Crampons are kind of like car tires — necessary yet somehow not as glamorous as ice tools (or car engines, for that matter). So many of us are preoccupied with tools: what wrap do you use? How do you file your pick? Which is your favourite tool? But what about crampons? Maybe it’s the lack of carbon fibre? Just like proper tires in winter conditions, good crampons that fit your boots well are crucial to efficient and secure climbing, be it on ice, mixed or alpine terrain.
While dual-point crampons are arguably more secure for pure ice climbing and steep snow slogs, they’re not as versatile as modern mono-points, which climb better on rock and steeper ice, and only give up a little bit of traction on snow and névé. I’ve been using mono-points almost exclusively for over a decade so thought it’s finally time to compare and contrast my favourite pairs with some new comers. Let’s meet the contenders.
BD’s Stinger has been my go-to for years, and still remains one of my favourite crampons. The new (as of 2019) Petzl Dart offers similar performance but is lighter than the Stinger. Grivel’s G20+ features a rigid platform for unparalleled ice penetration. And Camp/Cassin’s new (for 2020) Alpinist Tech has an interesting hybrid vertical/horizontal dual/mono design that attempts to combine the best of both mono- and dual- point designs.
Design & Points
Black Diamond Stinger
The BD Stinger is an 11-point design, with the third and fourth points aggressively angled back for easy raking and solid grip when hooking around columns. All the points have serrations for enhanced purchase, and there are two small side points on either side of the front points for better traction in softer surfaces. Additionally, there are small spikes underneath the linking bar attachments which help the crampon feel secure when standing on large ice features. The Stinger is a semi-rigid design which collapses easily for transport, and there is a little bit of side-to-side movement around the linking bar for better fit on different boots.
The Grivel G20+ also features 11-points with the third points also angled back. The fourth points are set in closer to the centre of the crampon for under-foot security, and better clearance around the third points for hooking and raking. There is also a small secondary horizontal point on the outside of the crampon (so 11.25 points?) for additional purchase in soft snow and ice, which is great on soft terrain but does interfere when trying to slot the front point into deep cracks on rock. There are numerous little points on the underside of the middle section for added security, however this is the only crampon here without a front anti-balling plate (though the front section is small and very open, and I haven’t had any issues with snow balling up). The G20+ is a rigid design which may not fit all makes and sizes of boots, though I haven’t had any issues with my EU 43.5 Scarpa Phantom Techs (both the current and previous generation).
The ‘new’ Petzl Dart is a modular crampon which can be configured with either mono- or dual-points, making it an 11- or 12-point design. If you really wanted to, you could also fit it with three front points, though I’ve tried this before and it doesn’t work any better than two front points. The third points are slightly raked back but lack the aggressive angles of the Stinger or G20+ which makes the Dart less effective at hooking pillars or raking on rock. However, the Dart does have an additional little point between the second and third points which does feel more secure when stepping on ice blobs. There are also two little side points at the front, and numerous down-facing points on the front section for better purchase on uneven ice surfaces. Like the Stinger, this is a semi-rigid design, which compacts easily for transport or storage, and it conforms well to different shapes of boot soles.
Cassin Alpinist Tech
The Cassin Alpinist Tech is another 11-point design with a prominent secondary front point on the outside of the frame (11.5-point crampons?). The actual second and third points are set aside from each other, unlike the other crampons here, and the third point is slightly raked back but also positioned further back along the frame, sitting more underneath the instep rather than ball-of-the-foot like the others. There are two large down-facing points underneath the frame, set behind the main front point, which are great for extra traction on ice but don’t work so well on rock (more on this later). The Alpinist Tech’s front section is significantly larger than the other crampons here with a very pronounced asymmetrical design that does not fit all boots well. It is a rigid design with an additional bend in the linking bar for, purportedly, a more solid boot interface.
Fit & Adjustability
The Stinger comes with BD’s ‘narrow’ bail which fits modern boots much better than the wider ‘regular’ bail found on other BD crampons, such as the Cyborg. In conjunction with the adjustable-height rear bail, the typical adjustable linking bar, and two positions for both the front and rear bails, I have yet to find boots the Stinger will not fit. The shape is lightly asymmetrical which follows most boot soles well, and the relatively short front section fits even smaller boots properly. Very versatile.
The G20+ is a rigid design with two length adjustments: an overall, broader, length adjustment via a nut-and-bolt along the extra-long front point/middle section, and a finer adjustment via the typical multi-holed linking bar. The rounded front bail has three positions, while the height-adjustable rear section has two adjustment holes. The shape is lightly asymmetrical and follows most boot soles well. Thanks to the rigid design it’s a very solid fit on my Phantom Techs, though I do wish the bail was narrower. Good fit on average-length boots, but could be problematic on shorter or longer soles.
The Dart has the best front bail design, fairly narrow but with a pronounced taper towards the toe: it’s the best fitting front bail I’ve used. Primary length adjustment is via a staggered-hole linking bar, which allows for a more precise fit, while the front and rear bails have three positions each. The rear heel wedge is not height adjustable but thanks to the three fore-aft positions I haven’t found it to be an issue. The front section has a pronounced asymmetrical design but it seems to follow boot soles quite well. Superb fit overall.
The Alpinist Tech is a challenging crampon to fit. The front bail has a pronounced rounded toe section which, while it firmly fits the toe welt, directs the angle of the crampon and doesn’t allow for much (or, depending on boot, any) angle adjustment. The front bail has three adjustment holes, while the rear bail has two. The rear bail is adjustable to three pre-set heights using one of the most infuriating designs I’ve come across (my old Blade Runner had a ‘normal’ screw-adjustable rear wedge, what is wrong with that design Cassin?! I’ll take a few grams of extra weight with better adjustment any day!). The crampon’s rigid design uses a staggered-hole linking section for length adjustment, but due to the extra-long front section it doesn’t fit small-sized boots very well. The linking bar, which is rigid and part of the heel section, also has a pronounced lip that’s meant to lock against the boot’s heel riser — good idea in principle, but it doesn’t fit my new-generation Phantom Tech at all, and isn’t the best fit on my previous-gen Phantom Tech either. This is one of the worst fitting and hardest to adjust crampons I have ever seen: I resorted to swapping out the front bail for a standard Petzl one, and using them on my previous-gen Phantom Techs as they simply do not fit well on my current-generation Scarpa boots.
Weight & Price
I weighed my crampons as I use them: with anti-balling plates installed and, on the BD and Petzl, aftermarket Krukonogi front points (which actually weigh a couple grams less than the stock front points but last much longer).
BD Stinger: 460 grams per, 920 grams pair (960 grams claimed)
Grivel G20+: 444 grams per, 888 grams pair (845 grams claimed)
Petzl Dart (mono): 402 grams per, 804 grams pair (820 grams claimed)
Cassin Alpinist Tech: 466 grams per, 932 grams pair (810 grams claimed)
Interestingly, the Stinger and Dart both weigh in at less than manufacturer claimed (makes sense with the Dart as I suspect claimed weight is with dual front points). The G20+ is a bit heavier, while the Alpinist Tech comes in at over 120 grams more than what Cassin claims. I suspect this is due to the Alpinist Tech coming out-of-the-box without the anti-balling plates installed, and Cassin wanting to claim the ‘lightest technical crampon’ bragging rights. I installed the anti-ball plates the first day I got the crampons and given how much of a pain in the ass they were to get on, I am not about to take them off just to weigh the crampons without them.
BD Stinger: $270 Canadian, $220 USD
Grivel G20+: $250 Canadian, $220 USD
Petzl Dart: $300 Canadian, $250 USD
Cassin Alpinist Tech: $300 Canadian, $250 USD
BD: $14 USD per point — let’s just say this is $30 USD or around $40 Canadian for a replacement pair, this is the same point as on the Cyborg so should be easy to find.
Grivel: $65 Canadian per pair — unique to the G20+, might be hard to find in a hurry.
Petzl Dart: $200 Canadian for the whole front section with four front points — Petzl points are expensive, and I remember paying around $100 Canadian for two of them a few years ago. Now I can’t even find the points for sale anywhere, so you might be stuck buying the whole front section kit.
Alpinist Tech: $120 Canadian / $100 USD for the whole front section — I would imagine it’ll be a special-order part pretty much anywhere.
As you’ve probably noticed from the photos, I use Krukonogi armour-steel front points wherever I can. These cost $35-40 Canadian per point but literally last for years — mine are around 8 years old at this point, and have been sharpened maybe three times. They do require a harder file than regular steel hardware but regardless of which crampons you own, I cannot recommend the Krukonogi points enough. (Though it should be noted that many brands are starting to offer their own ‘armour-steel’ front point and ice picks, so Kruk may have some competition.)
For years my go-to crampon was the Stinger. Great on rock thanks to those aggressive raked-back third and fourth points, and solid on ice, where those angled-back points also work well at hooking around pillars or snagging something off to the side. The little down-facing points at the linking bar provide welcome grip when standing on ice features, and the two small points on either side of the front point feel like they add stability in softer ice and snow. They compact nicely and thus don’t require too much forethought when packing, and the anti-balling plates work well. If I recall correctly the early versions had thin frames and I snapped a couple, but the newer, reinforced, version has never given me any issues – however, taking the photos for this post, I noticed that Veronica’s Stinger has snapped in the exact same spot mine did. So I guess durability is questionable. They’re a good crampon however and, judging by the number of green-anti-balling-plated crampons I see in photos, they’re a favourite of BD athletes as well.
One crampon that I didn’t get along with, despite its clear favouritism in the community, was the previous-generation Dart, and its dual-point twin, the Dartwin. I didn’t like the idea of not having replaceable front points, but even more so the sparse design with limited down-facing points never felt very stable when standing on ice features. I had a pair for a while but used them almost exclusively for drytooling. The new, modular, Dart has changed all that. The addition of multiple down-facing points underneath the front section adds that much-needed grip and stability. The asymmetrical design fits boots better, and the modular front points can be set in multiple configurations to better match the objective. (The front points are adjustable in length, and can be set up mono, dual, or staggered-length dual. Even triple if you really want to.) I do wish the fourth point was more aggressively raked back for better hooking, but that’s really my only complaint. The compact front and rear sections collapse into a small package for packing, and I do appreciate Petzl’s offset-hole linking bar for fine-tuned adjustment.
It took me one kick to remember just how well rigid Grivels climb. I had a couple pairs of Rambo 4’s over the years and other than weighing a shit-ton (technical term for well over 1kg for the pair) and sitting high off the boot sole due to the vertical frame design, they’re the best pure ice crampons out there. The G20+ come very close to that solid feeling and connection with the ice. The transfer of power through the boot and into the front point is hard to describe but it only takes a few kicks to realize just how much less power you need to drive in the front points versus the typical two-section crampon with a linking bar. The underfoot points provide sure footing on uneven ice features, while the secondary half-point adds stability in soft or aerated ice. Combine that with Grivel’s ‘active’ anti-balling plates and you have one of the best ice crampons available. However, that somewhat-large second front-point does get in the way when trying to slot into deep cracks, and often prevents proper engagement of the secondary points on rock. It’s not a deal-breaker but it does make the crampons less versatile all-around, and I find I tend to pack these only when I know it’s a pure ice route. My only other gripe is that they don’t fold down or collapse in any (useful) way so I always have to plan for a vertical spot in my pack to tuck these away. And due to their length, they’re hard to find a decent crampon pouch for.
The Alpinist Tech is an interesting crampon: the front section is noticeably longer and wider than any other crampon I’ve used, which takes some getting used to. The front point configuration is reminiscent of the Rambo 4 and G20+ but the secondary half-point is almost half the length of the primary vertical front point (whereas on the Grivel crampons the secondary point is about 1/3 the length of the primary). On ice this isn’t an issue, and combined with the rigid frame, the crampons penetrate ice well and feel very secure. The numerous underfoot points add to this feeling of stability when standing on ice features, but two of these points become a hindrance when climbing rock. In line with the primary front point but located under the ball of the foot are two rather large down-facing spikes. When climbing routes where you might be stepping on flat sections of rock or onto pronounced outcroppings, these points are engaged when underfoot and I noticed my foot rocking side-to-side when weighted. It’s an insecure feeling at best and completely threw me off — I was on a route I know well and have climbed dozens of times, but with these crampons on I felt like a complete novice, insecure on my feet and, until I inspected the crampons closely once back on the ground, didn’t have any idea why! And like the Grivel, the large second front point gets in the way when slotting into cracks and prevents proper engagement of the secondary points. Again, on pure ice or large rock ledges and features this isn’t an issue, but tight spaces and small cracks present a different challenge with the Alpinist Tech. As well, similarly to the Grivel, the rigid design doesn’t fold down or collapse in any manner so is a bit awkward when packing. However, the crampons do come with what is quite possibly the best crampon pouch in existence, and I really appreciate that.
Petzl’s Dart is the best all-around crampon currently available. It’s light, versatile, can be configured into mono- or dual-points, comes with anti-balling plates, has the best fit on modern boots, and climbs equally well on rock and ice. It isn’t the cheapest, and the (Petzl) front points aren’t exactly affordable, but grab a pair of these and throw some Kruk front points on there and it’ll probably be the last pair of crampons you’ll ever buy.
If you climb more rock than ice (that is, mixed or alpine rock, with crampons, not those tight sticky rubber-soled shoe things) then the BD Stinger is for you. Relatively light, with the best point configuration for hooking and raking on rock and technical ice features, the Stinger fits most boots really well, collapses small for packing, has anti-balling plates, and if you don’t fancy buying a pair of Kruk points for them, the stock BD stuff is the cheapest to replace and should be easy to fint. Excellent all-around if you don’t mind mono-point only, and my favourites to use when drytooling and mixed climbing.
On the other hand, if you climb mostly ice, the rigidity of Grivel’s G20+ practically feels like cheating. Ice penetration is superb, with great underfoot stability on features, and the secondary half-point enhances performance on soft or aerated ice. They fit most boots quite well, but are not as adjustable as the semi-rigid designs. They’re not the easiest to pack around due to their length (and finding a crampon pouch can be challenging) but for pure ice climbing these are my go-to’s.
And then there’s the Cassin Alpinist Tech. I love them on ice. They are quite good on rock as well, and definitely a solid alpine crampon, but I don’t feel there should be much of a learning curve to crampons — and that doesn’t even include figuring out how to fit and adjust them to your boots. I use them for ice, but for mixed climbing I have my reservations. If you’re willing to take the time and learn their quirks I suspect you’ll find them to be a solid all-around companion, but I prefer my crampons to come with less of a learning curve. Recommended, but with reservations.