Crampons Buying Guide
What Are Crampons?
We stock an extensive range of crampon designs for different uses. This guide will take you through the different elements you need to consider before choosing your first or next pair, from boot choice, to point configuration, to binding. Crampons need to be fully compatible with the boots they are fitted to, so they work correctly. Trying to use the wrong pair can result in catastrophe in a dangerous environment, so it's essential that you select your crampons carefully. Even relatively stiff boots can flex, so the crampon must be able to flex and twist to stay safely on the boot. Crampons have two components which define their use and hence their C-rating; the metal spiked base, which can be hinged (articulated) or rigid depending on the model, and the strapping or binding system which secures them to the boot. If your walking boot is not suitable for crampons (not B-rated), a pair of ice-grips could be a solution for low-level winter walks.
Anatomy Of A Crampon
Crampons are made up of several main components. Their composition and design affect their performance and how they should be used, so it's important to understand what each part does.
A crampon's points are the actual spiked teeth that bite into the snow and ice. They are situated at the contact areas beneath the forefoot and heel. Most crampon points are made from steel or stainless steel due to its strength. Some lightweight styles for less aggressive use (such as ski touring) are made from aluminium, making them easy to carry.
Number of Points
The number of points affects the variety of positions in which a crampon can find traction. Crampons designed for activities involving gentle gradients such as glacier walking and ski touring will usually have 10 points. Those designed for more technical mountaineering will have 12 points - two protruding from the front - and those designed for technical ice climbing will often have 14. Almost all designs will have four points beneath the heel and the rest beneath the forefoot.
Horizontal vs. Vertical Points
Horizontal or vertical points refers to the orientation of the front 'teeth' protruding from the front of a crampon.
Vertical crampon points work like an ice axe, driving hard straight into the ice and giving a secure hold on mixed and more aggressive routes. They are the right choice for those looking for technical ice climbing crampons but require a greater level of deliberate precision and give less stability on flatter sections, making them unsuitable for gentler winter walking routes. Vertical points go with the grain of the ice, meaning there is less chance of the ice shattering or 'blowing'. The construction of vertical points also means that front points are usually easily replaced.
Recent years have seen brands creating crampons with hybrid or 'T'-profiled points, resulting in a fantastically versatile system. These are effectively a vertical point with a horizontal profile at the top. Models such as the Petzl Sarken offer both the sure-footed stability on snow of horizontal points and the bite of vertical when routes become more demanding.
Monopoint vs. Dual Point Crampons
Monopoint crampons feature a central point at the front of the crampon. This gives them the exceptional precision required by ice climbers, and are generally the go-to choice for most people scaling mixed routes. Having a single point means the wearer can pivot their foot without blowing their hold, giving them more agility. It also gives the ability to jam into fluted ice and fissures with pinpoint accuracy.
Many high-level crampons feature a modular point system, allowing you to change between a dual and monopoint system easily using minimal tools. These make an excellent choice for varied routes that might involve both winter walking and ice climbing.
The flex bar is the piece of metal that joins the front and rear plates. This component and the way it attaches to the plates dictates the flex of the binding. Articulated crampons have more play for softer boots, while C3 crampons will be almost fully rigid. Bars are easily replaced or changed according to size requirements.
Anti-balling or 'antibot' plates are designed to prevent snow collecting and compacting in the bases of the crampon - a dangerous situation should it arise. They are made from a rubbery plastic compound; they simply clip into the base and over the bar. Almost all crampons come with a pair included but are easily replaced should they become lost or damaged.
Crampon Binding Systems
Crampons fix to your boots using 3 different systems, and these affect their C-rating (explained in detail in the ratings section below). These are strap-on (C1), hybrid (C2), or step-in (C3).
- Strap-on crampons utilise a toe basket/cage and a binding strap to wrap and secure the boot
- Hybrid crampons have a toe basket/cage and heel clip for a very secure fit
- Step-in crampons have both a toe clip or bail and heel clip. These give the closest fit and only fit B3 boots
Crampon Ratings & Mountaineering Boot Ratings Explained
Crampon Ratings Chart
Crampons consist of two distinct sections – the spiked base and the binding. The C rating relates most directly to the binding - or the way it attaches to the boot - rather than the 'spikes'. It is an indication of what boot a crampon binding will fit, regardless of the crampon's spike configuration.
This means you really need to consider two types of compatibility:
- Will the crampon be compatible with your mountaineering aspirations?
- Will the binding be compatible with your boots?
Get the right answer to these two questions, and you will have the perfect crampon for you and your boots.
Often a particular type of 'base' is available with a variety of different binding systems. For instance, the Grivel G12 is available with either a New Matic (C2) or Cramp-o-Matic (C3) binding.
- Suitable for: UK winter hill walking, glacier traverses
- Compatible with: B1, B2, & B3 boots
C1 crampons have a webbing tape tether that pulls flexible cradles around the heel and toe to create a secure binding. This system allows good flex and is suitable for fitting to B1, B2 or B3 boots. It is usually found on low profile 10-point crampons with less aggressive points. They are ideal for winter walking or glacier traverses.
- Suitable for: Technical winter scrambles, winter climbing, alpinism
- Compatible with: B2 & B3 boots
C2 crampons use a plastic heel lever and a flexible toe cradle. This system will give a secure binding to B2 or B3 boots. Crampons tend to be mid-profile with longer secondary spikes and sharper front points. These are the-12 point all-rounders that are easy enough to walk in but still climb hard when called on. Excellent for winter climbing and alpinism.
- Suitable for: Ice climbing, technical mountaineering
- Compatible with: B3 boots only
C3 crampons combine a plastic heel lever and metal toe bar. This step-in system gives a really solid fit but will only work with full B3 boots. Usually, a C3 binding is found on bigger, badder 12 or 14-point crampons that offer precise performance on steep ice or highly technical mixed routes. Very aggressive vertical front points give the best penetration on hard ice. Top-end crampons for top-end boots.
Mountaineering Boot Ratings Chart
Our mountaineering boot buying guide offers more in-depth information but B ratings are a widely recognised indication of a boot's suitability for different winter mountain forays. They rank from B0 (incompatible with true crampons) to B3 - the most technical mountaineering boots.
B0 boots are flexible in the soles and uppers, making them comfortable straight from the box and great for general hillwalking below the snow line. Even with modern flexible linking bars, crampons will not be able to flex as much as these boots. This flexing disparity places undue pressure through the binding, which can cause your crampon to pull loose with potentially disastrous results. You may also find that crampon straps dig in through the softer upper fabrics leading to significant discomfort. So for reasons of comfort and safety, B0s should be avoided for use on snow.
All-round four-season walking boots, robustly constructed for long mountain days and scrambles and with cross-over potential for those looking to do a small amount of winter hillwalking. The midsole is stiffened while uppers may be leather or fabric, often supported by a generous rubber rand or synthetic leather reinforcements. Combine only with C1 strap-on crampons which offer the best flex. A B1/C1 combination will be adequate for many UK winter fell walks and gentle snow plods.
The best bet for regular winter hill walkers, tackling long days in snowy conditions. Both midsoles and uppers will be stiff and supportive, but with just enough flex to sustain a regular walking action. Thicker uppers lend slightly more warmth. There will be a heel ledge to allow fitting of a C2 crampon for the most secure fit and versatile performance. Suitable for the winter Munro bagger, the low or mid-grade Scottish Winter climber and the summer Alpinist.
Designed for full-on mountaineering, mixed and ice climbing. B3 boots have the stiffest soles and uppers available, giving solid lateral and medial support for front pointing, step-kicking, and traversing on steep terrain. This category includes high altitude double boots as well as lighter technical climbing models. Heel and toe ledges allow fitting of C3 crampons to take advantage of the easy step-in attachment system of heel clip and toe bar.
Caring For Crampons
When used and cared for correctly, crampons should be able to withstand a lot of punishment. By observing a few simple practices, you can keep them performing season after season.
- Avoid using on rock: while it could be impractical to keep taking your crampons off on a mixed route, using them for long periods on rock will blunt the points far quicker than ice and increase the likelihood of them bending
- Store in a cool, dry place: ensure your crampons are dry when you put them into storage to deter any rust forming on any exposed steel. As an extra precaution, a light coat of oil for long term storage will increase protection
- We recommend investing in a crampon bag to store them, and at least a crampon crown when in transit to protect your other gear - the points will easily snag material or rope
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