Another look at the Airlite Inflatable Snowshoes

4:53 p.m. on February 7, 2013 (EST)
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From this month last year there was a whole string of comments, by those of you who were not quite sure what to think about an inflatable snowshoe, posted on Trailspace.

The company has had their product on the market for not much more than the past year. Many of you will be quite surprized at the interest generated by these snowshoes along with their track record so far.

Just so you know, I am the inventor / owner of Airlite Inflatable Snowshoes and here is what has been happening with the Airlite .....

 We have sold them all over the US, Canada, a few in Europe and Russia, as well as in the Orient, so far. This product has had virtually no advertising and yet word of mouth (Internet) has made this snowshoe pretty much sell it's self. CNN introduced our product as ... "one of the coolest survival gadgets that would even impress MacGyver."

The Airlite Snowshoe Also just won a world wide inventors competition as best invention of 2012, beating out 212 other inventors sporting 236 inventions. Originally designed for snowmachiners, we have sold more to pilots, rescue groups, and extreme outdoor enthusiasts than we have to that original target market. Some of our customers are or are members of …..

The US Navy Special Operations Warfare Development Group

Alaska State Troopers

Alaska Dept of Fish and Game

Colorado Dept of Fish and Game

Utah Dept of Fish and Game

Civil Air Patrol ( in most northern states )

And the list goes on. As it turns out, anyone that lives works or plays where deep snow, soft mud, or wet swampy muskeg could become a hazard, should have the Airlite.

We have had NO dis-satisfied customers, NO returns, No reports of punctures or leaks, and NO bad feed back. One of our very satisfied customers is a member of the Alaska Civil Air Patrol who happens to be a 280 + pound man that is 6'4" tall with size 14 feet, he loves them.

I have personally bee testing these in Alaska since my patent in 2004. I still use the same pair and they have virtully no scrapes, marks, holes, or leaks. They are not a one time use short distance product.

Pleasetake a look at the new puncture testing photos on our website, then ..... lets blog. Feel free to contact me with any questions / comments you may have.

 

 

 

 

 

8:20 a.m. on February 8, 2013 (EST)
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Great idea, you should send some to this site's test corp. So many people look to this site fir gear reviews. I know thats what led me here at first.

10:54 a.m. on February 9, 2013 (EST)
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A good idea, and better than having nothing if you have to walk out of the bush on deep snow in an emergency. I could see them as a great gadget to have in the trunk as part of your emergency kit if you work outdoors or run the risk of being stranded outside in winter. 

If you're planning a snowshoe trip in the backcountry, though, I'd still go with a rigid pair, with a strong deck and a better designed binding. Too many obvious design flaws.

So the first big question; the website says they "...are not intended to replace standard snowshoes..." but the way it's worded above (and inplied elsewhere on the website) suggests otherwise. In what ways do these compete with more traditional designs? Or of more importance, in what ways are they BETTER than more traditional designs?

Second, there is an optional strapon crampon offered, but from the way the marketing is phrased I wonder how many of the people buying them would think of buying a pair. The largest part of the target demographic is people who might not have any experience with snowshoes, such as snowmobilers or pilots. None of the 'complete packages' shown on the website include a set of crampons. No cleats, no crampons = no traction on the basic snowshoe.

Third, the width is given as 16", or about twice that of other modern designs. From experience with the old 'tennis-racket' style, that may well be the proper size for your 280 lb man with size 14 feet, but on anyone who's a normal size, you're making them do that old voyageur duck walk. Acceptable in an emergency, but it can be crippling over any distance, especially with people who aren't used to using the different muscles involved in snowshoeing. 

Fourth, I really dislike the idea of a simple strap as a binding and no cutout for the toes to drop into. No way to keep the snowshoes centered on your feet (heels slide around even on ones with a stronger binding), and with no fixed pivot point, you'll have to walk with your toes up instead of with a normal gait. 

A bit of misleading information here: this post says that the snowshoes "won a world wide inventors competition as best invention of 2012" but the website says it was only a local competition at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. Nothing wrong with that, but I don't like being misled. 

Prove me wrong! Hotdogman is right. If you want a fair evaluation based on actual comparisons with other designs (instead of ones based solely on what's on your website), send some in. I'd be happy to try them out. 

2:46 p.m. on February 9, 2013 (EST)
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Ok, I can see you are making points that anyone might make purely on visual diagnosis, However, If you had paid attention while looking over the website you might not have missed a few details that you are mistaken about.

First, they are not designed to replace regular snowshoes in every situation as stated. However, they are tough enough top be a part of any outdoor enthusiast’s winter gear. True they are primarily an emergency use item or at least that is what I designed them for. Since their introduction to the market, I am finding that many of our customers are using them in place of their regular snowshoes because of the main attributes the Airlite has to offer. Compact flexible storage ability, light weight, and fully functional and very durable.

Secondly as you put it, The website does show and say that the complete package does include ... the snowshoes, a (so far unnecessary) patch kit, CRAMPONS, one of the inflation devices ie: short pump, long pump, or a Co2 inflator, and a drawstring bag that it all fits in nicely with room to spare. By the way, that drawstring bag measures 10"x6"x6" with everything in it.

Note: we sell everything separately because some of our customers already have a pump or won't want the drawstring bag because they plan on storing them flat or rolled up rather than in the bag, and so on. At least 80 % of our customers buy the crampons with the snowshoes. You said that our main market group might not understand the whole snowshoe thing like pilots and snowmachiners. I don't know where you are located but the bush pilots here must carry snowshoes. Regular snowshoe take up alot of room and pilots I talk to tell me that they would carry more stuff if they could because weight & space are critical in the plane. Our snowshoes pack easier so they can carry something else. If you think that most snowmachiners don't get what snowshoes are all about, well then you must only hang with the hot-dogers and not the trail riders or trappers, hunters or ice fishermen, etc:.. because they do. I myself like to high mark, tree slalom, and hit big air, so I never took them with me but wished I had many times. Now I can have snowshoes when I need them.

Third, size? True, they are not skinny, they do work and our customers don't seem to mind using them. All I can say about width is make an informed decision, if you don't think you could walk in these then don't buy them. I am not a snowshoer but after 7 years of testing these snowshoes here in Alaska I have to say that I have never found it difficult to walk in them.

Fourth, when strapped on correctly, our bindings hold the snowshoe in line with the wearers foot quite nicely. Also, the way that I have the binding situated on the deck, and the deck being flexible, when you lift your foot the toe goes up and the heel drops, as it should so as not to shovel snow with the toe when walking. The binding is a simple design but when cinched down, it works very well.

Now, you said that the websites verbiage was misleading about winning a worldwide competition. On the first page of our website, right under a photo of my wife and I holding that huge check, are these words.....

"Winner of the AIC 2012 Inventor’s Competition held at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) on 10/19/12
This completion was open to innovative ideas from around the world.
Out of 212 inventors submitting over 235 inventive ideas Airlite took 1st place."

Not sure why you think it was only a local competition. We had inventers fly in from around the would to be there. One of the pore guys almost went to jail trying to get his invention through the TSA at Seattle’s Airport.

Lastly, I have no problem whatsoever in offering our product for testing by this site's tester. I did not know they would do that, BUT, what I did do just a week or so ago was re-read the skeptical post by a long time member of this site and contacted him. We discussed a few things and I ended up sending him a demo package free of charge and asked him to first try out the Airlite and post an informed opinion derived from personal experience.

I am very sorry that you have such a problem with the idea and design of the Airlite Snowshoe But I will be perfectly honest wit you here. Take no offense but if my snowshoe saves even one life, then your opinion really does not matter much to me. Yes I want everyone to love the Airlite for what it is but there will always be Skeptics and I can't help that. What I can do is produce a quality product here in America and offer it to those who see its value.

Here's a point to ponder. The attributes previously mentioned have caused people from around the world to pay as much as $203.00 in shipping charges alone just to get them. Of course that was an overseas purchase. They ship domestically for normal UPS / USPS shipping costs.

 

 

 

 

10:46 a.m. on February 10, 2013 (EST)
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Don't take my post as an attack. Think of of it as an opportunity.

I agreed that these would be handy in an emergency, for anybody who might risk getting stranded outdoors in winter, but I see questions that begged a response.

There are what appear to be design flaws, but as I said, that's just from looking quickly at the website. I've seen way too many people buy snowshoes that just don't work because some marketing guru told them they were the 'latest, greatest'. You will appreciate that these are quite a departure from the rigid frames and full crampons of other modern designs. 

If you're a snowshoer, you'll understand that while the toe of the snowshoe has to come up as you walk, your own toes have to go down so you can walk normally. That would typically require a cutout, as you'll find on every other design, which is why I asked. 

I don't see any photos of the snowshoes in use. That would show how the bindings attach, but what would be even better would be a short video showing someone walking in the Airlites. Have you considered adding one?

But you're right about the crampons. While they are still offered as an 'accessory' (which I disagree with) they are indeed part of the 'complete package'. My mistake - I didn't spot the tiny red bundles at the bttom of the photo.  They don't compare with the lateral traction provided on the MSR Evos, for example, but even six small spikes centered under the ball of the foot provide some extra grip. The point I made still stands, though - how many people would think of buying them if they're seen only as an 'accessory'?

Respectfully, if you want credbility for your product, you'll have to get it out into the major outdoor stores. I don't put the Arctic Innovation  Competition at the University of Alaska in a class with a major international show like the recent Outdoor Retailers one, not because it's not a legitimate competition but because it is exposed to only a very small  market.

But maybe you can respond to these points.

"In what ways do these compete with more traditional designs? Or of more importance, in what ways are they BETTER than more traditional designs?"

I'm not attacking you or your product, just asking for explanations, but you might want to view this forum as an opportunity to explain to experienced hikers and backpackers why your snowshoes are a good idea for them to use. Most people here aren't bush pilots or trappers, so the target audience is quite different from what you'd find in Fairbanks or Nome.

9:45 p.m. on February 10, 2013 (EST)
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Peter,

I appreciate the concern about the performance of our snowshoe. I think that the many customers that have purchased the Airlite have done so, knowing what to expect and have made their purchase because of what it has to offer, in meeting their needs.

The Airlite can be stored or packed in ways a standard pair of snowshoes can't be. Standard snowshoes are hard to pack and they get in the way. I've never carried snowshoes on my sled because when you have to climb all over your machine to maneuver up, over, and around things at high rates of speed, they could trip you up and get you hurt. Now I carry snowshoes that won't get me hurt but can save my life.

I have been trying to get some videos done to post on the web but I have had some drawbacks. First, as a new company that has been very costly to get up and running, time is a problem because until the snowshoes pay all the bills, I still have to do the 9 to 5 thing for someone else. Last winter I learned just how bad of an actor / director I am. Although the snowshoes did what they do quite well, I couldn't produce a video that I was at all happy with. This year we are having a very frustrating winter here in and around Anchorage. We’ve had very little snow, cold during the week and warm windy and raining most weekends. We even went to the Alyeska Ski Lodge for a weekend to make videos in late December and the wind blew at 80 knots it was raining sideways, and the snow turned to slush. The wind blew so hard the big new ski lit tram car blew into a cable support tower. It's like Mother Nature has no intention of giving me a break.

Besides it's pack ability, one other way that the Airlite may be better than a standard set of snowshoes would be how well it performs in mud and swampy muskeg. I would think that a standard snowshoe could not work as well in sloppy mud given their small diameter frame.

Now, how do I go about getting a set of our snowshoes to this websites testing crew?

Be safe in all you do but have fun doing it.

11:39 a.m. on February 11, 2013 (EST)
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Hi goldmizer, and welcome to Trailspace!


FYI - here is the thread you're referring to: http://www.trailspace.com/forums/gear-selection/topics/117588.html

The Trailspace Review Corps peter is referring to is a volunteer outdoor gear testing and review program. Review Corps members thoroughly test new, noteworthy backcountry equipment in the field and publish their findings (the good and the bad) in expert-level Review Corps reviews. Check out the link above to read more about the Review Corps.  If you're interested in submitting a product for the Review Corps to consider, send a message to reviewcorps@trailspace.com.

9:17 a.m. on February 12, 2013 (EST)
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Thank you very much for the link. I will get in touch with them.

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