person climbing up icy mountain wearing cramponsperson climbing up icy mountain wearing crampons

Crampons Buying Guide

What Are Crampons?

Crampons are metal devices which fit to the soles of mountaineering boots. Their toothed design helps to secure traction on ice and hard-packed snow. Mountaineers and ice climbers wear crampons when heading above the snowline.


This guide takes you through the different elements to consider before choosing your first or next pair. Crampons need to be compatible with the right boots so they work correctly. The wrong pair can result in catastrophe in a dangerous environment. So, you must select your crampons carefully. Even stiff boots can flex, so the crampon must be able to flex and twist to stay on the boot. Crampons have two components which define their use and their C-rating. The metal spiked base, hinged or rigid, and the strapping or binding system which secures them to the boot. If your walking boots aren't B rated, a pair of ice grips could be a solution for low-level winter walks.

Anatomy Of A Crampon

There are several main components to a crampon. Their composition and design affect their performance and how you should use them. So, it's important to understand what each part does.

These are:


  • Points (teeth)
  • Flex bar
  • Anti-balling plates

Binding system

  • Front cage or bail
  • Heel clip
  • Tether (binding straps)
anatomy of a cramponanatomy of a crampon

Crampon Points

A crampon's points are the 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 steel or stainless steel due to its strength. Some lightweight styles use aluminium for less aggressive use like ski touring.

Number of Points
The number of points affects the variety of positions in which a crampon can find traction. Crampons for activities involving gentle gradients like ski touring will usually have 10 points. Those designed for more technical mountaineering will have 12 points. 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 refer to the orientation of the front 'teeth' at the front of a crampon.

Horizontal Points
Horizontal points look and act like a shark's front teeth. They provide excellent grip on snow and softer ice. This makes them a great choice for winter walking and moderate ice routes. But, they are not suited to technical ice climbing.

horizontal crampon pointshorizontal crampon points

Vertical Points
Vertical crampon points work like an ice axe. They drive hard straight into the ice and give a secure hold on mixed and more aggressive routes. They are the right choice for those looking for technical ice climbing crampons. But they need a greater level of precision and give less stability on flatter sections. This makes 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 easily replaced.

vertical crampon pointsvertical crampon points

Hybrid Points
Recent years have seen brands creating crampons with hybrid or 'T'-profiled points. This results in a versatile system. These are a vertical point with a horizontal profile at the top. Models like the Petzl Sarken offer the stability of horizontal points and the bite of vertical when routes become more demanding.

Monopoint vs. Dual Point Crampons

Monopoint Crampons

Monopoint crampons feature a central point at the front of the crampon. This gives them the precision required by ice climbers, and are the go-to for scaling mixed routes. A single point means you can pivot your foot without blowing your hold. This gives you more agility. It also gives the ability to jam into fluted ice and fissures with pinpoint accuracy.

monopoint cramponImage

Dual Point Crampons

Dual points are the most popular crampon for everything except technical ice climbing. They feature a pair of points at the front, giving optimal traction and stability.

dual point cramponImage

Modular Points
Many high-level crampons feature a modular point system. This allows you to change between a dual and monopoint system easily with minimal tools. These make an excellent choice for routes that involve winter walking and ice climbing.

Flex Bar

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. C3 crampons will be almost rigid. Bars are easily replaced or changed according to size requirements.

crampon flex barscrampon flex bars

Anti-Balling Plates

Anti-balling or 'antibot' plates prevent snow collecting and compacting in the base of the crampon. This is a dangerous situation should it arise. Made from a rubbery plastic compound, they clip into the base and over the bar. Most crampons come with a pair included but are replaceable if they become lost or damaged.

crampon anti-balling platescrampon anti-balling plates

Crampon Binding Systems

Crampons fix to your boots using 3 different systems. These affect their C-rating (explained 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 directly to the binding rather than the 'spikes'. It is an indication of what boot a crampon binding will fit. This is regardless of the crampon's spike configuration.

This means you 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.

C1 Crampons

  • 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. This creates 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.

strap on cramponsstrap on crampons

C2 Crampons

  • 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.

hybrid cramponhybrid crampon

C3 Crampons

  • Suitable for: Ice climbing, technical mountaineering
  • Compatible with: B3 boots only

C3 crampons combine a plastic heel lever and a metal toe bar. This step-in system gives a solid fit but only works with full B3 boots. Usually, C3 bindings are on 12 or 14-point crampons that offer precise performance on steep ice or technical mixed routes. Very aggressive vertical front points give the best penetration on hard ice. Top-end crampons for top-end boots.

step-in cramponsstep-in crampons

Mountaineering Boot Ratings Chart

B ratings show if a boot is suitable for different winter terrains. They rank from B0 (not for use with crampons) to B3. Take a look at our mountaineering boots buying guide for more information.

B0 Boots
B0 boots are more flexible in the soles and uppers. They are comfy out of the box and ideal for general hillwalking below the snow line. Even with modern, flexible linking bars, crampons can't flex as much as these boots. This flexing difference puts undue pressure on the binding. It can cause a crampon to pull loose and have disastrous results. You may find that the crampon straps dig in through the fabrics and cause discomfort. You should avoid B0 rated boots if the use of crampons is necessary.

B1 Boots
B1 rated boots are all-round walking boots. Built for all seasons, long mountain days, and scrambles. They also work for less technical winter hill walking. They usually have a stiffened midsole and leather or fabric uppers. They are often supported by a large rubber rand or synthetic leather reinforcements. Combine only with C1 strap-on crampons that offer the best flex. A B1/C1 combination will be adequate for many UK winter fell walks and gentle snow plods.

B2 Boots
The best bet for regular winter hill walkers tackling long days in snowy conditions. Both midsoles and uppers will be stiff and supportive. But, they will have just enough flex to sustain regular walking. Thicker uppers lend slightly more warmth. B2 boots feature a heel ledge for a C2 crampon. Suitable for winter Munros, low or mid-grade winter climbs and summer hikes.

B3 Boots
Designed for full-on mountaineering, mixed and ice climbing. B3 boots have the stiffest soles and uppers available. They give solid side support for front pointing, step-kicking, and traversing on steep terrain. This category includes high altitude double boots and lighter technical climbing models. Heel and toe welts allow the fitting of C3 crampons. They use the easy step-in 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: Using them for long periods on rock will blunt the points 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 in storage. This deters rust from 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. A crampon crown will protect your other gear while in transit as the points can snag material or rope.

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