Last Updated on March 6, 2020
Outdoor activities give many people a great deal of pleasure. At any opportunity, they gather together their gear and head to the outdoors to enjoy their beautiful surrounding, challenging experiences, fresh air, and energizing activity. Hiking, backpacking, trekking, and climbing are just some of the outdoor activities that people love. While there are many benefits to participating in these hobbies, there are also many challenges and risks. Those who partake in these activities minimize these risks by buying the right gear. There are plenty of products designed specifically to reduce the risks and increase safety. Two such products are crampons and microspikes. Here is a comparison of these two products to help you decide which it is that you should include in your gear list.
What Are Crampons & Microspikes?
Crampons are a traction device used by hikers, backpackers, and climbers. These devices attach to footwear to improve grip and mobility when tackling challenging surfaces, such as snow and ice. The three main types of crampons are step-in, hybrid, and strap bindings. The first two of these require the wearer to buy boots that are compatible with these devices. The latter is more versatile as they can adapt to almost any footwear.
Microspikes are also a traction device that people use when covering snow and ice. They are similar to crampons and this leads many people to mistakenly believe that they are the same thing. However, there are differences in both the design of the two products and when you would use them.
Why Do You Need Traction Devices?
Covering terrain that is covered in ice or snow poses extra challenges and greater risks than covering a nice, flat, dry, grass surface. Covering this type of terrain is more strenuous and there is a greater risk of slips and falls. Therefore, hikers, backpackers, climbers, and trekkers need extra grip and traction. Wearing crampons or microspikes is the best solution as these traction devices will increase safety by giving the wearer greater grip while covering slippery surfaces.
Microspikes vs. Crampons
There are clear differences in the design of crampons and microspikes, and these design differences relate to their different uses. Crampons have fewer but larger spikes that embed into ice and improve grip on snow. They will also improve traction when covering rocky surfaces. Microspikes have smaller spikes, as the name suggests, but there are more spikes than on a crampon traction device. Microspikes also use chains to improve traction, while crampons do not.
Microspikes cost significantly less than crampons in most cases. However, it is not an either-or situation, meaning you should not necessarily choose between having either only crampons or only microspikes. As they are used in different situations, you should choose the product that is most suitable for your needs rather than choosing one over the other because of the price. Similarly, if you need both, then you should buy both rather than comparing the prices.
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When Should You Choose Crampons Over Microspikes?
Microspikes and crampons are suitable for different purposes. Microspikes are intended for using when the ground is fairly flat, but it is covered with either ice or snow. They give you more traction than the grip of your hiking boots alone. Although they are fantastic for this purpose, they have their limits when it comes to covering steeper terrain. It is at this point that you would switch to your crampons.
Crampons are also referred to as mountaineering crampons and this is because they are intended for steeper terrain. They are ideal for covering snow- and ice-covered slopes on hills or mountains as they have longer spikes than microspikes that penetrate the ice. They are also suitable for bare rocks as they give you a deeper bite.
The Downsides of Crampons and Microspikes
Crampons and microspikes are similar in that they have the same disadvantage. Adding either microspikes or crampons to your hiking boots will add extra weight to your feet. This can make a trek or climb more tiring and it will take you longer to cover a shorter distance. For this reason, you need to get the balance right between wearing them too soon and giving yourself enough traction to safely enjoy your activities.
When covering uphill surfaces that are covered in snow, you can delay the need to wear microspikes by splaying your feet when you walk to get more traction out of your boots. This means that you can wait a little while before adding the extra weight to your feet so your activities will not be as tiring.
The Bottom Line
Although crampons and microspikes are similar, they are intended for use on different surfaces and this is clear in the design of each of these products. When comparing the two products, it is not a case of looking at the pros and cons of each to decide which is better to buy as it is possible that you need both. You should assess the type of ground you cover in your outdoor activities to decide which is most suitable. If you cover both flat and uphill terrain that is covered in ice and snow, then the likelihood is that you need to buy both products to safely hike in extreme conditions.