Which crampons are best?

Crampons are an essential part of winter gear if you want to go mountaineering or walk over hard ice. The metal attachments clip onto specially designed boots to give you superior grip in most winter weather.

They all might look the same, but there are plenty of customization options. In addition, there are several parts that you must consider, so having the correct crampons is critical depending on the terrain. The modular PETZL Lynx Universal Crampons are excellent for a solid grip in demanding terrain.

What to know before you buy crampons

The points are crucial for stability

The points are the most critical aspect of crampons, and there are usually between 10 and 14 per foot. The terrain difficulty should determine how many are needed. The front points are available as mono (a single) or dual (double) with the latter further available in vertical and horizontal points. Consider the terrain and environment you will be in, as vertical points are for hard ice, horizontal points are for soft snow and dual points are better suited for ice climbing.

Steeper terrain needs aggressive secondary points

The front points are important, but you’ll want to get crampons with aggressive, forward secondary points for technical or difficult terrain. The secondary points, which typically feature barbs, sit just behind the front points and are excellent for stability in steeper climbs. Keep in mind that all crampons have down points. More will give you better traction, but it also makes the crampons heavier. The lightest options are ice cleats or micro-spikes.

Crampons come in three ratings

All crampons are rated either C1, C2 or C3, but it isn’t a simple measure for which pair will be right for you. Generally, the rating only indicates the attachment style, boot compatibility and flexibility. For example, C1-rated crampons are called Strap-On and have a toe basket but no heel clip. C2 models are Semi Step-in and compatible with B2 and B3 boots since it has a heel clip. C3 crampons use a toe bail and heel clip and are compatible with B3 boots for highly technical terrain.

What to look for in quality crampons

Anti-balling plates

Crampons are already relatively heavy, so you don’t need any added weight from snow accumulating at the base. Anti-balling plates prevent that and stop any snow from compacting between the boots and crampons. If that happens, it can lead to dangerous situations, as the compacted snow can prevent the points from gripping effectively. Good-quality crampons will come with a pair of solid plates that easily clip in and are replaceable if damaged or lost. 

Durability and construction

The construction materials of crampons can differ between styles and manufacturers. The overwhelming majority are stainless steel, but a few models incorporate steel alloy, lightweight aluminum or even both. Another aspect of the construction is the rigidity of the crampons. Most use a semi-rigid frame, but good-quality crampons let you switch to a flexible mode that is more forgiving on your feet. 

Modular system for customization

Especially if you are a beginner, a modular system for your crampon can save you a few bucks before investing in a specialized pair. Several brands make modular crampons that let you add, subtract or replace specific components. You can take these modular models apart and change things, such as the front sections, bails or heel components. Often you can change the points too, which lets you adapt the crampons to the terrain you are tackling.  

How much you can expect to spend on crampons

The average price of crampons depends mainly on the manufacturer and the model’s capability. For example, entry-level micro-spikes or ice cleats can retail for $20-$30, while robust crampons can retail for $100-$300.

Crampons FAQ

What’s the difference between crampons and micro-spikes?

A. Crampons are used for mountaineering and going over tough terrain. However, micro-spikes are best suited for winter weather on solid surfaces, such as snow-covered grass, dirt or soil. Most beginners start with micro-spikes before transitioning to crampons as the terrain difficulty increases.

What crampon accessories should you get?

A. Buying a pair of crampons is only part of your mountaineering journey, as you also need to take care of them. Accessories like cases and point covers ensure that the spikes don’t get damaged (or injure others). Further up your leg, you might want to get a pair of shin gaiters that protect your legs from sharp points, snow or debris.

What are the best crampons to buy?

Top crampons

PETZL Lynx Universal Crampons

PETZL Lynx Universal Crampons

What you need to know: Excellent for ice and mixed climbing, the Lynx has 14 interchangeable points made from stainless steel. 

What you’ll love: You can modify the points of these crampons with one screw and quickly change to a mono point for dry tooling or double points for gullies. The Leverlock Universal binding system makes them compatible with all hiking or mountaineering boots.

What you should consider: They are only available in one size, and some users have indicated that they are not compatible with shoe sizes larger than 13.  

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top crampons for the money

Cimkiz 19-Point Crampons

Cimkiz 19-Point Crampons

What you need to know: Each ice cleat features 19 spikes and is held together with a stainless steel chain system. 

What you’ll love: Available in three sizes, the strap that goes over your boots is a stretchable rubber that won’t easily get damaged and maintains its integrity at -49 degrees. The strap is also available in six colors.

What you should consider: There are no left or right spikes, as any pair can go on either foot. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Black Diamond Contact Crampon

Black Diamond Contact Crampon

What you need to know: Made from rust-resistant stainless steel, the contact crampon has 10 points with dual horizontal points on the front. 

What you’ll love: This model is an improvement over previous Black Diamond crampons because it has a lower profile to make better contact with your boots. The flexible toe strap fits most boots.

What you should consider: These crampons are best for use on snow and ice but might struggle with efficient grip in tougher conditions.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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