The Best Ice Grippers for Hikers

If you live in a chilly clime and do much winter hiking, you're eventually going to need snowshoes or ice grippers. Some winters, you'll hardly take them off. The best ice grippers are lightweight, compact, durable and, most important of all, sharp and pointy enough to bite into the ice and keep you stable.

(While you're out there, keep in mind that you can layer your socks -- to a certain degree -- to help keep your feet warm. If you overdo it, though, you might end up with cold feet.)

  • 01 of 04

    Kahtoola Microspikes are basically a scaled-down version of walking crampons, mounted on an elastomer shoe collar and chain harness that makes them super-flexible to walk in and super-easy to pack. I've also seen other hikers wear them for extra traction on gloppy spring mud.

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    Hillsound's Trail Crampon Ultra looks (and walks) a lot like Kahtoola's Microspikes, but comes with a hook-and-loop strap that locks the elastomer harness in place across the top of your boot, stabilizing the spikes even more. It also comes with a carry pouch to keep your trail crampons from puncturing any collapsible water bottles you have in your pack.

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    I used an older pair of Due North's "All Purpose" grippers (previously known as Get-A-Grip Advanced) for years. They're not as hardcore as Kahtoolas or Hillsound's trail crampons, but their carbide studs grip surprisingly well on ice and packed snow, last a long time, and can be replaced pretty easily if they wear down or break.

    If you can't afford the more expensive trail spikes/crampons or aren't willing to have one pair of grippers for in town and another for the trail, these are a really good bet.

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    If you don't want to mess with removable ice grippers, Icebug shoes and boots with BUGrip -- all the way from Sweden -- have retractable steel studs built into the soles. Because the studs aren't completely fixed in place, they can be pushed into the sole when you walk on hard surfaces like concrete. That means less damage to those hard surfaces, and the spikes stay sharper longer for better grip on the ice.

    If you know you're going to be out on slippery surfaces, the BUGrip traction is so good that you can go running on a frozen lake. (Been there, done that!)

I have yet to like a pair of ice grippers that use metal coils for traction instead of studs or spikes. In my experience, those coils can slip and slide instead of biting into the ice when you need them the most. A good pair of grippers will last for years, so it's well worth investing in a spiked or studded model -- like what you see here -- that will protect you from falling and hurting yourself.