When it comes to foot traction, an ultralight pair of crampons are often adequate (and preferable) to their heavier, burlier steel cousins. In addition to weight savings, they offer several other advantages. The flexible connector bar makes them compatible with less stiff boots, and many options feature shorter spikes, which can be an advantage for traveling on a mix of rocks and patchy ice.
The drawbacks? Most lack forward-facing front points for ascending steep ice- or snow-covered slopes. Many are made from aluminum, which is a softer metal than steel; the points will blunt and wear down more rapidly. The shorter spikes dig less deep and provide less traction in certain types of winter terrain, particularly in hard-packed snow. And the attachment system can be less secure than other options.
If the advantages outweigh the drawbacks—and for many trips and conditions, they do—Kahtoola offers three good options, including the 19-ounce KTS Aluminum ($149) and the reasonably priced K•10 Hiking Crampon ($99), a 21-ounce flexible steel option (pictured).
For more serious alpine conditions, one of the best ultralight styles is the aluminum Grivel Air Tech Light Crampon ($165), which features a more aggressive 12-point design. Another option is the C.A.M.P. USA Universal XLC 490 Aluminum Crampon ($149), which weighs in at a mere 17 ounces per pair.
“Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.