As a kid growing up in Minnesota, a great winter pastime was shuffling out onto the lake ice on a windy day, opening up our jackets to form a sail, and see how far we could slide along on our feet before we fell over. The less traction, the better!
I sing a different song today when I want to cross a body of frozen water — to ice fish, continue a hike or simply stand in the middle of the lake and listen to the ice creak and moan. It can be a real tiring and even dangerous venture trying to slip/slide across ice with even the best of regular soles under one’s feet. Thank goodness for ice cleats!
Anyone who routinely ventures outdoors in the winter should have at least a lightweight pair of strap-on traction soles close at hand. Stash ’em in your car or, with some of the flexible rubber slips-ons, fold them up in your pocket. Doing so will add many pleasurable steps to your outdoor amblings.
There are basically four types of ice cleats: individual bands of saw-edged steel that strap across the ball and heel area of whatever snow boot you are wearing; flexible rubber slings that have spiked pads aligned beneath the ball/toe area; a firm sole lined with cleats and held in place with straps; and a molded shoe bottom with heavy-duty cleats strategically placed throughout the sole.
Cleats Provide Great Traction
The simplest cleats are the lightest in weight and construction and are best left for those short runs across a parking lot or maybe around camp where ice patches challenge your camp chores. Flexible ice soles usually have either rivets inserted in sole pads or an expanded stretch of coiling steel wire that offers a continuous line of friction across the ice. Neither of these are heavy-duty enough for serious ice walking with heavy, winter-soled, waffle stompers.
A stout sole, with or without additional side support, makes for the better ice-cleated soles. These usually have either a slotted hex bolt head that serves as the cleat or a conical cleat made from hard steel. Both these types usually are screwed into a threaded collared hole in the sole and can be replaced as they wear down.
A good example of heavy, stout ice grabbing soles are Korkers CASTTRAX. They utilize replaceable hard, carbide conical cleats throughout the rub-lugged sole. They also have molded rubber side and toe walls to provide a rock-solid, non-sliding/twisting fit. The combination of rubber lug and cleats means they should work on most any skid/slip prone surface. These were the studded snow tires of footwear!
Another set, STABILicers Ice Cleats, with easy on/off Velcro-tipped nylon straps. Self-cleaning chevron treads help shed snow and prevents build-up. They, too, should work well for stream fishing on slippery, moss covered rocks and other slippery routes. Whether you prefer just the cleated sole or a sole supported by stout side, heel and toe supports, heavy-duty cleats provide solid traction on a variety of surfaces.
You can expand your winter ice trekking with a good pair of cleats. It could open up a whole new aspect of winter camping adventures for you – just make sure that ice is safe!
Shop Sportsman’s Guide for a great selection of Ice Fishing Gear!