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Reviews > Snow Gear > Traction Aids > Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra > Test Report by Duane Lawrence
Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra
Test Series by Duane Lawrence
Initial Report - November 30, 2014
Field Report - February 15, 2015
Long Term Report - April 15, 2015
I have been an avid outdoor enthusiast for the past 25 years. I enjoy a variety of outdoor activities including mountaineering, day hikes, multi-day backpacking trips, river and ocean kayaking, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking and rock climbing. I have climbed and hiked throughout British Columbia, the United States and when opportunity presents itself in Europe and India. I carry a wide variety of gear depending on the type and length of trip. I am a Search and Rescue team member in the Southern Rockies and am part of the swift water, rope rescue technical teams and ground search team.
The Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra is made of an elastomer harness and 420J2 stainless steel spikes with welded 402 stainless steal chains. The spikes are 1.5 cm (0.59 in) long with a 'rip and stick' top strap to secure the crampons to the boot or shoe. The elastomer harness is noted to remain pliable in subfreezing temperatures. The crampons also come with a storage bag. The spikes are rated at a compression strength of 19,898 N (4473.24 lbf)with a tensile strength of 1,204 N (270.67 lbf) and Rockwall strength of 46 HRC. The crampons come in a range of sizes from extra small to extra large and fit men's US 6 - 15 and women's 5 - 11. The recommended uses include trail running, winter hiking, glacier travel and backcountry hiking. They are designed primarily for compact snow and ice but are noted to work in deeper snow with the use of the securing strap. The crampons weigh in at a measured weight of 420 grams (14.82 oz), 453g (15.98 oz) with the storage bag.
The Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra is designed to slip on a shoe or boot and has a extra securing strap that lies across the top of the foot for make sure the crampon does not fall off while running or hiking. The spikes appear to be large enough to provide excellent traction on both ice and snow. The medium sized crampons slipped easily on to all of my sized 9.5 boots and shoes. The flexible elastomer harness allowed for the crampons to securely fit on my trail shoes and winter hiking boots, they even fit my plastic winter mountaineering boots which are more like a size 11 than a size 9.5.
The 18 crampons are distributed on four front plates and two back plates for excellent traction on both ice and snow. It is hard to determine if the crampons will ball up with snow in either light or heavy snow so this will be one item I will be looking at during the test period. The chains sit flat against the boot which should prevent wear or unwanted abrasion between the boot and crampon.
Over all my first impressions are very positive. The spikes look to be durable and of a length that will provide lots of good traction on snow and ice. The fit is good for my size 9.5 shoes and boots. I also like the fact that they come with a durable storage pouch so that I can just throw them into my pack without worrying about them puncturing my sleeping pad or damaging any other gear unintentionally.
Field ConditionsField conditions included three day hikes in the Southern Canadian Rockies. The hikes ranged in distance from 5.5 km (3.4 mi) to 16km (9.9 mi) with elevation gains between 364 m (1194 ft) and 1025 m (3363 ft) with temperatures ranging from -6 C (21 F) to 1 C (34 F). Weather conditions varied between strong sun, mixed clouds with light snow fall and light to strong winds. Ground conditions included mixed rock, snow and ice with varying depths of snow between 15 cm (.5 ft) to a deep snow pack. Snow and ice conditions included wind slab, loose powder to compacted snow as well as broken and solid ice.
My first impressions with the Hillsound Crampons was very positive. The crampons slipped on to my size 9 boots with ease and the extra securing strap was easy applied. I was able to put on the crampons without having to sit down to do it which was nice. Likewise removing the crampons after a long hike was simple, requiring the use of only one hand to undo the strap and slip them off my boot. My first hike using the crampons was on thin mixed snow and ice with both slab and broken granite underneath. The crampons dug into the both the snow and ice with ease giving me ample traction on both the ascent and descent. I was also very pleased with their ability to grip exposed rock. The following hike entailed climbing up a local summit that provided a challenging mix of rock and snow. The crampons again, preformed very well regardless of the conditions, gripping windslab, snow or rock with ease. During the climb I needed to rely on the crampons to keep me on a high angle slope, about 45 - 50 degrees, and they preformed very well. During both the ascent and descent the crampons gave me the needed traction so that I did not feel unsecure in the least. The only issue that I did find was that when stepping on mixed conditions with momentum during the descent the heal crampon slipped to the side of my boot. Several times on the way down the mountain I had to replace the heal crampon under my boot heal. I believe this was due to the rate at which I was moving down the trail allowing my foot to slide which pulled the crampon over. My third hike was on a packed trail. The crampons provided good traction on the snow. I did experience 'snow balling' along the entirely of the crampon during the hike. Snow balling is the accumulation of snow on the crampon which creates a 'snowball' under the foot. Although annoying it is not unusual for crampons to due this. On another note the bag that comes with the crampons was really nice to have. It was easy to put them in or take them out and kept my pack dry from melting snow.
Overall my first experience using the Hillsound Trail Crampons was very positive. They gripped both snow and ice very well and dealt with a mixture of rock, ice and snow with ease. They were easy to put on and take off and the bag was a welcome bonus. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the crampons adhered to exposed rock. I am unclear as to weather or not the extra foot strap is needed, it is hard to tell if they are helping to keep the crampons on my boots. As the straps do not add any noticeable weight I would say they are better to have than not. The snowballing although annoying was not unexpected although I was hopping it wouldn't occur. The only challenge I had with the crampons was when I was descending a mix of ice and snow when the heal crampons shifted. I believe this was due to the rate at which I was moving down hill rather than the deign as they have not shifted under any other circumstance. So far I am impressed with the fit and their ability to grip. The next couple of months will undoubtedly confirm my thoughts that these are very good crampons for pretty much any hiking conditions that involved ice and snow.
It was a challenge finding suitable conditions to complete this test as almost all our snow and ice has melted, not that I am complaining of the early spring this year. For the final test period I was able to use the Hillsound Trail Crampons on three additional hikes. The first was on a short hike on compact snow, only 2-3 km (1.2-1.9 mi). Weather was cloudy with no precipitation. My next hike was up Table Mountain in south-western Alberta. Although the hike consisted primarily of a dirt trail I was able to use the crampons on a couple of short cascading frozen rivulets, just not big enough to call water falls. The third was a full day hike up to Rowe Lakes in Waterton National Park in South-eastern Alberta, around 11 km (6.8 mi). Trail conditions were great for testing the crampons. The trail included an initial transition period of snow patches, ice and exposed trail. This was followed by compact snow and finished with a transition period of compact snow to heavy wet snow to nice powder.
The Hillsound Trail Crampons continued to impress me throughout the test period. The crampons were of sufficient length that I was able to get a good grip on any kind of snow. Whether it was compact snow, fresh powder or ice, I was able to get a good grip both ascending and descending. The last hike that I tested the crampons showed just how versatile these crampons were. I was very pleased that I did not have to take the crampons on and off when the trail transitioned from snow to rock or dirt. The crampons dug into both the snow and trail. I was even able to test the crampons on an icy log that was lying across the trail. As expected the grip was excellent. One challenge that all crampons have is the balling of snow and, unfortunately, the Hillsound Trail Crampons were no different. It was mildly annoying to have to continually shed snow from the bottom of the crampons, but by scuffing them across the snow it usually got rid of any build up. With warm conditions and heavy powdery snow it became more prevalent compared to compacted snow conditions. I feel it is important to note that this is not a unique problem and I would not call it a deficiency with these crampons, although it would be great if this challenge could be overcome.
In my midterm report I noted that I would be looking more closely at the foot strap. During the final test period I made a point of using the crampons with and without the strap. Although in most conditions the strap did not add any discernible benefit, I did note that on descents and when the snow started balling on the crampons, the strap did come in handy. What I observed was that the balling snow pulled the crampon away from my heel and during descents, again, the heel plate would slip to the side. Without the strap the problem became more pronounced. I would suggest that the manufacturer have a closer look at the strap and possibly add another inch or two to its total length. I played around with it a bit and found that it provided the most benefit when attached to the very rear of the crampon rather than just across the top of the foot. I am fairly convinced that if the strap was attached to either side of the heel and through the toe of the crampon, all movement of the heel plate would be eliminated. I was unable to test this because the strap was not long enough. I wanted to mention that the heel plate was the only one to slip. The toe plates were very solid underfoot and I would attribute this to the design of the support system that encompasses the entire toe of the boot.
I like these crampons. They are easy to put on and take off. They are light weight and robust. I was wondering what the point of the strap was, but now see the benefit, especially when descending on mixed conditions. I was pretty hard on these crampons, using them on mixed rock and snow, on ice, through mud and snow and literally running down a couple of sections of rocky snow covered trails. On one of the hikes I could have easily upgraded from the trail crampon to a standard mountaineering crampon, but just didn't need to. The crampon teeth seemed to be of a perfect length. Long enough and sharp enough to grip snow or ice, even trees and rock, while short enough that I did not have to take them off just because there was a period of exposed rock. The balling of snow was more of an annoyance than anything else and was not entirely unexpected. I would be remiss if I did not mention the carry bag. It is a minor thing but that bag was incredibly nice to have. It kept the crampons safely away from the rest of my gear and provided me with a place to stash them after each use making sure that mud and snow did not get all over the place. A very nice bonus. Overall a great product, which can be used in a wide variety of circumstances. I will be throwing theses in my pack whenever there is a chance of running into snow and ice.
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