If you do much hiking in early winter or spring, consider investing in a pair of Microspikes. They’re ideal for traveling on trails covered in hard-packed snow and ice.
In the shoulder seasons, the trails often lack enough snow for snowshoes but are too slippery for plain boots. In such conditions, you need to augment your traction. Crampons are one solution, but they often are overkill on hiking trails.
Made by Kahtoola, Microspikes weigh just 11.4 to 15.6 ounces, depending on which of the four sizes you buy. They consist of a tough elastic band (red or black) attached to a steel chain with small steel spikes (three-eighths of an inch long). Just stretch the band over your boot and go. Microspikes are compact enough that you can easily carry them in your pack until they’re needed. They sell for $59.
I have been very happy with my pair of Microspikes. I’ve used them numerous times to hike little Baker Mountain in Saranac Lake on my lunch hours (elevation gain, 900 feet). Often, I’ve passed other hikers struggling on the trail and trying not to slip. I’ve also used the spikes on longer hikes with excellent results.
Though designed with winter in mind, these mini-crampons are perfect for those in-between seasons, early spring and late fall, when trails are slippery but lack enough snow to warrant snowshoes. They allow you to continue hiking longer into the fall and begin hiking earlier in the spring.
My one complaint: Microspikes don’t fit well over telemark boots, but this is not a flaw that will concern hikers.