I've never gone in the winter, but I'd like to extend my hiking to 4-season. I just picked up a pair of snowshoes and now I want something a little less geared towards the fluffy stuff and more suited to the icy stuff for recreational trail hiking.
I live in the greater NYC area and I plan on using one of the device-types below on trails ( no ice wall scaling, purely trails), help me pick what would be the most cost-effective, durable, easy to use, best traction on the trail:
Warning: I have no experience with any of these products and do not go ice climbing or maountaineering. However, I do go winter camping and one of the most frequent places we head is up a frozen river. For that, the crampons on the bottom of our snow shoes work just fine. You'll need to have fairly agressive crampons and resharpen them every so often. Having said that, on the occasions when there is bitter cold but little snow the snow shoes are overkill and something like the stabelicers or the chain traction would be usefull. I'd think that actually trying to hike on ice in the instep crampons would quickly become misery. They look more useful on something that they can dig into further than solid ice. Someone with some mountaineering experience chime in here!
If I wouldn't eat it at home, why would I want to eat it on the trail?
Instep crampons are not so good, as you don't have traction with both ends of the foot. The various Kahtoola products have received pretty good reviews from various points that I have seen, but I haven't tried any of them myself.
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
If you go to VFTT (www.viewsfromthetop.com) and put Stabilicers in the search engine, several threads on what to use instead of full crampons will pop up. I believe guests can use the search engine, but let me know if not.
I see you have already made a decision but I wanted to mention another option in case others are referring to this discussion. As a resident of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, I have used "Yaktrax" and been satisfied with them. They also worked well on the icy trails in the Grand Canyon on a couple of winter trips there. Last trip in Jan. '08, I met someone using the microspikes. I was impressed with what they were, but they were way overkill for the icy trails we were on. The Yaktrax are a little lighter weight. I would get the "pro" version" -- which means it has a velcro strap that goes across the top of the foot and secures them more effectivelly.
I agree, Yaktrax are excellent. When I was in the Army in Alaska where there is ice on the ground 7 months out of the year, you learn to love Yaktrax. Much more efficient than shuffling across the ice and risking feet over head, lol. They take a hell of a beating too. I'd buy a few pairs though because if you use them enough, eventually they may break. However, that may have just been a consequence of extreme heavy use and ridiculously cold temperatures in Alaska for me. But, you can't go wrong with Yaktrax. I'd agree on getting the "pro" version as well. They come off just about never.
In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.-Aristotle
Really pretty good on icy trails below tree line. You need a boot with a fairly hard sole. Leather Asolos are fine. Not good with mukluks or running shoes. With full leather boots they stay on very reliably. Mostly for hikers, as opposed to climbers. Cheaper and lighter than full crampons and easier to pack.
I have used most of the items mentioned and then some:
Yaktrax - broke several pairs before giving up on them.
Stabilicers - work well but are heavy and don't fit well on some boots.
Instep Crampons - very solid if they fit your boot but have limited number of contact points which meant I had to be a little more thoughtful when walking on steeper trails.
Microspikes - I have been using these for a couple of seasons and they have worked really well and are fairly light. I have used them on heavy hiking boots, light hikers and trail runners and they worked well on all of them.
My vote goes to the "MicroSpikes" and I'm seriously thinking of getting some for this winter.
Backpacking last week on Colorado's Arapaho trail on patches of slippery snow, stomped down by many boots, I wished for the pair of MicroSpikes I had seen at a mountaineering store in Boulder the day before. And the next morning on the way out that packed snow had frozen solid, making it even more slippery and making me REALLY wish I had those short spikes.
"There are no comfortable backpacks. Some are just less uncomfortable than others."