You can also check out our Top 5 Favorite Crampons.
Crampons are a definite must-have if you undertake winter hiking. Or any activity that relates to vertical sections involving frozen surfaces. Similarly, those who live in the northern parts of the globe have to cross snowfields and glaciers quite often. For those activities and individuals, micro-spikes are indispensable.
Frozen surfaces of snow and ice can be as unforgiving as the cold itself. Hiking up an icy mountain can be thrilling, but it is also a dangerous adventure. So the use of specialized winter hiking gears is not negotiable. In such a situation, something that adds traction, aka a crampon or microspike, can be a lifesaver. Microspikes have been traditionally used for added traction in the snow.
Fun fact: Crampons were used as far back as 3000 years by Celtic miners. The earliest crampons were a basic leather sandal with iron spikes. The modern 10-point crampon was designed in 1908 by an English climber, Oscar Eckenstein. But the commercial crampons hit the market only in 1938. It was a joint effort between Eckenstein and Henry Grivel, an Italian blacksmith. If you’d like to check out some crampons made by Henry Grivel, check out the Grivel G12 or G14
Benefits of using mico-spikes.
Although microspikes are a quintessential device for added traction, there is more to it. When you have the best micro spike, it can assist you in the following ways.
- Traction – The main reason why micro-spikes are used for snow activities is traction. Frozen ice can be very slippery and dangerous. Without the proper gear to grip on to the ice, it can mean a deadly fall and certain death.
- Increased mobility – With the micro-spike strapped to your boot, you don’t have to struggle with every step. As a result, you can move faster and with ease.
- Increased safety – Trying to navigate a slippery and icy surface without a microspike is simply asking for trouble. When there is good traction, you invariably increase the safety aspect.
If you have some level of winter hiking or alpine mountaineering experience, choosing your gear is relatively easy. You are in your element and constantly testing out ice gear. So you know your gear like the back of your hand. But for someone outside the industry, narrowing down on one microspike is not easy. First, the sheer number of choices is overwhelming. Second, the climbing skill level and the intended activity are also an important factor to consider.
Microspikes are one variety of crampon. They have relatively short points, which are positioned directly below the feet. This makes microspikes a good choice for walking on ice or glaciated surfaces. You can also use them for running or hiking on icy landscapes too. You might be able to get some use on gentle slopes with low angles. However, they are the preferred ice gear for flat terrains.
Now that we have got the nitty-gritty about microspike let’s review one of the best microspikes on the market. We are talking about the Unigear Traction Cleats. This microspike is a fantastic choice with its stellar features.
Let’s find out more.
Unigear Traction Cleats Micro Spike Review
Product Name: Unigear Traction Cleats Ice Snow Grips
Product Description: This microspike features a stainless steel construction that is heat-treated. There are 18 spikes in each crampon, 12 in the forefoot, and 6 in the heel area. All of the spikes are half an inch long. It also has a full-sole coverage design. The heel plate has three spikes, and the straps are adjustable.
Offer price: $16.99
The Unigear Traction Cleats Ice Snow Grips is a fantastic choice for both beginners and veteran climbers. It is very effortless to use and comfortable to wear. Its versatility comes from its different sizes and the ability to use it for multiple activities. The spikes are the star of this traction device. However, its durability and sturdiness are nothing short of outstanding as well.
Ease of Use
- Excellent construction with quality materials.
- Great traction and even weight distribution.
- Very reliable and durable.
- Versatile use with different sizes.
- Has very affordable pricing.
- Not very suitable for heavy snow and debris-filled areas.
- The rubber eyelets on some units are not very durable.
- Shipping for international customers may not be available.
To come across a top-notch alpine gear at this price range is not very common. This microspike is an excellent combination of quality, price, and performance. Moreover, this is a great microspike for beginner climbers. But of course, it is a great backup or spare for expert climbers too.
If you are wondering why we are banging on about this cleat, allow us to blow your minds as well.
Material and design.
This microspike has a solid construction with stainless steel. If you know anything about this setup in a gear, it is sturdy and durable. One of the outstanding features is that you get the full rigidity of steel. In addition, the material makes the cleat corrosion proof. Moreover, the stainless steel in this gear is heat-treated. This feature has a performance aspect, which we will discuss later on. The main body of the microspike consists of the elastomer band.
You will also appreciate the craftsmanship of these ice cleats. It has double-linked chains with welded curbs. The rubber eyelets on the elastomer band are also double reinforced. Although it sounds negligible in theory, these features make this microspike unrivaled in quality. The overall construction of this microspike is impressive for which Unigear deserves much praise.
In terms of aesthetics, these spikes come in two different colors – black and orange. The colors are strictly on the elastomer band, of course. The steel chains remain the same in both designs.
In addition, it comes with a neat carry case. This is excellent, as you will not have to worry about ripping clothes or your backpack with the sharp points. The microspike case also comes in very handy while storing them when not in use.
The excellent performance matches the fantastic design of this cleats. It has 18 spikes. Six of them take up the heel area while the 12 forms the defense on the forefoot. This distribution of points on the cleats ensures an even balance irrespective of whether you are descending or ascending.
Remember the heat-treated steel? They cut through slick ice with effortless ease. This means that you get excellent traction with every step. The double eyelets on the rubber band prevent it from tearing and adds to the cleats’ overall longevity.
Another feature that makes this microspike very reliable is the chains. The double link and welded curbs make it very sturdy. Moreover, it disperses pressure evenly and also withstands more torque. In layman terms, the chains will not break easily and last a lot longer than most chains. There is also the addition of a bend-resistant technology in the points and the chains, so this microspike will easily see you through a couple of seasons.
You will also notice that this cleat covers the entire sole perfectly. This is fantastic as you can walk with a natural stride without impeding your performance in any way. These ice grips are also versatile for use with hiking, climbing, walking or even jogging on snow.
As fantastic as they are, the points are only half an inch long. These are quite subtle in the microspike realm, so they are not suitable for use in certain scenarios. Wet or heavy snow with or without debris is not where you want to put these cleats to use. These are microspikes, after all, so it may not be wise to push its limits. If you need to do more technical climbing, something like the Black Diamond Stinger might be better.
During our tests, the chains ripped one of the rubber eyelets on this microspike. Malfunctions like this in ice gear can be detrimental, so it was a bummer. We did not experience this with other cleats, so it could be an isolated case. However, since we were still covered by the 60 days satisfaction guarantee, we were able to get a prompt replacement.
Ease of use.
If you’re wondering how this microspike fares on the usability front, it is excellent. In fact, it is one of the easiest microspikes to use on the market. The TPE band is very flexible, which makes it a breeze to put on and take off. You will be glad to know that this elastic band remains unaffected up to -45oC, which is fantastic. Another feature of the TPE is that it has anti-tear, anti-abrasion properties. So you can be sure that the elastomer band is also very durable.
Another usability factor about this microspike is its size. The microspikes come in three sizes: medium, large and extra-large. This is not commonly seen in other ice cleats. But this makes the Unigear Traction Cleats very versatile for use by both men and women. Essentially, you can strap these microspikes to hiking and fishing boots with as much ease to trail runners. These microspikes fit true to size, so following the size chart should be enough to get the right fit.
The straps of these cleats are also adjustable. This means you can configure it to the size of your feet and how snug you want the spikes to be. However, we like to keep a little room so as not to suffocate the foot. The adjustable straps also make it effortless to put the microspike on and take it off.
The accompanying instructions on how to strap the cleats to your boots is also very helpful. Even a first-time climber will no problem using this microspike.
What is the difference between microspikes and a crampon?
Full article: Microspikes vs. Crampons
Microspikes and crampons are both traction gears. However, they have some differences. These are:
- Microspikes are typically glorified chains with spikes. These spikes can be anywhere between ¼ to ½ inches in length. There can be more than 20 spikes in microspikes. On the other hand, crampons are foot frames with aggressive spikes called points. Crampons typically have between eight to 12 spikes per foot. Points on the crampons have lengths between ½ to 1 inch. Some may even be longer.
- You do not need any training or skill to wear and use microspikes. On the contrary, crampons require at least basic training to use it safely and effectively.
- The best uses of microspikes are walking, running, and jogging. Flat terrains are where microspikes excel. On the other hand, crampons are ideal for climbing or hiking vertical columns of ice. You cannot use microspikes and crampons interchangeably without compromising your safety, unlike some ice gears.
- Microspikes are more budget-friendly than fancier crampons. They also require less maintenance. Crampons typically have premium price tags, and they warrant more upkeep.
Why are microspikes best for flat terrains?
You might question why microspikes are the best gears for flat terrains and not crampons. There are a couple of reasons behind this.
The spikes on the microspikes are shorter. In addition, the spikes are placed directly underneath the foot. Walking with microspikes is a lot easier as the front points do not jut out like in a crampon. The shorter and blunt spikes also give you the right traction on a flat surface.
On the contrary, if you were to use the microspikes on vertical terrain, the spikes would fall short. Similarly, the amount of traction would be too little on a frigid vertical surface.
Are there any limitations to microspikes?
Microspikes were designed to be used in the snow. It can greatly assist you in mobility and safety.
However, there are some limitations to microspikes. These include:
- Microspikes do not cope well with heavy and wet snow. They also do not perform well in areas with a lot of debris and rocks.
- Wearing microspikes can tire you out. Even the most lightweight microspikes can seem like iron balls when you walk in them for hours. A smart move is to keep them in your backpack and put them on when you reach the place you need them. Alternatively, you can choose aluminum microspikes as these are more lightweight.
Pro tip: Neither the best microspikes nor crampons will help you struggle with heavy wet snow. What you need is a pair of solid snow boots. These are designed to balance out the body weight, so you won’t sink as easily.
What is the best way to care for microspikes?
Microspikes do not require constant or intensive care like crampons. However, they do need maintenance once in a while.
- Give the microspikes a thorough wipe down after every outing. Additionally, allow them to dry completely before storing them.
- If the microspikes arrived with a bag, store them in it.
- Before you take them out for an outing, check for loose parts in the chains. If any part of the microspikes needs replacement, make sure that you do so before taking them out.