Here we selected and reviewed the best via ferrata equipment. Via ferratas (also referred to as iron trails) are very steep and exposed trails that have steel cables running along them. The steel cable allows you to attach yourself to it with a via ferrata set and climbing harness, thus mitigating the risk of a fatal fall. Additional via ferrata equipment includes a climbing helmet (for protection against falling stones), via ferrata gloves (for firm grip and comfort) and appropriate footwear (for stability and traction on rocky terrain).
In the following we selected and reviewed the best product within each category of via ferrata equipment. If you are new to via ferrata trails, you should first read our article How to Use Via Ferrata Equipment to understand how it works (the article includes many photos for better understanding).
Via ferrata equipment includes:
- Via ferrata set
- Climbing harness
- Climbing Helmet
- Via Ferrata Gloves
- Hiking/mountaineering boots
1. The Best Via Ferrata Equipment Review
- Via Ferrata Set – Petzl Scorpio Eashook
- Climbing Harness – Petzl Aspir
- Climbing Helmet – Petzl Elios
- Via Ferrata Gloves – Black Diamond Crag
- Hiking/Mountaineering Boots – Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid GTX
1. Via Ferrata Set – Petzl Scorpio Eashook
A via ferrata set is used to connect your climbing harness to the steel cable. It consists of an attachment loop, energy-absorption system, lanyards and carabiners. The attachment loop allows you to attach the set to the climbing harness while the carabiners can be hooked to the steel cable. The energy-absorption mechanism is the most important part and ensures that a potential fall would be stopped gradually, rather than resulting in injuries due to an abrupt jolt. There are different types and designs of via ferrata sets, but modern via ferrata sets mainly use the so-called V design and tear-out webbing for the energy-absorption system. For information about different types of via ferrata sets and their advantages and shortcomings please refer to our article How to use via ferrata equipment.
We recommend the Petzl Scorpio Eashook via ferrata set because it offers great functionality. The set uses two Eashook carabiners, two retractable arms and tear-out webbing shock absorption mechanism. Furthermore, the set is equipped with an additional short arm (seven centimeters long). The Eashook carabiners allow you to quickly pass iron rods as they have a large opening for easy attachment to the cable. They also don’t need to be screw-locked. The retractable arms measure 60 centimeters in length when they are extended and thus offer great freedom of movement. When retracted they measure only 36 centimeters in length, so they don’t get in the way during the ascent. The tear-out webbing is stored in a pouch for better protection. The pouch can be opened to inspect the condition of the tear-out webbing. The additional short arm comes in handy for rest phases – as it measures only seven centimeters in length, it keeps you in place while allowing you to use your hands freely. However, the short arm doesn’t come with a carabiner – the carabiner has to be purchased separately. All in all, the Petzl Scorpio Eashook is one of the best via ferrata sets available at the moment.
Weight: 540 g
2. Climbing Harness – Petzl Aspir
A climbing harness is a vital piece of via ferrata equipment. There are three different types of climbing harnesses – sit harnesses (worn around the hips), chest harnesses (typically worn together with sit harnesses) and full-body harnesses. On via ferrata trails mainly sit harnesses are used. However, if you are planning to carry a heavy backpack you might want to consider getting a full-body harness. The gravity points of full-body harnesses are placed higher than at sit harnesses and thus provide better stability in the upper body. If you wear a heavy backpack with only a sit harness, you could suffer additional injuries in case of a fall as the weight of the backpack could yank you backwards.
We recommend the Petzl Aspir climbing harness (sit harness) but only for trips that do not involve a particularly heavy backpack. The Petzl Aspir climbing harness is very light and offers good comfort – also during rest phases because it has foam padded leg loops and waist belt. The leg loops are adjustable and thus you can easily put the climbing harness on without first taking off your boots. Furthermore, due to the adjustable leg loops, the climbing harness will fit comfortably regardless of the clothing you wear. The climbing harness is equipped with a single tie-in point which allows you to easily attach a via ferrata set with a carabiner or with a cow hitch knot. The climbing harness comes in three different sizes – M (fits waists from 53 – 72 cm), L (fits waists from 68 – 94 cm) and XL (fits waists from 86 – 110 cm).
Weight: from 420 to 485 g (depending on the size)
3. Climbing Helmet – Petzl Elios
Falling stones are very common on via ferrata trails and therefore a helmet should be worn at all times while on the trail.
We recommend the Petzl Elios climbing helmet because it is very light and comfortable while providing good protection. The helmet has an ABS injected shell as well as a liner made of foam. The headband can be easily adjusted even while the helmet is being worn. Furthermore, the helmet has an adjustable chinstrap. For additional ventilation, the helmet features sliding shutters which can be closed in windy or cold weather. The helmet also has integrated clips for attaching a headlamp. It comes in four different colors (blue, grey, white and red) and in two different sizes; size M fits head circumferences from 48 to 56 centimeters and size L fits head circumferences from 53 to 61 centimeters.
Weight: from 300 to 330 g (depending on the size)
4. Via Ferrata Gloves – Black Diamond Crag
Gloves are used on via ferrata trails for better grip and comfort – they prevent blisters on your hands which can occur due to the friction between the skin and the cable/rock. Furthermore, they also provide some insulation which comes in handy as steel cables are usually much colder than the surroundings.
We recommend the Black Diamond Crag gloves which are designed especially for via ferrata trails. The gloves have palms made of synthetic leather and thus they provide a firm grip. The upper part is made of a breathable mesh fabric for good comfort and breathability. The knuckles are padded in order to protect your hands from abrasion from the rock (when reattaching the carabiners for example). The gloves are fairly inexpensive and come in three different colors – red, black and blue. Please note that these gloves do not provide sufficient insulation for doing via ferrata trails in winter (although many via ferrata trails are not even accessible in winter as the cable is covered with snow). If you need a pair of insulating winter gloves check our review of the Best Gloves for Hiking and Mountaineering.
Weight: 70 g (a pair)
5. Boots – Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid GTX
For via ferrata trails you need a pair of robust and relatively stiff mid- or high-cut boots. Such boots use uppers made of leather (full-grain or nubuck) in order to provide good durability and abrasion-resistance. They typically have PU (polyurethane) midsoles which provide better rigidity and long-term durability than the more commonly used EVA midsoles.
We recommend the Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid GTX boots for via ferrata trails. The Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid GTX boot is designed for technical hiking and features an upper made of nubuck leather. Therefore, it provides good breathability and abrasion resistance. The boot is further protected against abrasion with an all-around rand (made of polyurethane). For good ankle support the boot features the 3F System (semi-rigid rubber inserts in the ankle area).The lacing comes right down to the toe (climbing lacing) for a more precise fit – which you will appreciate when ascending technically challenging terrain. For more footwear options check out our review of the Best Boots for Backpacking and Mountaineering which includes five different pairs of boots – all of them suitable for via ferrata trails. For general information about footwear read our Hiking Footwear Guide.
Weight: 1260 g (a pair)
2. Via Ferrata – Basics
What is a via ferrata?
A via ferrata is a technically difficult trail that has a steel cable running along it. Additionally it might be also equipped with holds, ladders, bridges and carved footsteps. Via ferrata trails allow you to reach technically challenging summits without advanced climbing skills. Therefore, they are becoming increasingly popular among hikers and trekkers. However, via ferrata trails are not suitable for those who are afraid of heights as the path will often lead you up nearly vertical rock walls.
Short history of Via Ferrata trails
Via ferrata means iron trail in Italian and the first such trails were “built” in the World War I by the Italian army. They allowed soldiers to reach difficult peaks where they established observations points to monitor the enemy’s activity. After the World War I many new via ferrata trails were established – mainly for hikers and mountaineers.
Where are via ferrata trails?
There are many via ferrata trails in Europe – especially in the Alps. However, you will also find via ferrata trails in the United States, New Zealand etc. Also check out via ferrata trails reviewed on Best Hiking (they all come with GPS routes).