Just when you thought your lightweight aluminum boot crampons couldn’t get any lighter, along comes CAMP — the source of so much ski mountaineering gear that is figuratively Dynafit-compatible — with a crampon that is literally Dynafit-compatible. Yes, a crampon that, instead of clamping down on the boot’s heel ledge like an alpine downhill binding or hybrid/plate AT binding, inserts into the Dynafit/Tech interface just like a real touring binding does. Clever!
By way of some background, CAMP — which actually stands for “Construzione Articoli Montagna Premana” (articles for mountaineering made in Premana) — produces a full line of mountaineering gear, although only a small selection is available in the U.S. Their most compelling products though from a skier’s perspective are the ultralightweight items, which are especially popular among rando racers. Shown in the picture below are some of my favorites.
At the bottom (in red) is the Corsa Nanotech aluminum ice axe, but with steel inserts in the pick and spike. The weight penalty for the strategically placed steel is trivial, but the performance improvement is noticeable. (As for the sandpaper-like material on the grip and slight curvature to the shaft, I’ve never been quite sure what that’s about on anything other than a technical ice tool, which this is definitely not.)
In the middle of the background is an older version of the XLP 290 (replaced by the XLP 290 Evo, and more recently by the Rapid 260), which although originally designed for rando racing has continued to serve as my favorite pack for outings that are either relatively short or very close to civilization. To the right is the ALP 95 climbing harness: yes, the model name really is its approximate weight (in a size Small, although almost anyone is going to need at least a Medium) and I really have hung in it (reasonably comfortably) for about 10-15 minutes.
The green crampons are the fully clip-on XLC 390 (yes, again pretty much their real-world weight), which are also available (with a small weight penalty) in heel bail + toe strap as well as all-strap versions. The red crampons at the top and bottom of the picture are the XLC Nanotech (shown here in semi-automatic, but also available as fully automatic) with steel inserts at the front points, which are also thereby elongated a bit.
Also shown are a few carabiners, plus an older (in blue) XLA 210 ice axe, since replaced by the ever-so-slightly lighter Corsa (which unfortunately lacks a shaft plug in the very shortest 50cm version). Not shown is the Pulse helmet, which is certified for both skiing and climbing.
And in the picture below are some new arrivals.
The green 8.5-ounce Speed is the lightest UIAA-certified helmet, so a popular choice among rando racers, and quite comfy too. The 8.9-ounce Crest snow shovel is designed to just barely meet the official rando race requirements. The only other purpose I can think of it would be a little snow play fun with my toddler daughter. It’s that minimal, and also that incapable of doing any damage (as well as any good in an avalanche rescue). For some odd reason the shovel includes a rather full-featured 3-ounce carry bag (which I’m sure will come in handy for other purposes). By contrast with the shovel, the 4.8-ounce carbon fiber probe though is 240cm long and can actually be used for real probing.
The Rapid 260 weighs, well, you can probably guess, and is a very nice (albeit probably not very durable) pack overall (given the inherent limits of its 20-liter capacity), complete with separate boot crampon compartment and quick-attachment ski system. Add another 10 grams for the attachment system to carry your lagging teammate’s skis, and then another 20 grams for the partially stretchy webbing to tow your teammate. (Seriously — this is allowed in team races!) At first I was stumped by a little string that seem to have been left by accident on the sternum strap buckle. But ahh, instead of having to squeeze the little sides to release the buckle, you just yank on the string which in turn opens the buckle — super slick!
The HMS Nitro biner is amazingly light for an HMS biner (although the BD Vaporlock appears to have a 3g edge). The bottle holders allow pretty much any pack to be upgraded to quick water bottle access on your pack straps in front, like with Dynafit packs.
CAMP isn’t well known for its clothing (at least in North America), but the designs are highly innovative. The G Comp Wind are typical soft shell lightweight gloves, but when your fingers briefly get a bit cold, instead of having to dig around in your pack for some overmittens or bulkier gloves, instead you just deploy a basic nylon mitten from the glove’s cuff. (Note the glove sizing runs really tight: I’ve never had to use a glove larger than Medium, but the CAMP Medium is very very tight on me, and I probably should have ordered a Large.) This “WindMit’N” is also available separately for use with other brands of gloves. And of course the mittens weigh only half an ounce (per pair!) and stash away into a pouch so small that you can fit them in your pack’s hip pouches.
The Flash Competition Anorak continues the theme of being in too much of a rush to access your pack. The jacket folds up into a small pouch that is secured with its waist strap. When you’re ready to ski and put on an extra layer, the four-ounce (size Medium) water-resistant jacket goes on without needing to remove your pack, thanks to a cut-out in the pack. The water-resistant Flash Competition pants have a full side zip and weigh in at only 3.8 ounces (size Medium) for those days when you want some back-up for your soft shell pants or race suit, but don’t need full waterproof protection.
With all my CAMP gear, I often find myself wondering how it can possibly be so light? Apparently CAMP is meanwhile wondering how it can be made even lighter! The XLC 390 crampons are a prime example. With a real-world weight of just over 14 ounces, they’ve provided me the secure footing I need to climb anything I’m going to ski, and they attach very securely to my ski boots.
But wait, there’s more — or rather, less, as in, less weight that is. The new Tour 350 crampon drops 40 grams by switching from 12 points to only 10. Then the new Race 290 drops yet another 60 grams. A very nice storage-oriented crampon pouch is included, but the crampons fold small enough to fit in a TSA-approved ziploc bag (although probably not TSA-approved as carry-on luggage).
How? First, a metal connector can still be swapped in, but the spec weight is based on using the Dyneema connector (which also allows the crampons to be folded into themselves for an incredibly small package). Second, instead of the typical heel bail, the rear attachment snaps into the boot’s Dynafit/”Tech” interface.
So how well does this work? I probably won’t be using these “for real” until the spring, and we currently have almost no snow of any kind (after our October powder bonanza — oh the irony!). The user manual does caution though that the front portion of the crampon will not be as stable with the Dyneema connector (as opposed to the optional metal bar). Just playing around with it inside, I do notice a bit more wiggle up front. A very tight and precise length for the Dyneema connector seems to be critical. Fortunately, adjustment is continuous (as opposed to predefined holes as with a metal connector bar). Unfortunately, the user manual also warns of some loosening after the first half hour of use. So my plan is to use it a couple times for some dawn patrols at ski areas (when I could simply be skinning instead, ugh), to get any slack out of the system, then retighten after each practice session. (Retightening in the field would be relatively easy though, although a bit time-consuming. Just loosen up two flathead screws on each connector, pull in the Dyneema a bit, then secure both screws again.)
The Dynafit/”Tech” heel connection seems very secure. Attaching is a bit difficult if you’re just holding the ski boot in your hands (as opposed to wearing the boot), but that’s a concern only for indoor adjustments of course. Undoing the crampon at the heel is very easy, whether with boot on or off.
Now let’s see, what other ultralight gear item could CAMP possibly lighten up next?
[Dec 18 '11 edit/update: As detailed in my various stream-of-consciousness comments, based on the Dynafit TLT5/DyNA (which is probably one of the more difficult sole designs to fit), set up as-is with the Dyneema connectors (I didn’t bother testing the metal bars), the fit is rather loose for general ski mountaineering use (although they always stayed on during my short practice sessions), and probably more well-suited to very straightforward boot ladders at races. (The relatively loose fit is a function of both the maximum achievable tightness of the Dyneema, and the way the rear heel nubbin fits up against the back of the ski boot sole.)
But with just several minutes of work (learned from several hours of testing & sleuthing…), dremmel off the heel’s rear nubbin/stopper, dremmel off ~4mm of the heel pins (plus round off the sharp ends a bit), fiddle with dialing in the correct length of the Dyneema, and the fit is very secure. (This tight fit is a function of both the additional tightness thereby achieved of the Dyneema, and the way the heel "throw" is cradled up against the end of the boot sole.]
(WildSnow guest blogger Jonathan Shefftz lives with his wife and daughter in Western Massachusetts, where he is a member of the Northfield Mountain and Thunderbolt / Mt Greylock ski patrols. Formerly an NCAA alpine race coach, he has broken free from his prior dependence on mechanized ascension to become far more enamored of self-propelled forms of skiing. He is an AIARE-qualified instructor, NSP avalanche instructor, and contributor to the American Avalanche Association’s The Avalanche Review. When he is not searching out elusive freshies in Southern New England or promoting the NE Rando Race Series, he works as a financial economics consultant.)