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How to Choose Crampons

 

Yellow Grivel Crampon I'm pretty sure that if, in the next Transformers movie, the transformers inhabited crampons it would be terrifying. Tiny, super sharp shoe shaped evil robots would definitely give me some worries. That being said, selecting the right crampons can be quite the task even if they aren't robot creatures. Here are some things that my boss told me to tell you about choosing crampons.

Basically, you can find a crampon that's specialized for just about any winter activity that involves walking. To my knowledge there are no sledding crampons, and really that sounds pretty dangerous, so I don't recommend it. Check out super-lightweight crampons made to give you extra traction on winter walks or runs and traversing icy stairs. For snow and glacier travel, technical hiking, and winter or summer mountaineering you'll want to go with a more traditional crampon model. Highly technical crampons are available for ice climbers and mixed climbers.

Materials & Construction

Crampon frames can be steel, stainless steel, or aluminum. You'll want to choose the crampon construction material that's best for your activity.

  • Steel crampons, like the Petzl M10 Crampon, are best for general mountaineering. Steel crampons are super strong and durable, so they're ideal on steep, icy terrain.
  • Stainless steel crampons, like the Black Diamond Contact Crampon,  are, as far as I can tell, made from stainless steel. That means they're rust and corrosion resistant, which ups the durability level of these crampons quite a bit. Like regular steel crampons, stainless steel crampons are also pretty awesome.
  • Aluminum crampons, like the Black Diamond Neve Strap Crampon,  are the lightest weight of the crampon family. Try aluminum crampons for alpine climbs, ski mountaineering, and approaches. I'd stay off the rocky terrain in aluminum crampons, if I were you. Rocky terrains will make them wear out faster.
Construction is also something you should take into consideration. I'm not going to lie and pretend like it's really complicated: the majority of crampons available feature a semi-rigid design. Basically, this type of crampon gives you decent performance in a broad range of conditions. With the semi-rigid design you get a crampon that's flexible enough for trekking, but rigid enough for moderate ice climbing.

Some crampon models, like the Petzl Irvis Crampon, allow you to adjust the linking bar (the bar between the toe and heel piece) from a semi-rigid to a flexible mode. The flexible mode makes the crampon more comfortable for hiking and makes the crampon less likely to build up snow. Semi-rigid crampons are also more adjustable and easier to adjust, plus they fit better over a wider variety of boots. An asymmetrical center bar is available for most semi-rigid crampons. This bar allows the crampon to fit better over curvier boot designs.

Crampon Binding Types

Basically, there are three binding types that attach crampons to your boots. More about that:
  • Hybrid crampons, like on the Black Diamond Sabretooth Clip, can sometimes be referred to as mixed or semi-step crampons. These crampons feature a heel lever and toe strap. You'll need boots with a stiff sole for these crampons, plus your boots should have a a heel welt. Your boots don't need a toe welt to wear hybrids. Hybrids are pretty easy to put on, especially when you're wearing gloves. Just slip the toe of your boot into the strap, and pull the heel lever to lock the heel in place.
  • With step-in bindings, like on the Petzl M10, a wire bail holds the toe in place the heel attaches to a cable with a tension lever. This type of crampon is super secure if you've got the right boots, and they're pretty easy to put on, too. About the boots part, they'll need to have pretty rigid soles and at least a 3/8" welt on both the heel and toe. These crampons let you move the front bail to change the length of frontpoints.
  • Strap on bindings, like on the Black Diamond Contact,  are pretty much how they sound: they've got straps to hold the crampon to your boots. As long as the center bar works with the flex of your footwear, you can use strap-on bindings with almost any boots or shoes. Don't wear them with flip flops. We tried this to try to aerate the lawn, it doesn't work. This type of binding has it's ups and downs. The perks are basically that you can wear any boots with the same crampons. But they aren't as precise as other types, and you can get a little movement between your boot and the crampon.

Crampon Points & Frontpoints

For the best performance possible, the points of your crampons need to be under the instep and follow the shape of your boots. Most of the time crampons have 10 or 12 points. Those are, coincidentally, my two favorite numbers. That's probably why they wanted me to write this. Anyway, don't forget that you can adjust most crampons to get the right point extension. I recommend you do that.

Basically, the more technical your adventure, the more points you'll want on your crampons. You'll also want to choose more rigid crampons for more technical pursuits. There are even specific styles for waterfall climbing.

  • For the most part, 10-point crampons are good for trekking over less aggressive terrain. So they're ideal for ski touring or glacier travel.
  • For technical ice and mixed climbing, look for crampons with more aggressive frontpoints. These crampons usually have adjustable and replaceable frontpoints.
  • Then, there are crampons for waterfall climbing. I think the waterfalls have to be frozen first, though. Check out the Cassin Vector Nanotech. This crampon lets you change the length of the frontpoints on the body itself. A lot of others do, too, but that's my favorite: I like saying Nanotech. Nanotech. Other waterfall-specific crampons, let you reconfigure the frontpoints all together. Like to dual-point, monopoint or monopoint offset. Some crampons even let you change the droop angle of the frontpoints.


I know I talk a lot, but when it comes down to it, the crampon thing is pretty simple. Basically, for general mountaineering you'll want a crampon with less frontpoint, and for technical climbing, you'll want more frontpoint.

Frontpoints, if you haven't guessed, are the forward facing points on a crampon. Crampons, like the Petzl Dartwin, have horizontal frontpoints. These dual points are good for almost any alpine climbing or ice/snow climbing. There are also crampons with dual vertical frontpoints. They're the best for steep waterfall and mixed climbs. Vertical frontpoints slip easily into cracks, and you can easily adjust and replace them. Some technical-ice crampons will feature secondary frontpoints for added support and traction. Monopoint crampons, like the Petzl Dart, have a single frontpoint. Hence the whole "mono" thing, which I think is Latin. Single points are popular for technical waterfall and mixed climbing.

Frontpoints are either modular or non-modular. That's fixed or non-fixed for the laypersons. I don't know what makes someone a layperson, and anything I could think of isn't appropriate, so I'll just talk more about frontpoints.

  • Modular points can be replaced if they wear out, or reconfigured to fit your activity. If you will be doing a lot of mixed climbing and ice climbing, you'll probably need to replace your frontpoints eventually, which is way more affordable than replacing the entire crampon.
  • Non-modular points can't be replaced. You can sharpen them, but they get shorter with wear and sharpening. They do tend to be lighter than modular crampons, though. And since they're made of one piece of steel or aluminium, there are no moving parts to come loose.
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