Choosing the right traction to do the job
I know what you are thinking, don’t jinx us! But you know it’s inevitable that the snow and ice is going to be here sooner or later. Soon it will be time to start thinking about extending that hiking season into late fall and early winter. While early snow and ice might not stick around for too long, the cold weather up higher in elevation just might. With that being said, start thinking about what you have for traction devices. Snowshoes, crampons? Not yet, that will be soon enough. Fall and early winter are considered shoulder seasons in hiking where the conditions are typically sporadic, meaning snowshoes and crampons are too much and naked boots are not enough. For right now let’s just start to think about minor traction devices like microspikes, yaktrax, stabilizers or similar traction.
These are used the most and will be seen the most on the trails. You'll recognize them as they come in black or red colors. They are sized XS-XL; be sure to use the sizing chart on the back when purchasing, it is fairly accurate – better yet, try them on. They are made of a highly elastic rubber that stretches over the boot to hold them in place. The bottom of the device has several spikes which are not very sharp. The spikes do not need to be sharp to provide adequate traction. Be sure to store these in a small sack to protect your other gear while in your pack. Don’t store them wet either.
There are several versions of these. All models are a highly elastic rubber and should be tried on at the shop for an accurate fit.
Walker - These are made for walking around town or on flat trails, do not bring these into the mountains. The wire spring traction device is not strong enough for trails and will fall off the foot in moderate to steep conditions.
Pro - These have a strap over the top and are a bit more aggressive. These can be used adequately on rolling hills or small peaks and around town. The wire spring traction device is a bit stronger and they stay on your feet better than the Walker.
Runner - These were designed for trail and road running in the winter and work well on moderately steep terrain. The wire spring traction device will stay on your feet well, but tend to twist a bit when descending steeper terrain.
XTR - This is the model for the High Peaks, mountains, flat hiking, rolling hills and even trail running. These are similar to the Microspikes outlined above and are far more aggressive than the other three models. Spike traction device for ultimate footing and more extreme conditions.
This traction devise is simply a boot sole with traction that goes over your hiking boot. This stiff sole is equipped with removable and replaceable screws for traction. These work well for rolling hills, but don’t give the best traction for steeper mountain terrain. If you do use these, be sure to bring extra screws and a screw driver to replace the ones that fall out, because they do.
This is a final measure and by no means should be a first choice. Many boots are equipped with deep, thick, hard soles. In cases like this, screws could be used directly into the boot. Be sure to use the correct length screw as to not penetrate the inner boot. If they go to deep not only will in ruin your boots' waterproofing but the bottom of your foot.
So that is a brief overview of a few traction devices on the market. This was more “food for thought” to get the wheels turning. There are many more styles, models, brands and such kicking around, but these are the ones you will see the most. If you are in the market for some traction be sure to check out a local Adirondack gear shop for selection. Remember the best way to get a proper fit is to bring the footwear in that you will use them on and check for proper fit. What's that you say? You already have your late-fall gear, you want to think about what snowshoes to pack? Check out this recent blog - where I break down basic snowshoe selection!