What are Crampons and How to Choose One for Hiking?

Maintaining your balance should be the first and foremost priority if you plan to go mountaineering or climbing in the snow. While plenty of traction stuff is available for that purpose, choosing the right set of crampons is the only thing that matters. Not only do they secure your feet in the snow, but they also help you cross giant mountains and icy waterfalls.

Read on as we discuss the different kinds of crampons available, their specific features, and the type of mountaineering boots they work best for. 

What are Crampons?

Crampons are a pair of metal spikes that you can attach to boots for improved grip and traction. These metal attachments are essential for winter as they help you gear up for travel adventures. You can scale icy rocks, hike frozen waterfalls, travel through glaciers, and climb slippery slopes — all due to your tough and sharp ice crampons.

Construction and Key Components

Similar to boots, crampons are composed of multiple components available in various shapes and sizes. Their key components include the following: 

  • Base 
  • Binding system


The base of hiking crampons includes three main parts:

  • Spikes (teeth)
  • Anti-balling plates
  • Flexbar

The toe and heel of crampon teeth are secured to a couple of anti-balling plates. Connecting to a semi-rigid component called a flex bar, these plates prevent the crampons from sticking to the snow, which makes walking a lot easier. The flex bar, on the other hand, is adaptable and robust enough to support many ice-climbing applications. 

Binding System

The binding system of the crampon also includes three main parts, just like its base:

  • Heel lever
  • Toe cage
  • Binding straps

The heel lever circles around the heel and keeps it secure at the back of the crampon’s anti-balling plate. The toe cage does the same thing for the front of the anti-balling plate, keeping your heel attached to it. Next up are the binding straps that fasten your crampons to specific mountaineering boots.

Here’s a Pro Tip: Consider your winter travel plans (place, hiking distance, snow intensity) and the intended use of each component before selecting the ideal set of crampons. 

What are the Types of Crampons?

The crampon types can vary depending on the purpose and boot types. Typically, we divide them into the following three categories. 

C1 Crampons

We refer to this type as strap-on or basket-binding crampons. You can use them for hiking and hill walking on glaciers since they fit different boot grades (B1, B2, and B3). However, wearing them with stretchable summer boots is still not recommended as they will disturb the balance and (in the worst-case scenario) fall off your shoe.

C2 Crampons

C2 or hybrid crampons have a movable toe cradle and an elastic heel lever. They help support stiffer boots, the kind that usually have a bar of metal embedded in the sole. Considering the overall flexibility, B2 and B3 boots are the best candidates for these crampons. In addition, they let you enjoy a better grip because they generally come with at least 12 bolt spikes. 

C3 Crampons

C3 crampons are the most rigid pair of crampons incorporating a step-in system. This binding system integrates a plastic heel lever and a metallic toe bar to help provide the best grip. Hence, this type is ideal for trips involving mountaineering and snow-climbing adventures. 

How Do You Choose the Best Crampons for Hiking?

1. Boot Type

Some boot styles work well with specific types of crampons. To avoid inconvenience, weigh your options for the different types of boots you have. 

Remember that flexible boots will not complement your ice-climbing crampons. So, buying a fresh set of crampons, in line with your flexible boots, is preferable if your trip involves aggressive climbing. However, if you plan for light mountaineering and mild glacier tours, aluminum crampons and strap-on bindings will come in handy. 

2. Crampon Type

It’s important to make sense of all the types and technicalities before choosing the best possible crampons for your hiking boots. Let’s get a clear understanding by looking at the table below.

Crampon TypePurpose Compatible Boots
Strap-on crampons (C1 type)● Snow walking
● Hillwalking
●Glacier trips 
Hybrid crampons (C2 type)● Technical scrambling
● Mountaineering 
●Winter hikes
Step-in crampons (C3 type)● Technical climbing
●Ice climbing
B3 only

3. Boot Grading

Boots are rated based on how well they work with different crampons. For instance, wearing your crampons with B0-graded boots is not a good idea. 

Their sole is not stuffy enough to prevent them from moving in different directions, which could cause the crampons to come off. Plus, the minimal stiffness and lack of ankle support will also prevent them from edging in snow. That’s why your boots must rate around B1 or B2 for any climbs or treks that involve crampons.

4. Intensity of Hiking

Ask yourself some necessary questions before spending money on crampons. Does my trip only involve slow winter strolls, or will I navigate massive, icy mountains and frozen waterfalls? 

The answer will help you determine the type and configuration of crampons you’re looking for.

But remember, strap-on crampons are best for walking, while step-ins mostly complement the technical routes. 

How to Look After Your Hiking Crampons?

We have mentioned some pointers to help you look after your crampons in the best way possible!

  • Clean them thoroughly after each trip
  • Inspect the bindings and file the points
  • Align the curved edges (if possible)
  • Make sure they are dry before you sort them away
  • Use a padded nylon case to protect the pair
  • Cover them with a layer of oil before storing
  • Use a breathable bag for storage

Final Thoughts

How do you know if it’s the right time to consider crampons? Just when your footwork feels unsafe, or you find it too difficult to take steps in the snow. But make sure you take your due time and do ample research so you can end up with the right purchase. 

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