Hillsound Trail Crampon & Trail Crampon Pro’s

I’ve been a champion of Kahtoola for years, and it’s been fun watching the naysayers come round and so many folk finding their winter enjoyment increased and scope broadened by packing KTS’s or Microspikes, that’s exactly what lightweight’s all about.
But, the models aren’t perfect, there are niggles, and because Kahtoola has had the market to themselves there’s been no development of the models to address the issues. Well, with Hillsound there’s now competition, and that has to be good for all of us. Is it the start of a lightweight winter-traction arms race?
I’ve got here an exclusive UK first look at Hillsound crampons, so lets see…

First we’ve got the Trail Crampon, carbon-steel spikes linked by chains to an elastomer ring. Flexible, light and packable (there’s a stuffsack included).
I know you’re thinking “Oh, Microspikes”, but there’s several differences. The spikes are on a mini crampon-style frame, which as it it well be less flexible is hinged so you can still wear them with lightweight footwear.
The spikes are quite aggressive and have a good length, essentially it’s a mini ten-point crampon, and I can see these being quite usable on the hill, even getting onto rougher or steeper ground.

The upper “cage” has a removable velcro strap which as well as adding security, adjusts the tension of the crampon, simple but it looks to be effective.
The heel had a big tab, so pulling these on and and off is easy, even with gloves on. The cage is also marked all over with direction arrows, so there’s even less change of getting the fitting wrong.

Stepping up the performance a little we have the Trail Crampon Pro. Above is the whole package, crampons, tough carrying bag and allen key for length adjustment.
Although with the key, adjustment is simple and quick and the key is big enough not to lose if the lid of your pack!

They’re pressed from carbon steel with some relief moulding for strength. The connecting bar has a little flex, but these are obviously intended more as a boot crampon than a trail shoe one, the wider toe fits with that too.
The strap arrangement is a joy to use. You know the load straps you see on big trucks, where they ratchet the strap through a lever mechanism until its tight? That’s what we’ve got here and it’s it’s simple to use, faff-free, easy with gloves and even has no dangling strap ends to deal with. You can’t over-tighten it either, so no crushed feet.
They come prefitted with ant–ball plates too.

There’s enough snow still here for me to get some useful testing of these, and I hope they perform as well as I hope. I’ll be back with some news of that.
There’s a couple of distributors looking at bringing these into the UK this coming winter too, so hopefully the joy of choice will be ours.

43 thoughts on “Hillsound Trail Crampon & Trail Crampon Pro’s

  1. These look great – the superficial similarity to the Kahtoola microspikes of the elastomer is uncanny! The harness for the trail crampon pro looks genius (the ratchet idea – as long as it works). I’ve never been convinced by the long fabric straps with loose ends to flap and catch (as on my Grivel G10s) – good old neoprene with buckles was more functional.
    My Kahtoola Microspikes are the one piece of kit that has most increased my enjoyment of the hills this Winter. They have had a lot of use (favourite pairing is with Salomon Speedcross!) and in quite a wide range of conditions. It may not be lightweight, but I’ve often taken both Microspikes and G10s on more serious routes, as there are limits (mainly steeper /more dangerous ground)and you never quite know when you might encounter them. However, I’d say the use is about 85% : 15% in favour of the Microspikes. The weight penalty of carrying both is worth it – the speed and comfort of movement with Microspikes is a joy.
    It will be intersesting to see how the Trail Crampon performs given the difference in design (with the Microspikes the spikes can move independently, which may or may not be a good thing). Certainly, they are really flexible and allow the footwear to flex completely naturally.

  2. I like the idea of the velcro strap over the foot on the trail crampons – I reckon something similar could pretty easily be retro-fitted to Microspikes :)

    Less keen on the underfoot section though, as I suspect it may be less easy to walk on mixed ground in trail shoes – one of the big benefits of the ‘small spikes and chains’ approach of the Microspikes is that when the snow and ice becomes patchy they don’t make life awkward on the solid bits inbetween… those more rigid spikes might?

  3. Holdfast, I was hoping they’d be here in January :o)

    All good points guys. I don’t think either of these is a direct couterpart to a Kahtoola model, there’s enough of a difference to make them complementary for the gear junkie.

    I have no idea at all how they’ll be on the hill, but I’m very used to the Kahtoola equivalents, so hopefully I’ll be able to get some good info on where the performance is in relation to them.
    Hopefully this week too.

  4. They look good and a clear alternative to Kahtoola micros which are tremendous. Have you got any idea of how much? Oh and they are from Vancouver, my fave place ever.

  5. I like the look of the trail crampons, The spikes look pretty long and the velcro strap as said is a simple but great idea.

  6. UK prices are in the future still, but the prices on the Hillsound websie are good.
    We’ll just have to see what happens with distribution over here, and hope we get a good deal.

  7. Looking at the Kaktrax, there’s alot of properly sensible stuff coming out now aftre years of having to have prioper crampons or those instep death bands that only work if you’re climbing a ladder with very wide and iced rungs.

  8. Good find, some similarities there right enough, the elastomer and chains are identical, as is the hinge.
    The plates theselves are pretty different, we need a hill-meet to compare notes!

  9. I see hwar you mean about the plates, the way the chains attach is a bit different at the back of the front plate etc.

    I found they worked well even on frozen grass, the only thing was the chains balled up easily on wet icy snow. I’ve only used them once so far but for the intended use they’re a good job. You barely notice them when they’re on but when I let my mate try them I definitely missed having them.

  10. I think that the best thing about anything with short spikes, like you say about the frozen grass, you can ghet away with wearing them on most terrain.

    I’m reading about ice climbs in the Cuillin just now, with a single wooden axe and no crampons, it’s all step cutting abnd “clearing holds”. Oh we have the easy life!

  11. Whats the book? I started ‘Mountaineering in Scotland, (Murray) but couldn’t get into it, ‘One Mans Mountains’ (Patey) is a good one though.

    All long Axes and Triconis, :-)

    I wish they’d release ‘The Edge, 100 Years of Scottish Mountaineering’ on DVD, there was some good stuff on it where they did climbs using gear from the time of the first ascents.

  12. A Tom Weir one, “Highland Days”. I’m going to do a post on it, very different to the Tom Weir everybody knows. The boy was badass in his youth.

    Good point about The Edge, The Muron Show should should be released in full as well.
    I’m really not overly keen on much of the outdoor TV we get these days.

  13. I like the looks of the Trail Crampon – look like they’d be a bit sturdier than the microspikes but I have to wonder how long it’ll take to get Kahtoola’s back up about swiping their design ideas.

    Running? Yikes!! I have a bad habit of brushing my shoes against one another and my inner ankles when I run – adding spikes would result in some pretty spectacular stitches, I think.

  14. I’ve caught crampons on ankles many times, usually resulting in a wee fabric tear.
    Once though it lifted both feet off the ground at the same time and I landed right on my chest.
    I was a little breathless and emotional!

    Ach, Kahtoola will hopefully just get some overdue revisions onto the their kit if they’re worried by folk moving into their area.

  15. “Once though it lifted both feet off the ground at the same time and I landed right on my chest.

    I did something similar on Binnein Mor, at the narrowest and steepest part of the ridge between the tops. Required my first, only and hopefully last bona fide ice axe arrest to prevent me scoooting a thousand feet doon the hill.

    And that was just after we got on the wrong side of the ridge going the other way in a whiteout, and ended up under neath a very big cornice on alarmingly steep ground. I thus had my two ‘hairiest’ experiences in the Scottish hills with 25 minutes of each other!

    Breathless and emotional indeed.

  16. Aye, not a place to get it wrong.
    I was up there years ago and my mate had a bit of a moment on the snow arete near the summit and he never went back to the hills.

    I should really go back up there and renew my memories of it with something better!

  17. Now, I’ve had some very interesting info through.

    The looky-likeys in the link above were based on a Size-L Hillsound Trail Crampon and bootlegged as a one-size-fits-all by a Chinese manufacturer (Hillsound are Korean made).
    Hillsound got a set of these and said “Hey, what’s the game here?” as it was was infriging their North American copyrights (which also answers any Kahtoola similarity queries as well), after which the Chinese seller hastily retreated.

    And before anyone asks, I’m not taking anyone’s word for it, I’ve got a copy of the correspondance, the most interesting part of which was the Chinese seller just saying “It’s fair cop guv”. Just shows you how run-of the-mill these situations must be over there.

  18. I had a guy called Kris leave a comment to that effect on my blog. It’s not surprising that they’re a copy of something really, the seller I bought mine off had ones that were the same as Kahtoolas with individual spikes joined by chains rather than the plates.

    The Kahtoola copies were still available after they’s stopped listing the Hillsound copies.

    It must be common enough as you say when they even clone stuff that isn’t exactly a mainstream product.

  19. Aye, it’s so easy out there where everything is made anyway, you make your own adjustments and you’re away. The profits are going to be good if you can sell even a few.
    Hey, it’s that enterprising spirit that’s seen all the manufacturing head east, so fair play to them!

    My favourite area in amongst all this is titanium production, I’ll never forget how much Alpkit upset folk when they brought out their cooking kit :o)

  20. I bought a par f the Microspike copies for my wife from the Chinese seller cost£20, (I’ve got original Kahtoola’s myself cost £40), apart from the colour of the elastomers and spikes,I can’t really see ant difference.

    The Trail Crampon Pros look interesting depending on the price,I’ve been trying to buy a set of G10s all winter off Ebay, look forward to the test results

  21. When you look up close there’s a few differences, the chains not being directly attached, having a little flange on the inside attachemnst points being an interesting on.
    We really need a test day to compare!

    I used the Pro’s at the weekend and they are more G10 that Kahtoola I think, I’ll do a post about that soon.

    Once the sunburn fades a bit…

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  23. Aye, and the green elastomer was nicer!

    I’ve got the new-spec ones, and there’s tweaks coming for the Pro’s too.

    I wonder of the ebay fella got a hold of unused parts?

  24. Aye the green was nicer.

    I don’t think the ebay ones are made from spare Hillsound parts, if you look on the manufacturers website for the ones I got they make a lot of stuff but like the man said they don’t make Hillsound (or Kahtoola) copies anymore.

    http://www.nhjianfeng.com/

    They do an interesting range of Snowshoes, I might just see if the guy I bought the crampons off can get me a set. When my mate bought the crampons like mine they weren’t on ebay but I e-mailed the guy I’d got mine off on ebay and he sorted a pair, I guess he just went down the shops and bought them.

  25. It’s interesting this, it’s a proper look into outdoor industry manufacturing. I think a lot of folk still underestimate the far east, thinking it’s some sort of vast sweatshop run by evil European overseers. It’s actually a place of enterprise and they can make or copy anything, with quality ranging from “hopefully this will stick together until someone pays for it” to better than we expect from a European brand. Which brings me to the Grivel G10 copies on that site above!
    I think it’s worth a punt on the snowshoes, they look pretty decent.
    It’s funny looking at sites like that, all the gear just sitting there waiting for someone to print their logo onto. I reckon folk would be amazed at how much kit they use comes from this kind of source, having had no input at all from the brand whose name is on it.

  26. Aye they would be amazed, I get the feeling that a sizeable number of consumers see a product with a ‘Brand Name’ and actually believe that said company has a factory of their own making all the gear in the catalogue from fleece gloves, stoves etc to technical axes. The reality is that for a lot of items, stoves and ti cookwear to name but 2 they’re picked from a manufacturers catalogue (like Kovea, Fire Maple etc) and then stamped/printed up with whatever brand name you like.

    It’s really not much different to the rest of us looking at an online retailers website and buying the stuff we want apart from the fact that we buy single items were a ‘Brand Name’ company buys a few hundred.

    Obviously it’s a bit of an unknown quantity buying unbranded gear from China, branded goods do have the benefit of the company being afraid of litigation should something fail. I’d avoid technical/safety gear generally even though it may be fine, I had a similar discussion on OM when the Hillsound copies were 1st mentioned but in that case I looked at the circumstances in which I would use them and what could possibly go wrong and figured they were worth a punt. That was my assesment but few agreed.

    I’d definately take a chance on the snowshoes, there isn’t much you can tell from a photograph but fortune favours the bold and if people managed perfectly well with homemade wooden snowshoes then I wouldn’t expect to have a problem with the ones linked to above.

    That said maybe we live in fear too much, ever read ‘No Picnic on Mt Kenya’? (also a film based on it called IIRC ‘The Ascent’) These guys including author Felice Benuzzi were POW’s in a British camp in Kenya, they made their own gear including crampons/hardwear and escaped to climb Mt Kenya.

    Now I’m not suggesting we all go out and make our own crampons/axes etc but plenty did……. you see what I’m getting at though.

  27. I did see the movie based on that book, the mountain stuff was excellent.

    I know a fella who had an ice axe made in the machine shop at his work, a stainless steel wonder it was. I think we’re so used to being a nation of service industry operatives that it’s easy to forget that we can make things and make them well.

    It’s bit like “Where does milk come from?” and the answer being “The shops”.

  28. I haven’t seen the film myself but my mate mentioned it when we were in the Mournes, having read the book I figured they must be about the same thing.

    Didn’t MacInnes make his own peg hammer, ‘The Message’

    The UK worker can make anything if he has a factory to make it in, unfortunately someone decided it was easier to export technology. The problem is that in a recession you can’t easily ramp up production of technology the way Germany ramped up manufacturing.

    You often hear people say that you get what you pay for but the irony is while that’s othen true it’s the name rather than the product that you pay the extra for. Thats the point that some folk fail to see.

  29. Aye, I’ve seen a lot of machinery leaving places I’ve done maintenance, crated up and sent to China along with the people who know how to install and run it.
    Very hard to come back from that, you lose the skills and knowhow, the infrastructure and soon manufacturing becomes an alien concept.

    I’d love to know what the prices would be if all the kit we see now was made in the UK to the same specification?
    I’ve got some Snugpak kit on test and you can tell how they keep the price down.

  30. Well I suspect it would be more expensive although Saunders tents aren’t significantly more expensive than they were 10 years ago. Also I bought my Quasar around 1989, made in the UK it cost £245, my Phreeranger bought around the same time cost about £200 so really a current UK made Quasar isn’t far away, wages having gone up significantly.

    To be honest gear has never been so cheap.

    I have one bit of Snugpak gear, a Premier 1 synthetic bag, I thought the quality was good.

  31. “To be honest gear has never been so cheap.” I keep saying that and no one belives me!

    Snugpak are using little construction simplifications, slightly clunky detailing and materials and the like, more noticable on the clothing, I think the bags are top-notch.

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  34. Hi Petesy,

    did anyone stock those trail Crampon Pro’s? They look good and hopefully good value with the anti-balling plates

  35. Hi Petesy,

    does anyone stock those trail Crampon Pro’s? They look good and hopefully good value with the anti-balling plates

  36. They’re great crampons, mine will be out again soon hopefully :o)

    The last I heard was they were waiting on a CE safety certificate marking for sale in Europe, don’t know what happened there though?

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