I'm thinking about signing up for the ADK's winter camping class, but I need to bring winter hiking boots and crampons with me to the course.
I have a pair of Asolo TPS 520's that I know are not adequate, but I have no idea what I should be looking for in a plastic winter boot. The same goes for crampons. Cost is not a big issue, but comfort and warmth are.
Any advice from you more experienced folks about what a very experienced 3 season backpacker, but winter novice, should be looking for in winter boots/crampons? I'm mostly interested in hiking/snowshoeing below 3,000 ft on the AT or Long Trail.
What's the standard practice when it comes socks and vapor barriers and how much larger (size-wize) these eat up compared to normal boot sizing?
All suggestions about gear or retailers who know how to fit winter boots would be appreciated. I'm located near Boston, MA but willing to drive a few hours for super service.
Well, for one thing, you aren't limited to plastic boots. There are some excellent winter mountaineering boots out there that are all crampon compatible. The best thing to do is visit your local mountaineering shop and get advice from the experts there. You need to know that there are two types of crampons - those for snow walking and those for ice climbing. Ice climbing crampons are very different, and much more expensive and require rigid soled boots to stay attached. Snow walking crampons are usually "hinged" to allow a more natural gait while walking, although it is still a bit awkward. Most winter boots will have little "lips" on the soles that will help hold crampons in place, but snow walking crampons don't always require this lip. Best thing to do is buy your boots and crampons together so you are assured that they will work well together.
YMMV. Viewer discretion is advised.
I suggest buying a set of Kahtoola aluminum crampons, these strap on and are both light and easy to walk in. I use them in preference to my old steel Stubais and will take them into 7000 ft+ mountains, glacier hardened snow and especially frostcovered, flattened alpine meadow grass, among the slipperiest, most dangerous footings I have encountered.
Obviously, one cannot "frontpoint" with these and they are meant for more flexible footwear, but, they are VERY popular here and work very well. You can also buy these in a steel model, but, I prefer the alloy ones as they are lighter.
For boots, you might look at the "Winter 800", by Meindl and retailed by Cabela's; I can use these to -20*F in comfort and there are other Cabela-Meindl models as well. An insulated NEOS overboot combined with a medium hiker is another combo. that works and the rubber bottom/leather topped "pacs", by Schnee's, Hoffman's, Kenetrek and White's all work well for this and will accept Kahtoolas. Some options and there are others, as in Columbia "Bugabootoo" boots with K's.
Loc: Upstate New York
Earlylite Carl Klinowski, who runs the ADK winter mountaineering courses, is a friend of mine. I'm pretty sure he'd be happy to give you some advice and suggested options for boots and crampons that would be appropriate for Adirondack type conditions, which should work anywhere in the northeast I would think. He'll also be able to tell you what you'll need specifically for the winter mountaineering courses that ADK offers. His email is: cklinowski AT nycap DOT rr DOT com. Incidentally, he works part time at EMS, so he can give you a good run down on anything that EMS sells that his store carries, and he'll give you an honest assessment. Good luck, Gerry Magnes Schenectady, NY