FR - Kahtoola KTS Steel Traction System
- One field Report for your editing pleasure! Thanks. Jim S.
HTML will follow when I return from my oop and can find a better net
Kahtoola KTS Steel Traction System
<Kahtoola KTS Steel photo>
Date: February 21, 2006
Name: Jim Sabiston
Height: 6' 3" (1.90 m)
Weight: 210 lb (94 kg)
Email address: JimSabis(at)aol(dot)com
State: New York
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.
Manufacturer: Kahtoola, Inc.
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
I had two quick, clear impressions when I slid the devices out of the box.
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 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.
Overall quality and construction appears to be top notch. For more a more
detailed description of the KTS Steel traction devices, please refer to my
This has been a rough winter in the Northeast for testing snow and ice gear.
Cold conditions, snow and ice have been very difficult to come by.
Non-the-less, The Kahtoola KTS Steel traction devices received a good workout on two icy
backpacks. The first was a long hike over Panther Mountain and Giant Ledge in
the Catskills. The terrain was generally covered in ice under a minimum of 12
in (*) of snow, and usually more. The snow, in turn, had been soaked by a
heavy rain which turned to ice and froze solid, making for a tricky hiking
surface. The rest of the group was in snow shoes, but I grabbed the opportunity and
wore the KT Steel crampons for the entire 9 mile (*) route.
As long as I was not breaking trail, the Kahtoolas had a clear advantage over
the snowshoes, as the sharp steel teeth gave a very secure grip at all times.
The snowshoes, while giving superior flotation, just could not bite into the
icy layers any where near as well as the Kahtoolas. This was especially
apparent in the steeper pitches of the route, where the other members of the group
had to contend with slipping and sliding going up the pitches and then again on
the descent. The Kahtoolas, on the other hand, just had to be pushed into a
solid surface to grip. Once through the snow and into the hard under layers,
the KTS Steel crampons never slipped. The single slip occurred on one section
where the snow was drifted and deep enough that I had a problem finding anything
solid in the drift. I still made it up the pitch much more easily than the
snowshoe shod climbers.
The other climbers were not going to let me off without breaking trail
forever, though. When I finally took point, the Kahtoolas predictably post holed.
Fortunately, the crusty snow was not too deep and walking was not overly
difficult. It was a bit of a toss up as to whether the snowshoes or the crampons were
better on the flat or moderately pitched sections. However, once into the
steep or really icy stuff, the Kahtoolas were the clear winners.
The only problem experienced on this trip occurred when taking the Kahtoolas
off at the end of the first day. The plastic clips on the ankle straps would
not release. Apparently, the constant , day long mashing through the icy snow
had compacted ice into the clip and prevented them from releasing. A little
banging and prodding finally knocked enough ice free that the clips would finally
release. The hike out the next day was essentially a repeat of the hike in,
but the trail into Giant Ledge was already broken and packed. The Kahtoolas
were perfect for the hike out on a packed trail and descending moderate pitches.
The next backpack was during an extremely windy weekend in Harriman State
Park. A powdery, wind driven snow once again covered an icy base. The Kahtoola
KTS Steel crampons proved to be just the ticket. The snow cover was not deep
and we traveled with bare boots to the first climb. One look at the wind driven
drifts convinced me to put the Kahtoolas on and the others followed suit with
their more typical 10-point crampons. I had the KTS Steel crampons on in about
half the time that my friends needed to put on their strap-on crampons, once
again showing one of the advantages of the unique Kahtoola strap design. I was
better than halfway up the snow covered ridge by the time the others where
geared up and moving. The terrain was mainly drifted powder snow mixed with ice
covered rock. The Kahtoolas proved to be very stable over this awkward mix,
never slipping at all. This gave me great confidence when moving over difficult
The short, but sharp, spikes of the KTS Steel make them very easy to walk in,
much more so than the more common long spike styles. Yet, for non-technical
climbing, little, if anything, is given up by way of grip and traction on even
moderately pitched ice. The ease of walking in the Kahtoolas makes me much
more likely to put them on in marginal conditions and the added security of the
improved traction on snow covered trails is excellent. I really like the
freedom that the Kahtoolas give me in these conditions to enjoy the scenery rather
than worrying about every foot placement as I walk down a snow or ice covered
The crampons fold quite easily into a small package and are much more
convenient in this respect than other crampons I've used. Even with that advantage, I
find that I am inclined to just strap the crampons on to the outside of my
backpack. The stainless steel heel loop is ideal for this. I either use a pack
compression strap or a small caribiner to secure the crampons through the heel
loop. This keeps them readily available when needed and is easier than digging
then out of the pack and/or their optional stuff sack.
Wear and tear have been negligible so far. The black paint on the point tips
wore off pretty quickly and the points show a little bit of rust but this is
to be expected, especially with the exposure to ice covered rock surfaces I
have exposed the crampons to. The points themselves have held up quite well
otherwise, showing only a little dulling of the points. The only problem
experienced to date is the one time I walked out of one of the crampons. I suspect this
had more to do with me not tightening the toe straps properly than anything
inherent in the Kahtoolas per se. The incident highlighted two points: 1) the
need to pay attention when tightening the straps. The overall ease of putting
the Kahtoolas on led me to let my guard down and I didn't check them properly
after they were on. Even still, I covered about half a mile before the toe
strap slid off. 2) When the toe strap slid off, the Kahtoola remained attached to
my foot because of the separate ankle strap. A more typical strap-on crampon
would have fallen completely off and possibly become lost. This is a nice
security feature of the Kahtoola strap design. There have been no issues with snow
balling up underneath the crampons to date.
What I like:
1 – Excellent quality.
2 – Ease of installation once fitted.
3 - Ease of walking when wearing the Kahtoolas.
4 - Excellent all-around traction on mixed surfaces.
What I don’t like:
1 – My insulated winter boots are much bulkier than my non-insulated boots.
No surprise there. But, the added bulk makes sliding the boot toe into the toe
straps more difficult. Loosening the toe straps slightly helps ease the
process, but then I have to fuss with re-adjusting the toe strap tension. I think
rushing this process is what led to the one incident of one of the crampons
falling off. There also seems to be a surplus of webbing, especially on the toe
straps. I wear size 12 boots. Even with the added bulk of the insulated boots,
there is a lot of strap to tuck away when the crampons are secured. We are not
allowed to modify gear during a test series, but I will almost certainly trim
the webbing straps back several inches after the test series is completed.
The Kahtoolas KTS Steel traction devices have proven to be an excellent
general purpose crampon for the winter conditions typically seen in the Northeast
and offer significantly improved traction over the aluminum version. This has
been a mild winter so far, but we are hoping for more typical winter weather in
the few remaining weeks of winter so I can give the KTS Steel crampons more
of a workout.
- hi Jim!
thanks for your enjoyable and informative FR. only a few edits for
you to incorporate. here we go...
> Non-the-less, The Kahtoola KTS Steel traction devices received aedit: "Nonetheless"
> the Catskills. The terrain was generally covered in ice under aminimum of 12
> in (*) of snow, and usually more.edit: add that metric equivalent! (i make this mistake all the time.)
> surface. The rest of the group was in snow shoes, but I grabbed theopportunity and
> wore the KT Steel crampons for the entire 9 mile (*) route.edit #1: "KTS Steel"
edit #2: again, that metric equivalent.
> solid in the drift. I still made it up the pitch much more easilythan the
> snowshoe shod climbers.edit: "snowshoe-shod." i won't hold you to this.
> forever, though. When I finally took point, the Kahtoolaspredictably post holed.
> not release. Apparently, the constant , day long mashing through theicy snow
edit: this is probably a Yahooism, but you have an extra space after
the word "constant."
design. I was
> better than halfway up the snow covered ridge by the time the otherswhere
> geared up and moving.edit: "the others were geared up"
that's it! thanks again.