Best Backpacking Crampon?

8:24 a.m. on October 31, 2011 (EDT)
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I am looking at the Kahtoola microspikes to add to my winter kit for Southeast backpacking in the mountains of TN and NC during the winter months---but I'm open to the opinion of others who use crampons for winter backpacking. 

Obviously, this question is not directed towards climbers or mountaineers, but are there lightweight crampons available which could be even better than the Kahtoola microspikes?

8:41 a.m. on October 31, 2011 (EDT)
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I only have the kahtoola microspikes, but have found nothing they can't handle outside of snowshoes. I would think that unless your on some seriously thick ice or very steep slopes that crampons would be overkill. I have heard alot of good things about the camp 12 points however.

my vote would be for the microspikes unless your doing some serious mountaineering or ice climbing etc.

8:43 a.m. on October 31, 2011 (EDT)
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Hey Tipi, check out Hillsounds Trail Crampon Pro(10 point.) I can't give ya much on how they are on trail but I did just purchase a pair for this season...

Well due to an injury my season may very well be toast but nevertheless I just figured I would point you towards a viable option.

iClimb recommended the CAMP(Stalker)12s to me and I also ordered a pair of those. My plan was to keep what ones I was satisfied with and keep the others as backups/loaners but my getting to use them may very well get put into "limbo" until next year.

10:23 a.m. on October 31, 2011 (EDT)
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I have a couple of questions about crampons.  

1. Do the help on wet rocks or will they just slide? Would they help in stream/river crossing?

2. What is the origin of the name? 

10:49 a.m. on October 31, 2011 (EDT)
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I bought one pair of Black Diamond Contact Stracp on crampons and liked them so much I ended up buying two more sets for the kids. 

We use them on glacier travel and live the stainless steel/low maintenance aspect.  They fit and stay on. Stainless is heavy though and it sounds like you wont need anything that technical though.   A nice pair of aluminum ones ought to do as long as you stay off the rocks with them. 

http://www.trailspace.com/gear/black-diamond/contact-strap/

 

--Jeff

12:11 p.m. on October 31, 2011 (EDT)
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I currently have two pairs of crampons and these are my Salewa steel strap-ons, which I have used in "free-climbing" solo, some BC mountains. They are an absolute necessity for any travel on ice or packed snow and require a bit of a learning curve to become really adept at using. One needs an ice axe or poles with these to get the greatest benefit from them.

I also have Kahtoola alloy crampons, these are for steep GRASSY slopes, when carrying a heavy pack, as in packing boned game meat out. They are the best thing since organic beer and I will not go without them now and wish I had had them when I started in 1964. They are OK on hardpack snow and will deal with some ice, but, I really prefer steel for this.

DO NOT even think of wearing crampons for traversing a stream or rocky terrain, this is a good way to end up dead. For such endeavours, wading sandals over a spare pair of HEAVY synthetic knee socks, these with felt soles is the best alternative and I try to avoid stream crossings as much as possible. On the rocky patchs, the soft rubber lug soles on lighter boots work best for me and any metal to stone contact can cause a serious fall, even on flat terrain.

I am buying Microspikes for training hikes in the large, densely forested urban parks beside my house and I consider these another brilliant invention by Kahtoola; they should be perfect for any flatland to gently rolling terrain and the actual crampons from Kahtoola, available in steel and alloy, will take over from where things get too steep and icy. I like Kahtoola and intend to buy some of their steel crampons, as well.

To me, crampons are almost as vital an "emergency" tool as i my bag and bivy and spare woolies.

1:12 p.m. on October 31, 2011 (EDT)
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@ocala- for stream crossings and wet rock felt bottom wading boots/sandals would be the way to go. Maybe with neoprene socks for cold weather if you plan on encountering it. They can be snagged up fairly cheap if ya shop around. 

I'm with Dewey on this one. If one would try to utilize crampons to cross streams/on wet rock the ending result would be catastrophic more times than not....

Its just a really bad mix.

Origin:

1275–1325;  Middle English  cra(u)mpon  <  Old French crampon  <  Old Low Franconian  *krampo,  cognate with  Old HighGerman  krampfo,   Middle Dutch  crampe

2:39 p.m. on October 31, 2011 (EDT)
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Click here for a nice little timeline history of the crampon.

4:14 p.m. on October 31, 2011 (EDT)
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i have seen people use Yaktrax for the same general purpose as the microspikes without any problems, except that they are somewhat more prone to slippage than the Kahtoola spikes.  i think Yaktrax are lighter weight.  The microspikes are really a different product, but it's generally in the same "sub-crampon" space.  in my view, the microspikes are also much more equipped to handle abuse. 

crampons aren't intended for stream crossings or wet rocks; they are best on steep slopes with snow or ice.  that said, you can certainly walk across or even climb rocky areas wearing crampons; it's just not very comfortable, increases the likelihood you can trip and fall. 

6:36 p.m. on October 31, 2011 (EDT)
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Sorry, but, climbing rocky areas in crampons is a very good way to end up very dead in short order. I don't want to endlessly debate such an obvious issue, but, the fact is that the crampons WILL cause you to slip and in mountains such as in BC, that is usually the end of things.

I was running crew on Vancouver Island, on the north end in big wood, years ago, when I was in my mid-30s and one must wear "caulk boots" there, these are commonly called "corks" in logging country. They have many small steel spikes on the soles, of about the same size as the "Microspikes" we are discussing.

I had almost twenty years of working forestry experience by this time of my life and would walk the fallen timber over gullies without too much trouble. Yet being busy and running crews of university-urban kids caught me out and I stepped from a log, these run to12 ft. in diameter, down onto a rocky edge of a cliff over the cut where the haul road had been blasted through to allow the massive trucks with 14ft. bunks to carry the logs down to the dump.

I was in hard condition, used to walking in this kind of country as I was born in it and I still slid down the cliff and for maybe 40 ft. as soon as my "corks" touched the rocks. It was a clear, sunny, dry day-dry for VI is a bit of an oxymoron- but I still slipped. I was carrying a Pulaski and managed to catch something and stop my fall and then climb back up to the raucous laughter of the loggers nearby.

So, you do as you wish, but, I will NEVER wear crampons to climb rock of any type and I consider doing so to be a most unsafe practice.

7:29 p.m. on October 31, 2011 (EDT)
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ocalacomputerguy said:

I have a couple of questions about crampons.  

1. Do the help on wet rocks or will they just slide? Would they help in stream/river crossing?

2. What is the origin of the name? 

 http://tinyurl.com/2wopt4b

7:33 p.m. on October 31, 2011 (EDT)
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Corks are the bomb.  Thinking of them makes me nostalgic.  Like wearing velcro running over a slashed timber unit on sketchy logs.  Sometimes I thought I could run right up a tree in them.  I wore them in Idaho for the USFS BUT... They are also REALLY hard on pickup floorboards and trails.  Plus on the heavy side, but bombproof. 

7:49 p.m. on October 31, 2011 (EDT)
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Dewey said:

Sorry, but, climbing rocky areas in crampons is a very good way to end up very dead in short order. I don't want to endlessly debate such an obvious issue, but, the fact is that the crampons WILL cause you to slip and in mountains such as in BC, that is usually the end of things...

 Generally true, except in the context of mixed climbing.  Mixed climbing, however, is probably beyond the scope of this thread's context.

Ed

8:18 p.m. on October 31, 2011 (EDT)
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That kind of climbing is what I am most familiar with and I understand what you mean, but, I am still pretty careful about stepping anywhere on rock while wearing my crampons. I used to do a lot of solo treks into Kokanee Glacier Park, The Valhallas and the mountains west of "The Bugaboos" and while these only rise to 11.000 ft. or so, they are heavily glaciated and experience some of the deepest snowfalls anywhere in North America.

The substrates are largely granitic and quartzitic and they are very steep, arising from lakes at 1800 ft. very abruptly. I have found that, while crampons are a major help in crossing snowfields in July-August, the frequent rock outcroppings can be really treacherous while wearing them and one has to adjust for this constantly.

I admit that, having has several friends, very experienced and capable climbers, far more so than I would ever be, killed in falls here in BC, I am among the most cautious and safety conscious trekkers you would ever meet as I have every intention of living to at least 110! So, this is just what I feel comfortable with and each climber must do as he/she thinks best, IMHO.

To get back to Walter's original query, I would choose either the Kahtoola alloy or the Black Diamond alloy crampons for serious hikes in rolling, frozen terrain over the Microspikes, but, again, this is partially due to my age and injured legs as I feel "safer" with the bigger spikes and tight fit to my boots.

1:47 a.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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I was reading some blogs re: Everest Base Camp trek and it seems there is one day of hiking there that is very rocky yet sometimes quite icy. I am considering the microspikes for my pack that day in case weather has dumped snow. It may be that I have no need for them, but if I DO I have read it is pretty sketching going down without something. I also spoke with a co-worker who confirmed this through first hand experience. I don;t think full on crampons are for me...don't have any experience with them. But think that IF the icy snow covers this portion of the trail, I will need something to go with my poles.

8:07 a.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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it's fair to say that climbing vertical rock in crampons is a bad idea.  i hope i wasn't suggesting that, it wasn't my intent.  if you're going to everest base camp, check with the guide service you are using - they will know what you need.  

it's a little off-point, granted, but on any given trail i'm hiking in any of the mountains i climb in the winter (the presidentials in new hampshire or the high peaks in the adirondacks, primarily), i'm going to pass over areas of snow, ice and rock regularly within the space of a few minutes, multiple times a day.  none of this really represents 'climbing' in the sense that one is front-pointing and using ice tools or axes to ascend - i'm permanently retired from ice-climbing - but it's certainly mixed terrain.  It wouldn't be feasible to remove crampons for changing conditions under these circumstances, especially if it's cold and the wind is howling, unless you know you won't see ice for a while.  and no, neither i nor anyone with whom i winter hike has suffered injury or had to be rescued from wearing crampons under these conditions.  you do have to understand that traveling over rocky areas requires a little more care, because your points obviously aren't going to penetrate solid rock.   

getting back on point, depending on your boots and trail/weather conditions, microspikes can deal with many of the less-steep or less extreme trail conditions in the Northeast, and microspikes definitely reduce the risk of catching crampons on the ground or your gaiters and tripping.  

8:46 a.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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I have a pair of microspikes and for my low level winter hiking they work very well. You can slip them on and off pretty easily, and just hang them on the back of your pack when not needed. If I spent alot of time in Northern winter hikes I think I would move up to a regular crampon.

I noticed that YakTrax now makes a very similar product called the Yaktrax Glacier for about $59.95. The design as I said is very close to the microspike.

9:32 p.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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I'll probably go ahead and add a pair of Microspikes to my winter kit.  Now, what's the best-lightest snow shovel for tent placement??  NOT avalanche rescue or sidewalk clearing, but a backpacking shovel for preparing a tentsite and clearing snow?

I'm looking at this:


l_114915_s06_grn.jpg

Comes in at one pound.

9:39 p.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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Dewey said:

..I would choose either the Kahtoola alloy or the Black Diamond alloy crampons for serious hikes in rolling, frozen terrain over the Microspikes, but, again, this is partially due to my age and injured legs as I feel "safer" with the bigger spikes and tight fit to my boots.

I am inclined to say Dewey's rationalization due to age is code for acquired wisdom. 

It is my impression Kahtoola microspikes and similar designs are better suited to urban ice in parking lots, sidewalks and streets, than as a traction device for trails where inclines and side slopes have steeper aspects.  The main issue is the gear is held in place by a rubber rand that captures the footwear abound its girth.  My experience on trail ice leads me to believe you can slip out of this system should you find yourself traversing a steep side hill pitch.  I’ll let Dewey describe what it’s like when you slip a crampon.

Kahtoola’s UL crampons and most other traditional articulated or flexible designs are better suited to trail use, due to a more positive binding system.  Even then, I don’t know if the length of the teeth on Kahtoola's UL crampons are sufficient for bomber sidehill security on a traverse.

I am with Dewy – again. 

Take gear that won’t place you unnecessarily in marginal circumstances.  The bigger teeth of a full-on crampon minimize the prospect of the ice spalling underfoot, and sending you tobogganing down the fall line.  Alloy gear is suitable for most trail use, but you also should take a file in case you do trod over some rocks, as dull points work poorly in hard ice.  Likewise if you need crampons, you really should also carry an ice axe, too, since that third point of contact greatly enhances performance on slippery surfaces, not to mention the axe is your primary means of arrest should you slip.

Lastly consider a day course on how to use these tools.  They are sharp and can injure you if you do the wrong thing in a fall.

Ed

9:42 p.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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WHY would you require a shovel to set up your tent? I seldom carried one when I was very active in solo multiday wilderness trek camping and really never missed it. They have some major value in above timberline tent placement, but, anywhere I have ever been in western-northern Canada, I could always stomp out a flat space for my tent, allow it to harden for about a half hour and then set up my tent.

Just curious, I would not have thought that you had really deep snow or bitter cold where you are, so, to me, a shovel is just added weight. What would you use it for?

9:43 p.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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Tipi Walter said:

I'm looking at this:
l_114915_s06_grn.jpg

I prefer an alloy shovel; it won't break should you discover gold - or a tree root.

Ed

12:32 a.m. on November 2, 2011 (EDT)
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Dewey said:

WHY would you require a shovel to set up your tent? I seldom carried one when I was very active in solo multiday wilderness trek camping and really never missed it. They have some major value in above timberline tent placement, but, anywhere I have ever been in western-northern Canada, I could always stomp out a flat space for my tent, allow it to harden for about a half hour and then set up my tent.

Just curious, I would not have thought that you had really deep snow or bitter cold where you are, so, to me, a shovel is just added weight. What would you use it for?

 On ridge hiking above 5,000 feet we commonly have 2-3 feet of fairly hard packed snow and I always like to get my tent down to ground level due to punching thru to the ground anyway in my boots. Plus, some of the best campsites are along these ridges.

  To stomp out a snow platform is too much work when each leg punches down to hip level and reaches the ground, ergo the shovel.  At lower levels, like between 3,500 to 4,500 feet, we get a usual mix of snow between 6 to 12 inches and without a shovel I have to destroy a pair of gloves playing gopher to get a tent site on bare ground.

So, a shovel or a snow claw would make tent placement at ground level much easier than hand shoveling.  Around the southern Apps, camping directly on the snow most often results in sleeping in ruts, ditches, troughs, hillocks and bumps unless I can get to the ground.

Maybe if the snow were 10 to 12 feet deep I could easily stomp out a tentsite and get it level and smooth.

So Dewey, do you routinely stomp out a level site when you sink down two+ feet??

1:03 a.m. on November 2, 2011 (EDT)
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I wear "misery slippers" in the winter here, you must either use them or skis to travel in the snow. Vancouver's surrounding mountains are roughly 7000 ft. and rise straight up from the Pacific, the annual snowfall is about 25 ft. It is wet snow and packs very easily using the snowshoes.

Where I was born and grew up is a major snowfall region and camping on snow as deep as 12 ft. is commonplace; again, it is easy to pack this and erect a tent. I prefer freestanding tents and I usually have mine up within about a half hour from selecting a place to stay the night.

I have used shovels and we used to make our own from aluminum grain scoops or snow shovels, just modified the handles and coloured them "day glo" so we could find them in the snow and we were good to go. But, the one I have now is an MEC model from circa '80 and I have hardly used it as I camp in timber whenever possible and just don't need it in that kind of snow.

I hope to get out this coming winter for several solo multiday winter camps in the Coast Range and, if I can, go home to the Kootenays and spend some quiet time alone in the wilderness there. I have been house and hospital bound since March, 2010 as my wife has been ill and now she is healthy and getting eager to resume her career, I can  get out and enjoy some bush time.

Anyway, just curious as to how others do things in their bailiwicks.

1:04 a.m. on November 2, 2011 (EDT)
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Tipi has much more experience with winter in our mountains, but I think I can add a few thoughts.  As mentioned, the snow frequently gets waist deep above 4,500ft. But because of our southern latitude, the temperature does not maintain a stable sub-freezing level. The result is an ice crust, or multiple layers of crust stratified between layers of snow. Those conditions are the norm, and make getting a smooth tent platform quite labor intensive. 

1:36 p.m. on November 3, 2011 (EDT)
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Rick-Pittsburgh said:

Hey Tipi, check out Hillsounds Trail Crampon Pro(10 point.) I can't give ya much on how they are on trail but I did just purchase a pair for this season...

Well due to an injury my season may very well be toast but nevertheless I just figured I would point you towards a viable option.

iClimb recommended the CAMP(Stalker)12s to me and I also ordered a pair of those. My plan was to keep what ones I was satisfied with and keep the others as backups/loaners but my getting to use them may very well get put into "limbo" until next year.

 Rick-Pitt:

Injury? No! So Sorry to hear it. Heal quickly!

9:57 p.m. on November 6, 2011 (EST)
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An alternative to Microspikes are YakTraks. Views from the Top has lots of posts on both of these since NE hikers use them for trailwalking in winter in the Pressies. www.viewsfromthetop.com

I have the Voile Mini shovel, which is what I think what is in the photo-mine is red-the best thing going for winter camping. It is metal-the only choice, as far as I'm concerned.  Lexan shovels are a waste of money-they won't cut through ice for one thing. I carry mine always, even on day hikes if there is snow on the ground. I don't profess to have a lot of experience, but so far, that shovel has come in handy every time I carried it.

Dewey, I used mine in Yosemite to dig out my kitchen in front of my tent, dig my latrine, dig out (in part) my tent platform and dig out my car when I got back to it after a few days of snow.

1:26 a.m. on November 7, 2011 (EST)
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Tipi,     I'd also have to agree with Dewey and Ed on the crampons.  I've seen the size of the loads you carry in summer months.  Those microspikes look convenient, but if your planning to do a winter hike to the extent of your summer jaunts  the added weight of your pack to the scenario and they dont look up to the torque you could deliver to them on an icy descent.  The weakness is in their attachment.  I would go with a tightly strapped on crampon.  And carrying an axe would not be overkill.  Anytime I wear crampons I have a plan/tool for arrest.

If your a long way out in the wilderness alone it doesn't take much ice to be stuck. 

On the shovel, I have 2 Voile with tempered aluminum.  I keep them with me all winter.  They dont take up much space in the car and have come in handy countless times at home and on the trail.  They have taken a lot of abuse and are still functional.

2:11 a.m. on November 16, 2011 (EST)
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60$?,IM INTERESTED

2:51 a.m. on November 16, 2011 (EST)
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The above points are kinda why I mentioned the Hillsounds. They off more than the Microspikes but not as much as a full on (12pt.)

For the types of trail I encounter(mixed) they seem to be a happy medium in a sense.

2:57 a.m. on November 16, 2011 (EST)
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SOMEBODY asked about the origin of crampons,i will assume the origin was before tampons,considering ice became before plugging menstruation.oh wait the only ice was after refrigeration(circa 1930a.d.).in fla

3:01 a.m. on November 16, 2011 (EST)
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crampons?what fits?

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