IR - Kahtoola KTS Steel - Jim S.
- IR - Kahtoola KTS Steel - Jim S.
For your editing pleasure:
Kahtoola KTS Steel Traction System
Date: December 15, 2005
Height:6' 3" (1.90 m)
Weight:210 lb (94 kg)
I've been camping since my teens. My outdoor activities include backpacking,
canoeing, sea kayaking, snowshoeing, mountaineering and cross country skiing.
I have expanded my backpacking to include winter mountaineering, back country
skiing and ski backpacking. I have received winter mountaineering training
with Chauvin International Climbing Guides. I actively study ways to backpack
lighter and more efficiently. During the summer months, my style tends toward
very light, but not quite ultralight. I use a hammock or tarp for warm weather,
and a small four-season tent for winter trips. Most of my other gear is very
changeable, as I am constantly experimenting with gear and techniques.
Year of Manufacture:2005
Construction:4130 Chromoly Steel, heat-treated
Weight:662 grams (23.3 ounces)
Description:10 points (1" tall) allows natural stride, reduces snagging and
Front Points: 26 degrees open
Dimensions: 4" x 4" x 8"
Sizing:One Size: Men's 4-14, Women's 5+
Certification:CE certified EN893 standards
$ 129.00 US
Specifications as measured:
Weight :26.5 oz (.75 kg)
Weight Assembled:2 lbs 8.5 oz (1.15 kg)
Height (burner head) :5.75 in (14.6 cm)
Width (burner head) : 5.12 in (13 cm) at regulator valve knob
The Kahtoola Traction System KTS arrived in a small, well made box with the
Kahtoola logo printed on the outside. Upon opening the box, I found the
Kahtoolas neatly packed inside. Also enclosed was a small, dark red sack with a
drawstring top, a small Kahtoola decal, a marketing brochure and an information
sheet containing fitting and maintenance instructions. The marketing brochure
echoed the information found on the Kahtoola web site. The nylon sack is made of
very heavy duty nylon and has a black webbing belt loop on one side and the
Kahtoola logo sewn on the other.
I had two quick, clear impressions when I slid the devices out of the sack.
The first was that, like the aluminum KTS model, these things pack really
small. The second was that they are very sharp! The KTS Steel model is constructed
of gunmetal grey steel, stainless steel and black, heavy duty polyester
webbing. Taking one of the devices in my hand, I attempted to slide the front and
rear halves apart, which they did easily and smoothly. The heel support, folded
down flat against the heel plate, lifted easily into place and had enough
friction that the heel support remained upright on its own.
The first thing that became apparent when the Kahtoola was fully opened was
the unique strap system. Unlike the crampons that I have used in the past,
which use various ways to integrate the heel and toe straps into a single binding,
the Kahtoola has designed the heel and toe bindings to be completely
independent of each other. The heel strap is a simple loop which wraps around the
ankle portion of the footwear. The toe strap, on the other hand, is a more complex
arrangement. Consisting of two straps anchored via webbing loops and metal
buckles to two aluminum loops just above the front points, the straps then pass
through a tough plastic plate in an 'X ' pattern and then each passes through
another loop, a stainless steel 'D' ring in this case, attached to the front
plate by thin stainless steel straps, and finally meeting in a plastic,
adjustable slider. The front slider does not open or release.
The steel toe and heel plates have ten rather short spikes compared to more
typical crampons, at approximately 1 in (25 mm) in length. Unlike the aluminum
version, the spikes come to a true point. The tips are actually flattened very
slightly. The plates are connected to each other by a LeafSpring Extender
Bar, which is constructed of two thin layers of stainless steel. This innovation
appears to allow the Kahtoolas to flex without sacrificing durability and
should go a long way to avoiding metal fatigue failure of the bar.
Turning the Kahtoola over revealed a detail that I really like. All the
crampons that I have used in the past have used a simple 'nut and bolt' adjustment
at the heel plate to permit adjustable fit for different boot sizes or styles.
This works well enough, but can be a bit of a nuisance when switching from,
say, hiking boots to cross country ski boots in the field and woe to the person
that loses a nut or bolt (or more likely, both!) out there. The Kahtoolas
provide a cure for this little inconvenience in a very clever fashion. The
LeafSpring Extender Bar has a series of seven holes near the heel end. The Bar
passes through slots at the front of the heel plate. So far pretty typical, but
here is where it gets interesting: instead of the usual 'nut and bolt' assembly,
Kahtoola has designed a little stainless steel clip with an attached pin that
fits precisely into the holes in the LeafSpring Extender Bar. The clip is
designed in such a way that removing it would be extremely difficult, so
accidental loss appears to be highly unlikely, yet adjustment remains very simple. Just
lift the spring clip and then slide the extender bar to the desired position.
The folding heel plate is constructed of a bent stainless steel rod and a
curved plastic plate. The black polyester webbing is threaded through the plastic
plate and wraps around the ankle area of the footwear when fitted. All the
Kahtoola webbing is black. The heel plate webbing also has the Kahtoola name
woven into the strap in red.
The Kahtoolas are shaped, by a slight angle in the front plate slider bar
openings, to fit either the right or the left foot and are labeled accordingly,
by a small stamped 'L' or 'R' on each front plate, but the angle is large
enough to make the fitment obvious. The size is determined by the LeafSpring
Extender Bar position. The Kahtoola web site denotes the KTS Steel as one size only,
but included a smaller extender bar with the KTS Steels I received.
A couple of nice additional details: on the straps are four black silicon
rubber retainers, intended to hold excess strap material in place after the
crampons are fitted and adjusted, and a small plastic clip on the rear strap
intended to prevent it from riding up over the top of low boots or trail runners.
Overall quality and construction appears to be top notch.
I first fitted the Kahtoolas to my Cabelas Winter Gear boots, as I anticipate
these will see the most use with them. Fitting was generally simple and
straightforward. First, just slide the LeafSpring Extender Bar to the fully open
position. Then, opening the locking clip, adjust the bar position so the
Kahtoola is just long enough to fit the boot. This need only be done once unless
fitting to different footwear. Next, loosen the toe straps and, after checking
that the heel plate is fully upright, slide the boot into the front of the
device. If the straps are not sufficiently loose, this can take some fussing,
especially when getting the metal portion of the straps over the rather pronounced
lugs of this particular boot. Once in place, wrap the heel strap around the
boot, secure the quick release buckle, which is keyed to fit only one way, making
a twisted strap much less likely, and cinch the strap tight. Then give the
toe strap a tug and the Kahtoolas are in place! Lastly, take a moment to place
any excess straps under the retainers and all is good to go. Once fitted, the
process takes about half the time of more traditional crampons. The Cabelas
Winter Gear boots are a size 12 US (47 EU) and are insulated, rated to -45 F (-43
C). The boots are slightly bulky due to the size and insulation, but the
Kahtoola KTS Steel crampons fit easily, with plenty of remaining strap material.
If I have a complaint, it is that adjusting the toe straps to properly fit my
boots was a rather fussy process. This is due somewhat to the plastic plate
where the straps cross, as the straps slide through this with some reluctance.
Mostly it is due to the three loop and buckle arrangements on the forward
straps. These are just a pain to adjust. The provided instructions spend some time
on going over the proper adjustment of the toe straps and the positioning of
the plastic toe plate in particular. Probably due to familiarity, the fitting
of the KTS Steel on these boots went much smoother and faster than my initial
experience with the original KTS aluminum model, only taking a few minutes.
Fortunately, once done, these do not require any further fiddling unless fitting
to different footwear.
The KTS Steel traction devices fit easily into the storage bag. The stuff
sack is listed as an option on the Kahtoola web site for $19.00 US. I
experimented a bit and found the best way to store them is to completely collapse them
and place them point to point, but toe to heel. This stuff sack seems a bit
larger than the one supplied last year and sliding the devices in is much easier.
Once in, I snug the sack closed and this ensures that the crampons remain
fully collapsed. As the points are facing each other and not in contact with the
fabric, wear should not be an issue.
What I like:
1 – Excellent quality.
2 – Eas of installation once fitted.
What I don’t like:
1 – No material issues at all..
The Kahtoola KTS Traction System will be put to use as much as possible in
the Catskills and the Adirondacks. I will concentrate on some known steep routes
and look for icy exposures when possible. As spring rolls in, many
well-packed trails deteriorate into hard, icy walkways and crampons are essential for
safety. Temperatures should drop to -10 F (-23 C) or lower on some of these
trips. Elevations top out around 4000-5000 ft (1219-1524 m) or so, and a typical
ascent is about 1800 ft (549 m) to 3000 ft (914 m). The trails vary from
relatively smooth and flat to quite steep and rocky with occasional pitches that
require scrambling. Ice exposure is common and snow almost guaranteed.
I have had occasional problems with snow balling up on the inside of my
crampons and snowshoes in the past. Will the short spikes and flexible Extender Bar
prevent this from occurring? There is a possibilty of us making a traverse of
the Presidential Range in the White Mountains in New Hampshire, one of the
most difficult mountain routes in the Northeast. I will bring the Kahtoola KTS
Steel traction devices along for this traverse, as while difficult, it does not
require technical crampon use and the KTS Steel crampons may prove to be just
the ticket. The original aluminum version had limits as to what type of icy
terrain I would use them on. The Steel version seems designed to pick up where
the aluminum version leaves off.
I would like to thank Kahtoola for the opportunity to test this very
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