With winter coming, we will soon face many slippery situations. It's time to look at the various forms of traction for hikers. There are a few choices, and it's not always an easy choice. Crampons, Micro-Spikes, Snow Shoes, Skins, and more, there are many choices that all have their pros and cons. Each situation may require a different form of traction. Careful planning ahead of time will ensure your safety and make your trip much more enjoyable. So let's take a look at when you should use such devices and how to choose the right one.
Winter hikers mainly use three different kinds of traction devices in winter: microspikes, mountaineering crampons, and snowshoes. Microspikes and mountaineering crampons are used to provide traction on ice and packed snow while snowshoes are mainly used to provide flotation on top of unconsolidated snow.
However, putting on microspikes, mountaineering crampons, or snowshoes prematurely can tire you quickly if you’re hiking on a trail or up a mountain that is going to stretch your physical limits. The best strategy is to only put them on when you need to and not before.
Kahtoola Microspikes provide excellent traction on packed snow and light ice on fairly level hiking trails
When should you put on microspikes?
Microspikes are best worn on fairly level hiking trails covered with packed snow or ice. They provide that little bit of extra bite that you need to when your boot treads stop giving you good traction. A winter driving analogy is useful here: regular boots are like winter snow tires, but when they start sliding, you put on tire chains to get more traction.However wearing microspikes means added weight on your feet (an extra pound), which can wear you out prematurely on a long hike. It’s often possible to defer putting them on with better footwork, especially on packed snow. For example, if you splay your feet out and walk like a duck uphill, you can often coax a little more traction out of your boots.While microspikes are marvelous winter traction aids, they do have their limits when you start to tackle higher angle slopes covered in ice. That’s when you want to switch to a longer and sharper winter traction aid called a crampon.
Crampons for soft-soled hiking boots have a flexible center bar called a leaf spring.
When should you put on mountaineering crampons?
Mountaineering crampons are best worn on higher angle ice, ice-covered rock, or mixed ice and bare rock when you need a deeper bite and more solid footing to climb a slope. The chains and spikes on microspikes have too much “give” in them and are too short to penetrate deeply into ice when you need them to hold your full body weight. Heavier duty crampons also have front points, that you can kick into vertical ice to get a toehold when none exists.
Barebooting without crampons can save energy for later.
Snowshoes have two functions: they provide flotation so you don’t sink as deeply into powdery or deep snow, which helps conserve your energy. They also prevent post-holing which occurs when you sink into snow up to your thighs or waist. Snowshoes also have integrated crampons on their undersides that help provide traction on ice or packed snow and can be used instead of crampons in low-angle situations.
MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes have crampon teeth built into the frame for extra traction.
If you compare snowshoes, you’ll find that the ones with the greatest surface area are best for snowshoeing on powder and that smaller and narrower ones are better for walking on broken-out winter trails. There’s also a fair amount of variety in the aggressiveness of the underlying crampons on snowshoes. Teardrop-shaped crampons like the ones on Tubbs Snowshoes tend to have fewer crampon teeth than MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes, where the frame itself acts like a crampon.
I have some great news today, so let's get started!First, The Green Door Cafe, Climber's Rock Inc., and Pc Techs will all be joining the N.A.C. Partners Program! That means even more benefits and savings for our Season Pass Holders. Discounts and benefits are still being worked out. The Green Door Cafe is offering 10% off food and drinks (excluding alcohol) for any N.A.C. Season Pass Holder. Benefits from Climber's Rock Inc. and PC Techs will be announced in the near future. Watch upcoming editions of Adventure Weekly for more details!Second, in Casino Life news. My First Round of Vacation Picks have been completed and I have secured 3 weeks of vacation. Why is this news? Because it guarantees that we will be able to have two major excursions in 2023! I have secured July 20 - July 28 off. During that week, we will visit Iceland to complete The Laugavegur Trail. I have also secured October 12 - October 20, during which time we will complete an epic adventure in Yosemite National Park. I have also secured a week in September, I have not yet planned what to do with those days. It may be a 3 day backpacking trip in Bruce Peninsula National Park, or possibly a Kayak trip. Exact dates and plans for all 3 trips will be announced and posted soon. I still have more time to book, and will do so on November 15th. I am hoping to book a few long weekends for some smaller trips here in Ontario.2023 Seasons Passes are now for sale. The sale of Season's Passes is a major part of what keeps this club operating, so please consider purchasing one for yourself or gift one to a friend. NAC Season Passes make a great Christmas gift! Your Season Pass comes with many discounts and benefits making it an incredible value.
Lastly, I have planned and posted all the final events for 2022. There will be 4 more hikes and 4 more indoor climbing trips. Check out the Upcoming Events below, or visit the Events Page at Niagara Adventure Club to learn more and register for events.