Dynafit Cramp-In Crampons — A for Innovation


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | May 6, 2019      

Gary Smith

Pulling Cramp-Ins in the Elk Mountains, Capitol Peak towering in the distance.

Pulling Cramp-Ins in the Elk Mountains, Capitol Peak towering in the distance.

Many have lamented the “Speed Nose” toe Dynafit includes on a number of their boot models. Scroll through the Wildsnow archives and you will find comments such as, “The one drawback in the Hoji Boot’s design is the unfortunate inclusion of the Speed Nose.” That’s from me six months ago. Lou’s concerns are known as well. While it’s common for discussion of the Speed Nose limitations to lament incompatibility with bindings such as the Shift as well as incompatibility with “normal” crampons, my concerns are more about having a strong, effective “real” crampon. Dynafit’s minimalist aluminum Cramp-In solution is innovative, but how “real” is it? How much should I really be concerned — how rad do I really get climbing in my ski boots? How often am I kicking blue ice with serious fall potential?

I have used Dynafit’s Cramp-In with my Hoji Pro Tour boots for about a month now. Dynafit’s party line is these are more upgrade than band-aid for non-technical ski boot crampons — that they’re “real.” My impressions, after 8,000 vertical feet or so of steep snow booting and rocky ridgeline traverses on the Cramp-In’s, are largely positive and align with Dynafit, with a few concerns.

The Cramp-In requires a small custom installed fitting on the sole of the boot. With a razor knife, you cut out the 1×4 cm rectangle stamped in the sole under the toe of the boot. After removing your liner (or leave in if you want it ventilated), you drill out the two pre-dimpled holes that you have exposed, with 8mm bit, then clean holes with round file. Place the inner plate with two screws installed inside boot and hold with one hand. Then place the exterior plate in place with notch facing forward. Tighten the screws firm using a 3 mm hex key.

Cramp-In receptacle- drilled for  and installed.

Cramp-In receptacle, drilled for and installed.

Length adjustment is a tool-free breeze. The crafty folks at Dynafit machined a hex hole in the toe portion of the Cramp-In. Use this “wrench” to ease the hex head on the peg at the rear of each connecting cable a quarter turn or so. Turn peg 90 degrees, slide it along the numbered notches in the heel track, and rotate back. Tighten the hex head and test on the boot for a solid lock.

Tool-less length adjustment.

Tool-less length adjustment.

Attaching the Cramp-In in the field is best described as “foreign yet simple.” The dashed line printed on the toe part is where the front edge of your boot should line up at first, then with your boot centered, slide the Cramp-In back (or boot forward with crampon stuck in snow) until the front edge of the boot aligns with the solid line. Clip the heel bail over the boot heel lug and attach the lightweight webbing around the ankle with adjustable buckle. If you miss you know it, you absolutely can not install your boot in the Cramp-In without it correctly attached to the boot fitting.

Dashed lines help with this otherwise blind attachment system.

Dashed lines help with this otherwise blind attachment system.

In theory, you can set the Cramp-In on the snow and step in. I haven’t pulled this off, though I would imagine it possible on firm flat snow. Install in steep terrain or unconsolidated snow requires hooking the toe by hand and holding tension while securing the rear lever. Take a quick seat balance on the opposite leg to do so. Note the symmetrical attachment points means symmetrical Cramp-Ins. They’re not left and right specific. This is particularly helpful in technical terrain where gear management can be a challenge. On multiple occasions I was spiked up and breaking out the boot pack while partners were still sorting their lefts and rights. Being first can be nice, unless it means you’re the one doing the work. So in that regard I’d go 50/50 with how “advantageous” the Cramp-Ins are in terms of how fast you can put them on. Sometimes speed isn’t everything.

Prior to using the Cramp-Ins, I was concerned about snow build-up on the boot sole notch complicating attachment to the boot. This has turned out to be less of an issue than I thought, but still can happen. The hook on the Cramp-In is sharp and the boot attachment point is hollow to the rear. This combo pushes snow or ice out of the back of the receptacle. I have yet to begin a bootpack without spikes, only to find I needed them at some point on the climb. I’m thinking this could pack snow more forcefully under the boot attachment bar. Also, wetter climates could also pose more of a challenge with snow build. I’ll keep testing.

Low weight and packability are the key bonuses of the Cramp-In system. At about 160 grams each, the Cramp-Ins are among the lightest crampons out there – hardly perceptible on your boots. They also fold over on themselves and pack neatly. I’ve seen this packability in other ultralight models using a textile linking bar and tech heel attachment. The dual steel cable linkage and traditional heel bail on the Cramp-In are more secure.

Light as a feather, Cramp-Ins balancing after a steep alpine climb.

Light as a feather, Cramp-Ins balancing after a steep alpine climb.

More on the solid attachment: I am truly impressed. Brand specific design helps here. The heel unit aligns exactly with the rear edge of my Hojis while vertical wings are tight laterally. The simple heel bail snugs up the dual cables with a reassuring clunk. The toe unit has little play — similar to any well fit automatic crampon latching over a front toe lug.

Perfect snug fit between Cramp-In and Hoji Pro Tour.

Perfect snug fit between Cramp-In and Hoji Pro Tour.

The short aluminum front points have enough purchase for vertical boot packing, in any type of snow. On an endless 3,000 foot booter we subbed in sessions of French stepping to save our calves. Grip was good here here as well, though I did have some balling under both toe and heel that had to be cleared. Recently while climbing in warming powder snow, I balled up so much that every fourth step required a pole whack or tap to the opposite boot. Plastic anti-balling plates would have been worth their weight penalty in gold! After that climb, I agree with Lou’s stated policy that anti balling plates are a must on any crampon, I hope to see them on Cramp-In 2.0.

In my opinion, these are not technical mountaineering or vertical ice crampons and should not be relied on as such. But I did anyway, after all, is this not testing? I have front pointed and scrambled alpine granite in the Cramp-Ins without any slop or damage. Likewise, while you could probably make a go of it with the Cramp-Ins, long sessions on blue ice should always be kicked at with steel.

Other gripes? At $200, Cramp-Ins should come with a durable carrying case to protect the other contents of your pack from their 10 aluminum points. A punctured Red Bull can in my pack would have agreed. I have repurposed a Pomoca skin bag for carrying, though a specifically sewn bag of heavier material would contain their fangs and take advantage of the Cramp-In packability.

I have concerns about the boot modification weakening the boot sole shank, and I’m watching for rounding out the drilled holes or other issues. A lot of force is directed at the small hook. Time will tell.

I am also leary of the Cramp-In fitting making my boots colder due to the conductive metal under the most vulnerable part of my feet. The first few days with the system installed were unseasonably cold, and I felt the Cramp-In receptacle exaggerated that. This could be a paranoia, as I’m preparing for a trip to the Alaska Range, and a big part of that is anticipating extremes. I may remove the hardware and plug as I will be bringing semi-automatic steel crampons up the Great One.

Simple, solid, and light — I like the Cramp-In for non-technical, steep, or frozen snow travel. I will keep tabs on the boot modifications longevity and balling issues. Please comment below with your Cramp-In take. Being a new product, we want to get as much dialogue going as possible!

(WildSnow guest blogger Gary Smith is an avid backcountry skier and ski mountaineer residing in Eagle County, Colorado. You can find him at Cripple Creek Backcountry in Vail when he is not in search of the next descent. Please visit @g.allen.smith on Instagram for ski shots and snippets of mountain life.)



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Comments

20 Responses to “Dynafit Cramp-In Crampons — A for Innovation”

  1. Other Aaron May 6th, 2019 10:54 am

    Why not just use the Tech fittings to attach the Crampon? Proski Service in North Bend offers a toe only one (https://www.proskiservice.com/tech-crampon.html). I imagine it would not be too much effort to add heel plate and tension lever

  2. Lou Dawson 2 May 6th, 2019 11:45 am

    Old news, but nice.

    https://www.wildsnow.com/14513/tech-crampon-250-techpon-skiing/

    No way to really know why Dynafit chose to not attach ‘pons to toe fittings. I sure like the idea. I suppose it could be patented.

    Lou

  3. Kristian May 6th, 2019 1:37 pm

    A USPS tyvek mailing envelope can be used for light weight durable crampon storage.

  4. Other Aaron May 6th, 2019 2:51 pm
  5. etto May 6th, 2019 4:20 pm

    Any experience scrambling on rock with the metal cleat on the boot sole?

    As far as I know there are at least two companies using the tech fittings for attaching crampons, Camp and Kreuzspitze https://lnx.kreuzspitze.com/wp/ramponi-skialp/?lang=en

  6. Stefan Requat May 7th, 2019 9:12 am

    I used them for about 9 Skitours in the alps – they are working very well – but i never would take them for HauteRoute in Spring or equivalent – why:

    There is no snow anti stick plate with them – and the font plate should be made of niro-steel for better safety in even short rock passages- (the little more weight should be no problem). Maybe i adapt the Leopard Steel front plate myself for the Hoji´s, this looks like an easy possible job, just drilling some small holes……

    The walking feeling is very good – they are much more stable connected to the sole then the Petzl Leopard which i used for HauteRoute etc.

    Mounting was easy, somtetimes a little tricky because of ice clogging the mounting plate slot- but mounting was managabel at any time – and the mounting was possible usually very fast.

    The steel mounting plate in the sole was never an issue -you dont feel it or step on it – perfekt – and i walked quite a lot with my Hoji boots.

  7. Gary S May 7th, 2019 12:28 pm

    Sounds like we are all on about the same page with these, good to hear.

    I agree that Dynafit should have worked harder to incorporate the toe fittings, they invented them after all. The rear tech fitting closure is bogus though in my opinion after using the CAMP race style for awhile.

    Etto, I have walked a lot on rock with the fitting installed and without cramp-ins on. they only time you feel it is when you step on a pebble or raised spot directly on that spot.

    Thanks Kristan for the tip, will give it a shot!

  8. Charlie Hagedorn May 8th, 2019 11:41 am

    How do the cables hold up to scrambling across rock/talus? Seems like almost every time I have crampons on, I’m on rock at least 5% of the duration.

  9. Matus May 9th, 2019 3:06 am

    Sometimes it seems that Dynafit is testing what kind of strange concept the customers will buy.. expensive crampons that solve the problem generated by expensive Dynafit boots with useless speed nose…No real innovation considering the financial power they have (compare it to small companies like ATK).

  10. Gary Smith May 9th, 2019 6:47 am

    Charlie- well so far. It’s a stout cable that’s coated. I don’t see an issue as long as there a bit of focus to step where you get a more solid purchase the ball of the foot. Will keep an eye on the heel adjustment area as it seems that the spot that could take some rock damage.

    Matus- It does seem that way at times huh? Looking at financial power, I think Dynafit is feeling the squeeze on the other end the Amer sports et al. OIberalp is quite small comparatively and is trying to differentiate.

    I tried to work in more commentary in the article regarding the speed nose but it was awkward. After a full season in it and then switching to a Tecnica Zero G, I do think there’s validity. Remarkable difference in walk between those 2. I can even feel a more forward pivot point in my Scarp Aliens. Worth not having a very small front lug in the Hoji tour? not sure we’ll ever know!

  11. wtofd May 9th, 2019 2:10 pm

    Gary, sorry for the dumb question. You are saying the speed nose is faster/better?

  12. Lenka K. May 9th, 2019 3:51 pm

    @Gary Smith
    Tecnica Zero G version 1 (pre 2018-19) or the newest version? Because the original version has a very long sole with a very long front edge to accomodate alpine soles. I find it very awkward to walk/scramble in compared to a normal skitouring boot (old Dynafit Zzero).

  13. Lou Dawson 2 May 9th, 2019 5:04 pm

    Might as well keep going on my Speed Nose commentary (smile). A crampon groove/shelf for automatic crampons can be included on a “short sole” boot, Dynafit already did it on the original TLT, which was quite a fine boot for its time, and popular. I totally agree you can feel the shorter sole of Hoji while walking without skis. On the other hand, the feeling of fittings slightly farther rearward might be psychological, but could be real.

    I can share that yesterday I was tasked with packing my ski gear for the PNW. Louie said “bring crampons.” My Hojis are the only boot I have right now that really working for my messed up ankle, so I have to bring them. I do not have any crampons for them. Out of desperation I brought a set of running shoe “icers,” you know, those things with the rubber bands that hold them on your feet? Will make a good photo for a blog post. (smile)

  14. Gary S May 9th, 2019 7:11 pm

    wtofd- I would call it some fraction more efficient ya, which would translate in to speed or reduced fatigue.

    Lenka- The newest 0G, lighter than Hoji and a pretty short 300ish bsl in 26.5 vs 291mm Hoji. The poorer walk is more a product of being an overlap boot, but I could tell the pivot is further out. Felt it on my Alien RS again today. Difference is the Alien has pretty much zero resistance making up for the pivot point.

    I think the Speed Nose efficiency is legitimate and noticeable in the field, probably not worth the Crampon hassle. Less slippage on steep skin tracks might be the biggest noticeable difference. Would rather have a groove as Lou mentioned with the TLT6 and before.

  15. Sky May 10th, 2019 6:59 am

    Lou, why not take some techpons!?

  16. Lou Dawson 2 May 10th, 2019 1:01 pm

    TLT 5,6 also have nice short non-DIN soles you notice when you walk them without skis, the toe fittings could perhaps be a few mm farther back. One thing to remember is locating the fittings are farther back makes it hard to shape a sole that both triggers binding closure when entering binding as well as not hitting the binding when the boot pivots up, it’s a very tight interdependence. Hoji could have easily had a toe like TLT 5,6, they already had the CAD data for making the mold. But yeah, props for innovation. Lou

  17. XXX_er May 11th, 2019 10:23 am

    Beating this horse to death once more

    putting a rando racing toe on a free-ridey type boot so it doesn’t fit free-ridey bindings, doesnt fit any frame binding, doesnt fit the prospective buyers crampons might be innovative but its questionable how much gear this will sell which is kind of the point of making the gear ?

    the back county shop i frequent told me altho many people liked the Hoji boot they missed some sales because the boot did not fit the binding/ski setup they had sold the customer last year

    its a huge stretch for me to believe the speed toe on the Hoji pro was Hoji’s idea, when we have the Hoji free coming out 1 year later with a real toe

  18. retsalb May 12th, 2019 2:50 pm

    I’ve had good success with light DIYing my automatic crampons to semi auto ones that work well with my Hoji’s. I picked up a pair of Petzl Fil Flex Toe Bail’s for $40, which fit quite well into the toe bail holes for my BD sabretooths. Just run the heel bail strap through the loop on the toe bails and the attachment is quite solid. I’ve put over 6,000 feet of booting on that setup and they have held up great. The only downside is the front points stick out a little bit more than normal, which makes extended front pointing harder.

  19. Eric Steig May 13th, 2019 9:47 pm

    What’s wrong with a semi-auto crampon for the Speednose?

    Or for that matter, this thing:

    https://www.bentgate.com/blog/petzl-irvis-hybrid-crampon-review/

    ?

  20. emmanuel May 15th, 2019 8:43 am

    I use the petzl hybrid crampons in the semi-auto configuration with my TLT7 boots (that I really like btw) and they fit very well. Never had any problem.





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