expedition kit advice series

Written by Jocelyn Broad Photography by Secret Compass

Packing the right kit is an essential part of any expedition and using the wrong kit in extreme locations can have sever consequences, putting your safety at risk and jeopardising your expedition.

Icy or loose terrain, typical in alpine conditions, call for a specific type of footwear. If you need crampons, your boots need to be compatible. So – with a little help from our in-house Project Manager, the fountain of all expedition knowledge and self-confessed kit geek Bryony – here’s our mountain footwear guide to make sure you make the right decisions where it counts.

Alpine Skills on Georgia'a Mount Kazbek with Secret Compass and Phil de Beger Secret Compass leader and mountain expert Phil de Beger summits in Georgia safe in the knowledge he has the right boots and the right crampons for the adventure in hand.

What are crampons?




plural noun: crampons

  1. a metal plate with spikes fixed to a boot for walking on ice or rock climbing.

What is a mountaineering boot?

Fundamentally the main difference between crampon compatible mountaineering boots and ‘normal’ hiking boots is that crampon mountaineering boots have a stiff ‘shank’. This means they won’t flex and pop out of crampons, unlike ‘normal’ hiking boots which are easily bent as they connect with the terrain. Hiking boots will usually have minimal insulation compared with their mountaineering counterparts which are far warmer, purely a bi-product of their more rugged design.

Kurdistan, Line of walkers in deep snow
Team photo

What is the B rating?

Mountaineering boots come in three ratings:  B1, B2 and B3 – these mainly refer to how suitable the boot is for different activities and how ‘stiff’ the boot is, and therefore which crampons will work.

B1: All-round four season walking boots

These are designed for long days and a small amount of winter hill walking, they will have a stiffened midsole and often feature reinforced uppers or rubber rands and are compatible with C1 crampon only.

B2: Boots for long days in snowy conditions

The midsole and the upper will be stiffened on these boots whilst maintaining a small amount of flex. This allows comfortable walking even if not using crampons. As a general rule, the reinforced upper will add more warmth to the boot than you may find in a B1. These boots can be paired with C1 or C2 crampons.

B3: Technical mountaineering boots

With the stiffest all-round construction, B3 rated boots are designed with technical mountaineering and mixed/ice climbing in mind. There are a wide range of designs from lightweight, technical, climbing boots to double layer, plastic, high-altitude versions and can be paired with the full range of crampons, i.e. C1, C2, C3.

B0: Not suitable for Crampons

Normal hiking boots are occasionally referred to as B0 as they are not suitable for use with crampons. Even with flexible linking bars, crampons will not be able to flex as much as these boots and consequences can be brutal.

How do crampons & boots work together?

As boots are rated B1, B2 or B3, crampons have a rating system of C1, C2 or C3 which also refers to flexibility. As a rule, your boot rating should match or exceed the rating of your crampon. So:

B1 boot – Should only be used with C1 crampons.

B2 boot – Can be paired with C1 or C2 crampons.

B3 boot – Can be used with C1, C2 or C3 crampons.

Read the kit list

Depending on the mountaineering expedition you may or may not embark on, ensure you have read the kit list as provided in your handbook to make sure you get the correct crampon compatible boots necessary.

Buying mountaineering boots

Due to the reinforcements of the boot midsoles and uppers, crampon compatible boots may fit differently to a B0 boot. Depending on your expedition, you may also have to take into account the effects of altitude or temperature on the size and shape of your feet. For this reason, we strongly recommend visiting a specialist outdoor store where they can measure your feet and offer advice on the appropriate boot.

If you would prefer to hire boots, instead of purchasing them, we would still make sure you know the size and brand which is most suitable for your foot shape first – and bring a comprehensive blister kit.

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