Hillsound, a company that makes great pieces of gear for use in hiking in a wide variety of conditions, but especially the winter.
Hillsound Super Armadillo Nano Gaiters ($98)
I've had the pleasure of testing a pair of Hillsound Armadillo LT gaiters in the past, and came away very impressed. That product set my expectations high for the company's Super Armadillo Nano gaiter, which is the flagship model in the Hillsound line-up. Fortunately, I did not come away disappointed.
For those that haven't used gaiters before, they are a protective sleeve that you wear over your boots and the lower part of your legs to keep snow, rocks, dirt, mud, and grit out of your shoes. They come in very handy in wet, dirty conditions in particular, helping to protect your feet from nasty outside elements.
As their name implies, Hillsound's Armadillo Nano gaiter are lightweight and designed specifically for use in warmer weather. They're made from fabrics that are designed to be waterproof but also highly breathable at the same time. This combination comes in handy when the mercury starts to rise, as you'll get all the benefits of a typical gaiter, without making your feet considerable warmer.
Unlike some gaiters that I've used in the past, the fabrics that make up the these gaiters are also very stretchy too, which makes them easier to get on, and place them exactly where you want them. They also make them more comfortable to wear, as they allow you to move better with them on your feet.
In designing the latest edition of the Armadillo Nano gaiters, Hillsound did away with full velcro, and instead have integrated zippers. This also makes it easier to get them on, and lock them snugly in place. Those zippers – as with all the materials the make up this product – are very high quality and easy to operate, even with the ice, snow, and mud that you'll encounter out on the trail.
Speaking of high quality, I am once again impressed with Hillsound's build quality. These gaiters feel great in your hand, and even better when you're wearing them. But they also shrug off abuse with ease. Mine were quite wet and dirty after wearing them in the snow, but after cleaning them up, they looked completely brand new, without a hint that they had been warn at all.
Since these gaiters are designed for use in warmer weather, they didn't provide a lot of extra warmth in the cold conditions of winter. That said however, they still performed marvelously, keeping snow and ice at bay.
In comparing them to the LT model that I reviewed previously, the one big thing that stands out is price. The LT costs just $49, and offer exceptional performance in their own right. In fact, I'd still recommend them for more casual hikers and backpackers. But those who expect top performance out of their gear, and need something that is lighter, the Nano is the way to go. Simply put, this is probably the best performing gaiter on the market today, and it is worth the extra money if high performance is your goal.
Another Hillsound product that I've tested in the past is the awesome Trail Pro Crampon. For those who need a lightweight crampon, it is a fantastic option that is affordable, easy to use, and works great. But most people don't need something so technical for their hikes, even in colder weather conditions. But keeping your footing on slick surfaces can still be a challenge and a little extra traction always comes in handy. For them, Hillsound offers the Trail Crampon, which is a lightweight solution that can keep you moving when ice becomes a real challenge.
The Trail Crampon slips over your existing hiking shoes, adding a set of spikes that provide added grip on snow and ice. Velcro straps hold the Trail Crampon in place, and I can tell you that once they are locked into position, I didn't experience any slipping or issue with them moving around on my shoes. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised at how well they stayed in place, as the same can't always be said about similar products from Hillsound competitors that I've tested in the past.
The great thing about the Trail Crampon is that it literally takes seconds to put them on, which means you can keep them in your backpack until you need them. Then, when you encounter poor surface conditions, you can slap them on and get moving.
Lightweight and very packable, this is a product that is easy to take with you anywhere. Throw them the pack of your car for use during winter, take them on a day hike when conditions could take a turn for the worse, and use them when you go backpacking in an alpine setting. They grip ice and snow incredibly well, and will provide you with sure footing no matter where you go.
Affordable and offering high performance, the Hillsound Trail Crampon is nicely priced at $60. They are also very durable, which means you'll have them at your disposal for many adventures to come, where you'll be glad you have them in your gear closet.