Overall: Four Stars, reflecting a weighted average of Five Stars after some modifications (and tedious length adjustments) combined with something less than that straight out of the box. Alternatively, if you want to save almost as much weight as the Race 290 yet combined with a traditional attachment system, then consider the Tour 350. For a little more bite (from 12 points instead of 10), then consider the XLC 390; for even more bite (from steel front point inserts), then consider the XLC Nanotech.
Background on product familiarity: See my XLC 390 review.
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, even compared to CAMP’s other aluminum models. The other shock is how you can fold up the crampons, because of the flexible Dyneema connector strap. 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. And compared to the XLC 390 (or steel-insert XLC Nanotech), only 10 points instead of 12.
The toe bail is a bit too wide for optimum fit, but that hasn’t caused any noticeable problems on CAMP’s other aluminum models that I’ve used with the same toe bail. However, the combination of the “Tech”-style heel pins (with no micro adjustment) and the lateral play of the Dyneema connector strap entails questionable fit and security without any modifications. During some initial practice sessions, I struggled to set the Dyneema connector length short enough to provide sufficient tension for climbing, yet still loose enough to allow for relatively easy entry and exit.
Eventually, I figured out two very simple yet highly effective modifications: dremmel off the heel’s rear nubbin/stopper, and dremmel off ~4mm of the heel pins (plus round off the resulting sharp ends a bit). Then set the Dyneema connector length as tight as you possibly can for relatively easy entry and exit (facilitated by the springy steel of the rear post of sorts). And practice first (with a large flathead screwdriver at the ready) to see if you can shorten up the strap length any further before using them for real.
Second impressions, in use: With two simple modifications and the length dialed in just right, these are by far my favorite crampons. The modified attachment system has been very secure, although my longest bsl has been 287mm. The weight savings add up, and the packability is outstanding. When anticipating the need to affix crampons yet not wanting to reach inside my pack, I can easily rack them up on a Black Diamond Ice Clipper. (I’ve even folded them inside my pocket just to see if it could be done, but obviously not such a great idea for real!)
Climbing purchase has always been sufficient for me, but the bite of the 10 points is slightly yet sometimes noticeably compromised compared to the 12 points on the XLC 390 (or the steel-insert XLC Nanotech). Personally, with my climbing conditions and comfort level, I’ve been fine with the CAMP 10-point design. But if you’re suspicious of the climbing ability of aluminum crampons, or doubtful of your own climbing abilities, or really want to push the limits of aluminum crampons, then consider instead the 12-point XLC 390 (or steel-insert XLC Nanotech).
If you need to swap crampons among multiple pairs of boots, then look elsewhere: even after I was experienced getting them dialed in just right for a 287mm Dynafit TLT5, adjusting them again took a long time for a 279mm Dynafit EVO, and then ditto for a 279mm Scarpa Alien 1.0 (whose crampon length was about 1.5mm longer than the EVO, yet whose binding length was about 1.5mm shorter).
And finally, as with all CAMP aluminum crampons, 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.
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. The Dyneema strap might seem suspect, but my understanding is that it can easily withstand this kind of application.
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