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Selecting the Right Crampons for Your Adventure

Crampons have evolved to cater to various activities, each requiring specific features. For everyday winter walks, super-lightweight traction devices suffice. Traditional crampons are suitable for snow and glacier travel, as well as technical hiking when accompanied by an ice axe. With advancements in design and manufacturing, modern crampons are lighter and offer better fitting options. Additionally, specialized models are available for activities such as climbing frozen waterfalls or navigating mixed ice and rock routes.

Frame Materials

Steel crampons are best for general mountaineering. Their durability makes them essential for technical, steep and icy terrain. Stainless-steel crampons offer corrosion resistance as well as the other benefits of steel crampons. Aluminum crampons can be ideal for approaches and ski mountaineering. Their lower weight makes them better on alpine climbs, but they will wear out significantly faster than steel if used on rocky terrain.

Frame Alignment

It used to be that you’d buy crampons with a vertically oriented frame to use with double plastic boots. However, since climbers have generally moved from plastic boots to insulated leather boots, crampons aren’t required to be as rigid. Horizontally oriented frames are now the rule. Horizontal frames flex for walking and, because the steel or aluminum lays flat, your feet are closer to the ground than with vertical frames so you enjoy greater stability. The flat bars also repel snow efficiently.


Aluminum crampons are the lightest, but as you save weight you generally decrease durability and strength. For non-technical climbing, aluminum is a good choice—just avoid mixed rock-and-snow climbing in aluminum crampons.

Crampon Construction Simplified

Most crampons today feature a semi-rigid design, offering versatility across various terrains. This design provides the flexibility needed for winter walking while maintaining rigidity for moderate ice climbing. Some models even allow adjustments to the linking bar, transitioning between semi-rigid and flexible modes for enhanced comfort during hiking and reduced snow accumulation.

Semi-rigid crampons boast easier adjustability and compatibility with a wide range of boot shapes. Additional accessories like asymmetrical center bars or longer flex bars accommodate highly curved boots for a better fit. It’s worth noting that semi-rigid crampons come in left and right designs, determined by the orientation of the center bar.

Types of Bindings

  1. Hybrid: Also known as semi-step crampons, hybrids combine a heel lever and toe strap. They’re compatible with boots featuring a stiff sole and a heel groove or welt. With no need for precise alignment, they’re easy to put on, especially with gloves.
  2. Step-In: Featuring a wire bail for the toe and a heel cable with a tension lever, step-in crampons offer a secure fit. They’re effortless to don, even in snowy conditions. Boots must have rigid soles and a designated welt or groove on the heel and toe.
  3. Strap-On: Utilizing nylon webbing straps, strap-on crampons are versatile, fitting almost any boot or shoe. Though they take a bit longer to attach, they provide a snug fit suitable for moderate ice routes. However, they lack the precision of step-in bindings.

Crampton Points

Most crampons feature 10 or 12 points strategically positioned under the instep, following the boot’s shape for optimal traction. Adjusting the front bails may be necessary to achieve the correct point extension. Some advanced models come with serrated points, enhancing grip on surfaces where standard points may struggle to penetrate. The number of points and rigidity increase as crampons transition from winter walking to technical climbing.

10-point crampons are well-suited for ski touring and glacier travel, while those designed for technical ice and mixed climbing feature aggressive, adjustable frontpoints. Waterfall-specific crampons offer configurable front points, including dual-point, monopoint, or monopoint offset options, catering to various climbing needs and conditions.

For general mountaineering, shorter frontpoints ease walking, while longer frontpoints are preferred for technical climbing. Crampons may have modular or non-modular points, allowing for adjustability or fixed configurations. Modular points are ideal for mixed rock-and-ice climbing, while non-modular points are lighter and simpler but may require replacement as they wear down.

Crampon Accessories

Anti-balling Plates: Essential for maintaining traction, crampons are equipped with anti-balling plates, usually crafted from ABS plastic, endorsed by the UIAA (International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation). These plates prevent snow from accumulating under the crampon, ensuring secure footing.

Crampon Cases and Point Covers: Protect your gear and yourself from sharp crampon points with durable rubber point covers or a rugged crampon case, typically constructed from puncture-resistant nylon. While cases offer convenient storage, rubber point covers are a more compact and cost-effective option.

Gaiters: Complement your crampon setup with sturdy gaiters to safeguard your lower legs and clothing from potential nicks caused by sharp crampon points.

Spare Parts: Ensure you’re prepared for any eventuality by stocking up on spare parts such as alternative center bars, toe and heel bails, screws, and center bars. These spare components offer flexibility in adjusting crampon flexibility or accommodating larger boots, particularly essential for remote expeditions.

Gear up with these essential accessories to enhance your crampon setup and ensure a safe and enjoyable mountain adventure.