Overall: Five Stars for the baseline option among CAMP’s four different aluminum crampon models. You can go a bit lighter – see my reviews of the Race 290 and Tour 350. Or you can go with a bit more bite – see my review of the XLC Nanotech. But the XLC 390 is an excellent all-around choice.
Background on product familiarity: I’ve used various CAMP aluminum crampons since the 1990s. Among current models, I used the XLC Nanotech for one season, the XLC 390 for several seasons, and the Race 290 for the last couple seasons. I tried the anti-balling plates (optional additional-cost purchase), but decided I didn’t like the fit complications, albeit minor (ditto for weight penalty), especially since I’ve ever experienced only the most trivial balling (given my typical climbing conditions). I climb only what I will ski, so the steepest has been only in the low 50s, and on what I would consider ice but what ice climbers would probably consider merely firm snow.
First, the first impressions out of the box: If you’re accustomed to steel crampons, or even some competing aluminum crampons, then you’re in for a shock at the weight savings. The points are noticeably duller and less aggressively designed than with a steel crampon, but these obviously aren’t intended for vertical ice climbing or mixed climbing.
Fit is easy to set up and sufficiently secure (although my experience is only up to around 302 bsl). The toe bail could be narrower, and I suppose you could try bending it for a tighter fit. But with the length dialed in correctly, I’ve never had any problems at the toe.
The “macro” length adjustment is via a single flathead screw through the threaded frame and into one of 15 holes in the connecting bar. If your bsl is shorter than around 287mm, then you will probably have to slice off some excess length on the bar. All the crampons I’ve seen lack a nut at the end of the screw. Maybe this is unnecessary, but I added one for additional security (whether merely perceived or otherwise).
The “micro” length adjustment is via a kind of “thumb screw” on the back of the heel clip: okay for bare hands inside, but probably difficult if you ever needed to adjust it in the field with numb and/or gloved fingers. The strap length is very easy to crank tightly upon each use.
Second impressions, in use: The strap length stays appropriately tight in use. I read a criticism that the buckle’s quick release can be difficult to manipulate, but I’ve always used thin gloves with these, so no problems for me personally. Climbing purchase has always been sufficient.
Third impressions, for long-term durability: I’ve read criticisms of aluminum crampon durability. But I’ve never seen a picture of a broken crampon point, whether CAMP or another brand. (I have seen a broken toe bail on another brand, but with a much different design.) The points will definitely dull more quickly from even limited and careful walking on rocks, but a few seconds with a file will restore the original point.
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