Can you imagine making an epic hike without crampons? I can’t. For one, the trip would be an utter failure. And two, every step on the ice is going to require double the effort. This is not ideal at all because you need to conserve all your energy while on the ice.
The best crampons are fantastic gears that can make the trip easier. You may even enjoy the wintry landscape too. For some of us outdoor fanatics, nothing is more fulfilling than reaching the peak of a snow-covered mountain. However, even the most experienced climber relies on the usefulness of climbing gears.
Veteran hikers know better than to underestimate the frozen ice or snow. These seemingly beautiful gleaming surfaces can be treacherous and life-threatening. So essential climbing gear in your arsenal should include ice axes / shovels, gaiters, avalanche beacons, snowshoes, and of course, crampons.
Consider the reasons why you need crampons:
- They provide traction. Crampons are essentially spikes that dig into the frozen ice. So there is less chance of slipping on it.
- Crampons improve mobility. Since your footwear has traction, you don’t have to struggle with every step. In addition, you have more control, which enhances mobility.
- It increases safety. Because you have better traction from your footwear and better control of yourself, your safety increases significantly.
Now, it is easy to tell someone that crampons are an absolute essential. However, the sheer amount of crampons on the market is enough to create considerable confusion. If you have some climbing experience, you already know your gear. But for someone who is gearing up for a first hike, picking a crampon can be daunting.
Therefore, to save you the ice gear headache, here is a post on the top five best crampons. We have also included a crampon-buying guide, and a FAQ, so make sure to take a look.
Unigear Traction Cleats Ice Snow Grips – Best Microspikes.
Unigear Traction Cleats Micro Spike Review
Product Name: Unigear Traction Cleats Ice Snow Grips
Product Description: This microspike features a stainless steel construction that is heat-treated. There are 18 spikes in each crampon, 12 in the forefoot, and 6 in the heel area. All of the spikes are half an inch long. It also has a full-sole coverage design. The heel plate has three spikes, and the straps are adjustable.
Offer price: $16.99
The Unigear Traction Cleats Ice Snow Grips is a fantastic choice for both beginners and veteran climbers. It is very effortless to use and comfortable to wear. Its versatility comes from its different sizes and the ability to use it for multiple activities. The spikes are the star of this traction device. However, its durability and sturdiness are nothing short of outstanding as well.
Ease of Use
- Excellent construction with quality materials.
- Great traction and even weight distribution.
- Very reliable and durable.
- Versatile use with different sizes.
- Has very affordable pricing.
- Not very suitable for heavy snow and debris-filled areas.
- The rubber eyelets on some units are not very durable.
- Shipping for international customers may not be available.
If you are on the hunt for the best microspikes without spending a fortune, you should check out the Unigear Traction Micro-Spikes. This ice/snow grip is as strong as it is durable.
This ice cleat features stainless steel that is heat-treated. You will have no problem walking in frigid snow. The microspikes cut into the slickest snow with precision. The elastomer band with TPE in the body of the microspikes is another great feature. It makes the gear flexible and resistant to tearing and abrasion. These features also make the microspikes exceptional in longevity.
Per foot, the chains have 18 spikes that are half inches in length. The forefoot has 12, while the heel has six spikes. This makes the microspikes evenly balanced. In addition, there are three spikes on the heel plate, so you get great traction even on descents.
The cleats also have excellent sole coverage. This assists in mobility as you are able to walk comfortably with a natural stride. Moreover, the adjustable straps make these micros comfortable and effortless to wear and take off. To top it all, these microspikes come at an unbeatable price too.
The only minor issue with this microspike is that the rubber components are not the best at durability. However, this is only visible in some units, so it may be an isolated case.
- The body features an elastomer band with thermoplastic elastomer or TPE.
- It comes with 18 spikes, and each of them is ½” long.
- The soles are of heat-treated stainless steel.
- Straps of the cleats are adjustable.
- This Unigear cleat has anti-corrosion and anti-abrasion properties.
Check out our full review of the Unigear Traction Micro-Spikes.
CAMP USA Stalker Crampon – Best Budget Crampon.
CAMP USA Stalker Crampon Review
Product Name: CAMP USA Stalker Crampon
Product Description: The Stalker Champion consists of Chromoly steel, thermoplastic, and nylon components. It has 12 points in total, with two prominent ones in the front. An anti-rolling plate made of Vibram is included with the crampons. The binding components, as well as the straps, are compatible with hiking boots, especially with those with welts.
Offer price: $119.95
This crampon from Camp performed exceptionally during our tests. We especially loved the angled two front points, which had impressive traction. The straps are another feature that was effortless to use. The Stalker Champion is a great choice for intermediate to advanced climbers. Nevertheless, we reckon it will also suit beginners very well. In addition to its great features, it has one of the most reasonable pricing for a crampon on the market.
Ease of Use
- Chromoly steel ensures reliability and durability.
- Provides excellent traction on flat and angled slopes.
- Fantastic for hiking and climbing.
- Comes with all necessary crampon accessories.
- Good construction and quality.
- Not meant for technical climbing.
- The metal frame needs tweaking to avoid cutting the shoes.
- You need to get the fit right, so it does not slip off.
For those looking for a stellar crampon without breaking the bank, this is it. The Stalker Champion is an excellent combination of features and performance. You will love using this crampon for traversing glacial surfaces as well as icy sections. Nonetheless, this gear is a total winner in mountaineering.
It consists of Chromoly steel in its construction. This makes the crampon very durable and rustproof. In addition, the combination of thermoplastic in the binding and the nylon straps makes it fit seamlessly with outdoor footwear. The dual front points work in conjunction with the other ten points of the gear to provide excellent traction on multiple frozen surfaces. You will find that the front points are angled slightly, so you get great traction irrespective of where you place your foot. To keep these sharp points from cutting through, the manufacturers have included a carry case that you will find most useful.
A unique feature of the Stalker Champion is the semi-automatic binding secures. It straps to the heels of mountaineering boots with welts through a metal bar. Moreover, the anti-balling that is made of Vibram is another feature you will love.
- The Stalker Champion features Chromoly steel in its construction.
- There are two front points with an additional ten on the crampon.
- The semi-automatic binding secures and universal straps are compatible with most mountaineering boots.
- Vibram anti-balling plates are part of the crampon.
- The toe pieces have nylon straps, while the binding features are thermoplastic.
Check out our full review of the CAMP USA Stalker.
Grivel G14 Crampon – Editor’s Choice
Grivel G14 Crampon Review
Product Name: Grivel G14 Crampon
Product Description: The G14 from Grivel has a body made of hot-forged steel. The two vertical points on the front can be configured for dual or mono use. These components are also replaceable. An anti-balling plate is included with the crampon. In addition, the front points are hooded to increase the overall resistance in the snow.
Offer price: $249.95
This is a fantastic crampon if you engage in technical climbing. It works fantastic on the frigid snow and ice. The traction you get from this crampon is exceptionally good. However, its versatility and the ability to configure it with dual and mono front points is also an excellent feature. Overall, the G14 will take you through your climbing sessions with effortless ease.
Ease of Use
- Sleek and sturdy design.
- Can be switched between mono and bi-points with ease.
- Prevents snow buildup very effectively.
- Compatibility with boots is excellent.
- Works very versatile on multiple terrains.
- Does not include a crampon case.
- Not ideal for use in vertical ice climbing.
- Not very lightweight compared to other crampons from the brand.
The G14 from Grivel looks impressive. It has two vertical points that look striking. But the best part comes from the ability to penetrate ice with ease. Moreover, the steel has undergone hot forging, making them a champion at handling even the thinnest of ice. But that is not all. You can rig the crampon with both the front points or a single one.
The addition of the anti-balling plates with the crampon is another great feature. If you are a frequent climber, snow collecting on your feet can be a nuisance. You will not be having this problem with the G14. In addition to this, the hooded front points facilitate resistance in the snow. The front points are also replaceable, which you will appreciate.
This crampon is truly made for technical climbing in steep snow areas. The G14 is a favorite of many professional climbers. Nevertheless, it can also assist in climbing and traveling on glacier ice for a beginner. This Grivel crampon is unrivaled in terms of strength and durability. You can easily use this crampon on a number of terrains without having to upgrade any component.
- The G14 is made of hot-forged steel.
- The two vertical points are replaceable.
- The vertical points can be configured with a mono-point.
- An anti-balling plate comes included with the crampons.
- The straps are adjustable for convenience.
Check out our full review of the Grivel G14.
Grivel G12 Crampon – Best Overall Crampon.
Grivel G12 Crampon Review
Product Name: Grivel G12 Crampon
Product Description: This Grivel crampon has 12 spikes, with two horizontal ones in the front. The construction of this crampon is a combination of steel and nylon. There are three adjustable attachment systems. Anti-balling plates are also part of the gear. The crampon has a total weight of 2 lb 4.7 oz with the balling plates and 1 lb 15.7 oz without it.
Offer price: $179.95
The G12 has an ice friendly design with impressive performance. It comes from a combination of horizontal front points, adjustable length, and great quality materials. The G12 is also compatible with multiple types of boots, which is quite extraordinary about a crampon of this caliber. Irrespective of your alpine skills, this is one gear you want to try at one point or the other.
Ease of Use
- Great design and construction.
- Repels snow in an efficient manner.
- Very versatile and high compatibility.
- Excellent weight to balance ratio.
- Works great on multiple terrains.
- The front-points are not replaceable.
- Does not come with a crampon case.
- Sizing bar needs trimming to facilitate full collapsing.
Grivel is a brand that has consistently put out great outdoor gears. Essentially, there is no such thing as a substandard crampon from them. However, the G12 is a class on its own. Allow us to elaborate on this outstanding crampon.
In terms of design, the horizontal front points are what catch your fancy. In contrast to other crampons, the dual front points on this one almost lie parallel to the body. This is fantastic as it cuts through the ice with every step and hooks onto it. The rest of the 10 points are spread throughout the crampon body, similar to others from the brand.
You will love the three attachment systems on these cleats. These systems are step-in, strap-on, and hybrid boots. One of the best features of the G12 is this one, as it makes the crampon very versatile. You can now make any length adjustment with your crampon without needing an extra tool.
As expected from Grivel, the G12 has a steel construction. So you can expect strength and reliability from this gear. You will also appreciate the anti-balling plates that come with the cleats. If you know anything about alpine hiking, snow collecting on your footwear can ruin the entire experience. This crampon also has a lifetime warranty, and you cannot beat that offer.
- The dual front points have a horizontal design.
- You get three adjustment systems with the crampons.
- It consists of steel and nylon components in the construction.
- Altogether, there are 12 spikes throughout the cleats.
- It is compatible with step-in, strap-on, and hybrid boots.
Check out our full review of the Grivel G12.
Black Diamond Stinger Crampon – Best Technical Crampon.
Black Diamond Stinger Crampon Review
Product Name: Black Diamond Stinger
Product Description: The Black Diamond Stinger has a mono front point located towards the toe. Two sub-points near the front point are also added. It has a sleek stainless steel construction with nylon straps. The centerpiece of the crampon slides to accommodate different length boots. Anti-balling plates are included as part of the crampon.
Offer price: $164.96
Among the crampons on our list, the Stinger takes the trophy for outstanding design. However, its good looks are not all. Its two-piece design and the ergonomic positioning of the mono front point make it great. These kicks are also one of the most lightweight in alpine gear. Therefore, it works perfectly for hiking, climbing as well as walking.
Ease of Use
- The mono-point is sharp, great quality, and replaceable.
- The asymmetric design facilitates an easy grip.
- Effortless to use and pack.
- Lightweight and durable materials.
- Comes with reasonable pricing.
- The sub-points are not very practical.
- Anti-balling plates are not the best.
The Stinger from Black Diamond looks straight out of the Transformers movie. It has a striking design with its mono point. Quite unlike other crampons, the single front point seats towards your toe. This acts as an extension of your toe, which takes it to the ice without any compromise. But that is not all you get. There are a couple of sub-points that facilitates the aggressive mono point.
Another feature that makes this crampon a standout is a two-piece design. It has a connector that slides so you can adjust the length to your shoe size. In addition, the step-in feature ensures that your foot is securely strapped in for comfort and safety. When you compare the spikes on the Stinger to others, these are on the smaller side. However, this is a positive feature as they literally bite into the ice with absolute ease.
Unlike the colorful crampons from other brands, the Stinger has a sleek polished look. The stainless steel construction also adds a touch of edgy aesthetics. In addition, the entire body has anti-rusting properties, so it ranks high on longevity too. This crampon is undeniably one of the best from Black Diamond and is a favorite of pros across the world. Of course, it also comes with an anti-balling plate, which makes it even more convenient.
- It features stainless steel construction with anti-rust properties.
- The front point is positioned towards the toe.
- The center of the crampon has a sliding design.
- A step-in attachment is added to secure the footwear.
- The anti-balling plates are also part of the crampon.
Check out our full review of the Black Diamond Stinger.
During our research for narrowing down the best crampon, we did not compromise on some things. This is because we are not just a review site for clicks. We are a team of real people testing out real gear. Our reviews are also the foundation of people looking for the best gear, including crampons. Therefore, there were strict selection criteria on which we choose the best crampon. With full transparency, we are sharing these criteria with you.
How we choose the best crampon.
Criteria 1. Reviews.
Did you know that up to 93% of consumers make their buying decisions based on reviews? This statistic is according to a recent Podium survey. At any point in time, consumers are looking at online reviews to make a purchase. This means we cannot ignore the reviews left by consumers.
What makes potential buyers trust online reviews is honesty. A large majority of these reviews are made by independent reviewers who have no affiliation with the brand. This means that customers and reviewers are making unbiased and honest reviewers for other potential buyers. This is also the reason why we zoned in on customer reviews to select the crampons on our list.
Criteria 2. Compatibility with boots.
Irrespective of the design, a crampon’s compatibility with boots is a major point. Even if you have the fanciest crampons with outstanding features, if it does not work with your boots, it is practically useless.
If the crampon is compatible with your boot, there are many benefits. One, you get unparalleled comfort from it. Two, it enhances your performance on the ice, which is the ultimate goal of using specialized gear.
Criteria 3. Price vs. performance.
Another important criterion in our search for the best crampons is the price. It is no secret that veteran climbers would have no problem putting down good money for the right gear. This is because they know that these gears can take their climbing trips to the next level. Moreover, since it is their job, paying a premium price is not a big deal.
However, for beginner climbers, this is not the case. You want the best crampon that doesn’t cost a fortune so you can test the ice with confidence. As with every advanced gear, crampons can get some getting used to. It is one thing to try out your crampon in the backyard. But the real test comes when you are climbing a slippery mountainside. We made sure that our list of the best crampons is beginner-friendly and has a reasonable price tag.
Features to look for in the best crampon.
Getting a pair of crampons is not a scientific experiment. However, understanding the right features to look for can make your buying decision a lot easier. Features to look for in the best crampon include:
Feature 1. Grade.
What are the different grades of crampons?
Crampons come in different grades ranging from C1 to C3. The grade you choose is critical for the type of climb. In addition, it will also decide its compatibility with the boots. Boots are graded from B0 to B3. B0 boots are not meant for use with crampons. On the other hand, boots with B3 grades are the most technical ones. The grade of crampons and their compatibility with boots are:
- C1 – Best for hiking and traversing glaciers. These are compatible with B1, B2, and B3 boots.
- C2 – Best for winter hiking and climbing alpine landscapes. Their compatibility with boots is B2 and B3.
- C3 – Best for technical and ice climbing. These are exclusively for B3 boots.
Feature 2. Material.
Right next to the grade, the material of the crampon is also critical. It is because the material can decide which activity is best for that crampon. The material and the related activity are:
- Steel – Crampons made of steel are best for mountaineering, whether technical or general. The sturdiness also makes steel crampons ideal for waterfall ice climbing. They are also the most durable crampons.
- Stainless steel – Stainless steel crampons are lightweight and corrosion-proof. These crampons are also durable and are a great choice for technical climbing.
- Aluminum – Aluminum crampons are best for ski mountaineering as well as snow walking. Crampons that have aluminum construction are not as durable as the steel ones. However, they are the most lightweight among the crampons.
Feature 3. Points or spikes.
Another important crampon feature is the number of points. This will also have a significant effect on its intended activity as well as performance. The number of points and ideal activity is as follows:
- 8 to 10 points – Best for snow walking, glacier travel, and ski touring.
- 10 to 12 points – Best for hiking, technical, and general mountaineering.
- 14 points or more – Best for mixed climbing and vertical points such as a waterfall.
Feature 4. Bindings.
The materials and the type of bindings is also a feature you cannot overlook in a crampon. Most crampons typically have three types of bindings.
- Step-in – It includes a heel cable with a tension lever, which attaches the crampon to the heel of the boot. In the front, a wire ball strap in the toe. These types of bindings are very secure. You can also adjust the front points by moving the front bail. The drawback is that you need a specific type of boots, i.e. With welts or grooves.
- Strap-on – Strap on bindings typically consists of nylon. These types of bindings work with almost all types of boots. But they are not very easy to put on or take off. Another drawback is that there is only a small space between the crampon and the boot, so your movement can be a tad limited.
- Hybrid – These also come with a toe strap and a heel lever. These are easy to put on and are very secure. Crampons with hybrid bindings are also called semi-step and mixed.
Feature 5. Front point.
Another feature in a crampon that you need to watch out for is the front point. This is critical as it can greatly decide whether you get good traction or not. The most common type of front points are:
- Horizontal – Crampons with horizontal front points are usually fixed. If it is steel, it has a semi-rigid construction. As a result, these front points are fantastic for technical mountaineering and climbing on vertical terrains. Crampons with aluminum front points are more flexible due to the addition of spring bars in the center.
- Vertical – Crampons with vertical front points are exclusively for technical climbing. Steel with a semi-rigid construction is the preferred material for this type of crampons.
- Mono point – Crampons with mono or singular front points are also for technical climbing. They are typically made of steel for strength and durability.
How can I get crampons with the best fit?
The right fit of the crampons is an absolute essential. Even if the crampon is technically compatible with your boot, fitting can be an issue.
The best way is to take your boots along while you go shopping for a crampon. Try on the crampon with your boots in the store. If the center bar fits the boot, it is the right fit. With the right fit, you will get the most comfortable length, shape as well as flex while using it.
If you are shopping for crampons online, make sure that the crampons have the right compatibility with your boots. With the rest of the adjustments, such as moving the toe bail, you can get the right fit for the crampons.
What about crampon accessories? Are they as important?
If you are talking about a casual hike, crampon accessories are not a deal-breaker. However, if it is technical climbing that you mean, then yes. Crampon accessories can make all the difference.
Typical crampon accessories include:
- Anti-balling plates – It is the most common crampon accessory. All respectable companies include an anti-balling plate. It helps to keep the snow off the footwear and also increase traction. Besides, it comes under the recommendation of the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation.
- Gaiters – Gaiters come in very handy to keep your clothes and lower legs from getting cut by crampon points.
- Point covers – Premium crampons come with point covers. It makes storing the crampon safe and effortless.
How do I care for crampons?
As essential as crampons are, they are not worn all the time. Similar to other gears, crampons need maintenance too. Below we share the top tips to care for crampons:
- Use a hand file to sharpen the points on the crampons. This is essential if you crossed a lot of debris, including rocks.
- If any points are bent, make it a point to straighten them.
- Store the crampons correctly. This means you need to dry them thoroughly after every outing. Moreover, using a water-displacement spray or greasing with light oil can keep them in pristine condition.
- Use a crampon case for storing them.
- Before you use the crampon, check the bindings thoroughly. Any screw or a loose rivet must be tightened or replaced as necessary. This applies to buckles and straps as well.