SNOWSHOE MAGAZINE GEAR REVIEW:

Gear Review: Kahtoola FLIGHTsystem

Is it possible that Kahtoola, in one fell swoop, has revolutionized the sport of snowshoeing? Through their new FLIGHTsystem, they have eliminated the need for awkward straps, buckles and gaitors, done away with cold wet feet, and made snowshoeing as comfortable as walking around in your favorite running shoes.

The FLIGHTsystem consists of a FLIGHTboot, a crampon-studded neoprene bootie that is worn over your running shoe or lightweight hiker. The FLIGHTboot can be worn alone for traction on ice or packed snow, and in deeper snow the FLIGHTdeck, a snowshoe-like flotation device can easily be clicked onto the boot.

My experience with the FLIGHTsystem has been very positive. I find that it matches or exceeds the performance of a conventional snowshoe system. On a recent deep-snow excursion to California’s Sierra Nevada, I clicked into my FLIGHTdecks and was instantly ready to go… no adjustments with cold fingers to snowshoe straps and buckles. Upon setting out, I initially noticed the slight sound and impact of the heel strike pad on the FLIGHTdecks, but this was never problematic and I quickly became used to it.

Crampons on the FLIGHTboot encase this heel block, which is actually a great asset on mountainous terrain as it completely eliminates lateral heel slippage.on steep traverses. While wearing the FLIGHTboots, alone or with the FLIGHTdecks, I noticed no pressure points underfoot from the crampons, and the FLIGHTboots were consistently comfortable, with no crinkling or binding when my foot was flexed. I wore a standard moderately-stable running shoe and was comfortable for full days of hiking. As I normally suffer from chronic cold feet, it was fabulous to feel warm and dry, even during rest breaks. When flotation is no longer required, simply pull the ripcord and the FLIGHTdecks efficiently release from the FLIGHTboot. I was fearful that the heavy snow might jam the mechanism, but a quick tap with a trekking pole was all that was needed.

On a recent trip to Colorado, I did several hikes starting on bare ground, climbing to where the trails became icy and snowy, and finally encountering deep snow at higher elevations. The FLIGHTsystem is ideal for this sort of excursion as it accounts for all of these conditions. Because of their lack of bindings, the FLIGHTdecks are compact and easy to pack into a daypack when they are not needed.

FLIGHTdecks come in two sizes, Gypsy (8 x 23 inches) and Gemini (8.5 x 24 inches). FLIGHTboots are available in a total of seven sizes, accommodating Women’s size 5 up to Men’s size 14.

For further information about Kahtoola and the FLIGHTsystem, visit www.kahtoola.com.