Welcome to talks with Agent K
Updated: Jan 5, 2020
Each week we will publish an article explaining a commonly used term or type of gear. Having a firm understanding of your gear, your destination, and/ or trail description (either water or land) is key to having a good time and making sure everyone gets home safely.
This week will we look at traction. Living in southern New England, means that for most hikes I only need hiking boots- personally I prefer trail runners lighter and less bulky but thats for another time. However come January and Feb, microspikes are necessary. These are slip-on grips that allow you to hike on ice without slipping. The benefit of microspikes is that you can take them on and off without much fuss. When hiking Mt Monadnock in April, my team and I consistently were taking them on and off. (It is not recommended to wear them on bare rock.) The ease of use, made the on and off not an ordeal.
If there is not enough ice and snow to warrant microspikes, but you still need something to keep from slipping, stabilicers are the perfect compromise. There are no straps to fasten, and slip over your shoes in seconds. Traction levels vary from aggressive to very aggressive. The spikes are small enough so that they will not roll your ankle when walking on bare stone, but strong enough to keep traction on solid ice sheets. There is a metal plate connecting the spikes, which give support as you step on jagged stones. Once the ice and snow get to deep, it is best to change for larger spikes.
If you are looking to complete hikes with more than a spattering of ice and some significant elevation gain, then crampons are what you are looking for. This bad boys are big but worth every ounce when you are climbing in those conditions. Crampons are designed for winter hiking boots while microspikes can go on pretty much any hiking shoe. Crampons are designed for terrain where you should also have an ice axe and be an experienced winter hiker.