Hillsound: Traction Devices and Gaiters for the Toughest Trails

Startup StoriesAmy Hatch

We all know hiking provides a lot of time to think. It was on one such winter hike in the snowy mountains of British Columbia that Changsun Kang started mulling over footwear, specifically, his crampons.  

While they did provide traction and helped prevent falls, they were heavy, bulky and difficult to use.  

“I wanted to make an improved and more hiker-focused version,” Changsun said. 

Finally, in 2007, after years of chatting with fellow outdoor enthusiasts, Changsun’s vision became a reality through a high-quality, easy-to-use and affordable foot traction device for hikers and trail runners.  

His passion for nature and music merged, and inspired the brand name Hillsound.  

“I wanted the name to represent what our products can bring to people,” Changsun said.  “I love the calming sounds of nature you would hear on a hike.”

“Design, test, adjust, design, test, adjust” soon became his mantra. After countless miles of field testing on various terrain and nearly 40 prototypes later, the brand’s flagship creation, the Trail Crampon, was born.  

When their stock sold out within a matter of weeks, it was clear he nailed it.  The design included an ergonomic plate system for extra “spike stability” and most importantly, they went on and off with ease.  

Chansung credits his success to the wealth of field testing the products endure. Hillsound’s loyal and outdoor loving ambassadors greatly influence the brand’s creations.  

Whether they are weekend warriors or professional athletes,” Changsun said Hillsound's ambassadors put their products through the wringer.  “It’s quite thrilling to see how our products are a part of each ambassador’s journey throughout the seasons,” he said.

The crampon’s performance was even challenged by a handful of Sherpas in the Himalayan Mountains. Changsun had a mountaineer friend who frequented the region, and sent him off with a bunch of Hillsound’s equipment.   

“The feedback we got was that these were a lot lighter and easier to use while having amazing grip,” recalled Changsun.  

The brand eventually added four more traction devices to their product line. Tailored to unique uses and terrains, they range from the most aggressive Trail Crampon Pro to the most lightweight FreeSteps6. 

A few years later, the brand was confident with their creations and wanted to expand their product offerings. To accompany their crampons, Hillsound crafted a revolutionary hiking gaiter. Tough enough to withstand sharp crampon spikes and named after the sturdy-shelled Armadillo, these gaiters are durable, waterproof, and feature YKK zippers on the front, making them easy to get on and off, and sidestepping the issues associated with Velcro closures. 

Hillsound ambassador and highly acclaimed thru-hiker Heather “Anish” Anderson put the Armadillo LT gaiters to the test while achieving the “Triple Crown in a Calendar Year” in 2018.  

Despite being a small team of six, Hillsound continues to innovate and expand their product line. Newly launched in 2019, the brand is excited to introduce FlexSteps. Changsun said they received a lot of feedback from their users requesting a less aggressive crampon, something for your morning jog or walking the dog.  

“Our team put a lot of hard work and soul into this product, and we couldn’t be more excited to be sharing it with everyone,” he said. 

Marketing Manager YooRa Kang who’s been with the brand for over five years agreed.  

“It’s challenging as we are a small team, but once we start to see our ideas come to life, there is no bigger reward.”  


Hillsound Gaiters and crampons
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