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How to Choose the Right Crampons

Crampons
flickr/iamyangshang

With such an array of crampons available it’s easy to see why choosing a pair can be so confusing.

What should you look for when shopping for crampons before heading to the hills this winter?

Rambo, anti-bot, 10-point, 12-point, strap-on, clip-on… What do they all have in common? They’re all crampons and considering they act as simulated claws for human feet, it’s not surprising the prospect of buying a pair can seem so confusing to mere mortals.

Don’t Buy on Impulse

While it may be tempting to simply buy the first sharp, shiny pair of crampons that you come across on display, resist the temptation and do your research beforehand.

You first need to ask yourself two questions: what boots will you be wearing and what walking ambitions do you have in mind? Once you know the answer to these questions you can then determine the right pair of crampons for your needs.

What Boots? B1, B2 or B3?

flickr/Alastair Humphreys
flickr/Alastair Humphreys

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Unless you’re lucky enough to buy more than two pairs of boots for any possible outdoor situation, you may only have one or two pairs – a heavier pair for winter and a lighter pair for summer. Of course, it’s possible for both of these boot types to work with a pair of crampons, but this will only be possible if your boots are crampon compatible. If not, you’ll soon find your crampons parting company with your boots quickly and frequently.

Let’s first have a look at the different type of boots to determine which ones you need. Boots fall into three categories: B1, B2 and B3.

B1 boots are generally classified as 3- to 4-season boots, B2 boots are stiffer and are often sold as winter boots while B3 boots are fully rigid winter climbing boots. In most cases, people tend to get the B2 boots, simply because they provide a good balance between stiffness, comfort and warmth when standing around in the snow.

Which Crampons Should You Get?

Crampons are similarly rated and fall into three types: C1, C2 and C3. These crampons range from being flexible, semi-rigid and rigid. C1 and C2 crampons are flexible making them the ideal choice for winter hillwalking whereas C3 crampons are stiffer and are primarily designed for winter climbing.

When it comes to choosing a pair of crampons, your decision will be influenced by the type of boots you have or will get. For example, if you have a pair of B1 boots you are going to need a pair of C1 crampons. If you have a pair of B2 boots then you can choose either C1 or C2 crampons. And if you have a pair of B3 boots then you can choose from C1, C2 or C3 crampons.

The type of crampons you choose will vary between strap-on and clip-on. Strap-on crampons are ones that you need to strap into with straps that need to be tightened to the shape of your boot; however, these will take more energy to use on steeper ground. Clip-on crampons will simply clip on to your boot and remain fixed in place with the help of clips at the front and back that attach to grooves located at the front and back of your boots.

Type of Walking

flickr/Éole Wind
flickr/Éole Wind

In order to decide on the right pair of crampons it makes sense to determine the type of walking you’ll be doing.

If you will be doing a lot of winter climbing it makes sense to buy a pair of B3 boots along with a pair of C3 crampons, which will provide you with all the stiffness that you need. On the other hand, if you will be doing more winter hillwalking then it is much better to buy a semi-rigid boot such as a B2 and a pair of C2 crampons.

The decision to make when it comes to choosing crampons isn’t exactly a simple one, but after thinking things through it and evaluating your options, you should have an easier time picking one that will work for you.

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How to Choose the Right Crampons