The best thing you can buy for winter hiking

November 08, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Hiking in the winter is far easier than many people think.  We've managed to hike every month in the Rockies, actually.  If there is a lot of snow we'll go snowshoeing instead of hiking, but if we're heading to an area with just a little snow or tackling a popular trail that is sure to be packed solid we need something to give us good traction.  Not only is it dangerous to hike without traction in slippery conditions, it's also not fun waddling along like a penguin and paying more attention to your feet than to the actual reasons you might be out hiking, such as admiring the scenery. 

Microspikes and wolf tracks on our ascent of Evangeline Peak. There are many traction devices available, but we find one is far superior to all others:  Kahtoola microspikes.  They've got more bite than any of the competition (with the exception of mountaineering crampons) and handle solid ice, crusty snow, and packed snow with ease.  The only time we've even come close to slipping in them is in sugar snow, but everything will slip in that.  They even work great in mud!  We originally thought the sheer size of the spikes would make walking in them uncomfortable, but we've never had a problem using them on any terrain we've encountered, including bedrock.  Last winter we wore them the entire length of a 19 km hike even though only patches of trail had any ice or snow, walking with them through dry forest, rocky river beds, brush, and muddy trail.  They're incredibly durable and the polymer part stays flexible down to at least -25 C, below which I can't see why we'd go hiking anyway! 

We regularly pass people bushwhacking alongside the trail trying to avoid the ice and generally having a miserable time as they try their darndest not to fall.  Don't be one of them!  MEC sells microspikes for $75 per pair and they're worth every penny.  And don't be tempted to buy something cheaper.  Cheaper options are generally meant for walking along icy city sidewalks or trail running and just don't work well on actual hiking trails. 


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