Everything You Should Know About Crampons

Have you ever climbed a slippery icy slope and thought, wouldn’t it be great to have more traction? Thankfully, with crampons, there is a way. These accessories increase traction on ice and packed snow thanks to their built-in spikes.

Hiking crampons require compatible hiking or climbing boots. Otherwise, they’ll do more harm than good. That’s why choosing them takes quite some time.

What are crampons?

Crampons are an essential piece of gear for anyone planning on doing ice climbing or winter hiking. Of course, you might not use them throughout the entire day if your snow slopes are more ski than climb. But you’ll be grateful for having a pair with you once the time comes.

They will increase grip and provide a secure foundation for you to walk on. We can’t stress how crucial this is, especially if you haul a backpacking tent and similar gear.

Crampon Anatomy

These are made of several components, each one playing a crucial role. Let’s divide the crampon in two: The base and the binding system.

Base Components:

  • Teeth or spikes: Also known as points, their responsibility is to increase traction
  • Anti-balling plates: These two plates prevent snow from sticking into the crampon. You get one at the heel and the other for the toes.
  • Flex bar: It is the link between the front and rear plates. The flex bar dictates how stiff the crampon is.

Binding System Components:

  • Heel clip or heel lever: As the name suggests, it is what wraps the heel for a secure hold.
  • Toe cage: It is at the other end of the heel clip/ heel lever and encloses the toes.
  • Binding Straps: You use them to secure the crampon. Some models come with a lever to make things easier if you are using gloves. Others may have velcro straps and others buckle.

The combination of the above secures the toe and heel of your mountaineering boots to the crampons.


Crampons Vs Microspikes: What’s the Difference?

Although the ultimate goal is the same, crampons and microspike are two different traction devices. For instance, microspikes are chains or small spikes that you can slip over your hiking types of boots. Think of them like the set of chains you wrap around the tires during winter.

crampon microspikes
Microspikes- Photo credit: Patrick Schneider

Microspikes rest in the inner sole. Thus, they are not suitable for climbing. But they have no match when it comes to hiking on flat terrains and low-angle hills.

And, just like crampons, they have a stainless-steel frame. Nevertheless, they are lighter and more flexible.

non modular crampons
Strap-on Crampons with teeth

Crampons, on the other hand, come in several binding styles. They have bigger and more spikes as well. That’s why they are the top choice when it comes to ice climbing.


How Do Crampons Work?

Think of crampons like a set of football cleats. The only difference is that this time, the cleats don’t come attached to the boot. Instead, it is an accessory that you put on once the time comes.

So, naturally, you can’t bring them to the football field. But the goal is the same: Increase traction on slippery terrains.

The serrated spikes help to cut through the snow and ice, virtually anchoring yourself. This way, you can move up an icy hill without falling.

crampon digging into side of glacier
Mountaineer climbing onto the side of a glacier

Types of Crampon Binding

Ok, we already know that crampons are traction devices that you attach to the boot’s exterior. But how can I bind them together?

There are four known binding styles:

  • Strap-on
  • Step-in
  • Bolt-on or Screw-On
  • Hybrid

Let’s take some time to talk about each one briefly.

Strap-on Crampons

These are, by far, the simplest in design. Strap-ons are compatible with a wide range of boots or shoes. Just make sure that the central bar matches the flex of your footwear. Otherwise, you won’t be able to use it.

However, strap-on crampons, like the Kahtoola KTS Steel or HillSound Trail Pro don’t wrap tightly around the boot. Thus, it is not the best option for dangerous steps.

Kahtoola KTS Steel Hiking Crampons with SRS (S/M)
Kahtoola KTS
Hillsound Trail Crampon Pro - Ice Traction Device/Crampons, 10 Carbon Steel Spikes, 2 Year Warranty
HillSound Trail Pro

Step-in Crampons

PETZL Sarken Leverlock Crampon

These are more specialized than the last type. Step-in bindings have a thick bail wire that fixes your toes in place. The heel cable passes through a lever that you can use to secure them tightly to your boot.

These are the best ice climbing and mountaineering crampon, since there is close to no movement between the crampon and the boot.

Keep in mind that step-in devices require a heel and toe welt or groove. The PETZL Sarken LeverLock is an example of this type of traction device.

Bolt-on

Spark R&D 20/21 Ibex Crampons

Highly specialized, screw-on or bolt-on crampons are the least popular type. Only fruit boots use this kind of traction device.

These have two separate sections that you manually bolt-on, like Spark R&D 20/21 Ibex Crampons.  One for the toes or ball of the foot and another for the heel.

Hybrid

Splitting the middle between strap-on and step-in, we have hybrid crampons. These only require a heel groove.

These traction devices are compatible with many technical hiking boots with heel grooves. And it is suitable for a wide range of scenarios. Nevertheless, it is no match to step-in crampons when it comes to dangerous climbs.

CAMP Stalker Universal Crampons
CAMP Stalker Universal Crampons
PETZL Irvis Hybrid Leverlock Universel Crampon
PETZL Irvis Hybrid Leverlock
Hybrid crampons combine both step-in and strap on for additional safety on advanced climbs

Stainless Steel or Aluminum frame?

Most either have an aluminum or stainless-steel frame. Some brands also offer regular steel versions, which are cheaper than stainless steel. But you don’t get to enjoy the corrosion-resistance capabilities.

So, which is the best crampon material? It depends on what your needs are. Say, for example, that you’ll mostly do alpine climbs.

Here, an aluminum crampon would be the best bet. They are lighter than stainless steel. Thus, they won’t weigh you down as much. Sadly, they wear out quicker.

In contrast, chromoly steel crampons are more suitable for general mountaineering. They won’t wear out as quickly as aluminum models.

BRS Professional Outdoor Climbing Non - Slip Adjustable Aluminum Crampons
BRS Professional Outdoor- Aluminum Crampon
Grivel G14 Crampons Cramp-O-Matic
Grivel G14- Chromoly Steel

Hiking Boots vs. Mountaineering Boots Compatibility

Not all hiking boots have the same construction. Thus, the stiffness changes depending on the materials and build. So, people started to sort them according to their flexibility.

Hiking boots come with a BX label. The X is a number from 0 to 3. The higher the number, the stiffer the boot.

The same goes with crampons. They have a rating that ranges from C1 to C3, with C3 being the stiffest. So, which one goes with which?

  • C1 Crampons are compatible with B1 to B3 boots
  • C2 Crampons are compatible with B2 and B3
  • C3 Crampons are only compatible with B3 hiking boots
Salewa Men's MS Condor EVO GTX M Mountaineering Boot
Mountaineering Boot
Salewa Men’s MS Condor EVO GTX
Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite Mid GTX Field Green/Fluo Coral 6
Hiking Boot
Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite Mid GTX

Crampons Point Layout

The spike count and layout change from one crampon to the next. Most models come with 10 to 12 points/spikes distributed around the heel and toe areas. However, not all have the same point configuration. Let’s see:

  • Mono-Point: As the name suggests, these crampons have a single spike at the front. Mono-point crampons are more precise. Thus, they are ideal for delicate moves, like those you would encounter on technical routes.
Cassin Blade Runner Crampons

The Cassin Blade Runner is, arguably, among the best mono-point crampons you can find.

  • Dual-Point: These crampons come with two points at the front. Quite obvious, right? These offer more support and tend to be more durable. Also, dual-points are compatible with a wide range of ice routes, long climbs, low-angle routes, and when the ice is soft.
  • Horizontal Points: These look more like fangs than actual spikes. The front points are not as aggressive and are shorter than the previous two. They are ideal for non-technical ice climbing.

Modular Vs Non-Modular Crampons

There are two types of crampons teeth: Modular and Non-Modular. The first kind is movable. You can replace them once worn or change their disposition according to the climb. People doing mixed climbing are the ones who will benefit from this purchase the most.

In contrast, non-modular teeth, like those found on the PETZL VASAK, are fixed in the same position. As a result, they get dull and shorter with use. Thus, you have to sharpen them often to keep them functional.

It doesn’t seem like a good deal, right? Well, the thing is that modular crampons are usually lighter. As a result, there are fewer moving parts. Thus, less likely to break.

PETZL Lynx LL Universel Crampons Mod. T24 Nero
PETZL Lynx LL – Modular- has interchangeable front points
PETZL - VASAK, Crampons for Classic Mountaineering, Leverlock
PETZL VASAK- fixed, non-modular teeth

How to properly care

Crampons will last for a lifetime, provided you take care of them. So, here you have some bits of advice:

  •  Inspect them after each use. Make sure that the flex bar and bindings are not worn. Sharpen or replace teeth as needed.
  • Wipe down and dry off after each use
  •  Store in a dry place.
  • Don’t use your crampons on rocks.

By following these simple tips, you will enhance the durability of your crampons.

How Much Do Crampons Cost?

You can get budget options around $60 bucks. These are more suitable for beginners or people who don’t do a lot of ice climbing.

But if you’re a mountaineer climber who gets a thrill from technical climbing or glacier hiking, you are better off with premium models. Remember that these traction devices keep you from falling while climbing or walking on ice.

 So, better get something reliable. Overall, you don’t want to go cheap.

In short, you can find anything from 60 dollars, like the Hillsound Trail Crampons, to $350 bucks for a pair of Cassin Blade Runner crampons.

Successful mountaineering trip

Crampons: Secure Your Path Through The Ice

Ice climbing, ski mountaineering, and glacier travel, these have a couple things in common: High altitude and slippery surfaces. That’s why bringing a traction device such as a climbing crampon is critical. Their sharp teeth will enhance your grip, allowing you to walk or climb as you please.

Keep in mind that not all crampons are compatible with any hiking boot. Remember that B3 goes with all three (C1, C2, and C3), B2 only with C2 and C3, and B1 and C1 belong together. You may need mountaineering boots for mountaineering adventures.

Now, it is time for you to hit the market and find the best pair of crampons for you!


Last update on 2021-09-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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