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Microspikes are a must-have piece of gear for winter hiking. Hiking in winter is more difficult than at other types of the year. Hiking trails are often covered in snow and ice, making them slippery and slowing you down.
But don’t let that put you off. I often find that hiking in winter is more beautiful than hiking in summer. With the right winter hiking gear, including microspikes and snowshoes, if you plan to go in the backcountry, it’s incredibly enjoyable. Plus, you’ll run into fewer hikers than you would at other times of the year.
In this article, I share the best microspikes and how to use them on your next hike and my favourite pair that ‘ve been using for the past five years and counting. I love gear that stands up and doesn’t need to be replaced every year or two.
After experimenting with different types over the years, I discovered that some either didn’t provide excellent traction, wouldn’t stay on my feet in deeper snow, or had spikes that kept bending and breaking.
Kahtoola MICROspikes are a fan favourite and have a loyal following. They have three different models depending on the type of terrain you’ll be tackling in winter.
Each pair of Kahtoola MICROspikes comes with a 2-year warranty. They’re constructed with an elastomer harness from durable TPE that remains stretchy in cold temperatures, all the way down to -22°F (-30°C).
And let’s be honest, when it’s colder than that, you won’t want to be outdoors. Or at least I don’t. Even though I’m Canadian, I don’t enjoy spending time outside when it’s THAT cold, even if it’s on a gorgeous winter hike in Banff.
Insider Winter Hiking Tip: Don’t wear your microspikes on dry sections, even if it’s a short section. Take them off, and put them on again if you need to. Otherwise, you risk dulling or breaking the spikes.
FAQs About Microspikes for Hiking
1. What Are Micro Spikes?
Microspikes are small spikes designed specifically for walking or hiking in winter conditions and give you extra traction on snow and ice so that you don’t slip.
2. How effective are microspikes?
They’re incredibly effective for winter hiking, especially when it comes to icy terrain. They provide excellent traction on icy surfaces preventing slips and falls.
However, you need to ensure that you choose the right ones depending on the type of traction you need. Some with smaller spikes are only suitable in urban areas, while others with longer spikes are suitable for mountain trails and more technical terrain. Check out our guide to find the right ones for you.
3. When do you use micro spikes?
You should use them when hiking on packed snow that’s slippery or icy terrain. When used in combination with hiking poles, they provide excellent traction and significantly reduce your chances of slipping and falling.
4. How do I put on microspikes?
Microspikes are made of a flexible material that slips over your hiking boot. They’re easy to take on and off, and they fit over both shoes and hiking boots in a variety of shoe sizes.
5. How do I take care of my microspikes?
Taking proper care of them is essential for their longevity. One of the most frequent issues is rust, so ensure that you thoroughly clean and dry them after each use.
It’s also a good idea to periodically check the spikes for damage, such as bent points that may cause discomfort while wearing them. If you find any, you can replace them with new ones for maximum traction and safety on winter hikes.
With regular maintenance and care, you’ll be able to use your microspikes for many years of winter hiking. I’ve had mine for over 5 years, and they’re still in great shape, despite being used on a weekly basis in winter.
6. Crampons vs microspikes. Can I use them instead of crampons?
Crampons, like the Hillsound Trail Crampon Pro are meant for more technical terrain like ice-climbing, mountaineering and backcountry adventures. They have more aggressive spikes that are much longer and stronger, providing a better grip on snow and ice, which you need to stay safe if you’re climbing up an icy mountain.
Microspikes provide a more light to moderate type of traction and are intended for easy to moderate winter hikes or, in some cases urban hikes.
Related Reading: 7 Reasons Why You Need an Emergency Thermal Blanket On Every Hike