Best Crampons Reviewed 2022/23 - Outdoors Magic

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Best Crampons Reviewed 2022/23

Crucial for safe mountaineering in the snowy, ice-laden winter months - here's a round-up of our favourite crampons for hiking (and even snow running) this year, including options from Black Diamond, CAMP, Petzl and more

Crampons are some of the most effective tools for moving around the UK’s mountains in winter – because how often do we get deep coatings of soft powder? Windblown snow is the norm, often with a hard, icy top layer. Sometimes you can get away with using the edges of your winter boots, but you’re unlikely to get far without a pair of crampons. Especially as terrain gets higher, steeper and more technical.

Related: Winter Hiking Advice | How To Be Well Prepared and Safe in Cold Conditions

You will also find crampons come in useful across the world – whether for crossing glaciers or climbing snowy peaks big and small. This guide is aimed at walkers and mountaineers, but we have also included a suggested pair of crampons for runners – or anyone keen enough to take to the snow in trainers. 

What To Look For When Buying Crampons

Now then, the key thing you’re going to want to know about your crampons is whether they fit your winter boots. (If you haven’t bought your boots yet, then hold that thought.) But we’ll go into that in detail in the next section. Briefly, you care a lot about the crampon rating (C1 – C3) and the type of binding to make sure the crampons stay attached to your boots.

Photo: iStock/ yanik88

Other things to look for are fairly simple, like do they have anti-balling plates? Most crampons do. They stop the snow from building up under your feet at you walk. Also look to see whether your purchase comes with a crampon bag. If not you can buy bags separately, improvise or make your own. Although it is just easier to buy them all in one if you’re starting out.

Finally, the other thing to consider is the number of points and how these are arranged. Usually crampons will have 10 or 12 points. Some will go up to 14 points for ice climbing. The more points the more traction you’ve got, so typically 10 points are for gentler gradients. Most crampons have 2 front points (a single point is only really an advantage in ice climbing).

A Crampon Fitting Guide

There are three types of crampon bindings: automatic (sometimes called step-in), semi-automatic (sometimes called hybrid) and strap-on crampons. Strap-on crampons fit the widest range of boots. With a basket type binding on the front and back you can strap them onto pretty much anything as long as they’re tight enough. Of course, if the boot is designed for summer it probably won’t attach well at all. Semi-automatics are the most common type you’ll see in the UK, as they’re the solid middle ground. They have a basket at the toe, but a lever at the back which fits into a hard ledge on the heel of the boot. It’s mainly only B2 and B3 boots that have this ridge. The automatics have the same lever on the back and a metal toe bail. These only fit well on B3 boots because you need a rigid boot to get them tight.

Photo: iStock/ Solovyova

These binding types usually align with the crampon rating, that is how flexible the crampons are. Typically, C1 has strap-on, C2 has semi-auto and C3 has automatic. But the rating will also take into account how much flex there is in the crampon itself when you walk. This has everything to do with whether your crampons will fall off. If your boot are much more flexible than the crampons, you’ll essentially end up walking out of them as the boot pops out of the fitting. So really, you want to pair your boots and crampons well.

Finally on fit: once you’ve brought both boots and crampons, size up and adjust the crampons to the size of your boots before going out into the snow. That may involve taking the central metal bar out of the crampon and turning it around if you have small feet. There will be instructions with your crampons. Otherwise, adjust the length of the bar to make a snug fit to the sole of the boot. And after a while, cut the strap so there is only a palm’s width of excess. Saves you having a trip hazard wound around your ankles.

The Best Crampons For 2022/23

  • Black Diamond Contact Strap Crampons
  • Simond Makalu
  • Grivel G12 New Matic Evo
  • CAMP Ascent Universal
  • Petzl Lynx + Sarken front piece
  • Salewa Alpinist Combi
  • Nortec Micro Crampons
  • Petzl Irivs + KIT CORD-TEC

 

Black Diamond Contact Strap Crampons

Price: £140
Weight: 808g per pair
Best for: Winter walking and trekking
Compatibility: C1 Strap-on

The Black Diamond Contact Strap crampons are universal strap-on style crampons able to fit onto any winter walking boot. They are C1 rated with 10 stainless steel points each. Not coating the points is a conscious choice by the designers to avoid any environmentally toxic coatings being left in the mountains, as they rub off with use. The toe and heel bails are made of a very flexible rubbery material that moulds effectively in to the boot for a secure fit.

The strap is segmented – in one piece but stitched in place around one end of the heel bail – and is wider than many on the market, making it easier to handle with less dextrous gloves. The clasp is round with a nice big pull tag that similarly makes taking the crampons on and off very easy. These crampons have flexible anti-balling plates included as standard.

Full Specifications

Stainless Steel / lower-profile fit for better contact with modern boots / flexible toe straps / dual density ABS.

BUY NOW: BLACKDIAMONDEQUIPMENT.COM

 

Simond Makalu Strap-On Crampon

Price: £94.99
Weight: 985 g per pair
Best for: Winter walking and trekking
Compatibility: C1

The Simond Makalu are strap-on crampons with universal bindings and this allows them to be fitted effectively to any winter boot. Designed for winter walking, their 12 points bring good traction with the ground on both snow and ice. They come with anti-balling plates and are packaged in a convenient 3D storage bag, made of tough fabric with small mesh side panels and a zip closure.

The strap is all in one piece, threading through the heel bail from clasp to tip. The clasp is small but secure, in a square edged profile to match the strap. It can be a bit fiddly to use because of its small size, especially when wearing thicker gloves. These are relatively inexpensive crampons and would make a good first pair for a beginner looking to break into winter hiking. 

Full Specifications

12-point crampons / Removable front and rear attachments interchangeable with other Simond systems to upgrade to C2 or C3 / Steel with polyester bails.

BUY NOW: DECATHLON.CO.UK

 

Grivel G12 New Matic Evo

Price: £149.95
Weight: 1006g per pair
Best for: Winter mountaineering
Compatibility: C2 

The Grivel G12 New Matic Evo are a classic pair of winter mountaineering crampons that are a popular choice for Scottish winter. They are 12 point steel with a black coating and a distinctively long pair of front points. This does make them slightly easier to trip over for novices but, with a more horizontal angle, provide excellent purchase when climbing steep snow slopes. We tested the semi-automatic binding, but it’s possible to buy the same crampons in strap-on or fully automatic too.

The narrow strap is all in one piece, threaded through the heel lever lock. Note that the lever no longer has an adjustment dial like older models used to. The fairly stiff rubberised toe bail provides a good connection with the boot. Although be aware that smaller boots with a large rocker in the sole may not fit easily between the two metal pins holding the toe bail on. The clasp is square edged – again an upgrade from the previously round clasp – which holds the strap securely. Overall, Grivel G12s are a solid and dependable choice of crampons for winter mountaineering.

Full Specifications

Steel / Fits sizes 36-47 / Anti balling front and rear / 12-point / Choice of binding types: New-Matic EVO, New-Classic EVO and New Cramp-o-matic EVO.

BUY NOW: GRIVEL.COM

 

CAMP Ascent Universal

Price: £119.95
Weight: 776g per pair
Best for: Winter walking and trekking
Compatibility: C1

The CAMP Ascent Universal crampons are C1 crampons with strap-on bindings, designed for easy angled snow slopes. They have 10 steel points and secure heel and toe bails made of a fairly flexible plastic material. Both toe bail and heel have metal bars for improved durability and security. The two front points have a noticeable downward curve.

The strap is very narrow and fits the clasp snugly. This makes for a very secure fit, although it can be a little fiddly to put on while wearing big gloves. The strap is one continuous piece from clasp to tip and is woven through the bails. The crampons have anti-balling plates as standard and also come with a flat crampon bag with velcro closure. Double rows of holes in the asymmetrical rod allows for easy fine-tuning of crampon length to your boot.

Full Specifications

Steel / strap on bindings front and back / 10-point crampons / possibility to buy extra parts to swap out for semi-automatic heel lever and a flexible webbing instead of metal rod.

BUY NOW: ALPINETREK.CO.UK

 

Petzl Lynx + Sarken Front Piece (Alpen Adapt)

Price: £199.50 (+£100.95 Sarken front piece)
Weight: Lynx 1020g
Best for: Versatility – Winter mountaineering or Ice climbing
Compatibility: C2 or C3

Don’t scroll by just because of the price – with the Lynx crampons plus the Sarken front piece, you’ve actually got two pairs of crampons here. Let’s just quickly explain how this works. Petzl’s Alpen Adapt system means that they sell pieces of crampon that are all inter-changeable with each other. You might not care if you’re a beginner, but if you’re looking to expand your remit without owning several pairs of crampons, this could be for you. We tested out the Lynx crampons as a base, swapping out the front piece to make the Sarken crampons, but you can buy Sarken as a base too. It’s a bit like build your own crampons.

Sarken Front Section

The Petzl Lynx crampons come in a sturdy reinforced bag with a reinforced end piece, mesh top and zip closure. They are equipped with semi-automatic bindings but the front piece is supplied to make it fully auto. Also included is a small allen key and tools to adjust the two front points – it’s possible to swap it to just one for ice climbing.

The crampons have a narrow one-piece strap and small square clasp, but ergonomically moulded to help you get your fingers around it in gloves. There is a metal bar at the base of the toe bail for extra support and anti-balling plates equipped. The Petzl Lynx have 14 points in total, giving lots of traction in steep snow or ice. 

The Sarken front piece is has aggressive points, including T-shaped front points for steep, hard and mixed terrain. Paired with the Lynx back half, they make very secure crampons for technical winter mountaineering.

Full Specifications

Steel crampons / swappable bindings to fit semi or auto / Lynx has modular front points / Sarken has T-shaped fixed front points / Transport pouch included / anti-balling plates / all parts can be replaced separately / front section can be swapped out for other disciplines.

BUY NOW: PETZL.COM

 

Salewa Alpinist Combi

Price: £100
Weight: 920g
Best for: Winter Mountaineering
Compatibility: C2

The Salewa Alpinist Combi are semi-automatic crampons with great performance in classic winter days in the mountains. They have 12 steel points each and an angular anti-balling plate system that looks not unlike a Transformer face. The matt colours of the crampon overall definitely add to the distinctive look. The toe bail is made of very stiff plastic and the heel leverlock has a large adjustment dial for tightening. The size of the dial makes it easy to adjust and provides a reassuringly solid fit to your boot.

The strap is narrow and in two parts – either side of the heel lever. The clasp is round but still secure. Having the strap in two halves allows you to adjust the lengths so that you don’t have any extra tail, without having to cut the long end. It’s as simple as sliding a little metal adjustment plate back and forth along the strap. This is really great if you have smaller feet, or if you want to share your crampons amongst several people without a trip hazard or a hundred knots.

Full Specifications

Steel crampon /  anti-balling plates / Front Binding made of soft material that fits perfectly over footwear / fits sizes EU35-48 / Semi-automatic with plastic front basket / 12 point.

BUY NOW: SALEWA.COM

 

Nortec Nordic Micro Crampons

Best Crampons: Nortec Micro

Price: £59.99
Weight: 320g a pair
Best for: Outdoor running, trekking
Compatibility: All trainers and boots

Let’s not forget the runners, fastpackers, and Type 2 fun enthusiasts who like to run around the mountains in the snow but wear shoes too flexible for the standard crampon. Look no further – the Nortec Nordic Micro crampons have got you covered. Available in 3 different sizes, they are formed of a sturdy but elasticated upper rand connected to a series of chains and spikes. The flexible upper half is pulled over the shoe, so the chains are underneath the sole of the boot. Unlike others on the market, the upper is sturdy and secure enough that the crampons don’t slip off as you run – so you can focus on running, rather than wondering if you’ll lose one.

The chains are riveted securely into the rubber upper at 8 points, allowing the 3 metal plates to be arranged under the shoe just like a normal crampon. Of course these are much smaller than mountaineering crampons but they are a similar shape, with more spikes. There are 14 points on the front and 7 points on the back – all downward facing – that provide a secure grip on snow and ice. In more powdery snow, you will need to check for balling under the foot. These micro crampons come in a handy zipped carry pouch and are ideal for runners looking to extend their training into winter conditions.

Full Specifications

21 steel 8 mm long crampon’s spikes for excellent stability / All metal components in stainless steel / Hi-tech silicon elastomer tested up to –60 °C for a quick a comfortable fit / compact case included.

BUY NOW: NORTECSPORT.COM

 

Petzl Irvis + KIT CORD-TEC

Price: £98.95 (+£69)
Weight: Irvis 790g
Best for: Winter walking or ski-touring
Compatibility: C2 or C3

The Petzl Irvis are are a lightweight pair of semi-automatic crampons (with the extra toe bail for making them automatic included in the box). As with the Petzl Lynx and Sarken mentioned earlier, these crampons can be adapted in a mix-and-match way to create the perfect front and back combination, plus binding, for you. This is great for people who want one pair of crampons that can do everything, without having to buy a completely new pair for each type of winter climbing. 

The Petzl Irvis are a 10 point steel crampon, designed with glacier walking, flatter snow slopes and ski-touring in mind. They are lightweight and easy to take on and off, with a 1 piece strap and ergonomically shaped square-sided clasp. They come with anti-balling plates and a fairly stiff toe bail, with an extra metal bar at the base of it for added security. These are a very reliable and well-made pair of crampons for users wanting to cut down on pack weight.

KIT CORD-TEC.

For those wanting to make these lightweight crampons into ultra-light – but still very effective – crampons, take a look at the Kit Cord-Tec. This includes an aluminium rear foot plate and a pair of durable cords to connect to the Irvis front piece, instead of the metal bar. This dramatically reduces the weight of the crampons and allows you to fold them for easy and compact storage. It is a bit more effort to fit them initially, getting both cords the right length for a tight fit, but once fitted you’re good to go. Note that the aluminium is less durable than the steel front piece, so will degrade faster on mixed terrain. Similarly, any sharp edged rocks will speed up the abrasion on the cords. These are ideal for ski tourers or anyone going fast and light where they are expecting to be on full snow slopes or only using crampons irregularly throughout the day.

Full Specifications

Steel crampons / Sizes EU36 – 45 / anti-balling plates / 10-point / very lightweight / Kit Cord-Tec: aluminium ultra-light rear section / connected with ultra-durable cords / creates a more lightweight and compact option.

BUY NOW: PETZL.COM

 

Main Photo: iStock/ Solovyova

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