Introduction

Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras are mid-weight, mid-traction crampons designed for improving traction on unstable footing due to rain, mud, snow, and ice. Ultralight hikers typically wear minimalist shoes in all conditions. While light on the feet, minimalist footwear can be safety-compromising on steep routes with poor traction. Adding Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras to minimalist shoes improves traction while maintaining a lighter overall weight than boots.

Trail Crampon Ultras feature largest-in-class traction teeth, an

adjustable instep strap, and extra traction points at an affordable price.

hillsound gear review 2
Photo: Hillsound Equipment

Features and Specifications

Features

  • Velcro strap for added security
  • Welded double-link chains
  • High-strength stainless steel withstands use on rock and mixed terrain.
  • Elastomer harness stretches easily over most footwear.
  • Wide posterior heel plate with three spikes and a mid heel plate with three additional spikes for secure downhill traction
  • Carry bag included
  • Steel toe bail

Specifications

  • Spike material: Stainless steel
  • Spike length: .5 in – .62 in (1.27 – 1.67 cm)
  • Number of Spikes: 18
  • Harness material: Elastomer
  • Weight (pair, size small): 14.25 oz (422g)
  • Measured weight (pair, size small): 14.10 oz (400g)
  • MSRP $69.95 (in stock at CampSaver)

Review Context

Finding a balance between function and weight is paramount when choosing a crampons. The function of crampons is to add traction to an item of footwear which could not safely, efficiently, or effectively provide traction in slippery situations. For some applications, such as ice climbing,  bigger, heavier crampons are appropriate. For walking on flat ground, light, minimalist crampons with no torsion anchor points are appropriate. The middle ground and the one of interest to most backpackers, are lightweight crampons that still provide traction on icy headwalls, scrambles, and ridge ascents/descents.

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Icy ridgelines and slippery scrambles in Alberta, Canada: perfect conditions for testing the Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras.

Description of Field Testing

I began testing the Ultras in a cold and slippery shoulder-season on the infamous Sentinel Pass. I gained 2,600 ft (792 m) of elevation on a snowy, icy day, to reach the saddle, pictured below.

IMG 5205
To safely reach the top of Sentinel Pass, crampons were a must. The wet, sticky snow pictured here were the only conditions where Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras fell short. Small snowballs built up under the heels, nothing a good stomp couldn’t fix, but it did happen.

I followed the Sentinel Pass ascent with hikes at Parker’s Ridge and Fryatt Valley.

Parkers Ridge boasts a 974 ft elevation gain over 3.2 miles (5 km). Parker’s Ridge is a short hike but guaranteed to be icy and slick in a shoulder season.

Fryatt Valley Trail is a backpacking trip with 5,698 ft (1737 m) of elevation gain, part of which is on a headwall that is a significant obstacle even in the summer. In the winter, the headwall is downright treacherous.

I concluded my testing with a climb up Allstones Lake Trail, a scramble up Allstones Ridge, and a stroll on a frozen Lake Abraham.

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I scampered up Parker’s Ridge wearing my Ultras. My hiking partner, on the other hand, struggled in the icy conditions.

Allstone Lake Trail is a steep uphill climb with a 2,175 ft (663 m) elevation gain and a steep descent down to Allstones Lake. A scramble up Allstones Ridge added another element of ascent and descent with a maximum elevation of about 6,561 ft (2000m).

Lake Abraham is an artificial lake in Clearwater County, AB. The high winds and frigid temperatures in the area lead to some of the glassiest, smoothest ice I’ve seen in nature. I usually stride out on the ice on figure skates or skis, but this time I took advantage of the glass-like surface to test the Trail Ultras. On the lake, I used the Ultras with running shoes, hiking boots and clunky insulated winter boots for comparison purposes.

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Ice on Abraham Lake is polished to a mirror finish by the high winds in the area. The Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras worked equally well with running shoes, hiking boots, or winter boots. My Outdoor Research Wrapid or Verglas gaiters clipped into the Ultras easily.

Performance Assessment

Review Criteria

  1. Traction Improvement
  2. Binding Stability
  3. Perceived Longevity
  4. Weight
  5. Price

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