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Crampons for Hiking

Hiking the Aberdare Ranges made me realize that If I had made it and submitted hills that were 1,000 m less than Mount Kenya, maybe Mt. Kenya doable. Apart from having a week to spare and of course the lack of funds, I began toying with the idea of hiking Mount Kenya last year.

I looked at microspikes for hiking and found out most hikers who hiked Mt. Kenya didn’t use them. Much like gaiters for the mushy Aberdare Ranges, I think one can never
 be too prepared while hiking icy and snowy terrain which led me to crampons for hiking. 

1. Are crampons only used for ice?

Historically, crampons were designed for ice climbing. The first pair was developed in 1910 by Henry Grivel. Henry’s son Laurent, later developed the 12 point crampon in 1929. Today, they come in different types. 

The type of crampons you decide to use will depend on the terrain you expect to encounter and the type of hiking boots you have. 

  2. What are Crampons and why are they called crampons?

Crampons are in the higher end of the technical spectrum when compared to Microspikes. According to Northwest Alpine Guides, Crampon is a French word for a piece of gear first designed in 1908 in a 10-point style.

 3. How do you use crampons and which types? 

They are made of aluminium or steel and they provide traction on icy and snowy terrain. According to backpacker magazine, aluminium is less expensive than steel but less durable. Opt for steel if you expect your terrain to have lots of rock and mixed terrain.
Crampons come in 3 types and  attach to hiking boots in 3 different ways: 

  • Strap on crampons that can be put on regular hiking boots and go over the toes and heel of the hiking boots. They cost less than auto crampons.
  • Semi-automatic crampons that are toe biding like strap on crampons but have a heel bear at the back. These types of crampons can only be used with specific hiking shoes that can accommodate the heel bear.
  • Automatic crampons have both toe and heel bears and are great for steep and icy terrains.

 

4. When should you use crampons?

According to REI, it’s best to wear crampons when your footwork no longer feels secure, when the snow becomes firmer and the slope steeper, when hiking on a glacier and when you want to walk for longer without kicking as many steps.
Make sure that they’re no loose clothing around your feet, and if wearing gaiters, they should be on the outsides of your legs to avoid snagging and accidents.

5. Do you need crampons in the UK?

Short answer, yes.
Long answer, it depends on the places you intend to visit, the weather and whether you anticipate adding hiking plans in your UK itinerary. Taking a short walk around the neighbourhood or to the local pub won’t require crampons but hiking in the Scottish countryside might require you to consider.

6. Are Crampons good for snow?

Crampons are specially designed for Snowy terrain. A best practice is to carry the crampons in a crampons bag so as to protect your hiking gear and items.

7. How to choose crampons

When it comes to choosing the right crampons, your hiking boots will be a big determinant. Boots without welts will require strap on crampons, while semi-automatic crampons call for boots with no toe welts.
They’re many things that come into play when choosing crampons such as type of bindings, number of points, crampon frames and the type of activities you intend to pursue. Rei has a great article resource on choosing Crampons based on all these factors.

8. Crampons Vs Microspikes

Since Microspikes have smaller spikes than crampons, they’re designed for icy conditions in relatively flat surfaces or low-angled slopes. They’re also portable and easy to transport. 
Crampons differ from Microspikes in that they have large spikes on the bottom designed for icy, high-angled slopes or technical mountaineering. 

9. Where to find crampons for hiking

Mountaineering crampons can be found on Amazon, Rei, or Walmart. In Nairobi, they can be found at Decathlon, Nike Stores at Two Rivers and The Junction Mall, Nairobi Sports House and Tembo Mountain Wear and pieces of equipment on Ngara Road.

In conclusion, if you’re in Africa and intend to hike Mt. Kenya, Kilimanjaro, Elgon, or Ruwenzori, consider investing in microspikes or crampons for hiking.

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