I’m just going to pre-warn you, this is not going to sound like an objective review and it will certainly sound like I’m gushing but rest assured that this praise is 100% warranted. The Cassin Blade Runner Crampons are the best crampons we’ve ever used or tested. We’ll cover all the details below.
On first glance the Cassin Blade Runner Crampons look deadly awesome. We’ll start at the front. The blade runner come set up as vertical mono-point for mixed and vertical ice climbing. The front point has just enough downward curve to keep you well planted in the ice. The teeth engage well when dropping your heal to lock in the secondary points. We tested these on pretty much every type of ice condition you could encounter from bullet hard ice to super slushy, ice climbing in the rain, ice. From 1 inch thick to 18 inch thick hero ice. We consistently got good sticks on the first kick, making for a much funner, and easier, day out on the ice. We had very little shearing (foot popping), and far less than dual points from other brands that climbed the same routes. We also tested these on some mixed routes. As you would expect, the mono-point crabbed onto small incuts really well and the small points to either side of the main front point (we call them sub-points) are great for giving added stability when standing on bigger rock nubs.
Cassin (Camp-USA), made some awesome design decisions to aid with making the stability and kick of the Blade Runner heads above the rest. The most notable is the dropped heel platform. Instead of the usual metal tabs on the crampon base behind the heel Cassin removed the tabs and dropped the heal platform about 1/2″. This creates a vertical base that the front of the heal presses against. This allows the full foot to be a part of the kick by pressing in from the heel on forward through the toes. This made sticking those kicks even easier, even in hard ice, but also helped to save toes from repeatedly ramming into the end of the boot. Some testers mentioned that the slightly dropped heal also made walking on sketchy terrain more stable. One thing to note here is that Cassin added small downward facing points on the heel slide that most crampons are missing. You don’t often need them but anyone that has walked in crampons much knows that every once in a while you step on a small icy bulge that makes you slip until some of the other points can make contact with the ice. This isn’t a huge deal, but most all of our testers noted as being a nice touch. I should also note that the design and arrangement of the 13/14 points on these crampons was well thought out. All testers reported very good contact with the ground while walking on snow and ice. This can be very critical where even the approaches and belay ledges for some ice routes are very dangerous if slips occur.
Instead of a single curved bar that slides for sizing the crampons the Blade Runner crampons have a two-bar heal slide design. This made for a much stiffer crampon, that aids in kicking as mentioned above, as well as standing for extended periods on front points on vertical ice. The one downside that we discovered here is that you have to actually size down the crampons to fit them into some crampon bags and backpack pockets designed for crampons. These do not allow you to just slide the front and back halves together without adjusting the size. Sizing the crampons is easy. Just lift a flexible metal tab while you adjust heel slide to the correct size. It was a minor inconvenience for some of our testers. The toe bail fit most boot brands well. We did have to offset the bail for Zamberlan boots by putting the bail in different holes on either side of the crampon.
Adjustability for terrain and sport is another area where the Cassin Blade Runner crampons really shine. You can easily change from mono to dual points with a few turns of a hex key. You can also switch out the vertical front points for horizontal if you’re heading off for an alpine adventure. You can even stow the vertical points for easy changes on the route, if you’re climbing a route that varies from snow to vertical ice. This is a really nice feature which allows you to have the best crampon setup for each type of terrain instead of having to decide if you want to wear crampons that will be better for vertical ice or glacier travel. Just pack the extra points and hex key and you’re all set.
The front platform of the Cassin Blade Runner crampon is made of chromoly steel, a good choice as chromoly has a long history as a very durable material and one that can take a lot of repeated stress without failure. The heel and heel slide are made of durable Sandvik Nanoflex steel. This is a lighter stainless steel that allows Cassin to reduce weight on a part of the crampons that do not have to endure as much abuse as the front platform. The Blade Runner crampons also come with anti-balling plates that did a great job at keeping snow from building up under-foot. To further add to the versatility you also get semi-automatic toe bail for use with boots that do not have a toe welt. Great for when you want to use a lighter weight boot for lower angle terrain where you may not be using crampons all the time.
Bottom line: The Cassin Blade Runner crampons do a lot of things very well. We were most thrilled with the vertical mono-point setup, where design features and flaws really become apparent. But, the vertical dual-point and horizontal dual-point performance was also very good. The design and finish on these is top notch. There are two sizes to fit a variety of foot sizes. We can’t see how anyone would be anything other than thrilled with the performance of the Cassin Blade Runner crampons.