing just 4 ounces more per pair than the aluminum version, the steel crampons (1 pound 7 ounces) are far more durable than the aluminum. The steel spikes are also a quarter-inch longer for a deeper, more aggressive bite. Neither version of the KTS crampon is suitable for big-mountain technical assaults — you don't want to rely on this when tackling Mount Rainier's summit. But we took them out on icy sections of Rainier's Wonderland Trail and were delighted with the performance. Attached to light hikers (one tester even strapped them on to a pair of low-top trail-running shoes) the 10-point crampons provided firm traction on compact snow and ice If minimal weight is an absolute must, and you'll only be using this occasionally, the aluminum KTS is suitable. But for frequent use or hiking with heavier packs the rugged, durable steel version shines. KTS aluminum crampons sell for $139, while the KTS steel crampons go for $144. See www.kahtoola.com. Besides staying upright, your next most important task is keeping your feet dry on those snowy trails. A waterproof gaiter tackles that task, and we found Crocodile Gaiters from Seattle-based Outdoor Research to be the best in class. Heavy Cordura nylon backed with Gore-Tex seals your feet and legs from forefoot to knee. The Crocodiles, available in men's and women's sizes, work with virtually any footwear. Though not a new product, the Crocs prove that sometimes you can't improve on a classic. They sell for $60. See www.outdoorresearch.com. – Dan A. Nelson, for The Seattle Times
%d bloggers like this: