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Help on how to hike without slipping on packed snow and ice

Hey all,

I recently moved to the Boulder area and have been out hiking a few times a week.  Life has been great, but today I went out and slid on my butt most of the way back down the mountain because it was so slick from packed snow and ice.  I don't plan on doing any sort of major mountaineering or anything like that but I would have benefitted from something on the hike I was on today.  The hike bounced back and forth from icy to snow to rock though and I usually try to keep a good pace because I hike before work a lot and have to get back for morning meetings.  I'm not trail running, but I also don't want to stop to put crampons on and off a bunch of times so I'm curious if these things are fine going through the dirt and rocks on a hike that isn't totally snow covered.  I also envision doing longer glacial hikes on weekends, etc. so I don't want to under-do it and regret buying something cheap.  I wear a good pair of Asolo's most of the time because I would twist my ankle on the rocks here in my trail runners so whatever I would purchase should fit over standard hiking boots I'm assuming.  

Given all of this, does anyone have any recommendations on crampons or some other solution?  I see the prices range pretty wildly and I've never owned anything like this before.  Anything I should look out for?  Am I overanalyzing this?  hah.  Take it easy on me, I'm new here.

Thanks in advance!

9 Replies

@osuhomebase this is a timely question, as we're seeing lots of snowy precipitation start to land around the country! We actually had a similar thread just a week or two ago on shoe/boot suggestions for walking in slippery conditions! For what you're describing, a true crampon is probably more than you need; instead, we'd suggest a traction device like the Kahtoola MICROspikes and Yaktrax ICEtrekkers. These are versatile on different surfaces and can be easily put on/removed as needed. 

We anticipate you may get advice from other community members as well; hope this helps!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Here in the chilly climate of Illinois, I use micro spikes and, of course, trekking poles. They're fine on dirt and gravel as well. The Kahtoola brand gets rave reviews (I have a different brand that REI doesn't sell). The $40-60 you'll spend will be worth it

“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” (John Muir)

Thanks to both @REI-JenK and @Dad_Aint_Hip .  I definitely saw people wearing micro cleats on the trail this morning.  I'm glad I know the difference now.  In terms of trekking poles, I've tried them before but didn't really get into them.  I have nothing against them, but I usually hike with my DSLR clipped to my backpack so I like my hands free.

With the cleats, the Kahtoola spikes seem like they would have worked better for the more icy slopes I hiked this morning so I'll give those a try.  

Thanks again!

Hi @osuhomebase,

Welcome to Colorado! Winter hiking is the best!

I want to let you know that in addition to all the great advice given so far, REI has started carrying a new Kahtoola Product, the Kahtoola Exospikes. These are meant to be a nice medium between the Nanospike (designed for road running/walking) and the Microspike (designed for trails/snowpack). It's sort of a do-it-all product that can go from trail to road if needed. If you think you'll need full versatility between road and trail, check them out. But if you think you'll only be using them on hikes, I'd go with the Microspikes. 

Happy Hiking!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Update: I bought the Kahtoola MICROspikes yesterday and did a 4 mile hike this morning up Green Mountain near Boulder.  First off, it was my first 4am hike through a pretty thick cover and I was scared out of my mind.  I'll do another post to query if that kind of hike was a bad idea or not.  I did have bear spray and a headlamp.

Second, and to the point.  I don't know how I would have done that hike without the microspikes.  They made a huge difference.  I was concerned about bending them or something because the Kahtoola's are a little longer than the others, but they were totally fine.  I even took them off at one point because it was so rocky, promptly wiped out, and put them back on.  Thank you for the recommendations.

The views from the top were stunning, although I think some of the interesting color may be due to pollution and wildfire smoke.Green-Mountain-Colorado-1.jpg


WHAT A PICTURE! Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak, yes?! 

So glad you had success with the Microspikes! Protip: if you get out for some snowshoeing this winter, bring the spikes for the parking lot, or anywhere where it's especially icy or snowpacked!

See you out there!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

hey I wish I knew!  We haven't lived here long enough to be able to identify the peaks yet... I'm still letting Google tell me when to turn left, turn right, etc.  Once I get the roads and highways down I'll try to start learning the hills, haha.

Great tip re: snow shoeing.  Are there places that rent snow shoes?  


@osuhomebase Your Boulder REI Co-Op rents snowshoes! For more information on rates, contact the store directly.

Check out the PeakFinder app if you're interested in knowing the names of the (many) mountains in your area!


At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

snap.  Peakfinder is for finding peaks as PhotoPills is for locating the milky way and identifying stars.  I just found Mt. Evans from my basement, although the basement wall didn't match the AR, haha.