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Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra Review

The Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra is a winter traction aid compatible with all types of shoes: trail runners, hiking boots, insulated boots, and mountaineering boots.
The Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra is a winter traction aid compatible with all types of shoes: trail runners, hiking boots, insulated winter hiking boots, ski boots, and mountaineering boots.

Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra



The Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra is a winter traction device that has 18 half-inch stainless spikes connected to an elastomer harness compatible with all hiking boots, shoes, and trail runners. They're essentially tire chains for your feet.

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The Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra is a winter traction device that has 18 half-inch stainless spikes connected to an elastomer harness compatible with all hiking boots, shoes, and trail runners. They’re essentially tire chains for your feet, designed to give you better traction for hiking or running on flat or low angle terrain covered with ice or packed snow.

In addition to better traction, there are many advantages to using this type of traction aid over a traditional rigid mountaineering crampon:

  • Much lighter weight than traditional crampons, only 16.2 oz per pair.
  • No special bag required to carry them, just clip to your pack with a carabiner or stuff in a pocket
  • Idiot-proof to put on or take off (no training, fitting, or practice required)
  • Compatible will all types of footwear, including soft-soled shoes or boots

The spikes on the lighter weight Trail Crampon Ultra are connected by chains which lets them float freely of one another making them much more comfortable to hike or run with if you have soft-soled footwear. You can even use them to run on thin ice like you find on winter sidewalks and urban running trails.

How do the Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras perform? They’re easy to put on and take off, provided that you get the size compatible with your boots or shoes. They’re quite good for hiking on packed-out mountain trails covered with snow or ice and provide an impressive amount of traction when hiking up steep slopes. I carry and use them on almost every winter hike I take. The velcro front strap keeps them on and secure. The stainless steel spikes are durable and will withstand tremendous abuse, even when traversing open rock. They require zero maintenance. They’re really quite good, which is why so many winter hikers use them.

Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra is compatible with trail runners, winter hiking boots and mountaineering boots
The Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra is compatible with trail runners, winter hiking boots and mountaineering boots.

Compared to Kahtoola Microspikes

There are two big differences between the Trail Crampon Ultra and Kahtoola Microspikes. The Ultras have slightly longer spikes (see below) and the Ultra has a velcro strap running over the forefoot that prevents the elastomer strap from popping off while you’re hiking.

Spike and length comparison:

That velcro strap makes a huge difference in the reliability provided by the Ultra and is the reason why I eventually tossed my Microspikes and switched to the Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra myself. It never pops off and I haven’t lost one yet. When you lose a Kahtoola Microspike during a hike, you’ll never find it again in the snow unless the person hiking behind you notices it when it pops off. After that, it’s gone. You’ll never see it again.

Highly Recommended: Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra

Disclosure: Hillsound provided the author with a sample Trail Crampon Ultra for this review. 

Written 2017.

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  1. Use a mini carabiner to secure any micro spikes to your shoe laces to prevent loss. I even had microspikes held with velcro fall of, unless the velcro went through the laces.

  2. Hiya, Philip. Been a while since I no longer receive emails and do not use facebook for much but happened to notice this posting. Anyway, without heel traction while walking, most traction devices are worthless except for running. I have lost two Kahtoola’s recently and was looking for something as light as YakTrax and more durable than plastics (preferably aluminum chains with SS spikes.) These look good except for all the plastic (which can be a problem at -10f and below.) Of course, traditional crampons don’t work for my daily fitness hikes nor does anything over a 12oz for running. How do these fare on a daily basis (figure 7mi per day/6 days per week?)

  3. I own a pair and would concur with all of your comments. I had considered the Kahtoolas but they were on back order where I live so I opted for the Hillsounds not really recognizing the differences between the 2. Based upon your comments I’m glad i did. While these don’t replace the need for snowshoes nor more traditional crampons in conditions that require them, these are truly essential kit for every hiker.

  4. Argggg! Your original review says “Kahtoolah Microspikes are ideal for mixed rock, ice, and snow outings for a number of reasons.” Then just last month you wrote “(Kahtoolah) Microspikes are an essential winter traction aid for hiking over ice, slush, and packed snow”. No mention of them falling off. Based upon your glowing reviews, my wife & I bought two pair of KM’s. Now it’s “I eventually tossed my Microspikes and switched to the Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra.” If you have any reservations about a piece of gear, please say so in your recommendations. This stuff is not cheap!

    • They were for years and only started popping off at the end of last winter. As another reader suggests, use a mini-biner to attach them to your laces if you’re worried about them. I’ve been meaning to update the Kahtoola review (originally written in 2011) with this latest info since it I only decided to permanently switch to the Hillsounds last weekend.

    • Bob,
      You won’t be disappointed in your purchase. I’ve been using the kahtoolas for years and have done dozens of hikes with them without a problem. They are awesome!

      I’ll be looking to replace them (probably next year, they are getting dull) and given Phillips review, I’ll likely give these a try. I already have the Hillsound trail crampon pro and there fantastic!

  5. One advantage of the Kahtoolas is that they’re over 3 oz. lighter. With the old adage “one pound on your feet equals five on your back”, this theoretically translates to nearly a pound more on your back with the Hillsounds on your feet, in terms of hiking effort.

  6. My concern with both designs is where the chains attach to the rubber. I wish they would use a metal grommet at each attachment point to prevent wear. That said I own the Kahtoolas and so far so good so maybe my concern is unfounded.

    • You would be crazy not to carry mini zip ties or regulars zips for this type of repair and many others around camp.

      The other day we stitched together a cut bicycle tire with mini zips.
      It held for 75 miles until a replacement tire could be found.


  7. So,l like many I already have the Kahtoola microspikes as well as the Yaktrax diamond grip.
    I was planning on getting the Hillsound Trail Pro next. Can you compare?
    Seems like I wouldn’t have a need for swapping out the Kahtoolas until they broke, the Hillsound Ultras sound better but not enough so to toss the microspikes.

  8. Hi Philip, just wanted to say thanks for all of the reviews. I just started backpacking this past summer and was overwhelmed with all of the gear choices until I came across your site. The reviews have been extremely helpful. Each time I see a new review I find myself thinking, I could certainly use that! My poor wallet has taken a beating but I sure have a big smile to go with it. Off to order a pair of Hillsound Trail Crampons!

    • Philip has beaten up my wallet while adding a big smile for several years now. One of these days, he and I will actually meet. I just hope my wife doesn’t beat him up for beating up my wallet… well… he’s safe!

  9. I’m not much of a fan of hook&loop (velcro). It grabs whenever I don’t want it to and releases when I don’t want it to. Granted, this application MAY not be so prone to release because most of the stress will be shear rather than peel.

    There’s another issue though, hook&loop tends to ice up when exposed to snow.

  10. I have both the Hillsounds and the Kahtoolas and my experience aligns with this review. I also like the velcro strap on the Hillsounds as I believe it keeps them from get twisted out of place while hiking. I did have a Kahtoola tear during a hike where the chain attaches to the rubber at the toe. That made completing the hike much less enjoyable and now I have an extra microspike which is useless except for taking it along on group hikes as a backup in case someone else has a similar failure.

    • A simple paper clip and you can field-repair your microspikes. Stick paperclips at the start of your wad of duct tape. Makes it easy to use the latter and the paperclip is easily available too.

  11. Have used both many times in the ADKs and agree with your review. Use Microspikes in poor conditions to take a beating on rocks and use Hillsounds on tougher icy conditions. Added velcro straps to Microspikes and that helps keep them in place. Spray metal with light cooking oil to reduce clumping in warmer conditions.

  12. Could I request a disclaimer be posted on any review of this style of traction that they ARE NOT suitable for steep routes like Lionshead on Mt Washington? So many injuries and near misses because folks think these can handle “steep” terrain. Define “steep”.

  13. What is the difference between the Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra and the former Hillsound Trail Crampon?

  14. Interesting observations – would like to read follow ups. Thanks!

  15. Having worked with beginner winter hikers for several years I have noticed that microspikes are not entirely “Idiot-proof to put on“. The most common mistake is to not pull the rubber high enough over the boot so as to ensure that the chains are as tight as possible. If the chains are left loose the spikes will just flop around with little or reduced traction value. I’ve seen this happen a few times even with more experienced hikers while following them on the trail. You also have to be careful that the chain doesn’t accidentally get caught on the point of a spike. This might not be obvious unless you carefully inspect the bottom of your boot.

  16. How accurate is the sizing chart from hillsound?

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