Monday, 18 March 2013

Kahtoola Microspikes Review

I had been looking at buying a pair of crampons to take with me on winter hikes, but I had foreseen a few problems. Firstly crampons are expensive, even the cheapest good looking pair are retailing for around £80! Secondly, you can look like your taking things a bit extreme taking on a hill in crampons - admittedly they are great if your going to be climbing ice, crossing ice filled routes or in constant deep snow. But like the average hiker, your probably going to come to point where you need to remove your crampons because your suddenly on rocky or shale type terrain. Plus they can be a bit of a pain, making a hike in a winter wonderland a trickier than need be affair. And thirdly and simply, crampons are a bulky item to transport, taking up some serious room in your rucksack, the time has come for an alternative.
 So after trawling various outdoor stores and on-line retailers I came to the conclusion there was only one option for what I needed - and that was Kahtoola Microspikes. Very much recommended from friends and other outdoor types these seem to have established something of a thumbs up from even the harshest of reviewers.
 photo DSCF1851_zpsb4da8e9c.jpg  On first glances I have to admit I wasn't impressed. Number one there red, they look a bit like your making a statement by having something of that colour on your boots. Second the spikes are attached to a snow chain that looks a bit flimsy. But to be fair they are also an eyebrow raiser, I put on my hiking boots and put the Kahtoola Microspikes over them. I bought mine in a large size which according to the website was my size for a size 10 boot. They fitted surprisingly snug, almost like they were made specifically for my boots, and they stretched fairly easy too across them without feeling like they could be kicked off. So, they seem great at home but how have they performed in the great outdoors?...
These are absolutely fantastic to pack into your rucksack, they scrunch right down to fit in those side pockets or perhaps in the lid. They are also lightweight to carry, you really can't notice them in your pack when hiking. 
 They are marked left and right so you can't get mixed up, and they are easy to get on even on the hill... photo DSCF1848_zpse7e86910.jpg Right, lets go hiking...  photo DSCF1849_zps677e6ddf.jpg Feeling good... photo DSCF1853_zpsa3216211.jpg
In deep snow they are a comfort preventing slipping and helping make a quicker pace... photo DSCF1869_zps2cdce03b.jpg
Onto rockier terrain the Microspikes again were a comfort to be wearing, stopping the worry of slipping that you would get just in your boots... photo DSCF1861_zps3137b8c8.jpg It takes a bit of time to get used to wearing something like this, you get the feeling that your going to slip because your on ice, but then you realise your already on ice and your walking like your wearing shoes on Tarmac. These are a real revolution... photo DSCF1876_zpsb3d6aae9.jpg
They made easy work of sheets of ice on the hill and made me feel confident you could take on some fairly tricky terrain. I don't think they are an alternative to crampons, by any means, especially on more serious terrain, but these certainly are a great choice for hill walking in winter.
 After the walk they packed back down nice and easy into my rucksack ready for the next trip to the hills in this seemingly extended winter. I can't wait to get back out there just to test these out again. I couldn't recommend these higher, and retailing around the £45 mark these are a steal for what they do - go get them now!

5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Trekmates Cairngorm GTX Gaiters Review

 photo DSCF1846_zpsdacc744d.jpg
The Cairngorm GTX Gaiter from Trekmates are a good choice for hill walking, U.K mountaineering or just for a wander on a muddy track. And with them being one of the cheapest GORE-TEX lined Gaiters on the market, they make an excellent addition to your outdoor gear to give you that extra protection from the wind and rain.

They are constructed from Tough Cordura fabric at the lower end of the Gaiters as well as a strip of the same fabric running up the front of the Gaiters making them very strong and surprisingly lightweight, all this constructed over the top of GORE-TEX 3-layer Taslan fabric.
 Trekmates have designed these Gaiters with a wide Velcro strip at the front that wraps around your lower leg fairly easily. Once on, they certainly will not come apart on your hike! The Gaiters also come with a tough hard wearing strap that will fit around any boots easily. The strap is quite long, and for safety will need cutting to a suitable length - the strap is also fully replaceable too if you do lose or destroy it.

Overall on the hill these have been a useful addition to my outdoor gear. If anything they are good for taking off after getting them covered in mud and so when travelling home the lower leg of my walking pants are still clean.
 These Gaiters however are not particularly breathable, after long hikes I get quite a build up of moisture on the inside of them, this is the main problem with them being GORE-TEX lined. Other than that, these are a quality pair of Gaiters.

4 out of 5 stars.