When is Hill Walking not Hill Walking?
This ICEGRIPPER article focuses on the use of micro-crampons and ice grips when winter ‘hill walking’.
But before we look at the equipment it may be necessary to provide some context and define ‘hill walking’, which can vary quite a bit depending on where in the UK you are ‘doing’ it.
For the purposes of this article we want to look at how: leisure walking, hiking, hill walking and low altitude trekking is affected by snow and ice and the range of non-technical traction products that can be used to safely enjoy the walk.
It’s important to consider geography because when walking in Scotland, the Welsh Mountains, Peak District or the Lake District there may be times when people consider they are only winter ‘hill walking’ when in reality they may be ‘mountaineering’ and need specific, technical equipment.
This article assumes most relatively experienced 'walkers' know the difference and would check weather reports, local information and research the walk before setting off and where necessary take full technical equipment.
The UK can be a tricky place to hill walk. One of the difficulties is that a stretch of ground which is relatively straightforward to negotiate one week might present a challenge the next week. Conditions in the UK have always been changeable and in recent years there have been bizarre fluctuations. Large snowfalls have created huge accumulations only to disappear in a few days and then be replaced all over again shortly after. An overnight drop in temperature can change relatively easy grassy slopes into icy death traps where all the water has been frozen solid. This hazard is made worse because the slopes may still look green and the ice can’t be seen until you actually set foot on it.
A study by Bob Sharp, a former chair of the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland, claims that 27% of all mountainside/hillside incidents involve slips, trips and stumbles and goes on to conclude that slips often have dire consequences, particularly in winter when a slip can result in a very long fall.
Unsurprisingly 37% of falls take place over the four-month period from December to March (definition - in a “slip” the casualty does not change location. In contrast, people who have a “fall” have moved a considerable distance, often with severe injury).
In recent years a new range of products has become available to the UK winter walker to help prevent slips and falls. Within the increasingly extensive range of ice grip products there are a number which have become classified as ‘micro-crampons’. These products are specifically aimed at the non technical hill walker, hiker and trekker. ICEGRIPPER would like to present a selection, examining product differences, features and benefits…and give you our evaluation, based on our use and testing:
The quantity of Diamond Grip sold by ICEGRIPPER and the resulting customer feedback leaves us in no doubt about the ability of this product. The diamond bead assemblies create hundreds of biting points, which dig into ice and hard packed snow, resulting in sure-footed grip. In our tests the product also improved grip on slippery rock and icy grass. One of the best things about Diamond Grip is that it can comfortably be left on, if your walk traverses across patches of road, unlike some of the other products with more pronounced spikes. The substantial rubber sling holds the product firmly onto your boots without need of any straps, even in deep snow. Weight: 260 - 360g depending on size (S, M, L, XL)
+ No soft material ground wear points, the weight of the wearer is on the hard diamond bead assemblies
+ Aggressive grip even on sloping glassy ice, created by the points of the diamond beads
+ Tough, rugged and can deal with all types of terrain
+ Very comfortable
+ Quick and easy on & off
+ Diamond bead design allows product to worn for extended periods of road walking
+ Most adaptable product within this test
- Diamond bead assemblies are not stainless and should not be left on wet boots for an extended period of time, customers report that they benefit from spraying with WD40 at start and end of season to prevent corrosion
- ICEGRIPPER EFFECTIVENESS/VALUE RATING: 90% out of 100
- RECOMMENDATION: the most adaptable product, purchase Diamond Grip if you want an ‘all-rounder’ suitable for wearing when hill walking or getting around town…
In customer surveys Kahtoola MICROspikes regularly receive over 90% positive feedback. The design is particularly suited to winter hill walking, with 8mm steel spikes which give aggressive grip on ice, rock, snow and scree. Kahtoola founder Danny Giovale designed MICROspikes after falling down an icy mountain gully in the Alps and is so confident of his product that they come with a 2 year manufacturer’s warranty. ICEGRIPPER’s tests concur with the extensive feedback - they do provide very good winter traction. ICEGRIPPER stocks the black version, in addition to the classic Kahtoola red. Weight: 300 - 400g depending on size (XS, S, M, L, XL)
+ No soft material ground wear points
+ Aggressive grip on a variety of terrain as well as ice and snow
+ Tough and rugged
+ Very comfortable - due to the extremely flexible polymer used to manufacture the holding sling
+ Quick and easy on & off
+ 2 year manufacturer’s warranty
- Kahtoolas spikes are quite pronounced and they can feel uncomfortable if walking on dry road for any length of time – but they were specifically designed for winter hill walking not walking on pavements!
- ICEGRIPPER EFFECTIVENESS/VALUE RATING: 95% out of 100
- RECOMMENDATION: not quite as adaptable as ICEtrekkers Diamond Grip, but definite spikes, extended warranty and cult following make Kahtoola MICROspikes a very good choice for hill walking with minimal town use…
ICEGRIPPER Trek and Work are a new breed of micro crampon adaptable and tough enough to be used for both leisure and work. Solid grip on packed snow and ice is provided by: 13 x 15mm spikes per foot.
This micro crampon is clear about where it wants to be used and that’s not on city paths or roads. Unlike ICEtrekkers Diamond Grip, Trek + Work makes no concession to being used in an urban environment – the name says it all. But when used in a snowy, icy, hilly, back-country walking environment, it feels solid and gives very robust grip on just about anything you might walk on. Weight: 460g - 590g depending on size (S, M, L, XL)
+ Aggressive grip
+ Substantial 15mm spikes
+ Inox chain
+ Nice, tight, thermoplastic sling, grips onto boots
+ Removable ‘Powder Strap’ if you have to walk for a substantial period of time in very deep snow
+ Cheapest product in this test at £35 (special offer price until end of Feb 2022 - normally £49.99)
- Of all products tested felt the most uncomfortable walking on a dry road/pavement. The inherent design e.g. 15mm spike length means this product is not really suitable for wearing in town where snow and ice depth will be minimal
- The design, shape and tension of the thermoplastic sling means it is not really suitable to worn on trainers, whereas the sling on the Microspike is very soft and quite low profile - enabling it to be worn on a trainer
- ICEGRIPPER EFFECTIVENESS/VALUE RATING: 93% out of 100
- RECOMMENDATION: if you like your winter walking rough, tough, adventurous and challenging, you should try ICEGRIPPER Trek + Work Micro Crampons…
Have you recently been Winter Hill Walking using micro crampons? We'd be pleased to receive your feedback. Email us, or contact us through any of our social media sites, see the clickable links in the footer below.
Walk, work, run and play on winter ice and snow with ICEGRIPPER
(Credits: Inspired by an original article ‘WHEN IS HILL WALKING NOT HILL WALKING’? Roger Wild, MCofS Scottish Students' Mountain Safety Officer)