Crampons attach to footwear to provide traction and improve trekker’s mobility during ice climbing, ensuring secure travel on both snow and ice.
They are necessary if you are looking to cross over ice-covered rocks, snowfields, glaciers, snow slopes and/or icefields.
Make sure to check out our top picks for best crampons below as well as our buyer’s guide to help you find a pair best suited to your needs.
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With 18 stainless steel spikes, the confidence wearers gain from wearing the Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras on a variety of terrains, both hard and loose, is exactly what has made us rate them the best overall crampons.
Take a look at the comparison table below before moving on, it might help you make a quick decision based on the most important specs.
No of Spikes
Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra Large
X-Small to X-Large
Black Diamond Sabretooth Clip Crampons
Best for High Altitude
Unigear Traction Walking Jogging Climbing
Medium to X-Large
Kahtoola Microspikes Large
Medium to X-Large
ALPS IceGrips Traction Replacement
Small to X-Large
To produce the Trail Crampon Ultra, Hillsound took their Trail Crampon and added more traction and flexibility, while reducing weight for hikers and runners.
The traction is largely thanks to 18 spikes they have lined on the bottom, which is more than the regular Hillsound crampons and the Katoolah Microspikes (their main competition).
This has allowed the crampons to not only trek over snow and ice but also successfully conquer loose terrains such as hard-packed clay, rubble, coarse sand, gravel, dirt and scree when paired with the right boots.
They even take much of the effort out of walking on soft sand.
They weigh less than most crampons, and this lets the Ultras turn 50 to 60 degree inclines into a strenuous walk in the park, with no slippage.
With 18 stainless steel spikes, the confidence wearers gain from wearing the Ultras on a variety of terrains, both hard and loose, is exactly what has made us rate them the best overall crampons.
The high quality of the Sabretooth Clip Crampons makes them reliable and sturdy while the design remains lightweight, making them ideal for alpine approaches.
Black Diamond redesigned the original Sabretooth Clip Crampons with a stainless-steel construction, and now the improved clip version contains dual-density ABS in the front and back, making it lighter than before and more durable.
This version can also now accommodate to boots that have a toe welt as well as boots that do not due to a flexible toe strap.
The flat front points help execute ascents with technical precision while the secondary points help descent by maintaining a balanced, stable platform.
This makes them great for snow and ice mountaineering. The rocker works with the micro-adjust low-profile heel so that the crampons are adjustable enough to fit all boots securely.
For all the above reasons combined, the Black Diamond Sabretooth Clip Crampons has a biting, stable design which makes for great technical alpine climbing.
For icy hikes, lighter and efficiently designed crampons are ideal. The Unigear Traction Cleats are just this, and so we have rated them the best hiking crampons.
These crampons are easy to take on and off, and their strap keeps the spikes securely in place.
They pull up quite high on the wearer’s shoes/boots, which is great because then the rings holding the chains never get close to touching the ground and therefore can’t get pinched (which causes wear).
The main body of the elastomer band is made of stretchy TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer) which is flexible, anti-abrasive and anti-tearing.
The stainless-steel spike material makes them light and strong.
Overall, the Ultra’s design promises longevity, however, it should be mentioned that a handful of complaints have been made about how reliable the connection between all these durable parts are.
The metal teeth really bite into trails to give great traction and they are spread across the foot in a way that improves your balance, with 12 spikes at the forefoot and 6 spikes at the heel.
The Unigear Traction Cleats are made specifically for the easier winter hikes and trails, making them great for hiking; but do not purchase them if you wish to push your hikes into intense climbs.
Weighing over 100 grams less than any of its competition and still maintaining its high reputation is what makes the Kahtoola Microspikes the best lightweight crampons.
The heel tab makes them easy to take on and off, and as soon as you take a step with the Microspikes on you’ll find they bite right into the trail beneath you.
They are particularly useful when trekking over ice but are just as efficient in adding traction in loose soil or snow.
The spikes and the chains that join them together are made of stainless steel, which is rust-resistant and renowned for its strength, while the harness is made of elastomer, making it 38% lighter than the last Microspike version.
A great benefit that the Microspikes provide is that they are extremely versatile.
They are competent on several terrains and a lot of wearers find that they can put them on at the beginning of their winter hike and not have to switch or take them off until the very end.
The Kahtoola Microspikes are small and light enough to fit in your pocket whilst also being capable of supplying intense traction.
ALPS IceGrips crampons go for roughly $11 a pair and still provide ok traction.
If you need crampons on a periodic basis (i.e. if you go ice and snow climbing frequently), these are great to invest into as their affordability means you can purchase several pairs to store tactically for needed support no matter when or where you are.
These crampons slip easily on and off almost every shoe or boot type and size and they also stay on sturdily with minimal slippage.
Their all-elastomer body with insertable cleat studs means they are super portable, and the ten-stud arrangement gives you tons of traction while staying light.
These cleats are lightweight and cost-effective, but the cost of this design is that they are only built for light duty.
They handle packed snow beautifully, but if you plan to advance through ice, hard snow or frozen slush rather invest into a sturdier pair of crampons.
ALPS IceGrips crampons are perfect to store away for emergencies or everyday use due to their cost and portability, but if you wish to do some serious mountaineering rather invest in a more reliable, sturdier pair.
Cleats are totally necessary if you plan to ascend alpine climbs, but they are also purchased to bring comfort to everyday chores in the snow. What kind of crampons you purchase should ultimately depend on the activity you want to use them for, and there are several aspects to consider per activity.
Use our guidelines below to find the right pair for you.
Crampon frames depict the durability and strength of the overall crampon design. The 3 characteristics that you should take note of in a crampon frame are its material, weight and alignment. Crampons made of steel offer durability that makes them necessary for technical, steep and icy terrain.
Steel crampons are generally the best for mountaineering.
Stainless-steel crampons have the same benefits, as well as being rust-resistant and extremely strong.
Aluminium crampons are better for approaches and ski mountaineering and tend to be the lightest, but with a typically decreased durability rate and less strength. Therefore, their lightness makes them ideal for alpine climbs, but they will wear out faster than steel on technical, rough climbs.
As for frame alignment, modern crampons have progressed to generally have horizontally oriented frames, which can flex for walking and keeps your feet closer to the ground than vertical frames would (which increases stability).
Traditionally, crampons have 10 underfoot points and two front points that can be vertically or horizontally oriented – so 12 twelve points altogether. 10-point crampons are usually reserved for basic snow travel and ski mountaineering, with a limited capability for intense climbing.
The nature and shape of your crampon’s front spikes are where you should focus your attention to when buying crampons.
Vertically oriented front points are rigid and sharp to act as an ice-tool pick. They are much more precise than horizontal points, with the ability to slip easily into cracks and fraction ice less. They are generally adjustable and replaceable and preferred for steep mixed climbs.
Horizontally oriented points are amazing for alpine treks. They navigate through snow much better than vertical points and can perform really well on vertical ice.
Points are either modular (adjustable), which you can reconfigure to support your type of activity, or non-modular (fixed).
The binding type of the crampon is the way it attaches to a boot, and it is important to take note of what shoes you plan to wear so that you can correlate your crampons accordingly. Bindings comes in 3 types.
The first is called hybrid, which feature a heel lever and toe strap. To use a hybrid, you need a boot with a stiff sole and heel groove or welt to hold the heel lever. Hybrids are nice and easy to use.
The second is the step-in binding. Here, a wire bail holds the toe in place and a heel cable with a tension lever connects the crampon to the heel – this results in a very secure system. Commonly an ankle strap is included in this binding. To use this binding you need boots with rigid soles and a 3/8” or larger welt or groove on the heel and toe.
Lastly, the strap-on system contains a pair of nylon webbing straps and can be used with any boot or shoe. This makes them great if you are using multiple boots with the same crampon.
The last major point should draw back to what activity you would like to do.
For snow walking, opt for aluminium or steel crampon frames with 8-10 points, including fixed horizontal frontpoints, and strap-on binding.
For hiking, steel crampons with 10 points, with fixed horizontal frontpoints, is ideal, and any type of binding can be used. The same applies to technical mountaineering, although we recommend aiming for 12 points instead of 10.
Lastly, for waterfall ice and mixed climbing, steel crampons with 14+ points, including modular vertical frontpoint, with either a hybrid or step-in binding is recommended.