When you’re dealing with steep trails or snow-covered paths, having the best crampons for hiking on hand to keep you stable and secure in the great outdoors is a must. Choosing the best crampons for hiking doesn’t have to be stressful. However, with so many selections and materials on the market to pick from, the choices can be overwhelming.
We did the work, conducted the research, and narrowed the list down to the top 5 best crampons for hiking on the market currently. For a detailed guide to picking out crampons, plus our top 5 picks (and the final winner!), keep reading.
The top 5 crampons for hiking we recommend for 2021:
Here’s exactly what you need to know to select the best crampons for hiking to meet all your outdoor needs.
If you’re going to be hiking on icy or snowy surfaces, wearing crampons is nonnegotiable. When hiking in icy alpine settings, you’re most likely going to be wearing synthetic leather or leather hiking boots for durability.
These footwear selections are most compatible with horizontal frame crampons, but your activity is going to be the ultimate determinant of the type of crampon you select.
There are very lightweight crampons designed for regular walking and hiking in winter settings, with regular crampons that are ideal for glaciers, snow, hiking with an ice ax, and good old-fashioned mountaineering.
Here’s a quick overview of the best crampons for hiking for common outdoor activities in icy and snowy conditions.
The next thing you need to consider when shopping for the best crampons for hiking is the frame. There are different types of frames, with varying materials, weights, and degrees of alignment.
As a rule of thumb, steel crampons are best suited to traditional mountaineering. They are highly durable, which makes them a great pick for icy slopes.
Stainless steel crampons are also compatible with general mountaineering and are very resistant to corrosion, wear, and tear just as regular steel crampons are. Aluminum crampons are best for ski mountaineering and approaches, as they are very lightweight.
However, they do usually wear out much more quickly than stainless steel or steel crampons do if you’re hiking on rugged terrain.
Horizontally aligned frames are the industry standard now for the best crampons for hiking boots, because they are compatible with the insulated hiking boots that most outdoor enthusiasts wear for extensive excursions.
So, unless you climb in plastic boots (which most hikers don’t these days), you’re going to want a horizontal crampon frame.
Horizontal frames are great because they give you plenty of freedom to walk, the aluminum or steel design aligns flat with the ground, and the bars are resistant to gathering snow, so you don’t get bulked down. Aluminum frames are definitely more lightweight than steel frames, but this also makes them slightly less durable and not quite as sturdy.
If you typically engage in non-technical hiking though, aluminum will serve you well. You’ll just want to stay away from activities like snow and mixed rock climbing with aluminum hiking crampons.
The design of the best crampons for hiking is another key element to consider when shopping for the right pair. You can purchase rigid and hinged crampons, but most of the ones on the market today are semi-rigid.
Semi-rigid crampons perform well in a wide range of weather types, giving you enough flexibility for regular winter hikes but enough stability for icy climbs.
Some crampon models let you alter the linking bar situated between the heel and toe to adjust the device from semi-rigid to fully flexible. While not a part of all crampons, this feature is certainly handy and will ensure more comfort on the road.
Crampons typically sport 1 of 3 kinds of binding to connect to your hiking boots. The first type of crampon binding is hybrid, also known as semi-step or mixed crampons. Hybrid crampons sport a toe strap and heel lever. They are compatible with rigid soled boots with a welt or groove to secure the heel lever.
The second type, step-in binding, features a wire bail that secures the toe, plus a heel cable with a lever to connect the heel and crampon together. Step-in crampons are super easy to put on when it’s snowy outside and you’re wearing gloves. If you select a crampon with step-in binding, your hiking boots should feature rigid soles with a minimum ⅜ inch groove or welt at the toe and heel.
The final type of crampon binding is a strap-on. Strap-on crampons typically sport nylon webbing, so they are compatible with almost any type of hiking footwear you can imagine, provided the middle bar fits with your shoe. It takes a little longer to secure strap-on crampons to your shoe, but they are sturdy enough to hold up against moderate ice.
If you want to use different types of hiking footwear with a single type of crampon, strap-on devices are an excellent choice. Strap-ons don’t have quite the accuracy of step-in crampons though, so you’ll notice a modicum of motion between the crampon and your hiking footwear.
Bear in mind the kind of boot you have, and whether it is rigid, semi-flexible, or very flexible. Make sure the crampon frame is sufficiently flexible to fit your hiking footwear. If you’re not sure which is best for you, a strap-on is always a good choice because it works with almost any type of shoe.
The best crampons for hiking boots typically feature either 10 or 12 points. Points should be situated beneath your instep and adhere to your footwear shape. You may have to adjust the crampon bails to ensure the right point extension, but some newer models include serrated areas so crampons can cling to terrain even when the point doesn’t.
A device with higher points is going to be more rigid and better suited to intense outdoor activities. For example, the majority of 10-point crampons will serve you well when hiking glaciers or ski touring. There are also crampons designed specifically for activities like mixed climbing, with more forceful frontpoints.
Frontpoints (or the points at the front of the device) come in horizontal, vertical, or monopoint configurations. Horizontal frontpoints are best for snow/ice and alpine climbing, while vertical frontpoints are suited to mixed climbs and waterfalls. Monopoint crampons are good for mixed climbing or technical waterfall climbing.
Points can be either non-modular or modular. You can sharpen non-modular points, but they shorten with extended use. They are lighter than modular points and don’t have any moving parts. With modular points though, you can switch out the teeth based on the activity you’re going to be doing.
Ready to discover the top 5 best crampons for hiking? Let’s go!
The first selection on our list will be the Grivel G10 New Classic, an ideal one-size-fits-all pick for activities ranging from traditional hiking to backpacking to ski mountaineering.
We love these crampons because they are very light with flexible features, so you can adjust them to fit your regular hiking boots. Manufactured from highly durable Chromoly steel, these crampons are much stronger than regular steel and will last you far longer.
We like that the Grivel G10 Crampon sports 10 points to give you plenty of grip on everything from steep mountains to slippery trails. The number of points on these crampons makes them ideal for both moderate hikes and more intense climbs. They also feature anti-balling plates to enhance your stability.
For a simple set of crampons that are light and user-friendly, you can’t go wrong with the Grivel G10 Crampon.
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The Black Diamond Contact Crampons are one of the most lightweight selections on the market currently. If you’ve been on the fence about purchasing crampons because you’re concerned about getting weighed down on the trail, these could be for you.
Designed from stainless steel, we like how durable and weather resistant these crampons are.
The strap-on design means these flexible crampons are a fantastic choice for a wide range of hiking activities, including both moderate hikes and intense cold-weather mountaineering. We also like the 10-point specifications that give you plenty of grip on icy terrain without being uncomfortable or weighing you down.
One element that really makes the Black Diamond Contact Crampons stand out is that you have the option to purchase them in 2 models— clip and strap. If you’re planning on wearing regular hiking boots, you’ll definitely want the strap-on kind.
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Another excellent product by Black Diamond, the Serac Strap Crampon features 12 rather than 10 points. The higher point specifications mean that these crampons will definitely provide you with more gripping power on super steep slopes, but they are considerably heavier than the 10-point variety. You can select the Black Diamond Serac Strap Crampon in 3 different models, featuring strap-on bindings, hybrid bindings, or step-in bindings.
The strap-on bindings are best for traditional hiking boots while the hybrid and step-in variety are suited to technical boots. No matter which model you select, all of them feature anti-balling plates so you won't have to worry about snow catching in the crampons and leaving you with frozen feet.
We liked that these crampons are designed from corrosion fighting stainless steel, which also makes them a good selection for mountaineering and hiking on steep surfaces.
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The Petzl Leopard FL Crampons are made of aluminum, rather than steel, which means they are very lightweight and easy to wear. They weigh in at just around 360 grams total for a pair. So, if you frequently do heavy hiking and need a very light pair of crampons that won’t distract you from your climb, the Petzl Leopard FL Crampons are a quality pair to consider.
Featuring a 10-point design, they sport strap-on bindings which makes them compatible with any type of hiking boot you have. We also really liked their built-in Cord-Tex system which makes the crampons more compact when you need to pack them up and take them on the go. The crampons come with a special storage bag too, so it’s easy to move them from place to place and pull them out as needed.
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The final best crampons for hiking pick on our list are the Camp Stalker Universal Crampons. These weigh quite a bit more than our last selection at 948 grams, but this also means they will offer you great stability on rough trails and steep slopes. We love the durable 12-point design manufactured from Chromoly steel for extra gripping power.
We were pleased to see that these crampons also sport anti-balling plates, a thermoplastic heel, and sturdy nylon straps for user-friendly ease. These are a great option for recreational outdoor enthusiasts who need a sturdy option for longwear use.
Even better, the Camp Stalk Universal crampons feature CC4U wear indicators so there’s no guesswork involved when it’s time to replace them. The crampons also come with a storage case so you can put them in your backpack and take them out as needed.
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While each of the best crampons for hiking on our list are suited to a variety of user needs, our favorite and the ultimate winner out of the group are the Black Diamond Contact Crampons. There were so many things we loved about these crampons, from their lightweight design to their flexible toecap to their durable stainless-steel exterior.
They are highly durable and weather resistant, with 10-point specifications that make them well suited to a plethora of hiking activities. We were also impressed that the Black Diamond Contract Crampons come in both strap-on and clip designs.
While most hikers will probably use the strap-on bindings, we like the fact that you have the option for both. From freezing hikes to winter mountaineering adventures, the Black Diamond Contract Crampons have you covered.