If you live somewhere with any sort of winter, you’ve likely thanked the gear gods that microspikes exist. Trails that receive snow are often unpredictable in the winter and spring, sometimes even into summer. When you don’t know if you’ll be encountering mud, ice, snow, or a mixture of all three, having a pair of lightweight microspikes is key. I use mine weekly for winter trail running, but they’re also an essential piece of gear for many thru-hikers, especially on trails like the PCT and CDT, where the snowpack is unpredictable. As a trail runner, hiker, or backpacker, the perfect pair of microspikes balances weight and packability with aggressive traction and comfort.
This winter, living near the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, I hit the trails with a pair of the Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras strapped to my feet. It’s been absolutely amazing to bomb down icy, choppy, and uneven trails without worrying about which step is inevitably going to send me tumbling. Though this style of Hillsound’s popular microspikes is geared toward trail running, lightweight backpackers and thru-hikers will also love their design — providing security and speed in slippery or snowy terrain.
Weight: 14.25 oz (pair)
Spike Length: ½ inch - ⅔ inch
Materials: stainless steel spikes and chain, elastomer harness
Best for: trail running, lightweight hiking, fastpacking, thru-hiking
Why is Traction so Important for Thru-Hikers?
Many thru-hikes, long trails and high routes contain sections covered in snow, ice, slush, or frozen mud. What’s more, these conditions aren’t always predictable. If there is any chance you will encounter anything other than a dry trail on your adventure, bringing lightweight traction devices is absolutely a good idea. It’s not just about being able to move quickly (though microspikes certainly help with that); they’re primarily a necessary piece of safety gear. Especially when carrying a heavy pack, it’s easy to get off balance and slip on icy or snowy trails.
Built for Speed and Security
Now that I’ve ranted on the merits of microspikes, let’s talk about what makes the Hillsound Trail Crampons different. Every other traction device that I’ve used has spikes of all the same length. I never knew how this could be made better until I tried out the Hillsound crampons. The spikes in the back are longer, so as you go downhill you still have equal amounts of traction across the foot. Though the spikes themselves are heavier than some others on the market, this thoughtful feature helps a ton with security while moving at top speed.
My Favorite Features
Across the foot velcro strap: I’ve never used a pair of spikes with this feature before, and I *love* it. I thought it might create uncomfortable pressure around my foot, but the opposite is true. It really keeps the spikes in place, even when deep snow threatens to suck them off my feet.
Varying spike lengths: The spikes are longer in the heel, and I cannot overstate how useful this is for cruising down icy hills. Previously, I felt that I had to dig the ball of my feet into the trail and aggressively toe-strike on downhills to feel like I had enough traction. Now, without trying, the whole foot is connected to the trail with any style of stride because of this design.
Long and plentiful spikes: I’ve never lost traction, even on the iciest trails, with the amount of spikes on these trail crampons. In mixed conditions, I’ve been able to get through some muddy and one rocky patch *fairly* easily, but I choose these spikes for when I know most of the trail is going to be covered in some sort of snow or ice. That’s where they truly shine.
Stability with speed: In the past, I’ve found that most spikes slow me down a significant amount, especially on descents. However, Hillsound designed these spikes specifically to alleviate that problem. The longer spikes in the back of the foot dig into the trail while I’m running or hiking downhill, so I find myself toe-striking much less aggressively when I’m wearing these spikes.
Security around the foot: I truly did not think much of the top strap at first. However, as I’ve used the spikes more, it’s become one of my favorite features. Through any sort of deep snow or post-holing situation, or during speedy descents, the top strap keeps the microspikes right in place on my feet.
Versatility: Oftentimes I would find myself in unpredictable conditions not wanting to use spikes at all. Some of the microspikes from different brands that I’ve had in the past haven’t done too well in ice, with the spikes sort of elevating me, which created an insecure and “tippy” feeling. However, I found the Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras dug into even a thin layer of ice. So, I’m comfortable with wearing them in ice, choppy snow, slush, or more powdery snow.
Weight: The Hillsound Trail Crampons Ultras are definitely lightweight, clocking in at just under a pound for the pair. However, lighter microspike options do exist; which may be more desirable for adventures where dry trail is most likely, but you’d like to pack a ‘backup, just in case’ piece of safety traction. Additionally, the extra weight of each microspike is noticeable after some time. On long runs, I definitely feel my legs working harder to lift up an extra half pound on each foot.
Not the best for truly mixed conditions: Though these spikes are amazing for mixed ice, snow, and slush; I don’t choose them for runs where I know I’m encountering mud as well. On certain trails around here, the aspect and elevation changes a ton, so I’m running through patches of ice, followed by long stretches of mud, and it’s a pain to take spikes on and off. For runs like this, I instead choose spikes with extremely small nubs for traction; as the length of the spikes on the Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras is too long to be able to charge through dry sections.
Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra: Overall Impressions
Overall, I recommend the Hillsound Trail Crampons for anyone who’s planning adventures in mixed conditions where security is the number one priority. They perform really well in all sorts of snow conditions, whether powder, ice, slush, or any mixture of the three.
Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra
Katie is a freelance writer based in Salt Lake City, Utah. When she's not behind her laptop, you can find her guzzling instant coffee in the backcountry or developing a new and expensive outdoor hobby. To see her adventures and occasional long rambles, follow her on Instagram @katelyn_ali