Before heading out to the Grand Canyon recently I picked up a replacement pair of ice traction devices. My previous pair were Stabilicers Run/Sport ice traction devices. These worked fine for trips on the South Rim that involved short stretches of ice, but I was concerned about the North Rim. The reports were that heavy snowfall and repeated freezing was leading to dangerous and icy conditions. I decided to step my game up and go for something more aggressive then the Stabilicers but not a full crampon neither.
HIllsound seemed to have the best of both worlds. A crampon style traction device that you would fit on trail runners. I was sceptical and weary of the price tag but the reviews I could find seemed positive. I found a pair through a small online shop on the East Coast and ordered a pair of the Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra.
The Hillsound Trail Crampons Ultra are a scant 13.75 ounces with half inch spikes. For comparison my Stabilicers weigh in at 12 ounces for the pair. The Hillsounds have a stretchy rubber upper that hugs the shoe securely. The bottoms are all business; made of stainless steel and welded chains for durability. The crampons come in a small tough stow bag. The bag makes storing the crampons easier without having to worry about puncturing any other gear. When initially removing the crampons I noticed that the chains were tangled and took a few seconds to straighten out. When placing the crampons on my trail runners I noticed that you need to make sure you place them on in the correct direction. This seems easy enough, but there are very slight differences to help distinguish the correct orientation. The front of the crampons has a steel bar that runs over the top of the toe box and helps to keep them facing the correct direction. The Hilsounds also have a velcro strap which goes over the top of the foot and secures them to the shoe. After placing them on I walked around the grass a bit and then packed them for my trip. Everything seemed fine, but the real test was to come.
The conditions heading down the South Kaibab Trail required traction immediately. After placing them Hillsounds on I noticed that my confidence on the ice increased dramatically. The half inch teeth easily bit into the ice and provided security. The ice was short lived on this trail and a mile down we removed the crampons. Prior to doing this we did have to cross patches of dirt/mud between ice pockets. During these crossings I felt no concern for the durability of the teeth. The crampons were stashed in the included pouch which protected the mesh on my pack. It also was nice that they were not hung off the back of the pack and left to jingle with every step. Super annoying. On the North Kaibab trail the HIllsounds preformed flawlessly. During the incline and decline there were no occasions where traction was lost, even with a heavy pack strapped to my back. On the way down the crampons were removed because of the lack of ice. What I had not realized was that the crampons were providing some traction in the mud and slush that we encountered. So although they were not designed for it, they did help in those variable conditions.
-Ultralight weight design means that these disappear in your pack when not on your feet. The weight also means that while wearing them there is little change in your gait.
-The included bag works excellent in providing protective and sound dampening storage.
-The combination of the velcro strap, steel tow box bar and then rubber upper provide a secure fit with minimal parts.
-The crampons easily slide on and off even with heavy gloves on.
-The cost of these is close to $70, which is hard to spend on an item that I will only use a few times a year.
-Finding these can be an issue, as not many suppliers seem to carry them and the ones that do were out of stock.
-Hillsound has a large line of crampons and traction devices of which the names are very similar. Be sure that where you are buying them from is selling you the correct pair.
-Non replaceable teeth. Unlike the Stabilicers (which can be replaced) these crampons will eventually wear out and new ones will need to be purchased.
These crampons work excellent. The lightweight design coupled with the aggressive teeth provide a high level of security with minimal weight. For a ounce and half more you can have a much more confident traction device then the Stabilicer Sports. The Hillounds come at a cost, but the quality build lead one to believe that these will last awhile and pay for them selves. The traction device held stiff to my shoe, there was no shifting under weight or unweighted. At no point did the crampons feel like they were a separate unit from my trail runners. Overall I would highly recommend these for anyone looking for more traction in a lightweight package. These would be excellent for any sort of high altitude racing where there is potential for ice.
***This product was purchased with my own hard earned cash.