STABILicers Hike Macro Winter Traction Spikes Review

Stabilicers Hike Macro Ice Cleats Review

STABILicers Hike Macro Winter Traction Spikes are a traction device in the same vein as Kahtoola Microspikes and Hillsound Trail Crampons but with a very different binding and spike design. Instead of free-floating chains suspended from an elastomer harness, they have a sandal-like overshoe that slips over your winter boots or trail runners with metal cleats and spikes suspended underneath. This provides significantly more padding and insulation for your feet on long winter hikes because there’s an intermediate layer of thermoplastic elastomer cushioning between your footwear soles and the cleats.

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight 27 oz/pair, size large
  • Sizing: Multiple sizes for different shoe sizes
  • Number of spikes: 14
  • Spike Length: 1/2″
  • Harness: Thermo Plastic Elastomer
  • Cleats: Stainless steel
  • Made in Taiwan

The STABILicers Hike Macro product is one step up in aggressiveness from STABILicer’s Hike XP winter traction device. Both products use hex-shaped metal cleats, like those used for traction with fishing boots, instead of the triangular “spikes” on Microspikes or Hillsound winter traction devices. The Hike Macro product, reviewed here, augments these with additional spike assemblies on the heel and forefoot, that are bolted in place by the metal cleats on the bottom of the overshoe. These spike assemblies are similar in appearance to Hillsound Trail Crampons in this respect.

STABILicer Hike Macro (left) vs Hillsound Trail Crampon (right)
STABILicer Hike Macro (left) vs Hillsound Trail Crampon (right)

I had high hopes for the STABILicers Hike Macro winter traction device because they have a front toe cover that slides over the toebox of your boots/shoes and keeps the front spikes aligned in use, insulates your toes from the cold, and eliminates any pressure on the top of your toes which can lead to friction and blisters. These can all be issues with the flexible elastomer harness used on Kahtoola Microspikes, Hillsound Trail Crampons Ultra, and Hillsound Trail Crampons.

The Hike Macro elastomer harness slips over your boots and is secured with two velcro straps
The Hike Macro elastomer harness slips over your boots and is secured with two velcro straps

The front toe compartment on the Hike Macros does a great job at keeping your toes warm and takes the pressure off the top of your toes while providing extra protection if you need to kick steps. The spikes, when new, are very sharp and really bite well into ice. There are two velcro straps to prevent the harness from being pulled off your boots by sticky ice or snow and the harnesses are foot-specific and labeled, left and right, which is stamped on the interior of the heel.

In an interesting twist, the forefoot and heel spike assemblies on the Hike Macro traction device are removable, if not needed, or replaceable if damaged. You can also upgrade a pair of the less aggressive Hike XP cleats and add spike assemblies to them, by unscrewing the cleats on the underside, adding the spike assemblies, and then screwing the cleats back on tightly. The various components are also  available separately including:

But the screw-in cleats securing the extra spike assemblies appear to unscrew themselves when torsional forces are applied to the Hike Macro harness, leading to partially unanchored spike assemblies or the complete loss of a forefoot spike assembly. I consider this a critical product failure (see picture below).

The forefront spike assembly on the right Hike Macro fell off completely and was lost. The 4th screw on both heel assemblies is also missing.
The front spike assembly and the cleats on the right Hike Macro fell off completely and was lost. The 4th screw on both heel assemblies is also missing.

It doesn’t take much for the product to fail mid-hike. I was really quite surprised to have it happen to me climbing up a mountain trail in mixed conditions with thick ice, exposed rocks, and snow. While the cleats and spike assemblies are replaceable (for an added cost), this level of maintenance isn’t what you’d expect from a serious winter traction device ever.

Lightweight winter traction devices are ideal for hiking in mixed conditions with rocks, ice, and snow.
Lightweight winter traction devices are ideal for hiking in mixed conditions with rocks, ice, and snow.

While it’s well known that winter hiking gear comes to the White Mountains of New Hampshire to die, there isn’t anything unusually tough about climbing Mt Carrigain in December, where the Hike Macros came apart in our evaluation. In contrast, Hillsound’s and Kahtoola’s winter traction products are used quite widely here by hikers, they have an excellent durability record and can last for years without failure or the need for replacement.

Recommendation

DO NOT BUY the STABILicers Hike Macro Winter Traction Spikes Device. While the product has some attractive aspects, the cleats holding the spike assemblies to the Hike Macro elastomer harness unscrew themselves when the Hike Macro is subject to uneven and mixed surfaces including ice, rock, and snow. In hindsight, it’s obvious that bolting a rigid assembly to a flexible elastomer harness platform will exert enormous pressure on screw-in anchors and why a competitive product like the Hillsound Trail Crampon uses floating chains to secure their spike assemblies to an elastomer harness instead.

While I suppose you could add Loctite (a screw adhesive) to the bolts to help prevent them from falling out, there’s still the risk that they will unscrew and fall out when you’re in the field. A better product design would have used a permanent fastener to attach the spike assemblies that can not be removed ever, although there’s no telling if any metal anchor will sheer off with the current design. That’s why we encourage brands to test their gear before they start selling it.

I have contacted STABIL customer service and am still awaiting a response.

Disclosure: The author purchased this product.

See also:

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7 comments

  1. Pier-Alexandre Aubé

    Thanks for that honest review.

  2. Have you tried the Black Diamond Distance Spike Traction Device? It uses a softshell toe cover, but also uses the standard elastomer heel retention system with footbed spikes connected by chains like others.
    Seems like their design would eliminates pressure on the top of your toes.
    And I would hope with Black Diamond’s background they’d get it right.

    • I haven’t. I’ve gotten the impression that they’re really designed for trail runners than for insulated boots, but I might still give them a try.

      • Yes, definitely designed for trail runners, where toe pressure is more of a problem from microspikes using elastomer in toe area. The BD Distance Spikes fit my La Sportiva Ultra Raptors nicely.

  3. Good job. This is why I come here again and again. Honest product reviews, informative trip notes. Thank you.

  4. I heard you were experienced and knowledgeable, but on this point you are just plain wrong! Everyone knows you HAVE to have a DCF pack with no hip belt or frame and carry less than 9 lbs base weight or you have failed as a backpacker and a human! It is also important to walk up to people you see or trail and ask them their base weight then judge them. This is kind and productive!

    Just kidding, obviously. Great article, I hope it changes some minds.

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