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Hillsound Trail Crampon Pro

Hillsound Trampon Pro Campons
Hillsound Trampon Pro Campons

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.

Mfg.KahtoolaHillsoundBlack Diamond
ProductMicrospikesTrail Crampon ProContact Strap Crampon
# Points101010
Point Length1 cm2 cm3 cm
Front PointsNoYesYes
Weight12.6 oz23.6 oz32.0 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.

Hillsound Trampon Pro Crampons - Ratchet Binding
Hillsound Trail Pro Crampons – Ratchet Binding

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.

Hillsound Trail Crampon Pro

Crampon Pro - Allen Wrench Hinge Adjustment
Crampon Pro – Allen Wrench Adjustment Screw

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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  1. Of course this comes the day after I took my brand new microspikes out for the first time :-). I've been using a set of four pointers for years, and have never been happy with them. I keep a pair of full crampons for heavy snow, but they require the right boots, and careful technique. These Hillsounds look excellent. A perfect intermediary between the Microspikes and the heavy crampons. Thanks as always for an excellent product choice.

  2. I was just talking with someone who has bought these and loves using them. They had similar comments.

    It is nice to have an option beyond microspikes, which in my opinion are being used in conditions beyond their intended purpose. Too many times these are the only form of traction that people bring with them when hiking serious steeps or above treeline. The spikes are too small to grip the ice through the snow and the attachment band and chain system don't work that well when traversing an incline.

    I was hiking Lafayette last winter and I committed a cardinal sin of winter hiking – I left some of my necessary equipment in the back of my car. I put my lunch in and took my crampons out, with the intention of putting the crampons back in on top of the lunch so they would be readily accessible. I got distracted and ultimately left the crampons in the car. Didn't realize it until up beyond the hut I reached for them and they were not there.

    I always carry the microspikes in my bag from fall to spring. Never know when you might need some light traction. Also carry them as a potential back-up to the crampons in an emergency. These back-ups were forced into action once we realized that the trail and weather conditions were such that we had to turn around. Had barefooted to that point but decided the downclimb warranted some additional traction. There was a thin snow cover over the ice and that, combined with my momentum and gravity, conspired against me. The spikes were too short to dig in and a slipped and fell. Slid about 50 yards before I managed to stop myself. No injuries but could have been much worse had this happened in a different setting. I was lucky.

    I do use the Black Diamond Contact Strap Crampons with my soft sole insulated winter boots (Keen Summit County). They manufacture a spring-steel flexible center bar that can be used in place of the rigid bar that comes standard with their crampons. They seem to work great together.

    Michael Blair

    PS I never even ate the lunch that I "caused" me to leave my crampons in the car.

  3. eric – thanks for pointing that out. I don't run.

  4. Michael – I agree with you about microspikes being used outside their range. I also believe they are in appropriate for high peaks and exposed ledge walks. Besides length, the spikes do not align with the back of the heel for maximum traction on descents. The spikes also moves around, which can't be good when moving laterally over ice covered rock. In both these cases you want a crampon which is a perfect extension of your boot, and not doing something independently, outside of your will.

  5. I had a similar experience to yours, Michael, with microspikes last year trying to get to Cold Mt. Took me around 15 min to get back up to the 'trail' after my slide.

    Philip, maybe some loctite on the screw that needs the allen wrench if you're going to be using the crampons with the same boots all the time.

  6. I use too many different boots and shoes.

  7. Phil – I'm curious why you didn't include the Kahtoola KTS Steel 10 Point Flexi Crampon (also in Aluminum). Sold in the UK for "fell-running, hiking and non-technical", Kahtoola position them between Microspikes and full-on crampons – and hence compete with the Hillsounds?

  8. I have a pair in the trunk of my car awaiting review. :-)

  9. This length adjustment system has to be one of the worst designs I've ever seen. Hillsound is relying on compression of the hex screw to keep the bar in proper adjustment…. terrible!

    You may be able to use adjuster bars from Grivel or BD which have small holes in them. Then all you have to do is take a short bolt with a nylock nut and set the length adjustment once and for all.

  10. Wow Phillip, great resource. So glad to finally know the guy behind this robust blog. Laura and I actually just bought a pair after we saw you on Washington.

    Sunday we'll be climbing Tom, Field, and Willey. We will report back on the performance.

    Keep in touch!

  11. Chris, I can still see that Cheshire grin on your face at the summit of Mt Washington. Or maybe your smile was frozen in place! Glad you found me. I like these crampons. Much lighter than the heavy things you lugged up on the hill on Saturday.

    Tom and Wiley are both rather steep, so plan your daytime accordingly. I am tentatively planning on doing Avalon and Field on Friday. Funny that we had more snow in Boston than in NH over the weekend.

  12. I'm actually trying to tackle a more technical or vertical route. You said it can be steep? Which trail would you recommend for a Tom/Willy/Field trip if I were looking to put my Hillsound, ice ax, and nerves to the test?

    AZ trail? Avalon Trail, … which did you take?

  13. I've climbed Tom in the winter via the A-Z but never Wiley or Field. I needed an ice axe. http://sectionhiker.com/climbing-mt-tom-in-winter

    I've climbed up Willey/Field from the Ethan Pond trail/Willey Range Tr in the autumn. Willey is very steep with ladders. I'd go up but not down it, and exit via Field and the A-Z. That way you can always punt on Tom if you are tired. Here's my trip report on Willey – http://sectionhiker.com/at-section-hike-crawford-

    If you haven't done a lot of winter hiking, you might want to join a meetup group like Random Hikers – Boston based. They do a lot of more technical weekend hikes and I'll be leading some later in the winter.

    The truth is, I always carry a ice axe in winter, but I'm often over-dressed. You can get away with not using one on a lot of winter 4,000 footers. But it's hard to predict which sometimes, and they make good beer openers.

    My 2 cents.

  14. Did Tom, Field, and Willey two winters ago – realize that conditions are different every day in winter but we went A-Z Trail to Tom, Willey Ridge Trail to Field and Willey, then Willey Ridge Trail and Avalon Trail back to the Highland Center. Never needed an ice axe. Some friends did Tom and Field following the same route without an ice axe.

    Thanks for the plug Philip – looking forward to you getting the group out there so you can share your knowledge and experience with them. If anyone is interested the group's web site is http://www.meetup.com/random-hikers.

    Michael Blair

  15. I use the Camp XLC 490 aluminum 12 point crampons when I want a lighter weight alternative. They're great if the terrain won't be too steep or if I only plan to wear them occasionally. They can be worn on any type of shoe (trail runners) and have great anti-balling plates. They are 17.3 oz

  16. Nice spikes – I'd worry about the aluminum in the rocky northeast. I probably should have mentioned that the Trail Crampon Pro is steel. Still CAMP makes great UL winter gear. I'm reviewing one of their ice axes now.

  17. Nice equipment. Very easy to put on and fit most any shoe/boot. In moderate conditions my Scarpa Invernos/BD sabertooths stay home. Perfect for that extra traction on hikes to camp muir on Rainier

  18. “Until now, Kahtoola Microspikes were the only lighterweight alternative to mountaineering crampons for hikers who want extra winter traction to deal with icy trails and ice covered rock. ”

    The Kahtoola KTS crampon has been around for 10 years, and is a superior product in the same category as this. Hillsound is a knockoff company and nothing more. Do your homework.

    • I am very familiar with all of Kahtoola and Hillsounds’ traction aids and my opinion stands. The hillsound binding system on this crampon is far superioor to the KTS binding if you’re going to be wearing boots and not trail runners. Kahtoola has since changed that binding and the last time I met with their design team, they said they’d be sending me a pair to test.

  19. Hi Phillip,
    Do you think the binding discomfort with trail runners is a deal breaker for these Hillsound crampons? I’m trying to decided between these and the Kahtoola crampons (not Microspikes) you also reviewed. The Hillsounds seem great and significantly less expensive than the Kahtoola’s for use with trail runners.

    • The pros are meant for boots. The binding won’t work for a shoe. It’s to high. Also, the horizontal bar is rigid and while it still works with soft boots, you’d be damn uncomfortable with an even softer sole.

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