Kahtoola Crampons

As much as we hate the USA they’re shit hot at a great many things. Lightweight and innovative outdoor kit being the most relevant here.

My mate Craig discovered Kahtoolas a couple of years back and brought a few pairs into the country (along with Nemo tents, but we’re not bitter…). We had a play about and decided that they were the truth and the light. The UK distribution was picked up by the fine folks at Beta Climbing last year and they’re now widely available.

Amazingly, they’ve been completely ignored by the UK outdoors press. I can’t believe that Chris Townsend hasn’t been singing the praises of these from the highest tower in the land, I mean they are the only truly lightweight and trail shoe compatable crampons available.

So in the total absence of any reference material, I’ve got a nice new pair of the steel ones here to show you what they’re all about.

They look very strappy don’t they? Adjust them in the house before you go and get used to putting them on, so that when you do put them on in anger with cold fingers there’s no cussing. 

The heel clip is secure and doesn’t exert a noticeable pressure onto your foot, the strap there has a quick-release buckle. The toe cradle has four points of attachment which is very adjustable and is secured by a buckle over the top of your foot. All the straps have securing loops so they don’t flap about and get on your tits.

Underneath we have a more standard looking arrangement with ten points at different angles to prevent slippage and give reliable grip. The spacing and positioning is good, and as you’ll see the points aren’t as long as we’re used to seeing these days. They’re actually more like what we were using 20+ years ago when kit was designed to fit it’s purpose, not for a new season launch date or to make if flashier than the other brands. This makes them fantastic for our mixed snow, ice, slush, rock and turf UK winter mountain terrain where long spikes designed for all-day-neve can cause you problems.

The link bar, which comes in two lengths with every pair, is made of rubber. No it isn’t, that would be stupid, but it is a very flexible bi-metal bar with a wide range of length adjustment via holes in the bar and a spring clip on the heel portion of the crampon. We have worn them With Montrail Highlanders and they really do work. As they will with any boot at all.

The anti-balling plates are simple rubbery affairs, weigh nothing and work fine. Which make you wonder why other manufacturers are consistently coming up with grander and more complicated designs to add weight and packed bulk.

Another little detail is the relief stamping on the front points for strength. You’ll never get up an icefall in them, but you will get around the mountains in winter without issue. They’re light at 662g a pair, the pack size is tiny and they work, and work well.

Abandon all this pish we’ve come to accept as the norm. In many ways these are a step back in time in design, with better materials and less weight. Winter doesn’t have to be a slog. Let’s gambol through the snow this year.

9 thoughts on “Kahtoola Crampons”

  1. *ptc you read my mind! :)

    Been planning on getting a pair of these since… well since you and Chris T answered my question on crampons on OM in the Spring.

    I was reading through the latest TGO magazine last night and there’s a lot of stuff on Scottish Winter wandering.

    There’s an article by Roger Wild, MCofS Safety Officer, that states “… if you can bend the sole of the boot easily in your hands then it’s too soft and bendy to create secure footsteps”.

    But that last picture you have is of one of these lovely bits of kit attached to a Keen Targhee II Mid isn’t it? I’ve just reached down and picked up a pair (of the lows) and yep – they’re dead easy to bend at the sole.

    So is it a case of the MCofS President (the God of Hiking – Chris Townsend himself) needing to have words with his Safety Officer? Because Chris has recommended the Targhee II Mids as being great for winter.

    I’m quite happy with the idea that the mr Wild is way over there on the other side of the fence from Chris (and yourself, and in fact my own gut feeling). I don’t mind not following the herd – in fact it’s starting to become a habit in many areas of my life!

    I just want to be sure that I’m not the only one that thinks the MCofS President and the MCofS Safety Officer appear to be sending different messages.

    And I want to be sure that if I say to my girlfriend that wearing a pair of Targhee Mids whist trying to stand upright when it’s blowing a hooley on the Cairngorm Plateau in March is fine – that I’m not missing the point somehow!

  2. Aye, it’s the Keen Mids right enough. Brilliant shoes.

    The only problem I see with any of the “bendy” footwear is if you’re kicking through hard neve all day with your toes. That’s not very likely here these days.

    Safety first always. I’m happy with either of the shoes up there and the Kahtoolas for most of the coming winter, I can get a thick sock on in both of them.
    If I know we’re going to do a wee bit of proper steep stuff I’ll wear boots and take Grivel G12s or AirTechs.

    But winter Munros? Fast and light is the way for sure. Last winter I was out with mids and Kahtoolas and my mate had IceBugs on (more of these soon, they’re studded winter adventure racing shoes from Sweden), and he was as happy as I was.

    Big boots are tiring and can be excruciating on the walks in and out, I’m done with all that.
    I think if you’re confident in your abilities out and up there you’ll be fine. Also if you’re new to winter mountains going out with Kahtoolas will be an exciting adventure and you’ll love it and have np difficulty.
    It’s the old school and the naysayers who refuse to adapt that are trying to put everybody off. Judging us all by their own boudaries, fears and inability to leave their comfort zone.

    It’s just occured to me the amount of pictures of me in the winter mountains on here going back years, so if I can adapt anybody can.

    Aye, lets rock, Alright!

    Here, was that a rant? :o)

  3. All tallies with everything I’ve read – and everything I can judge by wandering about in clumping great boots and thinking “do I really need these or could I use summat lighter?” :)

    Might have to give Chris T a nudge and see if he’s got time to clarify things…

  4. I’m looking to get some lightweight boots for winter and just wondered of the two shown here, which you prefer? i am currently looking at both.
    p.s I know try before you buy but it’s nice to have someone else’s opinion.

  5. It’s a difficult one. I haven’t used the Inov8s in snow yet, but I think they’ll do okay. The toe box is a bit pointier so it might be better for kicking steps. The sole grip is not bad on both as well, but maybe not as aggressive as I would ideally like.
    Gaiters fit well on both, so the low ankle cuff won’t be an issue for snow and mud ingress.

    I’m testing a pair of winter mids from a Swedish company called Icebug. They’re specific for the task with a super aggressive sole with tiny studs and stiff-ish toe box.
    I’m going to do a quick look on these in the next couple of days.

    If I had to chose between the Inov8s and the Keens though, the Keens would win as they’re comfier, better thought out although a bit more fragile.
    I’m finding (as is GT) that the heel cup on the Inov8s is too soft and your heels start to twist it, especially when contouring.

    Keen do a couple on more obviously winterised uber-mids.
    The Growlers which are just insulated Targhees really and are very nice, and the new Blackcombs which look nice but I haven’t tried.

    Hmm, I hope all that’s a help not a hinder.

  6. I really need to get myself a pair of crampons. However, my current boots are size 49 and my trail like shoes are all 50 (Euro sizes). These Kahtoola look ideal given the range of footware they would support but I don’t think I can get them big enough. I wish manufacturers would cater for bigger sizes, I don’t think I’m alone in this.

  7. The bigger the foot, the less effective 10 point crampons are as well.
    There must be a case for a proper flexible 12 pointer, that would work across the bigger sizes better.
    I’m sure someone made such a thing years ago, I must look through some old books.

  8. Might need to look at something like a Grivel G12, or Airtech to save a bit of weight, or even the Airtech Light (with all the caveats for blunting alloy crampons with UK mixed use!) Get the New Classic plastic cradle type bindings, and then fit the long version of the G10 flexi-bars. That should go up to a 49 or 50 according to the info on the Needlesports website (http://www.needlesports.com/acatalog/Mail_Order_Crampons_32.html). I’m not sure if the rear cradle and straps work well with trail shoes though… less designed for it than the Kahtoola straps – anyone know?

  9. The Airtech Lights are tougher than they look from a wear perspective. But performance wise Grivel know they have limts, the front points have a great big gusset linking them together!

    The new classic binding isn’t so good on softer footwear, the toe is pretty rigid. I can’t get them on my Keen Growlers at all.
    They’re good on the Haglofs Gryms, LaSportiva Trangos, Montrail yellow things, Kayland Contact 1000, Scarpa Mirages. The rear plastic cradle is quite high cut as well.
    I think they’re still intending the system for regular winter boots.
    I use flex bars on the Airtechs and I have to say I think they’re a brilliant crampon.

    I’ll take some shots of them on their next trip.

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