Best Hiking Crampons

When you plan to trek across icy mountains and steep glaciers, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got all the essentials: plenty of food and water, a headlamp, pocket knife, and high-quality crampons.

If you’ve never hiked through the snow, you might not even know what crampons are, or why they’re important for your journey. Or, maybe you’ve done your fair share of winter hiking, but you’re in need of a new pair of crampons. But, just as you’d need to look up the best camping tents or best sleeping pads, it never hurts to get another opinion.

Before you tackle a wintry forest or Mount Everest, I’ll break down why crampons matter, how to pick out the right pair, and which ones are the best crampons for hiking.

Why Crampons are Essential

When you hike through mountain trails in the summertime, you usually don’t need more than a pair of high-quality boots. However, add in a bit of snow and ice, and you can no longer get a grip in those same hiking boots. This is where a set of crampons can come in handy. Just as an athlete wears cleats to gain traction on the field, the pointy, metal teeth of crampons help you gain traction in the snow. These pointed ends dig into the ice and snow.

Not all wintry terrain requires a pair of crampons. If you’re only hiking in a couple of inches of snow, and the snow is already packed down from hikers before you, crampons might be unnecessary. However, if your boots begin to sink into the snow or you keep slipping on the ice, crampons can help you get a toehold.

Crampon Features to Consider

If you already know that crampons are going to be a must-have for your next wintry expedition, then your next obstacle is figuring out what to look for. When you shop online, most crampons list tons of different features and specifications, but it can be difficult to tell which ones matter—and that’s where I come in:

Type of Frame

You’ll notice that most crampons use either one of two materials: steel or aluminum. Both have their benefits, but aluminum crampons tend to be better for snow or ski mountaineering. Since they’re lightweight, aluminum is less likely to slow you down or tire you out as easily as a burly pair of steel crampons would.

However, if you plan to cover rocky terrain, you’ll want to trade those aluminum crampons in for steel ones. Steel crampons, whether it be stainless or Chromoly steel, often hold up much better, and are an ideal choice for technical mountaineering.

If you do plan to use a pair of steel crampons, you’ll have to pick between Chromoly steel and stainless steel. Chromoly steel should still hold its own, but stainless-steel crampons are significantly more rust-resistant non corrosive—but they do usually come with a higher price tag.

Construction

Besides using different materials, you’ll also notice that crampons vary by construction too. Traditional crampons use rigid designs, but most of them have a semi-rigid construction now. Semi-rigid frames work on a variety of different terrains, but if you’re also looking to use your crampons on gentle hikes, you’ll probably want to find a pair that allows you to adjust to flexible mode.

As the name suggests, a crampon in flexible mode should feel less rigid on your boots, and make navigating your hike a little easier. Not all crampons include a feature to switch to flexible mode—so, it’s really only a consideration if you plan to use that mode a lot.

Number of Points

When shopping for crampons, most of these traction devices use 10 or 12 points, but sometimes up to 14. For ski mountaineering or even heading up glaciers, mountaineering crampons with 10 points should suffice.

However, for mixed climbing that begins to get a bit more technical, you’ll probably want to bump your crampons up to 12 points. Crampons with more points may also have sharp frontpoints that you can replace if they wear down or adjust as needed. Keep in mind that points can also vary as horizontal, vertical, or monopoints:

  • Vertical frontpoints work better for steep climbs and don’t get stuck in crevasses or cracks as you climb. They’re also easy to replace or adjust on your boot if you need to.
  • Horizontal frontpoints are versatile and can work for most types of climbing, but specifically alpine climbing.
  • Monopoints are pretty specific, and you’ll only need them if you plan to do a technical waterfall or mixed climb.

Your crampon points are also either going to be adjustable, or modular, or fixed, also called non-modular. Some people prefer to use modular points that they can replace as time goes on but easily adjust depending on the type of terrain. However, modular points can also be heavier, and you’ll have to keep an eye on any screws that come loose.

You can’t adjust non-modular points, but you can sharpen them. Like a pencil, they’ll only get shorter as they continue to wear down and need re-sharpened.

How They Attach to Your Boots

Most people want to know whether their crampons will attach to their boots, or if they’ll need a special pair just to strap on the crampons. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, and the answer depends on how the crampons attach to your boots. Semi-strap crampons, for instance, should fit on a lot of boots, as long as you’ve got a stiff sole and a heel groove.

Things get a little more complicated if your crampon requires a wire bail, or step-in binding. Your boots will need a very rigid sole, as well as a ⅜-inch welt on the toe and heel. There’s usually an ankle strap involved too, but not always. This might seem time-consuming to some, but your crampon is unlikely to go anywhere once you’ve got it on.

The most versatile system is the strap-on system, which you can attach to almost any pair of boots you own. As long as the center bar matches up, you can strap your crampons on without too much trouble.

Crampons vs. Micro-Spikes: What’s the Difference?

Some people may use the term “micro-spikes” interchangeably with crampons, but these traction cleats are very different. For first-time users, it can be difficult to discern when you only need micro-spikes, and when you should make the switch to crampons.

Generally, micro-spikes work well for wintry terrain, unless you start venturing up slopes with high angles. Or, if the mountain is coated in inches of ice, the micro-spikes might not be long or sharp enough to penetrate.

It’s at this point that most people make the switch to crampons. Not only are they sharper, but they’re also longer too. Most of the time, you’ll find that crampons, aluminum or steel, tend to be heavier than the average pair of micro-spikes. The extra weight isn’t always a plus, but it might be what you need on a heavy-duty hike.

My Favorite Crampons

Now that we’ve gone over how to find some of the best crampons for mountaineering, I’ll highlight some of my favorite picks:

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  • Editor’s Choice

  • Premium Pick

  • Bang for Your Buck

Editor’s Choice

Black Diamond Contact Strap Crampons with ABS Plates

Ratings

  • Easy to assemble: 9/10
  • Traction: 8/10
  • Lightweight: 8/10

Bottom line

If you plan to conquer any rocky inclines, you’ll probably want to opt for stainless steel crampons, like the Black Diamond Contact Strap Crampons with ABS Plates. Not only are they more lightweight than some other steel crampon options, but they’re also versatile too. The flexible bootstrap makes it easy to secure the crampons to most mountaineering boot.

You’ll also find that the ABS plates on the crampons help deter snow from sticking to your feet. As you wade through inches of snow, the last thing you want is to deal with tons of balled up snow. With its horizontal front points, I’ve named this pair my Editor’s Choice for a couple of reasons: not only are they durable and versatile to wear, but they also help you avoid the common problems that every hiker encounters on a wintry climb.

Keep in mind that if you have a boot that’s size 12 or higher, you’ll need to purchase a long center bar separately.

Specs

  • Price: $123.95 on Amazon
  • Weight: 1.7 pounds

Pros Cons
  • ABS plates help keep snow from sticking to your feet
  • Uses stainless steel
  • Easy to strap on
  • Fits most boots
  • Might not be the best choice for mixed climbing
  • Might run a little small
  • Won’t fit size 12 and up

Premium Pick

Black Diamond Snaggletooth Pro Crampons

Ratings

  • Easy to assemble: 7/10
  • Traction: 9/10
  • Lightweight: 7/10

Bottom line

From the same brand, the Black Diamond Snaggletooth Pro Crampons kick things up a notch with this step-in product. For professional hikers that need a pair of crampons that feel professional, this might be the right choice for you.

The stainless steel construction is not only relatively lightweight, but the design of the crampons includes a rocker in the front rail that fits even modern boots. If you’re worried about trudging up snow while you hike, the front and rear ABS plates should prevent the wintry terrain from sticking to the crampons.

For hikers that regularly deal with low-angle climbs, you might appreciate the secondary frontpoint that helps you gain traction in treacherous ice (or “ice greWhile it’s not as lightweight as the other Black Diamond pair we’ve mentioned, you also get a front railing, extra ABS plates, and a secondary frontpoint with these crampons.

Specs

  • Price: $219.95 on Amazon
  • Weight: 1.9 pounds

Pros Cons
  • More versatile than other crampons
  • Works well on low-angle climbs
  • Includes a secondary frontpoint
  • Made with stainless steel
  • Stops snow from sticking to your feet
  • Not as lightweight
  • Step-in binding can make putting these crampons on time-consuming
  • Not ideal for people who don’t want monopoints

Bang for Your Buck

Kahtoola K-10 Crampons

Ratings

  • Easy to assemble: 8/10
  • Traction: 7/10
  • Lightweight: 9/10

Bottom line

Not everyone has hundreds of dollars to spend on a pair of crampons, especially if you aren’t a regular. If you’re looking for something that can still make the climb but isn’t too extravagant, the Kahtoola K-10 Crampons offer great value.

They’re also versatile and should fit over your existing boots with few exceptions. Unlike some crampons, which use step-in bindings and tricky assembly features, these crampons shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to fit your feet.

Another perk of these crampons is that they’re also pretty lightweight at only 1.3 pounds. When you’re traipsing through the snow, these crampons shouldn’t slow you down too much.

It’s worth noting that they fit most boots up to size 13 for men and size 14 for women. If you’ve got a bigger shoe than that, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.

Specs

  • Price: $99.99 at Cabela’s
  • Weight: 1.3 pounds

Pros Cons
  • Lightweight and flexible
  • Shouldn’t slow you down
  • Fits over your existing hiking boot
  • No complicated assembly
  • Might not be the right choice for complicated mixed or technical climbing
  • Doesn’t fit women’s boots smaller than size 7 (or men’s smaller than size 6)
  • Snow might stick to the crampons as you hike

Bang for Your Buck

Hillsound Trail Crampon

Ratings

  • Easy to assemble: 8/10
  • Traction: 6/10
  • Lightweight: 9/10

Bottom line

If you need a pair of crampons that won’t break the bank, the Hillsound Trail Crampon can still get the job done, although they probably won’t be much help on technical climbs. On backcountry hikes that have been covered in snow or even glacier walking, these Hillsound Crampons can give you the extra traction that you need.

The carbon steel spikes have been treated with heat for better durability, so they’re less likely to wear down with regular use. If you’re worried about getting these crampons on your feet, they use hook-and-loop straps that you can take on and off.

When you’re not using this Hillsound Trail Crampon, you can keep your crampons safe by placing them in the storage bag so they don’t get damaged in between hikes.

Specs

  • Price: $65.00 on Amazon
  • Weight: 0.9 pounds

Pros Cons
  • Incredibly lightweight
  • Great for hiking through trails or glacier walking
  • You can take off the hooks-and-loops if you need to
  • Includes a storage bag
  • Uses carbon steel
  • Not suited for technical climbing
  • The sizing is pretty specific
  • Might not hold up well in extremely heavy snow

Petzl Irvis Hybrid Leverlock Crampons

Ratings

  • Easy to assemble: 7/10
  • Traction: 8/10
  • Lightweight: 8/10

Bottom line

Some brands might force you to buy each crampon separately, but with the Petzl Irvis Hybrid Leverlock Crampons, these come as a pair. With 10 points, these crampons ensure that every point has a purpose. The two wide points in the front help you dig into snow while you can use the teeth in the back to stabilize yourself when you’re headed downhill.

The hybrid structure means that these Petzl crampons are also part aluminum. While that can limit how well they perform on rocky slopes, it also makes these crampons extremely lightweight as well.

Specs

  • Price: $177.99 on Amazon
  • Weight: 1.2 pounds

Pros Cons
  • Uses an anti-snow system
  • Allows for stability when you’re moving uphill or downhill
  • Easy to fit onto your boots
  • Fits a wide variety of boots
  • Might not be well-suited for extremely technical climbing
  • Might not keep snow off as well as some other crampons
  • Uses part aluminum

Grivel G20 Plus Cramp-O-Matic Crampons

Ratings

  • Easy to assemble: 7/10
  • Traction: 9/10
  • Lightweight: 5/10

Bottom line

The Grivel G20 Plus Cramp-O-Matic Crampons might look like they’re ready for battle, and you’ll want these fierce crampons on your side. With hot drop-forged frontpoints that you can replace or adjust as needed, these traction devices do well with rocky or ice climbing.

There are also 2 center points that can help increase your stability on an incline, as well as keep you steady when you’re headed downhill. If these crampons come loose while you’re trekking in heavy snow, the safety straps on the front ensure that you won’t completely lose them.

Since they’re made for a heavy-duty climb, it only makes sense that these are heavy-duty crampons. If you’re looking for something more lightweight, you might want to check out one of the other choices we’ve highlighted.

Specs

  • Price: $249.00 on Amazon
  • Weight: 2 pounds

Pros Cons
  • Great for technical climbing and ice climbing
  • Excels at keeping you stable
  • Safety straps ensure you won’t lose the crampons
  • Antibotts keep snow off your crampons
  • Not very lightweight
  • Might be overkill for gentle wintry hikes or trails
  • Doesn’t use Stainless steel

Kahtoola KTS Steel Crampons

Ratings

  • Easy to assemble: 6/10
  • Traction: 8/10
  • Lightweight: 7/10

Bottom line

With stainless steel bars that flex with your foot as you move, the Kahtoola KTS Steel Crampons are all about flexibility and ease of movement. The 10 points are all one-inch and provide you with better stability regardless of where you’re at.

Since it uses Chromoly steel, these crampons are unlikely to wear down, even if you take them on a rocky incline. When you’re back from the hike, you’ll need to wash them with only lukewarm water, and allow them to air-dry before the next use.

Specs

  • Price: $169.95 at REI
  • Weight: 1.5 pounds

Pros Cons
  • Uses steel instead of aluminum
  • Easy to move in these crampons
  • Includes snow release skins
  • Secure strap-in system
  • You have to let the crampons air-dry
  • Uses Chromoly steel instead of aluminum
  • Not very lightweight

C.A.M.P. USA Skimo Tour Crampons

Ratings

  • Easy to assemble: 6/10
  • Traction: 8/10
  • Lightweight: 9/10

Bottom line

If you need to move quickly across the mountain, the CAMP USA Skimo Tour Crampons won’t slow you down. Weighing just a touch shy of a pound, these crampons can trek across ski slopes without compromising traction.

Since they do use aluminum over steel, you probably don’t want to try using them on a rocky or technical climb. Not only will they function poorly, but they’ll also wear down much quicker. When it comes to fitting these on your boots, the micro-adjustable linking bars allow you to get a much more accurate fit.

Specs

  • Price: $134.96 on Amazon
  • Weight: 1 pound

Pros Cons
  • Very lightweight
  • Easy to maneuver in
  • Great for light and fast hikes
  • Allows you to get a more precise fit
  • Won’t do well on rocky climbs
  • Not heavy-duty
  • Not super easy to put on

Petzl Lynx Leverlock Crampons

Ratings

  • Easy to assemble: 6/10
  • Traction: 10/10
  • Lightweight: 5/10

Bottom line

When you’ve got a challenging mixed or technical climb ahead, you won’t want to leave home without the Petzl Lynx Leverlock Crampons. These modular crampons allow you to modify the frontpoints with a screw.

The anti-snow plates on the crampons can also prevent snow from building up and adding more weight to these already heavy-duty crampons. With fourteen frontpoints, these crampons can help you regain stability, even on tricky icy slopes.

Specs

  • Price: $227.00 on Amazon
  • Weight: 2.4 pounds

Pros Cons
  • You can adjust or replace the frontpoints when you’re doing ice climbing
  • Use fourteen different spikes
  • Prevents snow from building up on your shows
  • You can adjust the height of the bails
  • Not lightweight at all
  • Might be too much for some trails or hikes
  • You have to watch out for the screw coming loose

Cassin Alpinist Tech Crampons

Ratings

  • Easy to assemble: 7/10
  • Traction: 8/10
  • Lightweight: 6/10

Bottom line

While it might have a steep price, these Cassin Alpinist Tech Crampons are also made for steep, technical inclines. To fit the design of most modern boots, these crampons have an asymmetrical design. Speaking of the fit, the micro-adjustment linking bar helps you get a much more accurate fit.

By reducing the connection joints, you’ll lose some of your flexibility on a climb, but you’ll also be able to get a much more secure hold to the ice or snow.

Specs

  • Price: $187.46 on Amazon
  • Weight: 1.7 pounds

Pros Cons
  • Very secure
  • Great traction
  • You can get an accurate fit
  • Uses steel over aluminum
  • Not very lightweight
  • Doesn’t use stainless steel
  • Not as flexible
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