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Lightweight "Crampons"
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Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
SUL "Crampons" on 02/13/2010 01:49:53 MST Print View

Last weekend when I went hiking with my wife I hadn't expected snow on the mountain. So when we reached the halfway point and found ourselves facing a two hour climb up a slippery slope of 4 centimeter snow we thought about turing back. Then we met a party of six elderly Japanese women who had just descended from the summit. When I first saw them I thought all of their boots had their soles come loose, since all of them were wearing what looked like white ropes tied around the forefoot of their boots, then I realized they were wearing homemade "crampons". They insisted in giving us their pairs for our climb. What they handed us were a pair of 90 cm (3 ft) long ropes made of braided nylon stockings that you wrapped and bound around the shoe, using the sponge-like quality of the nylon to grip the snow. It was ingenious and worked surprisingly well!

Still trying to get around owning a pair of used women's nylon stockings from a woman I've never met before!!! Hope I don't wake up one morning with the police ringing the doorbell to arrest me for stealing women's underwear!




Edited by butuki on 02/13/2010 06:20:44 MST.

Roger B
(rogerb) - MLife

Locale: Here and there
Re: SUL "Crampons" on 02/13/2010 07:13:16 MST Print View

Thanks Miguel for an ingenious idea, will have to try it out. Off to buy some women's nylon stockings.

Colin Krusor

Locale: Northwest US
rope "crampons" on 02/13/2010 08:59:18 MST Print View

These have been in use for centuries in Japan. I recently spent a month in Gunma and Nagano and some of the parks in the mountains have short lengths of jute rope hanging in bunches at the trailhead for hikers to tie around their shoes. I noticed that this is especially common in heavily used parks visited by tourists who go to see the snow monkeys.

The "Yaktrax" and "Ice trekker" cleats sold here in the US are basically an elaboration on this idea, using chain or wire instead of rope.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: rope "crampons" on 02/13/2010 09:17:48 MST Print View

I know that Japanese use grass rope to make "waraji" (sandals) and use them for walking in difficult terrain, especially sawanobori (creek climbing), but in all my years in Japan with many, many mountains under my belt here, I'd never seen these before. It must be something peculiar to Nagano and Gunma, though I've spent lots of time in both places, too. (and the mountain I was walking on was in Shizuoka) Wonder why I never noticed them before? Thanks for the information about them, Colin!

By the way, the "rope" that you saw in Japan probably wasn't jute, but rice straw, "wara". Same stuff used for roof thatching and traditional rain capes (mino).

Edited by butuki on 02/13/2010 09:25:26 MST.

Colin Krusor

Locale: Northwest US
Wara on 02/13/2010 18:24:30 MST Print View

I really like the clever simplicity of this idea. Thanks for the clarification about the composition of those ropes. I was introduced to the idea of sawanobori and traditional straw capes by one of your posts quite a while ago.

I also like the little bells (with little hammers) that hang on posts alongside trails in areas where bears are common. I noticed that very young and very old hikers in Japan seem to be pretty intrepid. I saw two old women climbing up a chain on a rock face on Mt. Myogi in Gunma. There is a lot to admire about conventional hiking practices in Japan.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Re: SUL "Crampons" on 02/13/2010 20:32:54 MST Print View

Hi Miguel,

This idea is a great idea for my "Super Ultra Light - Super Ultra Cheap" gear list.

Thanks for passing this on to us.

Evan Chartier
Thanks on 02/13/2010 21:24:44 MST Print View

Will be trying this out- thanks so much!

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: SUL "Crampons" on 02/13/2010 23:52:02 MST Print View

Colin, the biggest group of hikers and climbers in Japan are the elderly, nearly all of them because they finally have time to get out and enjoy themselves after spending their lives in the office (but also because the younger generation just doesn't get outside anymore). Here is a very common sight you see all over the higher peaks in Japan, that those elderly people regularly climb!

Bill, I've been wondering if you embed tacks or jacks into the braiding as you make the rope if maybe that would make a more ice-worthy item. Will give it a try...

Michael Meiser
(mmeiser) - F

Locale: Michigan
brilliant thread on 12/14/2010 05:06:38 MST Print View

Wow, this is a brilliant thread.

It speaks volumes to the intrinsic knowlege embeded deep in other cultures that is so often and so easily overlooked.

I not only gained a deep insight into Japanese culture... one that now seems obvious to me after stories, photos and first hand accounts from friends and others regarding climbing mount fuji in Japan, but it also reaffirms the value in great research over simply creative thinking, the wisdom carried by elders, the value in digging deep into history and other cultures... and once again the brilliant catalyst that are the Backpacking light message boards. Thank you!

Nylon stockings braided into rope wrapped around shoes for snow traction by little old ladies who climb mountains in Japan. That's brilliant. Positively an original Grandma Gatewood moment. I hope one day as a little old man I will still be hiking up mountains with such practical wisdom.

And btw, the kids these days just don't know what they're missing with their video games and their text messaging. One day they'll learn the simple pleasures and silence to be found in the real world have so much more to teach them then the wonders of cable tv, video games and their IM's. LOL.

But enough salutations!

I'm a UL bicycle tourer, aka. bikepacker... and maybe a sometimes UL backpacker. I've been doing research for months on and off on ultralight snowchains. And I have discovered some pretty ingenious ideas. The most successful of which is zipties thanks to a portland bicycle commuter blog. These work brilliantly on my big fat 29 x 2.1 inch tires with disc brakes so far. We're talking about 3.5 ounces per wheel! Big fat 175lb zip ties. Tremendous traction. Long wear. Light weight.

Have been generally pleased, but then the other day I saw a video from a fellow UL'r and hammocker from MN on Youtube and though I'd seen Yaktrax before I had never given them a second glance. Something about the rubberized material and the metal wire stuck in my head though when he reviewed the product.

You see, there are two small imperfections in my studded tires. First, they do wear on the sidewalls of my tires, eventually this wear could cause the tire to fail. A bit of duck tape alleviates this, but not entirely.

Second, nylon while awesome lacks the ability to dig into ice, i.e. black ice.

As I sat staring at this video rewatching it several times I found myself thinking about the comparisons between crampons on boots and snowchains on tires.

There was something elemental to it.

I didn't even know for sure what it was.

So, I came over hear tonight and started using google to mine references to crampons and yaktrax hoping that some shared issues that I have with snow chains would reveal themselves spontaneously in a discussion on UL crampons.

Oh dear backpacking light members thankyou for you did not disappoint. Thank you most especially to Miguel D Arboleda who started this thread. Thanks for sharing your moment of inspiration.

"When I first saw them I thought all of their boots had their soles come loose, since all of them were wearing what looked like white ropes tied around the forefoot of their boots, then I realized they were wearing homemade "crampons". They insisted in giving us their pairs for our climb. What they handed us were a pair of 90 cm (3 ft) long ropes made of braided nylon stockings that you wrapped and bound around the shoe, using the sponge-like quality of the nylon to grip the snow. It was ingenious and worked surprisingly well!"

Here's what I've learned...

1) The chafing on the tires by my ultralight snowchains, aka. zip ties... is not unlike the maring I experieced on my beautiful leather boots the first time I went snow showing when I was in college. The problem is partly of course that the zip ties have abrasive ridges on them and are made of a harder material (nylon) then the tires. This is resolved by the duct tape. However there is something more I overlooked. The zip ties don't stretch and move like the rubber tires.. What better might I use then an actuall piece of rubber, or even something that's softer then the tire itself.... like nylon, as in ladies nylons. Does this mean I'm going to braid some rope out of ladies nylons? Nope. read on.

2) The second issue i still have is traction on ice. Ice is much harder then snow. My immediate reaction is I need some sort of metal on my UL snow chains however the issue on ice does not necessarily require I have metal twine or metal studs on my snow chains. The truely brilliant thing is I only need something as hard as ice. And what's as hard as ice... well ice. As Miguel seems to suggest the nylons actually collect snow. Over the course of use of these nylons as ultralight crampons the pressure and friction no doubt gradually pads and impregnates these nylons with hardened snow... snow hardened until it to is as hard as ice.

3) this reminds me of one other story, the eskimos would build wood sleds and in the winter they'd pull them out and pour hot water down the runners letting that water freeze, scraping it of and repeating the process again and again. This process saturated the wood with water which would then freeze leaving the runners impregnated with ice as hard as or even harder then the ice and snow they'd be sliding over.

What I'm guessing if I was to find a equivelent to these ladies nylons... something that gave and stretched a tiny bit trapping and collecting snow and ice particles and I was to roll it through hot water in the freezing cold... ride it a bit and then repeat the process again several times... that I'd end up with an ultralight snowchain which would give me enough traction on black ice that I'd at least have predictible traction.

That said... the experiment is not the end intended result. 99% of the time I'm winter touring I'll be on perfectly paved roads. It is only on rare occasions that I'll be in heavy snow and on roads with the potential for black ice. Hence I need something I can install (possibly only on the front tire) in 5-10 minutes and ride for a morning, or a day, or however long it takes until the conditions no longer favor black ice.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: brilliant thread on 12/14/2010 06:30:25 MST Print View

Michael, I had forgotten about this thread, so it was really nice to be reminded of it. And I love the way you took one idea and expanded on it in such a creative and enthusiastic way. You sound like the UL enthusiasts of early BPL, when it seemed every other thread was full of joy and excitement in learning new things and making new kinds of equipment. I miss that excitement.

I hadn't fully thought through the implications of using the soft nylon on snow. You've really hit the nail on the head concerning impregnating the rope and having that turn into an ice-hard and functional "snow chain". I bicycle, too, and many has been the time when I lived in Boston when I slipped and fell on black ice on the icy winter roads on the one and a half hour ride to and from work. I was thinking as I read your ideas that a simple, long length of braided nylon rope wrapped spirally around the wheel would do it, but then thought, "Oh wait, the brakes!" Unless you have disk brakes, of course. (still don't quite understand how you manage to use the brakes with plastic ties, though).

I'd love to see photos of your ideas in use. Please post some if you have a chance.

Great to read your comments!

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
Re: Re: brilliant thread on 12/14/2010 07:25:59 MST Print View

my 2c

you can also use nylon "panty hose" or stockings to remove very fine spines from cactus, stinging nettle, or fibreglass. the fine mesh of the nylon pulls it right out. not that you'll encounter fibreglass in the outback, but who knows!

Michael Meiser
(mmeiser) - F

Locale: Michigan
Re: Re: brilliant thread on 12/14/2010 08:00:18 MST Print View

"I was thinking as I read your ideas that a simple, long length of braided nylon rope wrapped spirally around the wheel would do it, but then thought, "Oh wait, the brakes!" Unless you have disk brakes, of course. (still don't quite understand how you manage to use the brakes with plastic ties, though)."

I do have disc brakes... and clearance for 2.5" tires though I'm using 2.1's. Both are key to my disc brakes.

Basically I'm just putting zipties around the tire and the rim between every other spoke.

BTW, after writing this I went and found an assortment of screws. I then melted wholes in the zip tie with a thin metal meat pick (about a 1 mm round) and tried fitting in a screws of a couple different sizes between 3/8 and 1/4". The screws are all phillips head (no skarp edges) they are held up against the tire by the zip tie. Seems suprisingly strong. I don't think the ziptie will brake so the primary issue is are the screw heads going to damage the tire tread over time. It just might work.

The next step is the pantihose trick. Wish I could think of something better then pantyhose. Perhaps I can find a rope of the right quality. Nylon rope might work, whtever it is it'll have to have a thick outer layer and a fine weave capable of saturating with water and freezing. The advantage of such a trick is that one 4' piece of rope should do the trick, it's a quick weave and then only one knot. I imagine I might be able to come up with some sort of bungie or hook connection instead of a knot making it even easier still.

Will try to post photos soon.

Michael Meiser
(mmeiser) - F

Locale: Michigan
Re: Re: Re: brilliant thread on 12/14/2010 08:01:53 MST Print View

"not that you'll encounter fibreglass in the outback, but who knows!"

Actually fiberglass wick is a common fire insulater on SUL pots and other goodies. Not hard to see someone getting a super fine sliver stuck in the finger and irritated as all heck.

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
Re: Re: Re: Re: brilliant thread on 12/14/2010 08:13:03 MST Print View

AH, thanks Michael... overlooked was my fiberglass insert found in the Zelph stove that i use on every trip.. oh well it was barely 7am here in Phx when i started typing and several minutes before the Casa Ruiz Boquete started to work..

this reminds me of a question that was raised on another forum.. "can fiberglass be used in a (hammock) underquilt?"
haha, go for it, mate.. lol

Edited by mikeinfhaz on 12/14/2010 08:13:52 MST.

Michael Meiser
(mmeiser) - F

Locale: Michigan
Snow Socks on 12/15/2010 09:01:01 MST Print View

Someone just posted this on another forum:

Snow socks... for cars. It's the same concept.

What's more it reminded me of that trick of taking a pair of socks and putting them over your boots in an emergency where you need traction.

The thing is I wonder how it works on ice.

Kevin Beeden
(captain_paranoia) - F

Locale: UK
re: snow socks on 12/16/2010 11:33:06 MST Print View

Sticking socks on over boots, or wrapping your footwear in some coarse weave fabric has long been a way of coping with ice underfoot. The fabric soaks up some water, and this tends to re-freeze in contact with the ice, thus providing some traction.

(for any readers of the 'Cadfael' books, the 12th century monk Cadfael does this in a couple of the books: 'Virgin in the Ice', and 'Raven in the Foregate')

David Lutz

Locale: Bay Area
"Lightweight "Crampons"" on 12/16/2010 17:59:12 MST Print View

First off - Where can I get some of those "Snow Socks" for my car here in the US? That's an awesome idea.

Next - The shells for the down socks I wear in camp are slippery on ice or even hard pack snow. I had the brilliant idea to put Yak Trax over the shells, that was a complete bust.

Maybe I could place a giant wool sock over the shell? Or maybe I could wear a giant wool sock over the down sock without the shell and the down sock would stay dry? ans not compressed too much.

Does anyone have a source for oversize wool socks? Seems like I saw them at an Army Surplus store.

Excellent thread......

Edited by davidlutz on 12/16/2010 18:05:46 MST.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: "Lightweight "Crampons"" on 12/16/2010 18:18:24 MST Print View

What about felt soles for fishing waders?

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: SUL "Crampons" on 05/18/2013 17:45:50 MDT Print View

I really like this idea. It's just so simple.

I braided 2 strands of 2mm accessory cord together and I am going to try it out. It seems to grip well. Just testing it on my carpet with one foot wrapped the unwrapped will slide across while the wrapped will grip and not move.

I have some shoes with really crappy traction and I am going to try them out on slick dirt. It could be a good a solution to some tricky off trail sections until I can get better shoes. And it this works well on snow it could the only option that works well with really flexible and minimal shoes.

For those that have used this method, what's the best cord material? Braided seems like it would grip better.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: SUL "Crampons" on 05/18/2013 18:01:02 MDT Print View

Maybe use #18 guage galvanized wire. Wrap it around foot maybe 4 times. Might work better on ice.