Across the board, outdoor gear has been getting dramatically lighter, and crampons are no exception. That should make climbing up waterfalls and ice-covered rock features faster, more fluid, and more fun. But you can only take weight shedding so far.
“People sometimes come into the store and are like, ‘Oooh, those are 14 ounces. Can I see them?’” says Nick Gulli, buyer for The Mountaineer, a climbing specialty store in upstate New York. “At that point, you have to sit them down and talk about durability.”
Gulli says the lightest aluminum crampons are still reserved for high alpine climbing and ski mountaineering. “A lot of skiers will take aluminum crampons where they’ll only be on big snow fields or glaciers,” he says, adding that even in those conditions, aluminum has a limited life span. “You're going to save weight, but the crampons might be beat to heck when you’re done with the expedition.”
For longer life and for mixed climbing on rocks and hard-water ice, choose steel on all points—front, sides, and back. The best rugged steel crampons have gotten down to a mere 28 ounces as gear designers have found ways to lighten the frame and streamline the binding systems.
When shopping for new ‘pons, look for products with replaceable front points, because they do wear out eventually. And bring your boots into the store, just in case: the latest universal bindings accommodate nearly every type of technical boot, though one should always test fit.