Yak Trax are designed to grip ice on the trail when you need more grip than boots, but not as much as a crampon. The XTR model is designed for extreme outdoor traction with small spikes that resemble baby crampon spikes. You slip a rubber ring over your boot and several short lengths of chain attach to the bottom surface. Flexible plastic toe and heel plates fit under the boot to prevent snow from packing in—six of the small spikes, made from manganese steel, jut out from the toe plate and four from the heel plate. You wouldn’t want to walk around on a wooden floor in these as they would definitely cause damage. On ice and hard packed snow, though, they provide very secure footing, even on an incline.
I tested these in my backyard in Tahoe, which is on a steep incline, and they worked quite well. You just strap them on and walk but you do need to take care when making lateral moves or, if you forget you have them on and try to run, you might be surprised that your feet don’t move as fast as usual. They are relatively light weight at 11.7 ounces and come with a storage bag so they are easily slipped into a pack without catching on things. They are handy to have with you if you strike out onto a winter trail and aren’t sure what kind of surface you’re going to find. For long distance Sierra hikes like the John Muir Trail or Pacific Crest Trail, where hikers can frequently encounter snow fields long into the summer, the YakTrax XTR could be a valuable item to have. YakTrax XTR retail for $60 at YakTrax or $42 from Amazon.
It’s important to point out that the new XTR model is different from the Pro model, which features steel coils on the bottom. The Pro model is designed for a gentle walk while the XTR goes head-to-head with competitors with actual spikes.
Pros: The YakTrax XTR has sturdy steel spikes to grip ice and snow when trail hiking and are compact and lightweight to carry in your pack
Cons: Not appropriate for road surfaces.
Neos Overshoes and YakTrax represent two options that slip over shoes or boots to increase traction when crossing ice and snow. Neos Overshoes are good for walking on flat surfaces while the Yaktrax XTR are designed for trail walking with uneven terrain and low-grade inclines.
See related article, Get a grip on ice: Part 1, Neos Overshoes.
Disclosure of material connection: I received a test sample from YakTrax but the opinions expressed are solely the author's.