Unigear Ice Cleats are virtually identical to Hillsound’s Trail Crampon Ultra winter traction system but cost less than half the price. They have the same stretchy elastomer harness and come with 18 stainless steel spikes for winter hiking on ice and packed snow. I’ve used them for winter hiking up and down New Hampshire mountains and I can’t detect any significant difference between the construction or performance of the two products.
Specs at a Glance
These Unigear Ice Cleats are like tire chains for your feet, providing extra traction when walking on ice and packed snow. They are designed for walking on hiking trails and not for urban use on sidewalks. They work with any footwear including insulated winter boots, regular hiking boots, mid-height hiking boots, trail runners, and mountaineering boots. Some people even wear them for fishing since they help prevent slips on moss-covered rocks along riversides. They have their limits though and you’ll want real mountaineering crampons for climbing high angle and vertical ice.
They have three main components: an elastic harness that slips over your boots or shoes, spikes that penetrate ice and snow to give you a better grip, and chains that connect the two. Unlike mountaineering crampons, the spikes aren’t fixed in place, but “float” at the end of the chains so they can adapt to the terrain you encounter. In this respect, they work just like Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras or Kahtoola Microspikes.
The Unigear’s spikes are grouped into “threes” with 12 positioned under the forefoot and 6 under the heel providing extra traction when climbing up hills or braking when you’re coming back down. I haven’t experienced any slippage of the harness and spikes on steep descents, which is something I always look for on this type of product.
The overall construction is very solid, with reinforced eyelets to anchor the crampon chains on the harness. The spikes are held on by a combination of double and single chain links that are identical to the ones used on Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras. The spikes and chains are made with stainless steel, so they won’t rust, which is important to keep your winter gear in top condition.
Unigear’s Ice Cleats come with a velcro strap that loops over the top of your boots to help prevent the cleats from being pulled off in use. It still isn’t foolproof, but it does help cut down on accidental loss. Ice and packed snow are sticky and can pull off spikes without you being aware of it. It still happens to me once or twice each winter when using Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras with a velcro strap, just not as often as on Kahtoola Microspikes that don’t come with one.
I decided to buy these Unigear Ice Cleats after I lost one of my Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras coming down a mountain after a long hike. I’ve always replaced the Hillsounds I’ve lost in the past when this happens, but at $69/pair, I decided to have a look at the competition to see if I could save some money. At $29/pair, these Unigear Ice Cleats were available at a significant discount because Unigear sells direct to consumers on Amazon, while Hillsound sells its products through retailers, who have to markup the product price to make a profit.
If you’re just getting started winter hiking, you’ve probably encountered the sticker shock that comes with buying new insulated boots and all the traction aids, snowshoes, poles, and clothing layers necessary to get started. These Unigear Ice Cleats are a good alternative to Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras and Kahtoola Microspikes that can save you some money, without giving up on product quality, functionality, or durability.
Disclosure: The author owns this product.
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Last updated: 2021-01-13 02:31:05