Lighter alternatives to full-size crampons have proliferated in recent years but few are suitable for anything other than occasional use on gentle terrain
Canadian company Hillsound’s Trail Crampon Ultras are different and could be all that most walkers need. Made from stainless steel, the Trail Crampons have 18 short sharp points linked by welded chains that also aid grip. The crampons attach with a stretchy rubber cradle that adapts to the shape of your footwear. A strap secures the crampons across the instep. Hillsound says they are suitable for trail running shoes as well as hiking boots.
The Trail Crampons are easy to fit. I tried them on several different pairs of boots and shoes and they adjusted fine to each shape. I also found them quite easy to put on when wearing gloves on a freezing, wind-blasted hillside.During the winter I’ve been using the Trail Crampon Ultras with lightweight bendy boots. On gentle terrain they worked well and were easier to walk in than full-size crampons with longer points. To try them on steeper terrain, I went up Bynack More in the Cairngorms. The slopes were covered in wind-blasted icy snow and crampons were essential.
The Trail Crampons don’t have front points – they are definitely not for technical climbing – and I had to place my feet flat on the snow to get the best grip. The bendy boots helped here as there was no restriction on ankle flexibility. The limitations of the Trail Crampons come when you can’t place them flat on the snow because of the steepness of the slope (and the flexibility of your ankles). A couple of times I zigzagged up a steep section because of this. With front-point crampons I could have gone straight up.
Descending, I was able to go straight down fairly steep slopes. The Trail Crampons have a fairly wide heel plate with three points so placing the heel on the snow then rolling the foot forwards during descent gave a secure grip. I felt that Bynack More was about the limit for these. Anything steeper and I’d want full crampons.
These are not mountaineering crampons but if you won’t be climbing really steep terrain they work well. Their advantage over full-size crampons is in the much lower weight and packed size. The Trail Crampons come in five sizes. I have the medium size and they weigh 426 grams and pack down to half the size of standard crampons. They are supplied with a tough stuffsack weighing 34 grams.