Category Archives: Mountains

Review: YakTrax XTR Extremes

Matt Lacuesta Gear Review: YakTrax XTR Extreme

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Schedules have cleared up and I’ve been able to get out and finally put some miles on the YakTrax XTR Extremes that were sent to me.  I have taken them on frozen creeks and trails that were rocky, icy, and snowy.  According to my GPS they’ve also seen about 6,000′  of elevation gain.

I will start off by saying that these were provided to me for review purposes directly from YakTrax but I will report my findings as accurately as possible and I promise that my opinions are unbiased.

Initial thoughts:

Right away I noticed a few things that were different than similar products on the market.  The carbon steel spikes and chain links are thinner than their counterparts, this will be good for saving weight, but may affect durability.  If I am in terrain that I rely on solid traction to stay safe, then I may not want to put my faith in something that I think may fail at any second.  I also noticed that the front set of spikes is independent of the rear set, this was one thing I knew would affect stability and looked forward to testing it out. These also have an anti-snow balling plate in both the front and rear which seemed like a nice touch and different than its competition.  The use of steel grommets in conjuction with 10 attachment points on each foot show that there should be a good distribution of pressure and shouldn’t see any failure in the rubber strap that wraps around the foot which is advertised to be strong down to -41 degrees Farenheit.

Steep Rocky Terrain

Good traction, and the spikes stayed in place with help from rubber plates against the sole of my boot.  Rubber plates wore very slightly, nothing to worry about for that trip, but I may be worried about how the rubber would hold up in sub zero temps while constantly running over sharp rocks.  The thinner steel spikes held up just fine with no breaks or bends.  I am 195lbs and made this climb with a 45lb pack so there was sufficient weight on the XTR’s.  I enjoy the movement of the front plate under the ball of my foot as it is in two sections which conforms to my foot, but I also view it as a weak point in the design.  If that rubber were to fail, then there will be no tension in either the front or rear section of the front traction system.

Rocky/Icy – steady incline

Having 10 spikes definitely helped me keep my footing in rocky/icy conditions.  The XTR’s did really well on these types of trails and kept me on my feet the entire time.  I’ve taken a number of spills in my day and really value not having a sore elbow or tailbone for a winter backpacking trip.  Again, no breaks or bends on the spikes which I was impressed, but two of the chain links had come apart a bit and I was able to squeeze them back together with my multi tool pliers.  This gave some validity to my thoughts that the thinner steel may create some durability issues.  Though it was an easy fix, if I were to have to continue reclamping these links, over time they would fail.  I would not mind a few extra grams or an ounce or two to use a thicker gauge steel.

These were worn with Keen Summit County insulated boots, as well as Merrell Outbound GTX Mid’s, Merrell Whiteout 8’s, Keen Oregon PCT’s and 2,000 gram insulated Pac Boots.  The large size fit all boots very well and the chains fit snugly in between all the lugs to make for solid stability.  The chains are a bit longer enabling the strap to sit higher on the boots which helps with being able to use them with different size boots, keeping the rubber from coming in contact with rocks, and provides enough “give” to be able to get your fingers in between the strap and the boot to pull up to take some slack out of the chain.Boots I used with the YakTrax XTR Extremes

My only real concerns with the YakTrax XTR Extreme’s are the durability of the chain links and the rubber plates beneath the foot.  The rubber definitely helps with traction between the boot and the plate as well as keeping snow from packing up beneath your foot, but I question the durability and the design.  If the rear rubber plate were to fail, not a big deal because it is re-enforced with steel, but the front is a different story.  Now, I understand that the steel portions of the front plate are in two sections to help give them the flexibility needed to remain conformed to your foot, but that is a weak spot that I think could cause problems for some people.

These also come with a thick stuff sack as the spikes are a bit sharp.  I decided to save weight on a trip by leaving the sack and bringing beer.  Note: Don’t leave XTR’s in a backpack lid with beers…I ended up with my Arcteryx Bora 95 lid filled with beer slush.  Bring the bag.

EDIT 1/25/2011: Recently found out that the YakTrax XTR Extreme is no longer being produced.  They have taken it back to the drawing board to deal with durability issues.  An updated version should be available for the 2011/2012 Winter season.  Final thought: I am still pleased with my XTR’s and will continue to use them until something fails and am excited to see the next version.


Holiday Season is over: time to take out the new gear. (oh ya, happy New Year!)

It has been a hectic holiday season this year and it feels good to finally be able to relax and catch a breath.  Now that the travel is over and the guests have gone home, it is time to get back into the mountains to play.

In the coming days and weeks I plan to go over a few new things I’ve picked up lately.  First of all, I was able to do some testing of the YakTrax XTR Extremes that the folks at YakTrax sent over for me to review, so that will be at the top of the priority list.  The crew over at Katoohla was nice enough to send me a few pairs of MICROspikes to test out as well but I haven’t had a chance to do too much with those yet.

My wonderfully thoughtful girlfriend knows me so well that she picked up a Garmin 60CSX gps for me this year and I am excited to get out there and get things going.

YakTrax Winter Traction

I got a great package in the mail just a few days before my birthday last week: a box full of YakTrax products.  In the box were YakTrax Walkers, YakTrax Pros, and their new XTR Extremes.  Matt Lacuesta YakTrax gear testI am very excited to have the opportunity to test all these products out and will be keeping up on reviews throughout the winter.  I have also loaned some pairs out to get other opinions and to get them out in different conditions for different uses.  I recently loaned out the Pro’s to someone who is working for the next month in Northern Manitoba in sub zero temperatures to test the durability of the rubber.

I’ve got some great places I’d like to take all of these products to, especially the XTR’s.  Not sure where you can purchase them yet, but I do know that you can buy them online direct from YakTrax.

Thanks to the folks at YakTrax for the opportunity to review these products, and also thanks for all the hand warmers too!  How considerate!

Other posts I would like to get up soon: Snowshoeing and my winter sleep system.

Moab This Weekend

We are currently planning  a trip to Moab, Utah this weekend and I am getting pretty pumped.  Just picked up a 6 gallon water jug since we won’t be close to any potable water sources.  I love new gear no matter how unexciting it sounds.  Luckily we will be car camping so we should be pretty comfortable.  The weather is looking perfect for a little beer drinking, fishing, hiking, and dabbling in the Colorado River even though its gonna be moving quickly and freezing.  I’ve never been and am hoping to get some good pictures.

We don’t plan on mountain biking this time around despite the fact that it is the main attraction that people fly in from all over the world to do.  Just not in mountain biking shape yet so we figure we will get a lay of the land for our first trip out.

There are 9 of us going, 8 of which have never been there so everyone is pretty stoked about checking out some new terrain, plus it’s always nice to switch it up a bit and get out of the city.  Everyone we have talked to says its an amazing place and we will want to go back time and time again.

Hopefully the fishing is good.  It looks like we will be there at the peak of the Rainbow and Cutthroat  spawning season.  They put up a pretty good fight, and I’m regretting not dialing in my fly fishing skills yet.  Not to worry though, I’ve got plenty of my fishing gear from my fishing days back in Ohio.  Hopefully we can pull in enough trout for a dinner for everyone one night, and  land  some catfish overnight by tight lining the Colorado River for a nice shore breakfast.

Cool tent repair stuff : Tenacious Tape

A few weeks ago I went on a camping trip near the base of Mt. Evans just outside of Idaho Springs, CO.  It was a fun trip for one of my buddies birthdays, and the weather is what you would expect of April in the mountains.  It was sunny and 70 during the afternoons, and the mornings and evenings gave us temps in the teens, rain, ice, and snow.  While setting up my tent (REI Hoodoo 3) I finally did find the rip in the rain fly that I was unable to find before.  I didn’t have a patch kit at the time, so I used some duct tape to cover it up.  The tape held through the weekend and survived being covered in ice droplets throughout the night.  I managed to stay warm and dry through the weekend which means the tent did its job.

On my return to civilization I picked up some repair tape from my local REI in downtown Denver.  I picked this stuff up for $4.50 and it has made my tent look brand new.  This stuff is really cool, its a coated nylon that seems to be waterproof and has a great adhesive that is advertised as a non residue glue.  I have packed and unpacked the fly a few times since I made the fix and it seems to be holding strong.  The platinum white color is almost a perfect match for my tent so you can barely tell it was even fixed.  I was reminded by the guy who helped me figure out what I need, and again by another guy who cashed me out to be sure to round the corners to help keep it from catching anything and ripping off.  I already knew that, but it’s nice to deal with a friendly staff that knows what they’re talking about.  I guess sometimes paying the higher prices is worth it when you get good advice.

Memorial Day with Dad

My dad felt the urge to come hang out and go camping in the mountains not long ago, so he made the 10 hour drive from Kansas City and picked me up on his way to visit some friends in Buena Vista.  We were near Cottonwood Pass and the Continental divide while we stayed with some friends that run Spring Canyon.  It’s a great facility, if you ever have a group that wants to enjoy the best the mountains have to offer you should check them out.  They have great lodging, food, and activities.

We took whatever road Spring Canyon past a few nice lakes until it turned into an old mining road.  We took it as far is it would take us into Mineral Basin on the Continental divide. It was really cool to see a water source running out of the side of the mountain knowing that this was the starting point of all water headed East.

We climbed a bit of a peak that I’m not sure of it’s name, but made it just above the treeline before calling it quits.  There is a site that documents the drive and the area really well at

Good Weekend

I do a lot of blogging/social media stuff for work and have now decided to do it for my personal stuff as well. It makes it look like I am working so thats always a plus.  My girlfriend was out of town this past weekend so I got to do all sorts of the things I would normally not do because she wouldn’t want to be a part of it.

For starters I woke up early on a Saturday (which is odd for me) just to find a good deal on a tent at the REI garage sale in Englewood, CO.  I was able to pick up an REI HooDoo 3 that I’m pretty pumped about.  I almost bought it last month when it went on clearance for $150 but was able to pick it up for $69.99 due to a “rip” in the rain fly.  After thoroughly looking it over there doesn’t appear to be a rip. I’m assuming that’s what whoever returned it said so they had a reason to get their money back.  I set it up the tent in my living room because my girlfriend was gone, which means I wouldn’t get made fun of for setting it up inside. I was pretty excited about it, so much in fact that I contemplated sleeping in it that night. ( I didn’t, but the thought crossed my mind.)

Also, a buddy of mine and I went up to Boulder to check out the Boulder Sports Recycler which sells used gear.  Awesome place with lots of used bikes, parts, climbing gear, packs, outerwear, sleeping bags, tents, etc… I love places like this.  I am all about doing things inexpensively (I’m cheap) and love bargain hunting.  There was a lot I wanted to pick up but simply don’t need at the time. I will be going back as often as I go to Boulder to check out what kind of cool stuff they have.  I am a big fan of the Wilderness Exchange in Denver, and that will still be my mainstay for good deals on demo gear, overstocks, and used gear, but I will definitely be sure to add this place to my shopping rounds when looking for any new gear, it would be my number one shop if it weren’t so far.

Another place we went to in Boulder was Neptune Mountaineering.  It is an amazing place with a lot of awesome stuff.  It’s not your normal outdoor store like REI, but it has lots of top of the line gear and clothing.  I looked in the clearance bins and sweaters were still $100 and $300 jackets were still over $200.  Not bad if any of it was something I was looking for.  They have an extensive climbing section and a huge book store section.  I would have loved to have spent time checking out what they had information wise, but I was too busy admiring their fleet of Hilleberg tents.  I hope that one day I am camping frequently enough where I can justify purchasing a Hilleberg.  The one thing about Neptune Mountaineering is that it is also a Mountaineering Museum.  They have gear from ages ago all over the place.  May it be a display of signed gear from a 1932 K2 summit, or just a collection of old mountaineering axes, ancient crampons, or worn tattered canvass bags.  I was impressed with their old stove collection as I have been interested and building my own alcohol stoves for a little over a y ear now.  Its just a really cool place to see how gear has evolved over the years.  Seeing the gear people used to use makes you realize that they were a lot more rugged than people are today because they were a lot colder and carried MUCH more heavier gear.  There are thousands upon thousands of old gear throughout the place and I’d really like to go back and just look at all the old stuff.

The weekend ended Sunday with a great day of backcountry bowls at Keystone with one of my buddies. The snow in the trees was amazing so we spent most of our time there. Most places I could bury my ski pole and still not hit bottom, it was a lot better than our trip later that day to BlackHawk.