Winter traction specialist Kahtoola has come out with a new ultralight crampon this winter called the K10, which is a full hiking and trail running crampon designed for shoes with flexible soles ranging from trail runners to soft-soled hiking boots. Featuring a very flexible leaf string and superlight Chromoly steel, the K10 Crampons weigh just 21 ounces per pair (23 ounces with anti-balling skins), with burly 3/4 inch crampon teeth. Comparable to the Kahtoola KTS Crampon, which I reviewed two years ago, the K10 is much more comfortable to wear than its predecessor, in addition to being substantially less expensive (MSRP is $99.95, including anti-balling skins.)
The major difference between the K10 and the KTS crampons is that the KTS has a more secure front binding than the K10 and longer 1 inch spikes, making it more suitable for more advanced routes and hard ice. In comparison, the K10 is a major step up in aggressiveness from Kahtoola MICROspikes, and suitable for thicker ice and packed snow where you want the added control of a crampon instead of independent points loosely connected by chain links.
Styled as a full crampon, the K10 has 10 spikes arranged in a traditional crampon pattern with 6 under the ball of the foot and 4 under the heel. These are connected by an adjustable bar called a leaf spring which is flexible enough to bend when walking over uneven surfaces. In contrast, traditional mountaineering crampons are extremely rigid and can only be worn with heavy mountaineering boots with soles that have no flex whatsoever.
The leaf spring can be adjusted without a tool making it convenient to switch between boots or trail runners . Size-wise, the leaf spring fits US men’s size 6-13 and women’s 7-14 for non-insulated boots and shoes, and US men’s 5-10.5 and women’s 6-11.5 for PAC boots and other large insulated hiking boots, including the Garmont Momentum Snow GTX boots which I favor for non-technical winter hiking on unbroken trails.
This degree of footware compatibility is simply fantastic because it means you can combine a heavy insulated PAC or non-technical winter boot with an ultralight crampon for winter hiking. In my experience, it’s easier to fit a larger boot with the K10 crampons than the earlier-made KTS ones because the K10 binding is simpler and made out of more flexible plastic.
The K10 has a new quick-fit binding system that uses webbing to secure the front and back of your foot to the crampon. One strap runs over the top of your shoe/boot just behind the toe kick and the other cups your heel in the rear binding by looping over the front of your ankle, with a small hook that attaches to your front laces to prevent the webbing strap from riding higher.
These two straps provides a very secure and reliable binding between your footware and the K10 crampon for hiking or trail running. The binding is also very comfortable, especially above the ankle, because the quick release buckle can be positioned to the side of the foot rather than the top where it would cause more friction and discomfort.
Like more technical crampons, the K10 comes with anti-balling skins which prevent the buildup of snow and ice, so-called balling, under the foot if you find yourself walking through water or snowmelt. These are pre-cut synthetic templates that fit over the crampon spikes and weigh a fraction of what traditional crampon anti-balling plates weigh. If you switch between different footware frequently, the skins can get in the way of the K10 leaf spring adjustment, but they are easy to take off and put back on and present a minor inconvenience.
I really like the Kahtoola K10 crampons and think they’re a huge improvement in terms of usability and fit over the more expensive KTS crampons. Although they have shorter spikes than the KTS crampons – by 1/4 of an inch – they are so much easier to adjust and so flexible that I plan to start using them exclusively when I want more winter traction than MICROspikes can provide for non-technicial winter boots or trail runners.
Disclosure: Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) received a complementary pair of K10 Crampons from Kahtoola for review.
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