The Best Crampons For Beginners

by the bald scrambler

Published By: Daniel Woodley. Updated: 11th March 2024. Filed at: Guides. Disclosure: I earn commission from purchases made via links, read more.

If you’re new to winter hiking, scrambling or climbing and you want to know which crampons are the best choice, this introductory guide is for you.

Here, I’ll cover:

  • Boot grades from B0 to B3.
  • Cleats and microspikes, and when to use them.
  • Crampons C1, C2 and C3 and when to use them and the differences.

If you’ve never gone out in mountainous terrain during winter before, you’ll 100% need crampons, or at least some cleats/microspikes. I have seen plenty of people struggle without appropriate footwear and accessories and accidents are common.

Anti-balling plates on my Grivel crampons

Boot Grades

There are four grades of boots:

B0 – 3-season boots, these are often very flexible and can’t be used safely with crampons as they may break them. Crampons are made from metal and won’t flex as much as a B0 boot. These boots can be used with some microspikes and cleats, usually only on very light snow/ice but they might be uncomfortable as the metal digs into or even danages the thin material on the boot.

B1 – A winter boot that has enough rigidity to take a crampon, these boots are still flexible enough for long-distance walking and traversing over snow and ice. They are too flexible for serious climbing.

B2 – A good all-rounder that can be used for walking, scrambling and climbing. These boots are moderately rigid and have a heel welt to secure a C2 crampon, this prevents the heel of the boot from lifting out of the crampon.

B3 – These boots are very rigid and can be uncomfortable to walk in. They are usually big and bulky and have a toe and heel welt to secure a C3 crampon in place so it doesn’t flex. B3 boots can be used on challenging terrain such as vertical ice climbing.

Types of Crampons

Here are the four different types of crampons and when/where you can use them:

1) Cleats and Microspikes

Cleats and microspikes can be fitted to most types of footwear and they offer the most basic protection from slipping.

I prefer cleats which are chains held together by a rubber band.

I always use cleats when I first come across light snow, frost or ice that makes walking difficult and slippery. I usually take them off and swap them for full crampoins when the conditions get more serious.

Here’s a photo of the cleats I currently use and also a photo of microspikes:

The cleats I use on my winter boots

The cleats/chains I use

Microspikes

Microspikes

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Cheap.
  • Lightweight and take up little storage space.
  • Easy to put on.
  • Easy to walk with.
  • Perfect for light snow, light ice and frost.
  • Ideal for beginners.

Cons:

  • Not suitable for deep snow which “balls” up underfoot.
  • The spikes are very shallow, and not suitable for serious winter terrain.
  • More flimsy than full crampons.
  • Best used when there’s very thin ice and full crampons would be overkill or you don’t want to blunt your expensive crampons.

On Amazon:

Unigear Crampons for Hiking Boots, Ice Snow Grips Snow Spikes Ice Cleats Traction With Anti Slip 18 Shoes Spikes for Walking,Jogging, Climbing and Hiking(Black-L)
Unigear Crampons for Hiking Boots, Ice Snow Grips Snow Spikes Ice Cleats Traction With Anti Slip 18 Shoes Spikes for Walking,Jogging, Climbing and Hiking(Black-L)
Unigear Crampons for Hiking Boots, Ice Snow Grips Snow Spikes Ice Cleats Traction With Anti Slip 18 Shoes Spikes for Walking,Jogging, Climbing and Hiking(Black-L)
Unigear Crampons for Hiking Boots, Ice Snow Grips Snow Spikes Ice Cleats Traction With Anti Slip 18 Shoes Spikes for Walking,Jogging, Climbing and Hiking(Black-L)

2) C1 Crampons

C1 crampons are compatible with boot grades B1 – B3 and are best used on hikes, walks and traverses rather than scrambles or climbs, thus making them ideal for beginners venturing out for winter treks.

C1 crampons do not have any clips and are held to the boot via toe and heel cradles, this allows the crampon to flex, meaning they are comfortable to walk in.

The metal spikes aren’t aggressive and therefore aren’t suitable for serious climbs, such as vertical ice climbing.

Suggest use: Winter walks and traverses on flat terrain and hills in snowy/icy conditions.

Example of where I’ve used them: Snowdon via any of the main tourist routes (Watkin Path, Pyg Track etc).

Front cradle on my C1 crampons

Toe cradle on my Grivel C1 crampons

Heel cradle on C1 crampons

Heel cradle on my C1 crampons

On Amazon:

G12 NEW-CLASSIC EVO crampón CE, Ice & Snow Grips, GV-RAG12NCEF
G12 NEW-CLASSIC EVO crampón CE, Ice & Snow Grips, GV-RAG12NCEF
G12 NEW-CLASSIC EVO crampón CE, Ice & Snow Grips, GV-RAG12NCEF
G12 NEW-CLASSIC EVO crampón CE, Ice & Snow Grips, GV-RAG12NCEF

3) C2 Crampons

C2 crampons typically have some key differences to C1 crampons:

  • A heel lever to secure the crampon to the welt on a B2 boot. This secures the rear of the boot and prevents heel lift.
  • Often have extra spikes (perhaps 12 instead of 10).
  • Sometimes have sharper spikes.
  • They can only be used with B2 and B3 boots.

Suggest use: Winter scrambling, climbing and alpinism, general all-round winter use.

My experience with C2 crampons: I’ve scrambled Tryfan, Bristly Ridge, Crib Goch and many other scrambles in C2 crampons on B2 boots.

Heel clip oin my C2 crampons and B2 boot

Heel clip for a B2 boot

Cradle on C1 and C2 crampons

C2 crampons still have a toe cradle

On Amazon:

GRIVEL G12 New-Matic Evo Crampons, Yellow, One Size
GRIVEL G12 New-Matic Evo Crampons, Yellow, One Size
GRIVEL G12 New-Matic Evo Crampons, Yellow, One Size
GRIVEL G12 New-Matic Evo Crampons, Yellow, One Size

4) C3 Crampons

C3 crampons are the most rigid, aggressive crampons and typically have:

  • Heel lever to lock in the heel to the welt on a B3 boot.
  • Metal toe bar to lock in the toe to the welt on a B3 boot.
  • Sharper or more robust spikes for penetrating into ice.
  • Extra spikes (12-14 usually).
  • Only compatible with rigid B3 boots.

Suggested usage: Steep ice climbs, technical climbs and mixed terrain at the most serious end of mountaineering.

Downside: The combination of B3 boots and C3 crampons makes for a very rigid and uncomfortable walking experience, thus this setup is usually limited to climbing rather than casual winter walks.

Grivel G22 Plus Crampon, Yellow, One Size
Grivel G22 Plus Crampon, Yellow, One Size
Grivel G22 Plus Crampon, Yellow, One Size
Grivel G22 Plus Crampon, Yellow, One Size

Accessories I Recommend

Anti-balling plates are essential as they prevent the buildup of snow underfoot.

They are usually made from plastic and they help to push off any snow that “balls up” underfoot.

Most modern crampons will have these but double check if you are buying a used pair or a cheap unbranded product.

I suggest buying a carry case, this protects your rucksack from damage; the spikes on crampons are very sharp and will pierce almost anything.

Anti-balling plates on my Grivel crampons

Anti-balling plates

My carry case

I recommend a reinforced carry case for transportation

About Daniel Woodley

This guide to the best crampons for beginners was created by Daniel Woodley, aka The Bald Scrambler.

From walking along beaches and kayaking down rivers to making his way up mountains and even jumping out of planes, Daniel has a love of the outdoors but scrambling is his real passion.

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Daniel Woodley

Daniel Woodley aka The Bald Scrambler

Have fun, keep safe. Hopefully I’ll see you on the mountains one day

By The Bald Scrambler

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