Useful Travel Items: walking crampons

It’s winter, it’s time to be heading off to the ice and snow to meet Santa, look for the Northern Lights and go dogsledding etc. So it’s time to tell you how to get about in your winter wonderland.

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Yaktrax coiled up

Low-profile crampons. Mine are Yaktrax Pros, which are a kind of rubber harness that fit around your boots, with steel coils around the bottom and the sides are held together by a velcro strap, which is missing in the plain Yaktrax version.

Yaktrax on my shoes

Of course, there are thousands of variants on this idea. Those catalogues from Mould-on-the-Wold that fall out of weekend newspapers always sell a studded version, Betterware has them and every outdoor shop in the whole UK will sell either Yaktrax or a studded/spiked version – although only in winter, as I learnt when I walked in to buy mine on the very day they’d put their stock away for the summer. Why I was buying crampons out of season, I can’t remember. Probably the same reason I bought snowchains for my car in March.

They’re really good! Yaktrax’s coils, however, don’t grip sheet ice at all. The sort with studs or mini spikes might do better.

Path of sheet ice in Iceland

This stuff, for example. You need actual mountaineering crampons to walk on this.

But for getting around small snowy towns in Lapland there’s nothing better. Or for getting anywhere near Skogafoss in winter – they’re no good for walking on glaciers or serious hiking but for hopping off the tour bus and taking photos, they’re unbeatable.

(However, I have my doubts about whether you’re allowed to take them in your hand luggage.)

They’re a pain to get on. I find it’s absolutely necessary to sit down because of the effort involved in st-re-tc-ing the things over my boots – or maybe I bought them a size too small. It’s good tough rubber, which stretches but reluctantly and you have to make sure it’s well and truly hooked on at heel and toe otherwise they will ping off, regardless of any velcro security straps. Forcing them on to take the photo, I wonder how I ever got them over my boots, which are slightly bigger than these shoes (but still damp & filthy from walking in Wales a little over two weeks ago, so they’re going nowhere near my creamy-white photo blanket.) Maybe it’s easier when you’re wearing them to get enough resistance to pull them back. Anyway, it’s worth the effort to be able to walk safely and without too much fear.

Yaktrax being stretched over my shoe

This picture in no way indicates how much effort has been involved in stretching, pulling and holding – and the Yaktrax aren’t even nearly on yet.

I would like to finish by telling you of my efforts to make some snowchains for my wellies.

Snowchains for wellies

This, I now realise, was doomed to failure. The chain is from B&Q and although I can’t find it on their website because this was years ago, I feel like it’s galvanised zinc? Either way, it had to be delicate enough that I could open it up with pliers as if I’m making jewellery. Proper tough chain doesn’t open with pliers. This stuff opens just fine – but bending it weakens it, really weakens it. It just snaps along the bend. It’s so fragile that it was almost impossible to put together and of course, it doesn’t stay on the wellies, it just falls straight off. I had so many plans to hold it on – velcro, bungee cord, more chain across the top, clip it to the top of the welly etc but nothing worked. And years ago as this was, we haven’t had enough snow to bother trying again since. I’m pretty sure the chains are still in the corner of my room. Maybe I’ll have another go this winter.

So, there are ice-grippers both professional and hopelessly, hilariously, amateur. Take your pick.