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Reviews > Snow Gear > Traction Aids > Hillsound Trail Crampons 2016 > Test Report by Theresa Lawrence

HILLSOUND TRAIL CRAMPONS
Test Series by Theresa Lawrence
Initial Report - December 19, 2016

Field Report - March 12, 1017

Long Term Report - May 3, 2017

TESTER INFORMATION

Name: Theresa Lawrence
Email: theresa_newell AT yahoo DOT com
Age: 39
Location: Sparwood, British Columbia, Canada
Gender: Female
Height: 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)
Weight: 130 lb (59 kg)

I have more than 15 years of backpacking experience. Day hikes and 2-3 day backpacking trips take place on most weekends throughout the year while longer trips are only occasional. I backpack predominantly in mountain terrain (Coast Range, Cascades and Canadian Rockies) with the goal of summiting peaks. Activities I use my gear with include mountaineering, ski touring, rock climbing, kayaking, biking, trail running, Search and Rescue and overseas travel. I like my gear to be reasonably light, convenient and simple to use though I would not claim to be a lightweight hiker.

Initial Report - December 19, 2016


PRODUCT INFORMATION

Manufacturer: Hillsound
Manufacturer's URL: www.hillsound.com
Year of Manufacture: 2016

Made in:
Korea
MSRP: $59.99 US
Listed Weight (size M): 462 g (per pair), 16.3 oz
Measured Weight (size M): 461 g (per pair), 16.26 oz
Storage Bag: 33 g (1.16oz)
Color Available:Black 
Sizes Available:
Unisex: XS, S, M, L, XL
Size Tested:
M (my shoe size is 9 US)
Spike Number:
Spike Height:
11
1.5 cm (2/3 in)
 

                                                                                                           Images From Manufacturer's Website                                                                                                                                                                                           
DESCRIPTION& FEATURES                                                                                   

The Hillsound Trail Crampons have eleven 1.5 cm (2/3 in) spikes that provide support to the entire sole of a shoe or boot. The crampons are mainly concentrated at the ball of foot and heel, where they are secured with a plate. They are intended to be worn for icy trails and they are not designed to be used as technical crampons. They are composed of an elastomer harness attached to stainless steel chains and heat-treated carbon steel spikes. They have a 'rip and stick' strap that tightens over the top of the foot. 'Front' is labeled on the elastomer to direct the user. There is a front bar that references and positions the fit over the toe. The website also indicates that the design includes an ergonomic plate that adds stability to the spikes and prevents shifting. In fact the plate at the ball of the foot is hinged to allow traction to stay put under the toe while the second half is being lifted with each step. The extra traction offered is claimed to reduce muscle fatigue.

The manufacturer recommends that they be washed, cleaned and dried after each use and stored in a cool, dry area. It was noted that while the stainless steel chains won't rust, the heat-treated carbon steel plate can. The elastomer can withstand temperatures down to -51 C (-60 F). There is also a 2 year warranty from manufacturer defects. A sturdy bag was provided to keep the crampons and the humans safe.

TRYING THEM ON & FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Trying them on was straight forward with the front being labeled and the rest was intuitive. They appear to be a good fit for my hiking boots, my plastic mountaineering boots and my winter insulated boots. They were too loose for my lighter hiking boots and shoes. This works out fine for me as they fit all the boots that I intend to wear in the winter and icy conditions that would require crampons. When I look at them on my boots I'm curious if the strap actually does anything because it doesn't appear to take any weight. The more I pull it tight, the more the elastomer stretches and everything else stays put. I will report back after the field test on how that piece plays out. I'm also curious if the balling up of snow will be a huge problem. I expect it to be just because I've never had a pair that didn't do that. But, more importantly, I'm looking to see how well they perform with stability, grip and ability to hike without fighting the icy conditions, especially as terrain gets steep or when traversing.

SUMMARY

Overall, my first impressions are that the Hillsound Trail Crampons are very well made and seem quite sturdy. They are easy to get on and off with a little bit of effort to counter the strong elastic and sort out the tangle of spikes. The storage bag provided is a useful addition to place wet crampons when not being used and it also appears to be well made. I look forward to getting them out in the field and I will be happy to report back in a couple months on how useful they are for various outdoor activities and pursuits in the mountains.


Field Report - March 12, 2017

FIELD CONDITIONS

Well, since the day I received these we've had an overabundance of deep snow and powder in the backcountry. As such, my use in the backcountry has been limited to compact trails not too far from town. All of my true backcountry feats have been ski-tours with no opportunity for crampons. Not to worry, the snow fall should taper for the next test phase. My use so far has consisted of 4 outings with a total of 5 km. Some of this was ice covered road and the rest were compacted trails. Temperatures were all below freezing with the lowest temperature being -24 C (-11 F). On these trips I wore either my heavy winter boots or my full grain leather hiking boots.

PACKABILITY AND EASE OF USE 

First off, I'd like to comment on how they are to pack. They come with a sturdy bag that allows packing them or stuffing them anywhere in or on my backpack, which makes them especially handy and safe. And at the end of the hike when they are wet and dirty they can be hidden in this pouch until they can be conveniently cleaned, dried and put away. Secondly, in regards to putting them on, it does require some knack, some strength and fiddling and some balance. I can perform this with some light gloves, but prefer to use my bare hands as I found I had less fiddling to do. I was already familiar with this style of crampon, though the front strap was new to me. I would say the process is straightforward. The fiddling is to put everything in its place from front toe bar, to spikes and plates under the correct part of the boot and making sure the chains are not kinked, loose or hooked awkwardly. The process is fairly convenient and doesn't take much time to put them on or take them off. I can do this while standing with a bit of effort and concentration on balance. 

 

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Secondly, the fit works well for both types of boots I use in the winter. The crampons didn't shift at all while in use and I largely didn't notice them on my feet. Wearing them did not change my gait. These crampons performed fantastically when I was walking on sheets of ice that were supposed to be roads. They were exactly what I needed to safely walk on what I could only compare to a bumpy ice rink. The spikes cut into the ice, did not slip and provided awesome traction even on the uphill. Same thing on the compacted snow trails. Falling through on the softer snow packs didn't result in balling of snow, which I wasn't surprised as there really hasn't been any moisture in the snow we've had. The climate is exceedingly dry. I did encounter some wetter snow, though wouldn't call it coastal conditions by any means and still no balling. They provided solid reliable traction and made hiking in the conditions really easy. I have an older version of similar crampons without the hinging plate. I can't say I have noticed any difference in feel or gait. This might be due to the fact that my boots are fairly rigid and so wouldn't really engage the hinge. The crampons are too big for my smaller more flexible shoes and boots, so I cannot compare further. My older crampons also don't have the strap and I'm not entirely convinced it is needed for anything. The crampon stays in place whether the strap is there or not. And it seems the tighter I secure the more it pulls it in an unnecessary awkward direction.

SUMMARY

I'm pleased with how they have performed so far. They have proved to be reliable and sturdy traction for inclined and uneven terrain in both ice and compacted snow conditions. While I haven't had a lot of opportunity to use them with all of this deep snow, I am anticipating more technical hiking and scrambling for the second half of the test period as the weather eases into another season.

Likes
- Protective carrying pouch included
- Quick and easy to put on and take off 
- Reliable traction on ice and compact snow

Dislikes
- Nothing
- Unnecessary strap included (not really a dislike)


LONG TERM Report - May 3, 2017



LONG TERM FIELD CONDITIONS


I'm pleased to say I've had some great opportunities to use these trail crampons. One fantastic scramble with 740 m (2430 ft) elevation gain over a distance of 2.25 km (1.2 mi). The steep inclined approach was mainly all ice with some mixed ice, rock and snow at the summit. Another two long distance treks on uneven terrain mixed with ice, snow and patches of bare trail made for a  total distance trekked in these trail crampons of 30 km (19 mi). The temperatures experienced were consistently around 5 C (41 F). The weather was a mix of sun, serious wind at the summit, rain, snow and sleet. Every season represented itself on every day that I was out. 


PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

These trail crampons were fantastic for the scrambling portion of my trip. I was solidly planted in ice and rock. My foot never slipped. They gave me the confidence to climb all over the rock and ice. Where I did have minimal problems was descending the steep trail of ice. Whenever I had to turn my foot sideways to the incline as when turning on switchbacks or when it was too steep to descend head on and I needed to step down sideways, my heel crampon would end up sliding off my heel and end up on the side of my boot. This was a bit annoying as I would have to replace it every so often. It might be because the chains are really long allowing for slipping of my boot while the heel spikes remain grounded in the ice. The strap across the top didn't make any difference in holding the heel in place. I wore one with the strap and one without the strap and there was zero difference that I could notice. I had no issues on the way up. Since the strap didn't offer anything to my knowledge, I found it tedious to undo and fasten with every transition on and off. They were much quicker and more convenient to put on and take off without it. Another great use for these trail crampons was for crossing slippery logs. These crampons bit into the wood offering secure footing across what would otherwise be a terrifying and potentially dangerous creek crossing. 


Heel plate working its way off the heel to the side
DURABILITY

They appear to have held up graciously given all the bashing they had on rock and ice. A little bit of worn paint observed, but no notable dulling of spikes or change to the integrity of the crampons as a whole. My only complaint is that they are rusting as it was impractical to keep them dry immediately after using. For example, I would take them off, shake them off as best I could and house them in their sack in my backpack until I needed them again. This could be much later on the trail. Also by the time I got back to the trailhead I would forget that they were stowed in my pack. So in this common scenario, they wouldn't be unpacked until the end of the day or the end of a three day weekend. It didn't take long to rust. My first use even showed some rusting after I let them air-dry on an indoor door mat. Having to wipe them dry immediately after use was not practical in the field. Taking them out of the bag at the end of a weekend or excursion and air drying them on a rack or a mat is all the care that I'm willing and able to do to for such gear. And in the past and historically with similar gear, I have had no issue with this type of treatment. So, that did not meet my expectations.  

SUMMARY

Overall I'm satisfied by their performance. They gave me the confidence to scramble up summits of rock and ice, trek on some steep, inclined, compacted snow and ice and cross slippery logs. I recommend ditching the strap as I found no benefit and it just hindered getting them on and off. The heel slip problem might be resolved with shorter chains, though it may just be the nature of the rubber harness and having a foot positioned sideways to the incline. I plan to carry on using these trail crampons for future excursions of the same nature. 

Likes

Reliable traction on ice, compact snow and slippery logs
- Quick and easy to put on and take off
Protective carrying pouch included

Dislikes
- Strap
- Heel slips on descending steep inclines when needing to step sideways on the incline
- Plates are rusting with usual care

I'd like to thank Hillsound and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to take part in this test series.



Read more reviews of Hillsound gear
Read more gear reviews by Theresa Lawrence

Reviews > Snow Gear > Traction Aids > Hillsound Trail Crampons 2016 > Test Report by Theresa Lawrence



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