Until now, Kahtoola Microspikes were the only lightweight alternative to mountaineering crampons for hikers who want extra winter traction to deal with icy trails and ice-covered rock. But microspikes have their limits: the spikes are quite short and snow balls up under them, so you can effectively hydroplane on snow or ice while walking in them.These ultralight crampons from Hillsound are simply brilliant, providing real crampon traction for hikers who want to use non-rigid soled shoes such as insulated hiking boots and pacboots for winter hiking. You can’t use soft shoes like these with ice climbing or mountaineering crampons like Black Diamond Cyborgs, Sabertooth Pros, or Contact Strap Campons because the soles flex too much and the crampons can pop off or break.
Hillsound’s Trail Crampon Pros are different because they have substantially longer spikes and because they come with anti-balling plates (orange plastic above) like many mountaineering and ice climbing crampons, to prevent the snow balling effect.
How much longer? Here’s a side by side comparison between Kahtoola Microspikes, Hillsound Trail Crampon Pros, and Black Diamond Contact Strap Crampons that shows that they’re twice as long, halfway between Microspikes and a strap-on mountaineering crampon.
|Product||Microspikes||Trail Crampon Pro||Contact Strap Crampon|
|Point Length||1 cm||2 cm||3 cm|
|Weight||12.6 oz||23.6 oz||32.0 oz|
As you can see, the Crampon Pro’s also have front points, unlike Microspikes, making them a better choice for moderate angle scrambling over ice-covered rock. They’re not stiff enough or long enough for real ice climbing, which remains the domain of rigid mountaineering boots and step-in crampons, like the Black Diamond Cyborg or Sabertooth Pros.
But my favorite thing about the Crampon Pros is their unique ratcheting binding and the way in which it links the front bail and the heel cup to provide a very secure fit.
Each crampon has two plastic straps attached its front by heavy-duty rivets. These crisscross over the front of the foot and run along the sides of your boot or shoe. Similarly, there’s a heel cup at the back of the crampon that loops around the back of your shoe and is riveted to ratchet buckles on both sides of the boot.
In order to secure the Crampon Pro to your boot, you simply feed the front plastic straps into the ratchet buckle and ratchet the plastic straps until they’re snug. To release the crampon, you just pull on the other end of the ratchet buckle and plastic strap is released. Here’s a video which demonstrates the system.
The only design feature I don’t like on the Trail Crampon Pro is the way you adjust the length of the middle crampon hinge. Like regular mountaineering crampons, the front and rear halves of the crampon slide freely up and down a connecting bar. Before you hit the trail, you lock down the maximum length of the bar, fitted to the length of your boot, so that the front points and heel points are at the boot edges and not father or nearer together.
So far, having to carry the allen wrench has not proven to be an issue, so I can live with it, and the screw hasn’t loosened up on me yet. Plus, the ratchet binding IS strong enough to hold the crampon in place even if the screw were to come loose. It’s just a minor inconvenience on an otherwise awesome product.The problem with the Crampon Pro is that you need a small allen wrench to make this length adjustment, and you really need to carry it with you in your emergency gear repair kit. I have a half-dozen other crampons that have completely self-contained length adjustment systems that don’t require tools, so I find it odd the that the Trail Crampon Pro is different. This is a solved problem.
A few more details:
The crampon teeth are made of steel for better wear and they feel more like mountaineering crampons than microspikes when worn. Similarly, the crampons are right and left foot specific, unlike Microspikes which are not.
For me, the biggest benefit of this product is that I get to wear a substantially lighter weight winter boot or trail runners with the Hillsound Trail Crampon Pros on higher peaks than I’d ever venture on in my microspikes, and I can leave my heavyweight mountaineering boots and massive crampons at home. The ratchet binding is also very slick and easier to adjust than a strap-based binding, making this product a real breakthrough in my opinion.
Disclosure: Hillsound provided the author with a sample pair of Trail Crampon Pros for this review.
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