HILLSOUND TRAIL CRAMPONS
TEST SERIES BY MIKE CURRY
May 09, 2017
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT
thefishguy AT hotmail DOT com
Tacoma, Washington USA
5' 11" (1.80 m)
190 lb (86.20 kg)
I've been backpacking, climbing, ski-packing, bushwhacking, and snowshoeing throughout the mountains of Oregon and Washington for over 25 years. I'm an all-season, all terrain, off-trail kind of guy, and enjoy everything from casual hikes with my children to mountaineering and alpine rock climbing in the Pacific Northwest. While I've carried packs (with winter climbing gear) in excess of 70 pounds (32 kilos), the older I get the more minimalist I become.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
|Trail Crampons on Mountaineering Boots|
Year of Manufacture: 2016
Manufacturer's Website: www.hillsound.com
MSRP: US $59.99
Listed Weight: 17.3 oz (490 g) (Pair - Size XL) (from 2017 Winter Workbook provided by manufacturer)
Measured Weight: 17.7 oz (501 g) (Pair - Size XL)
*Includes Carrying Case (Measured Weight 1.2 oz (33 g))
*2 Year Limited Warranty
*Carbon Steel Spikes
*Stainless Steel Chains
*Harness Material: Elastomer
*Spike Length: 2/3 in (1.5 cm)
Size Tested: XL (For US Shoe Size 12-15)
The Hillsound Trail Crampons arrived in their retail packaging, which included the crampons, a carrying case, instructions (in English and French), and a desiccant pack.
My initial impression of the crampons is that they were relatively robust for their given purpose. The spikes are shorter than climbing crampons, but longer than the spikes on other products I've used of a similar design and usage intent (e.g. crampons designed to pull on over shoes or boots to provide additional traction on snow and ice, as opposed to use for climbing). The materials seem appropriate for their intended use, and the quality of manufacturing appears very good.
The basic design is fairly simple: Two steel plates with spikes go under your footwear, with chains connecting them to the elastomer top. One steel plate goes under the ball of the foot, the other under the heel. The plate under the ball of the foot is hinged, and combined with the stainless steel chain connecting the plates and the Elastomer top, the crampons can articulate with my footwear.
The elastomer top stretches over the top of the footwear, and is held in place by a hook-and-loop strap that connects the two sides over the arch of the foot.
|Trail Crampons in Case|
My initial impressions are that these may be useful to me on trips where climbing crampons are overkill, but I want something with a greater spike length than similar "pull on" style crampons I own.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The instructions were very straightforward, and while I found their use intuitive, the instructions provide clarity. Care and maintenance instructions note the importance of cleaning and drying the crampons before storage (and oiling the steel plates can be done to prevent rust).
The one thing I noted was repeated in various locations in their literature is that the sizing descriptions are guidelines, and that it's important to fit them to the footwear they will be used with. As a person that typically wears size 12, I fall at the intersection of Large and Extra Large. I opted for Extra Large as my winter footwear tends to be on the larger size (mountaineering boots, backcountry ski boots, etc.).
One thing I noted from the instructions is that they recommended uses include winter hiking, trail running, glacier travelling, and backcountry hiking. They note these are not intended as mountaineering crampons.
TRYING THEM OUT
I first tried the Hillsound Trail Crampons on with my dress shoes (simply because they were what were on my feet when they arrived). While that might seem a bit odd, it was helpful for me in that it reassured me that I'd purchased the correct size. My dress shoes are a men's size 12 US, and they fit nicely snug, so anything smaller might have been challenging with my boots.
Putting the trail crampons on was pretty intuitive. The front of each crampon is clearly labeled on the black elastomer upper part. Putting them on was a simple matter of slipping in the toe of my shoe, pulling back and up on the rear of the elastomer upper of the crampons, and then securing the hook-and-loop closure across the top of my foot.
The trick, it would seem from the instructions and my initial experience, is to make sure the chains are all straight, that the toe guide wire is placed evenly on the front of the shoe (this is a wire that connects the two chains that come up in the front of the foot), and to make sure that they are secured in such a way that there isn't any play in the chains (i.e., that they are secure and not moving around).
|Hillsound Trail Crampons|
The XL size tested was snug enough on my men's size 12 US dress shoes that after careful positioning and adjustment of the strap, I was able to make them feel very secure. I was surprised at how stiff the elastomer upper is . . . while it stretches, it requires a good deal of effort.
My next trial for the crampons was with my heavy Sorel winter snowshoeing boots. These are probably the bulkiest boots I own, and while it took some effort to stretch the elastomer tops of the crampons over them, I was able to get them on securely.
I took a few steps around outside in the frozen grass outside my house, and found the crampons to be comfortable to walk in, and I was definitely able to tell the crampons were biting into the soil. I can't wait to try them out on compact snow and ice.
Overall, the Hillsound Trail Crampons appear to be a well-made and well-designed product for their designed purpose: providing solid traction on ice and snow when mountaineering crampons are not needed. The quality of manufacture seems excellent, and the fit seems appropriate for my footwear.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I carried the Hillsound Trail Crampons on all my winter outings this year, but due to high snowfalls, their use has been somewhat limited (due to them not being needed or particularly useful in fresh snow). We're moving more toward spring conditions now, I anticipate being able to put more mileage on them over the next two months as approach trails become more compact and icy as our winter snowfall tapers off.
|Sizing worked on various footwear|
To date I've used them on three occasions where their use was actually warranted (compact snow and ice), and once when it really wasn't (fresh snow). I have worn them with three distinctly different types of footwear . . . my nordic backcountry ski boots, my bulky winter Sorel boots, and some midweight winter hiking boots. Total distance covered while wearing them I estimate at approximately 3 miles (4.8 km), as once I no longer needed them for the conditions, I removed them.
Terrain was varied, but generally consisted of level to rolling terrain, with occasional steep sections of short duration. Use was in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
My experiences with the Hillsound Trail Crampons so far have been largely positive, though I admit they were not what I was expecting (specifically in their ease of use).
I'll start with the crampons' effectiveness. My first attempt at using them was on an approach (from vehicle to trailhead) on a backcountry ski outing. Since there was about 8 in (20 cm) of fresh snow on top of a nicely consolidated snowpack, they weren't really needed. About halfway to the trailhead, I removed them to note the difference, and there wasn't much other than perhaps saving me a few very minor slips (since my ski boots don't offer much traction). Since these really aren't their intended use, I didn't draw any conclusions. One thing I did notice is that even in the relatively sticky snow, I didn't experience any balling of snow under my feet.
Once I got the crampons on compact snow and ice, I was really impressed. The crampon points held me securely, as much as I would expect under the conditions from my climbing crampons. There was no sliding at all even on the hardest ice. They were far less noticeable on my feet, though, than climbing crampons. While I could feel them somewhat under my feet in my midweight winter boots, they didn't impact my stride at all (unlike more rigid climbing crampons), and they seemed to move well with my feet, allowing me to keep a natural gait.
While I haven't put a lot of miles on the crampons yet, I've been watching them carefully for any signs of wear/failure, and other than some scuffing, mostly at the tips (which I expected), I haven't noticed any. The rubber uppers may have lightened somewhat in color, but that may just be my imagination. I have let them dry on their own in my laundry room after each use, and haven't noted any rust or other moisture-related damage.
EASE OF USE/COMFORT:
Opening caveat: this is my first time using this sort of crampon. My only experience with crampons has been 12 point mountaineering/ice climbing crampons, so this was a whole new experience for me.
Given how simple they look, I thought these would be easier to put on than full-on automatic (step-in) 12 point mountaineering/ice climbing crampons. They aren't. If anything, they might take a bit longer than my simplest step-in mountaineering crampons.
The reason for this is twofold. First, the rubber upper tends to grip the rubber sole of my shoes very well, which makes slipping them on a bit more than just "shoving my toes in and pulling the back over my heel." The other challenge is that the rubber upper of the crampon needs to be fiddled with a bit to get the crampon points placed in a good centered location under my feet. This is more of an issue with my heavy Sorel boots (which have a rubber lower section that comes well above the sole).
I don't want to over-state the difficulty, though. It isn't like they are "difficult" to put on, but rather that I had envisioned a simple process of "stick the toe of my boot in, pull them over the heel, attach the top strap, and go." The process is really more one of "stick the toe in, finagle the rest of the rubber upper around the boot, fiddle with the placement a bit to get them centered well under the feet, attach the strap and go." I've chosen to sit down and remove my gloves each time simply because it's easier, but I plan to try it standing with gloves on during long-term testing. It isn't hard to put them on, it just was not what I'd envisioned, being a new user of this type of traction aid.
All that said, the Hillsound Trail crampons are very light, and once they're on, I hardly know they are there. I could feel them a bit at first through the soft sole of my midweight winter boots, but in my heavy winter boots I wasn't even aware I had them on (other than I didn't slip!).
One thing I was pleased about is that they stayed secure on my feet. I never felt them shift, and they have performed equally well on my heavy and lighter boots (shown in photo), despite them being of pretty different sizes.
While they haven't seen a lot of miles yet, the Hillsound Trail crampons have provided excellent traction on the compact snow and ice I've crossed with them. They aren't showing any unexpected wear (just scuffing of the finish/crampon points), and have been secure on my footwear. They're a bit harder to put on and position than I expected, but still are easy to use, effective, and comfortable.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Long-term testing provided the opportunity to test the Hillsound Trail Crampons on compact snow and ice on a variety of terrain not encountered in earlier testing. This totaled approximately 8 mi (13 km) of use over three outings, the bulk of which occurred on two trips when I was wearing my winter mountaineering boots.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Having finally had the opportunity to test the Hillsound Trail Crampons on more challenging conditions, I am able to offer some additional thoughts:
1. Fit - If I had it to do over again, I'd have ordered one size smaller. That isn't because I have had any problems, but rather because they aren't very snug on my lightweight hikers, and there is plenty of stretch for my mountaineering boots. While a smaller size would be harder to put on my mountaineering boots, they would still work, and a smaller size would allow more versatility for me (in terms of using them with other types of footwear like sneakers).
2. Performance - I'm really impressed. With my Mountaineering boots, I felt as confident on solid and relatively steep (45-50 degree) slopes as I do with my climbing crampons. While these certainly aren't technical, they performed exceptionally well in terms of traction.
3. Ease of use - I tried putting them on standing up once, and that was rather comical. I got the first one on fine (while standing on ice), but lost my balance trying to stretch the second one over my heel. While it is possible, I won't be trying to put them on while standing up again.
4. Durability - So far, no concerns. Some of the finish has worn off the crampon parts, but everything appears to be working just fine, with no other wear noted.
Overall, the Hillsound Trail Crampons perform well. They have worked effectively on a variety of footwear, provide outstanding traction even on challenging terrain, and have shown little signs of wear.
This was my first time using this sort of traction aid. Prior to this time I was either in boots, or wearing climbing crampons.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.
Will I use them again? Probably. For backpacking, I think they'd be a great addition on those trips where I wouldn't need an actual climbing crampon. On climbing trips, though, where I already have a set of climbing crampons, I don't think they'd add any benefit (though they are somewhat easier to walk in).
I would like to thank Hillsound and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Trail Crampons. This concludes my report.
Read more reviews of Hillsound gear
Read more gear reviews by Mike Curry