Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Gear Closet: Hillsound Trail Crampons Pro

Now that winter is closer than we'd like to believe, it is time to start thinking about the gear we'll use to continue our favorite outdoor sports even when the temperatures start to drop and the snow begins to fly. After all, we're not going to let a little winter weather keep us from spending time outside, are we? A warm jacket and pair of pants are crucial of course, as are gloves, a hat, warm socks, base layers, and a good pair of boots as well. But once you've collected all of that essential gear, it is time to start thinking about other items that can enhance your winter adventures. Things like a good winter pack, ice axes, and of course crampons. 

Most of us don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of mountaineering crampons designed to take us up Everest or other major peaks. Instead, we can look for a solution that is built for more casual hiking and climbing on snow and ice. That's where the Trail Crampon Pro from Hillsound comes in. These rugged, easy to use, and affordable crampons will provide the performance you need – and than some – in some surprisingly poor conditions. 

The 10-point Trail Crampon Pro is designed for use in the backcountry on what Hillsound describes as "low to medium grade ascents" on both snow and ice. The aggressive metal spikes are made from carbon steel, which gives them a rugged, durable feel. This doesn't feel like a product that was meant for hikers out for a simple walk on winter trails, but are instead designed for those who demand better performance on terrain that is difficult and challenging. 

Hillsound warns that while this product have been built with features typically found on climbing and mountaineering crampons, they are not meant for use on highly technical ascents or ice climbing. That said, they do provide an impressive amount of grip on snow, ice, and rocks. The front toe spikes are great for digging in when going up the mountain, while the four heel spikes are invaluable while descending as well. 

Designed to be easy to use and highly customizable, hikers can quickly and easily adjust the Trail Crampon Pro to fit just about any boot. The both the length and width are customizable, and can be tightened down using an included allen wrench, ensuring you get just the right fit. I would recommend adjusting the sizing before heading out to the trail however, and you might want to put them on a time or two before hand as well. While they are not difficult to put on your boots, it does require a bit of practice. 

Hillsound has created an easy to use belt system to lock these crampons in place on your shoes. Two straps loop over the top of the boot, and slide into a set of ratchet buckle bindings. From there, you simply pull on the ratchets to adjust the fit as needed. This works quite well, making it a snap to dial in the proper fit. If crampons are too loose, your feet will slide around in them, making them useless on snow and ice. If they are too tight, you could develop blisters or hotspots, or even cut off circulation in your feet. Thankfully, that isn't likely to happen here, as the adjustment process is simple and straight forward. Hillsound even includes a set of alpine stoppers in the box to prevent the ratchets from coming loose in deep snow. 

I'm impressed with the quality and performance of this product. Hillsound has created a crampon that is easy to use, simple to walk in, and effective on difficult terrain. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that the Trail Crampon Pro will meet the needs of most consumers, although mountaineers will probably need something a bit more aggressive. 

I also appreciate that they are easy to throw in your pack without taking up much room, and since they weigh just 23.5 oz. (667g), they don't add a lot of weight either. They are certainly not the lightest solution available, but few can match their performance to weight ratio. 

It is difficult to beat the price on these crampons as well. Hillsound has delivered a high quality product at a great price, selling the Trail Pros for just $79. That is certainly a reasonable price to pay if you enjoy winter backcountry pursuits. If that happens to be the case, you'll certainly appreciate having a pair of these in your gear closet. 

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