I'm an active hiker,
snowshoer, skier, and of course
backpacker. Home base is the Southern
Colorado Rockies, ranging from alpine
tundra to piņon-juniper scrub and desert
at lower altitudes. Many of my backpack
trips are two or three nights (sometimes
longer), and I usually shoulder about 30
lb (14 kg). My style is lightweight but
not at the expense of enjoyment, comfort
or safety - basic survival gear plus
extras like a camera and air mattress
make my trips safer and more
||Central Colorado, USA
||5' 6" (1.68 m)
||140 lb (64 kg)
404 g (14.25 oz) per pair, size M as reviewed
410 g (14.5 oz) per pair size M
Sizes Available: XS,
S, M, L, XL
(this test: M)
stainless steel spikes and chains,
Carry bag provided:
weighs 28 g (1 oz)
The Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra is a
non-technical traction aid for shoes and
boots used on snow and ice. Attachment
to footwear relies on the stretchy dark
blue elastomer harness as it
grips around all sides of the boot or
special boot design is required).
For added security there is a
hook-and-loop strap that comes over the
top of the harness at the front of the
foot, and a small steel bar that grips the
front of the toe. Eighteen spikes
at 1.5 cm (0.6 in) long are arranged in two sets
at the front and rear of the crampon
bottom, attached via welded chains.
With the Trail Crampon Ultra comes a thick
waterproof nylon bag for storage.
Five crampon sizes are available, to fit US
men's and women's sizes 5 to 15.
Hillsound warranties the Ultra Crampon
for two years from time of purchase
against "damage due to poor workmanship
and/or defective materials excluding
normal wear and tear, oxidation,
alterations and modifications, damage by
mechanical force, improper storage and
maintenance and uses for which this
product is not designed".
My first job
after unpacking the Trail Crampon Ultras was to
try them on three different kinds of footwear
that I regularly use to hike in snow and ice: a
light shoe, a light mid-height boot, and
a high-cut heavy mountaineering boot (photos
below). At this time I'll report on how
the crampons attach and detach, and how their
initial fit while walking on
grass. Since these shoes differ widely in
their construction (they also vary in size from
8.5 to 9, US men's), I'll get a good first
impression of how well the Ultra's sizing and
design adapts to fit them. The Trail
Crampon size M I'm reviewing is recommended for
US men's 8-10.
instructions from the accompanying User Manual,
attaching the crampon to a shoe or boot is
pretty simple: slip the toe into the front
the crampon (helpfully labeled "FRONT"), then
grab the heel tab at the back to stretch the
elastomer harness up on the heel as far as it
will go. Snug the harness up all around
the boot and straighten where necessary; the
harness has a lot of friction to keep it in
place on the shoe's upper.
Make sure the toe bar is secure and straight.
Finally, bring the top foot strap under and back
over the opposite side of the harness and using
the hook-and-loop attach it to itself.
Removing the crampons is just the reverse:
unstick the foot-top strap, grab the heel tab
and pull down and away - the crampon drops right
off my boot.
There is no designated right
or left crampon, but personal preference may
dictate which way I prefer, since the top strap
pulls from left or right depending on which foot
I attach them to. However, since the
straps are easily removed and reattached on the
opposite side of the harness, I could also make
the crampons identical to each other. Each
crampon displays its size in two places: in my
case, an "M" on the foot strap and embossed in
the elastomer at the heel tab.
the crampons easy to attach, and as expected it
took just a bit more stretching to get them onto
my heavier mountaineering boots than it did for
the lightweight hiking shoes. But in each
case they fit snugly without any obvious
slippage while walking in my yard. At this
time I have nothing to dislike about the Ultras.
During my Field Testing in the next two
months I'll be looking at:
- how well
the harness stays in place on the shoe or boot
on both mild and steep slopes
traction of the spikes on various kinds of
snow and ice, and any extra traction supplied by
- how very cold
temperatures might affect the elastomer harness
- the durability of the harness, and the crampon
as a whole
- stickiness of snow to the
steel points and chains
- how the
crampon set fits into the provided sack, and if
the sack protects other gear from the points
- Field Report -
Since my Initial
Report about two months ago, I've tested the
Ultra crampons on eight days for an approximate
total distance hiked of about 20 mi (32 km).
Temperatures have varied from close to 0 F (-18
C) up to about freezing, and walking surfaces from
soft powdery snow, wet and packed snow, and both
hard and soft ice. Also relevant is the steepness of the trail or off-trail
slope, and for measuring that I
carried a simple clinometer (degree scale with
adjustable indicator that I can sight along).
Trail and off-trail slopes varied from 0° to
Installing the Ultras
Easy! As I found in my Initial Report, the
crampons are simple to install and remove.
Of course, the heavier the boot the more I had
to stretch the elastomer frame; but even on my
mountaineering boots it was only a slight extra
effort to pull the heel back and up. The
trade-off for easier install on lighter boots
and shoes is a looser fit, noticeable when
walking steeper terrain (more on this below).
When installing, I always check for alignment of
the rubber frame and points: if I get that right
at the start it minimizes or eliminates further
problems while walking.
As for the
foot-top straps, after a couple of uses I forgot
to pay attention to the the direction in which
they needed to be pulled to attach - it
didn't matter to me which crampon went on which
foot. I usually
adjusted the strap moderately tight - enough to secure
the frame and keep it from moving around, but
not so tight that I could feel it on top of my foot.
Occasionally I readjusted the straps during use
when wearing my lighter shoes.
I found taking off the crampons slightly
easier than putting them on, just because it's
less effort to slip them off my heel and let the
elastomer frame retract itself.
Using the Ultras
My favorite times for using the crampons were on
hard-packed snow and ice, as that's when the
points can really do their job of sticking into
the surface and adding friction. What a
pleasure to step confidently and not be
constantly paying attention to prevent slips on
the trail. With the exception of the
clear-ice frozen lake, I would have previously hiked all
of my favorite snow-covered trails with
unmodified boots and suffer the numerous slips
and occasional falls as just part of the trip.
I especially like the way the crampons keep my
heel from slipping on my normal step - it seems
minor, but I added up all that saved effort over a
5 mi (8 km) trek and there's a lot of energy
The steeper the slope, the better the
crampons performed for me, given approximately
equal conditions of snow and ice. And even
in loose snow (shallow or deep) I felt some
improvement in traction most of the time
compared to unshod boots. I tested this on
one particularly steep and knee-deep slope
climbing and descending with the crampons, then
repeating the short hike without the crampons.
In this case little or no snow was sticking
to my boots so the points dug in well.
least favorite trail conditions for testing were
wet or moderately wet snow, which tended to
accumulated on my boot bottoms and the points
and which sometimes made walking rather uncomfortable (photo, left).
This snow stuck well to the metal chains and
points, along with accumulated leaf/twig
debris. It's possible that a non-stick
coating (as I have on my snowshoe points) would
have helped, but the Ultra points are uncoated. In those conditions I
was constantly knocking off the snow from boot
tread and points, and the Ultras were least
helpful for traction.
I've been pleased with the performance of the
Trail Crampon Ultra, especially on my heavier
hiking boots. There they stayed in place
once attached. The foot-top strap helps
keep the elastomer harness in place on the front
end. The points were long enough to give
me a good grip in both hard-packed snow and ice
for most trail conditions that I have in
Colorado. Even in deeper snow (when I
wished for my snowshoes) I felt that the
crampons helped with traction. I like the
storage bag - it's strong enough to keep the
points from poking the rest of my gear inside
the pack, and once the seams were sealed, it
kept melted snow and ice contained in the bag.
there will be intermittent trail conditions where snow cover
is light or non-existent (photo, right). Instead of
constantly removing the crampons for each stretch of snow-free ground, I'll just
step carefully and lightly to avoid too much
abrasion on the Ultras' points. Examining
the points now, they look good and I can't see
any significant wear so far. I've even used
them to help climb over a couple of large downed
trees (nice traction bonus!).
on which boots/shoes I was wearing, I found that
if the Ultras were going to slip out of
alignment it was going to be the heel end.
The strap and the toe bar keep the toe aligned
(especially if I occasionally tightened the
but on my light hikers (photo above in Initial Report) the heel
moved around quite a bit on steep uneven trails,
especially traverses across steep slopes with
sloping trail grades. I found that
altering my gait helped keep the harness from
slipping, but it was an extra effort to do so.
All of my testing so far has been on day
hikes with a day pack at about 16 lb (7 kg).
Since I was unable to get out on an overnight
backpack for the Field Test, I loaded up a pack
with my usual backpack weight of about 28 lb (13
kg) to test the crampon's effectiveness under a
heavier load for a 5 mi (8 km) round-trip on a
hard-packed snow route along established trail.
I found that the Ultras performed just as
effectively with the extra weight on my back.
like the included storage bag from Hillsound.
It's sized just right to take the pair of
crampons easily without having to force them in. I
prefer to face the crampons with the points
together, then with the bag opened all the way
just slide them in and pull the cord to close
off the top. The bag is made of a
moderately heavy and waterproofed durable nylon,
which so far has protected my other pack gear
from the sharp points.
I had one
incidence of water (melted snow) leaking out of
the storage bag after my first outing with the
crampons, when I noticed that the bag's seams
were not sealed. Turning the bag inside
out (photo), I applied McNett Seam Grip
to all of the seams. Now the bag no longer
leaks, even with as much as a half-inch (1.3 cm)
of accumulated water at the bottom.
Field Report Summary
- Long Term Report
Since reporting my field test, I've used the
Crampon Ultras on five additional hikes, for
about 3 mi (5 km) total with crampons on the
ground. As in the field test, conditions
varied from cold, packed, snow and ice, to warm,
almost slushy snow — sometimes on the same
can do no better here than to reprise my field
test comments. The Ultras are easy to put
on and take off, and they fit better on my
medium and heavy hiking boots than they do on my
light boots and trail shoes (all sized at U.S.
men's 8.5). But since I like to wear the
bigger boots in snow anyway, that's not a
problem for me. I found that at the
beginning of this test, as long as I ensure that
the Ultras are attached straight and squared up
with the boot soles, then they'll stay in place
even on the most demanding slopes. As an
experiment, on one hike I left the foot-top
strap unattached, which caused the elastomer
crampon harness to become misaligned on my boot
twice on a steep traverse. I'm convinced
that the strap is a good design and I'll
continue to attach it whenever using the Ultras.
I don't see any significant wear on any
part of the Ultras. I've been careful to
keep them on snow and ice, or when that's absent
I try for soft dirt or tree duff; so far the
metal points are about as sharp as when new.
The elastomer harness is also in great shape -
no cracks or other signs of failure. The
hook-and-loop straps appear to have many more
cycles of use before they lose their stickiness.
The storage bag has remained waterproof
since I added seam sealer near the beginning of
my test. The only change I've made since
then is to attach a lightweight carabiner to
the drawcord so I can conveniently hang the bag
from my belt or pack and keep the crampons handy
when trails alternate between dry and icy.
All in all, I
found the Hillsound Crampon Ultras to be an
excellent aid for hiking in snow and ice.
They are quick to put on and take off, they stay
in place on my boots, and the points are
especially effective in harder-packed snow and
on ice. I've been throwing the Ultras into
my daypack all winter, and at less than a pound
(less than half a kilo) packing a bit of
extra weight is well worth it for when those
slippery trail conditions are encountered.
Easy to put on and take off
Foot strap helps keep front centered
Points arranged well for traction
Storage bag easy to use and waterproof
(after seams are sealed)
Size M (this test) slightly too large for my
hiking shoes and light boots (US Men's 8.5)
Wet snow tends to accumulate on uncoated
metal of points and chains
thanks to BackpackGearTest.org and to Hillsound
for the chance to test the Trail Crampon Ultra.
Reviewed By ›