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11 Facts You Need to Know About Crampons

If you’re a hiker or mountaineer of any skill level, crampons are essential gear – just like an ice axe or ski pack. They provide the traction that can help you climb icy slopes and slippery snow patches on your way to the summit. But what is a crampon? What are they made of? How do they work? And how do I choose between aluminum and steel versions for my next hiking trip? In this article we will explore all these topics in detail so that you can equip yourself with as much knowledge as possible and be prepared for anything!

The following blog post will offer up some background on crampons and discuss 11 facts about using them that every outdoor enthusiast should know! We’ve even thrown in a couple tips and FAQs to help you on your journey to finding and using one of the most essential mountaineering equipment. 

Background on Crampons: A Critical Piece of Gear for Hiking & Mountaineering🗻

Do you know how to use crampons? If not, it might be time for you to learn. Crampons are a mountain climber’s best friend when the going gets tough and icy conditions make it difficult to keep your footing. They consist of two parts:

  1. spikes that attach to boots
  2. straps that wrap around shoes or boots with hooks on one end so they can be attached together securely.

Crampons are the small spikes that attach to your boots for traction when walking on ice. They range from lightweight aluminum ones with rubber straps over the top of your boot, all the way up to heavy duty steel models with carbide tips built right onto them. Steel versions weigh about three pounds but offer better performance than lighter weight options because of their ability to penetrate through snow and ice more effectively. Aluminum models are great for both winter hiking and backpacking and also come at a fraction of the price of a steel crampon.

Crampons are typically attached to your boots with either a rubber strap or an aluminum toe piece that screws into the front of your boot and down onto the spike, but some brands offer models that can be worn over loose fitting shoes like tennis shoes and convert from hiking mode to ice climbing mode by simply flipping them around on top of your foot

If you don’t own any form of traction device for hiking up steep snow slopes, go ahead and buy one on its own (or in addition) because it will come in handy when winter comes back around. You’ll want something more than just a basic pair of poles as they won’t provide enough support if you slip off an icy slope while wearing a backpack.

Crampons are not just for glacial trekking. If you’re a cross country skier, or inclined to ski on trails that have been groomed with snowmobile tracks or machine rolls, crampons can be used as an excellent way to increase traction and stability while skiing – especially in icy conditions.

The most important part to consider when choosing between aluminum or steel is weight. Steel tends to be heavier than aluminum (especially the new lightweight versions), but if you’re carrying a heavy load and need to save weight, then steel is definitely the way to go.

The second thing we’ll talk about is grip. Aluminum crampons are more likely than steel models to have textured grips on the front of them so that they don’t slip off the ice.

But enough background already, here are 11 critical facts about crampons that you cant ignore. 

11 Crampon Facts

Fact #1: A good rule of thumb is to get your crampons fitted by a professional.

Fact #2: Before you embark on any mountain climbing adventure, make sure that the length and width are compatible with your boots or shoes.

Fact #3: If buying new gear for the first time, it’s best to try your crampons out before heading off into the wilderness so you know what works and doesn’t work when wearing them in actual conditions.

Fact #4: Crampons should be worn outside hiking boots if possible because they provide more traction than socks alone can offer, which helps prevent falls while walking over rough terrain like boulders and rocks. They will also help keep snow from clogging up inside hikers shoes or boots as well

Fact #5: The most important thing to remember when using crampons is that you should always have one foot in front of the other and never walk on your toes. This will help prevent injuries from coming up quickly behind you, like a snagged rope or unexpected ice patch.

Fact #6: It’s important to find a pair of crampons that work for you. They should be comfortable and easy-to-wear with no chafing or rubbing against the foot, which will lead to blisters and sore feet.

Fact #7: It’s a good idea to bring some duct tape on your next hike. This can be used as emergency repair in case the straps break, or for wrapping it around any sharp edges that may have come loose.

Fact #8: If you go on a lot of hikes, it’s worth investing in a pair of crampons. They’re an essential piece of gear and can be more comfortable than hiking boots for long days on the trail.

Fact #9: The best time to buy crampons is in spring or early summer. Clearance deals are usually abound and tis way, you’ll be ready for winter hiking season come late fall!

Fact #10: The bottom of the crampons should fit over your boots. If they don’t, then you’ll need to purchase some sort of adapter or platform that can be screwed in place on top of your boot. This will help provide traction and also stabilize you when hiking up steep trails like mountainsides.

Fact #11: You’ll need to loosen the straps on your crampons in order for them to fit over your boots.

Crampons shouldn’t make your feet feel tight like ski boots because they’re generally more flexible. In addition, it is best not to wear any kind of socks while using them so that there is nothing between the straps on the bottom and your skin; this helps prevent unnecessary irritation from occurring when walking long distances in cold weather conditions over rocky terrain without snow softening up what might otherwise be an uncomfortable walk.

2 person walking on snow covered field during daytime

Instructions on how to put on Crampons

Crampons should come with instructions about how to put them on. But if they don’t here are the basics:

Step One: Make sure the crampons are properly fitted to your boots. If not, you may find them sliding off as they won’t provide enough support if you slip off an icy slope while wearing a backpack

  • Crampons are not just for the cold. If you’re a cross country skier, or inclined to ski on trails that have been groomed with snowmobile tracks or machine rolls, crampons can be used as an excellent way to increase traction and stability while skiing – especially in icy conditions. Crampon straps should go over top of foot (not under) before being fastened around heel area of boot. This will ensure proper fit up front and back ensuring maximum control when traversing steep slopes.
  • If you’re not sure how to fit them, there are a lot of instructional videos out there that can help. A good one is here:

Step Two: Practice with the crampons on flat ground before taking them for a hike or up into the mountains. You’ll find it’s much easier to adjust straps and get used to walking around in these new shoes than when your balance is compromised by an uneven slope.

Just like any shoe fitting, make sure they feel right – both in regards to width & length as well as comfort over different terrain types (flat vs steep)

Step Three: When using crampons on ice, take small steps instead of long strides. This will keep pressure off feet while you’re moving over the ice.

If you slip, try to maintain your balance and keep an eye on where you’re going so that you don’t fall down. Stay calm

Step Four: Be careful when descending with crampons – make sure they are securely fastened because if one of them pops off during a descent, you can easily fall. Keep an eye out for clear ice and try to avoid using them on any glassy surfaces

Step Five: When removing crampons, make sure the front and back straps are in place before undoing buckles. The spikes should be pointing away from your body as they come off – if it’s opposite of this, then one or more strap is loose and will need to be tightened.

Once you have your crampons on, it’s time to learn how they work.

The most important thing is the angle at which they’re set – use a compass or inclinometer (a small instrument that can measure slope) and adjust them so that their front edges are perpendicular to the surface of ice being climbed; this will keep them from sliding down as you climb up. You may also need to loosen or tighten some screws depending on the terrain you’re climbing over, but be careful not to do anything too drastic since this could cause serious injury! After everything has been set, all that’s left is starting walking🚶‍♀️; if there’s no snow beneath your feet then your guide should help with balance by following behind while the other person in the group provides a path up by kicking steps into the ice.

You may also need to loosen or tighten some screws depending on the terrain you’re climbing over, but be careful not to do anything too drastic since this could cause serious unintended injury. 

👆 Pro Tips for Using Crampons

Tip #1: Avoid wearing them where traction shouldn’t be necessary such as steep snowfields & ice slopes because additional weight slows down movement which increases risk factor.

Tip #2: When ice climbing, only use them when the route calls for it.

Tip #3:  To keep your crampons in good condition and avoid any injuries caused by misplaced spikes or straps, make sure to regularly inspect their integrity of your crampons before using them. 

Tip#4: Remember to pack your crampons in a day bag and keep them near the door so you can grab them on the way out. They are one of those pieces of gear that will never be used unless they’re ready!

Tip #5: Make sure that when walking around with crampons on that there isn’t a lot of pressure applied onto their heel – otherwise it may cause discomfort over time.

 

man in snow field mountain at daytime

Frequently Asked Questions about Crampons

What Makes Crampons So Great?

They’re an essential piece of gear and can be more beneficial than hiking poles, especially on an icy or snowy trail.

They’re lightweight and easy to pack in your day bag for when you need them.

You can walk with confidence knowing that if you slip, the crampons will give you a little extra traction. This is because they have spikes which dig into the ice or snow beneath your feet.

Do I need a new pair of crampons every year?

No, it’s not necessary to get a new one each winter. It is more important that they are in good condition and fitted correctly for your feet. However, if you do end up needing to purchase another set there are two main reasons why:

  1. Your old ones can’t be fixed anymore, or
  2. You need to update your crampons for a specific type of winter terrain, like ice and mixed snow/ice.

What Makes Crampons So Great?

They’re an essential piece of gear and can be more beneficial than hiking poles, especially on an icy glacier or snowy trails.

They’re lightweight and easy to pack in your day bag for when you need them.

 You can walk with confidence knowing that if you slip, the crampons will give you a little extra traction. This is because they have spikes which dig into the ice or snow beneath your feet.

What’s The Difference Between Crampons And Snowshoes?

Both are great pieces of gear for winter hikes but due to their differences, they offer different benefits; one being more practical than the other depending on certain conditions.

Crampons – provide stability and traction in slippery terrain like ice patches where snowshoes cannot be used as efficiently

Snowshoes – provide traction and stability in powdery or packed snow, helping you to avoid sinking into deep power and allowing easier maneuverability in deep snow. 

What are the different types of crampons?

There are three main categories:

  1. traction (metal)
  2. self-arresting (spike)
  3. technical (superlight)

In addition, there is also an improvised category that includes everything from kitchen utensils to metal brackets (though it’s probably best to leave the fork at home if you’re planning a serious hike🍴). If you’re going on a full day trek in mountain conditions it’s best to have all three with you; these will make sure that you’ll never get stuck anywhere without being able to move forward again. Otherwise, if just doing some light activities like hiking around town, you can settle for just traction or self-arresting crampons.

How to use my new crampons?

If using the traditional metal type of crampon, put them on your boots by sliding it in from the front and pushing down; take care that they’re securely attached to both feet at all times. If using modern spikes on a boot – which is what most people will do these days – attach them with two screws each so that you don’t have any trouble when walking over mixed surfaces such as snow/ice or rocks. Lastly, if using technical ice climbing gear like Teflon runners then adjust their length according to how deep into the slope you want to climb and screw them onto your boots.

How do I clean my crampons?

We recommend you clean your crampons before use, after climbing and between climbs to remove any dirt or debris that may have accumulated in the front spikes. A toothbrush is perfect for scrubbing out stubborn spots like mud, moss or dirt.

The next step is to apply a thin layer of lubricant, such as WD-40 or silicone spray, on the front spikes and any other moving parts that may come in contact with ice. This will keep them from freezing up due to water buildup and improve performance during your climb.

For more information about what it takes to care for your crampons check Crampon Care & Maintenance REI.

Conclusion

Great, you made it to the end. You now know what a crampon is, what they’re made of, and how they work. You should also know how to choose between aluminum and steel versions for your next hiking trip. So go ahead and get out there! Give crampons a crack, and while you’re at it, take a look at some of our advice on finding the right ice axe to go with it. 

Categories

Climb, Hike

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