It's snowshoe time!

12:15 a.m. on August 31, 2011 (EDT)
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I have been using my trusty US Army magnesium shoes for ages, but I am ready for something different.

We tested some "fancy pants" shoes without tails in Alaska (well over 10 years ago) and they didn't work for jack......way too small. They had (nylon?) sheet secured to a tubular aluminum frame. What they did have was a sort of crampon/teeth that was pretty handy sometimes.

Anyway, I have been looking at the MSR Ascent in 30" (longest available), but I have my reservations when it comes to these fancy shoes, especially the bindings.

Anything new and exciting when it comes to shoes?

The reason I am starting this thread, is that snowshoes are discounted big time in the summer, and I have found some (apparently) great deals.

12:23 a.m. on August 31, 2011 (EDT)
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Alot of winter gear is like buying a 4 wheel drive in the summer here in Pa. You will definitely pay more for said vehicle in the winter as opposed to buying in the summer. 

As far as snow shoes. I like Atlas(12s) but MSR makes a great product, then you have Tubbs, Crescent Moon, and a whole slew of other companies out there. 

1:31 a.m. on August 31, 2011 (EDT)
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Tried the MSR DENALI EVOS and was impressed. Not a new model but effective nonetheless.

1:36 a.m. on August 31, 2011 (EDT)
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I've rented a few different kinds of snowshoes, and based on those experiences, exhaustive research, & feedback from people here, I ended up buying a pair of Atlas 12's last year myself.  Of course a well-timed sale at REI helped too :).

I haven't used them much yet, but my brief experience with them so far has been very good.  The binding works really well - With others I had rented, I often had trouble with the bindings not holding the shoes straight, so I'd have to stop & re-adjust them.  So far these don't seem to do that.  Also I'm impressed by how "grippy" the "crampon" part is - they had great traction when I went up/down inclines.

Oh, and there's a little heel support (what's it called?) which in theory seems like it should be helpful on long inclines, though I don't have much experience with it yet.  I tried it, but the jury is still out as to whether it's worth the effort of raising/lowering it.

It's hard to believe it's almost Labor Day already... opportunities to use them again will be here before we know it, so maybe this winter I can write an informed review :).

 

7:27 a.m. on August 31, 2011 (EDT)
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I have MSR Denali Ascents. These shoes are amazing.

I would srongly recommend you reconsider buying the biggest shoe available. And  here's why. For one they are heavier, but the smaller the shoe is the MUCH easier it is to actually walk in them and not catch on vegetation/rocks or on yourself. The denali ascents are short, but you can get 4in or 8in tails for them as well, i typically use the 4in tails.

Also remember that anyone no matter the size of your shoe will sink in fresh powdery snow, snow must be allowed top settle for a week or so and preferably develop a crust. Then it will support you easily.

I bought the 8in tails for mine just to try out(this makes it a 30in shoe), despite much effort to avoid hitting/catching the shoes on objects i always found it to be a pain, especially on the trails here in the NE. With the shorter shoes and 4in tails i never catch on anything, and they are much easier to control, not to mention lighter on your feet.

Now to address that little bar that you lift up for hills. Well, it's actually called a Televator, so if it says that on a shoe's description that's what it is. I will never again buy a snowshoe without a televator. For steep lengthy ascents these things are great on reducing calf fatigue. If the incline is not so steep, or is steep but relatively short i will not bother with them. But lifting them and putting them back down is easy and i have mastered the art of doing it with the tip of my treking pole while standing.

I recommend MSR, Atlas, or Tubbs. I personally prefer MSR, though they changed their bindings, i prefer the old binding style. The new bindings seem to come undone easier i think , i have only seen them once on a trip last january my hiking partner had them and they seemed to start coming loose every couple miles. The other thing i love about MSR shoes is the traction of the higher end models with the crampons and teeth on the frame.

Hope you find a good pair of shoes, i would concentrate on bindings and traction and seriously consider going shorter and having a tail in case you need it.

 

10:56 a.m. on August 31, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks for all the great info so far.

Believe it or not, the issue mag shoes have some things going for them too.

The issue bindings (they are white/off white with uni-directional rotating friction lock) once set might, and I mean might, come a little loose after hours of slogging.

The bindings allow quite a bit of movement left/right so you can do a lot of crazy moves.

The shoes have a "tail" so aiming the shoes and shifting is very easy, you just drag the "tail".

They don't have any crampons, so you can be towed on ice behind a vehicle (short distances only), and you can ski down short slopes.

Big dudes with heavy packs can walk on just about any type of snow with relative ease.

The use a mesh/lattice, so snow doesn't build up, but you can still use them as a snow shovel (done all the time), and you can dig lickety split.

Magnesium, so you have fire starter until the end of time, and yes, it works.

Downside- Clunky, heavy, and no crampons, and if you want to be stealthy, you have to really be aware of the shoes position.

I still want to get some fancy shoes, they look fast.

 

11:36 a.m. on August 31, 2011 (EDT)
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android said:

Thanks for all the great info so far.

Believe it or not, the issue mag shoes have some things going for them too.

The issue bindings (they are white/off white with uni-directional rotating friction lock) once set might, and I mean might, come a little loose after hours of slogging.

The bindings allow quite a bit of movement left/right so you can do a lot of crazy moves.

The shoes have a "tail" so aiming the shoes and shifting is very easy, you just drag the "tail".

They don't have any crampons, so you can be towed on ice behind a vehicle (short distances only), and you can ski down short slopes.

Big dudes with heavy packs can walk on just about any type of snow with relative ease.

The use a mesh/lattice, so snow doesn't build up, but you can still use them as a snow shovel (done all the time), and you can dig lickety split.

Magnesium, so you have fire starter until the end of time, and yes, it works.

Downside- Clunky, heavy, and no crampons, and if you want to be stealthy, you have to really be aware of the shoes position.

I still want to get some fancy shoes, they look fast.

 

 Uh-huh... Oooook. 

As a side note on the magnesium. Pretty silly to beat your gear up like that when a firesteel is $7...

11:47 a.m. on August 31, 2011 (EDT)
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What? Speed is important- the issue shoes are "slow", and as for firestarter, why on earth would I use my snowshoes? Just because you can (emergency option) doesn't mean that you would.

This post was illustrating the pros/cons of the issue shoe, and my reservations when going to a different system. Being rude will get you nowhere.

I have already made the decision to purchase a civilian style shoe, I am simply looking for the best possible gear.

11:53 a.m. on August 31, 2011 (EDT)
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android said:

What? Speed is important- the issue shoes are "slow", and as for firestarter, why on earth would I use my snowshoes? Just because you can (emergency option) doesn't mean that you would.

This post was illustrating the pros/cons of the issue shoe, and my reservations when going to a different system. Being rude will get you nowhere.

I have already made the decision to purchase a civilian style shoe, I am simply looking for the best possible gear.

There is a substantial difference in being rude and being direct. Some do not know how to differentiate between the 2. 

I am a very direct person(at times) and if you took it as being rude I apologize.

Now as far as you looking for options that is one thing but if you break down the basics from your last post you pretty much know what you want in a shoe. 

So my biggest question is why ask in the 1st place being that when you ask a question you are not more or less "receptive" to the answers but geared more towards explaining the ins and outs of snowshoe 101(mag issue mod?) 

It makes the thread somewhat confusing when you jump from what ya want to what the mag issue shoes have going for them. 

As far as speed being a major factor to SOME I agree. At the same time its not necessarily important to all users. This is solely dependent on application of said shoes. Sometimes speed can get one in alot of trouble.

On the firestarter subject... I am just going on what you posted. 

11:58 a.m. on August 31, 2011 (EDT)
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No, I don't want "that" in a shoe anymore, that is why I am asking about a different type. The issue shoe is very limited in many regards, crampons being a major factor, as are the loosey-goosey bindings, the system inhibits side sloping etc.

I am not here to argue on the internet.

12:01 p.m. on August 31, 2011 (EDT)
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No worries android. I just wanted to clarify a bit of where I was going with my response. 

You can ask around I am not one to argue but love a good debate. 

Arguments via keyboard are not worth my time of day. Honestly I find it somewhat funny to see how immature people can act at times. This is one of the things that seperates Trailspace from others.

When an arguement starts on a thread it is typically diffused rather quickly by staff(moderators, etc.) or another member may jump in and put a halt to it. Its not fair to the OP and honestly I don't know many people who really want to see that type of thing on a thread. It really takes away from the site as a whole. 

As previously stated in another forum post with the thought that children may read it. They very well may at some point and time...

Anywho.

Like I said if I came off as being rude I apologize. It was not my intention.

As too saying that this is NOT what ya want in a shoe ya sure posted alot of pros to the mags. Ya basically posted pros/cons(sort of like a gear review w/o any more explanation so who was to know what you were getting at?) It seemed a little out of left field to me. 

Back to snowshoes...

My biggest thing is go with a shoe ya think ya like but purchase it from a company that offers lifetime returns on the product. If you are dissatisfied with the shoe you can send them back to go with something else(as long as they don't show much wear which shouldn't be a problem if ya test them in the fluff.).

Wants and needs are somewhat personal when it comes to gear and only you will truly know what you want. The above mentioned shoes are all great but then again its all about what you want. 

I like the Atlas 12s, TheRambler likes his MSRs, Joe Schmo may like the Tubbs or Crescent Moons. 

We could make suggestions til we are blue in the face but the ultimate is getting out there to an outfitter and getting a first hand look at these different shoes. 

I know people who order a bunch of different models at one item, get dialed into what one they like and send the others back and get their money back. If a shop is not in you area this may very well be another approach for you.  I do this with boots at times(different sizes.)

2:04 p.m. on August 31, 2011 (EDT)
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Some things that may help point you toward a specific type or brand of shoe is to answer these few questions.

How often do you plan to snow shoe?

Are you just going on day hikes, or week long backcountry treks?

How much do you weigh?

How heavy is the pack you would carry on average? (this is total wet weight i.e. with food and water, and fuel)

Do you/would you be sticking to trails most of the time or do you do off trail shoeing?

Do you already own crampons or other traction aid such as kahtoola microspikes etc?

What geographical region will you be snowshoeing in?(NE, NW, Alaska etc)

 

Answer all of these questions and we can give you alot more advice and point you to several different shoes from different manufacturers that would suit your needs.

2:28 p.m. on August 31, 2011 (EDT)
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android said:

..I am ready for something different...

Snow shoes are like golf clubs; they come in different geometries each tailored for specific circumstances, and crafted to different levels of quality.  You have not identified your application (e.g. dense forest, above tree line, low aspect slopes, the steeps, etc.) so recommending an appropriate shoe is like a caddie recommending a club selection based on a picture of the golfer.   Perhaps if you describe your intended use, the feed back can be more focused and relevant.

Ed

10:00 p.m. on August 31, 2011 (EDT)
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forget new and exciting and go old school - arctic trekker snowshoes.  i have been using the same pair of sherpa snowshoes since i bought them new in 1985, very similar to the ones pictured below.   while i had the foresight to get a few spare pairs of aluminum claws before Sherpa folded, i wore them all out and had to replace the bindings a couple of years ago.  my search for spare parts led me to arctic trekker.  these are definitely not the lightest-weight snowshoe available, but they are highly durable and equally at home floating in deep powder (combined pack weight 275 pounds) and sticking to slick, steep trails.  get the 37 inch shoes if you need the extra float, and get the more aggressive ice claw if you need the traction 

Sherpa went out of business years ago.  they made outstanding equipment until the end-stages of the company, when they were acquired and quality suffered.  the replacement parts I obtained from arctic trekker have been excellent.   the bindings can accommodate a wide range of boots, but it's an older strappy design - some people don't like that.  hasn't troubled me, i generally use these with plastic mountaineering boots.  if i had to replace my snowshoes today, i would go with these.

 

Snowshoes-Laced-2.jpg

 


Snowshoes-20Ice-20claw.jpg

 

my snowshoes below, on the shoulder of Mount Adams in New Hampshire.  -25 fahrenheit when i took these photos....


snowshoes-2.jpg


snowshoes-1.jpg



5:52 a.m. on September 1, 2011 (EDT)
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Leadbelly, i'm actually surprised you prefer such a long shoe. Yes, they provide great flotation, but that long of a shoe i always found interfered with the natural walking gait. And by interfering i mean always steping on the tail of the shoe or otherwise hitting objects. It requires a fair amount of extra effort to not step on your shoes, where as with a shorter shoe which is shorter than your natural gait you can walk like normal and never step on your shoes. A normal average gait for a male human is 31 inches, that's why anything above 30 gets harder to use without alot of effort and practice IMO.

Steping on your shoes results in nasty faceplants like this.


faceplant.jpg

I think long shoes such as these are ideal for flat open trails, like an old forrest road etc. Using them in steep terrain could be disasterous, but obviously they 'can' be used but i definitely think they are less than the ideal choice.

8:29 a.m. on September 1, 2011 (EDT)
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TheRambler said:

I think long shoes.. ..are ideal for flat open trails, like an old forrest road etc. Using them in steep terrain could be disasterous, but obviously they 'can' be used but i definitely think they are less than the ideal choice.

As I mentioned above, each configuration has its time and place.  If you intend to have a general purpose shoe, like a seven iron golf club, then of course you should avoid designs that are very wide or very narrow; or very long or very short.  Lead belly’s selection may in fact be ideal for the terrain and conditions he sees.  As for getting the tails crossed; avoiding that is a matter of technique, practice, and properly adjusted bnindings.

Ed

9:19 p.m. on September 1, 2011 (EDT)
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Well said Sir Edward, whichh is why I like the modular composite shoes like those Denali EVO's (and newer) made by MSR. In terms of flexibility, they have some advantages for multiple conditions IF you don't mind their chassis and molded construction/profile design - some do.

12:45 a.m. on September 2, 2011 (EDT)
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I use pair of  Atlas shoes  and have found them to be a great all around snowshoe.  They are a little more money then some other brands but I rented a number of different types prior to buying them and I found I was constantly busting out of the bindings, readjusting the bindings which is a pain with gloves on, not getting enough traction going up slopes and sinking in powder.   I am a bigger guy (240 at fighting weight), have little patience for fiddling with gear and the main load carrier when I go out with my daughter and wife.  I wanted something pretty bomb proof for hiking the different conditions which are found in the Northwest in the winter.  All around Atlas has met those needs.

However, the MSR brand is popular out here in Seattle as well.  I've never tried the shoe but if popularity is any indication then they might be what your looking for.  

Side note:  I just got a 4 season tent so I am looking forward to trying some snowshoe/ winter camping this year.

5:23 a.m. on September 2, 2011 (EDT)
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I agee using snowshoes requires alot of technique and practice. However, oddly shaped/sized shoes require even more so. For example, a 22in shoe is well within a normal gait so most people will never have too much of an issue crossing the tails etc. Whereas a 36in shoe extends 5in past the normal gait so the tails will cross with every step unless a conscious effort is made to avoid it and you do the duck walk all the time.

My point was really to go with the smallest shoe that fits your needs, larger is not better when it comes to snow shoes IMO, unless you are buying a larger shoe for a very specific reason.

8:25 a.m. on September 2, 2011 (EDT)
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i guess this shoe suits my needs.  i have been using them for so long that it's second nature by now, and i can't recall face-planting beyond the first year or two, when i was still getting used to them.  

i definitely don't use these only on fire roads.  most of the time, i'm in the white mountains, the green mountains, the adirondacks.  the steep trails are usually somewhat packed down, but i often take alternate trails that aren't tracked, where the snow is very deep.  me plus sixty pounds on my back in those smaller shoes wouldn't work.

i guess i'm confused about why using a larger snowshoe would be "disastrous" on steeper terrain.  to me, the key to using snowshoes on steeper trails with more hardpack and ice is the size and utility of the claw underfoot.  the teeth on these claws are about as long as my crampons, so that certainly isn't an issue.

the only real limitation i have found with these is that in a true off-trail situation, bushwhacking through forest, they can get hung up more easily on underbrush. but, i tend to stick to trails in the winter.  

3:58 p.m. on September 2, 2011 (EDT)
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To my defense I said 'could be'! Lol.

What I was trying to get at is the longer your snow shoes the higher the probability or chance of you stepping on/crossing the tails. IF this happens a fall/trip can and frequently does result, and this could be nasty on steep terrain.

Not saying you can't use long shoes. Anyone should use whichever shoe they are most comfortable with. Me personally, i prefer to sink an extra couple inches (sacrifice some flotation)and have the easier mobility of a shorter shoe due to having a dog on leash while snow shoeing.

12:29 a.m. on September 3, 2011 (EDT)
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No offense Rambler, but I will probably get the MSR Lightning Ascent in 30" and not the 25"................old habits die hard!

 

4:04 a.m. on September 3, 2011 (EDT)
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If noise is an important factor, you might want to consider a shoe not made of a plastic platform.  I own Atlas, and I like them well enough.  I know I never noticed them being noisy.  They're an alloy tube frame with Hypalon decking.  They have great bindings.  I've gone an entire day and never had to re-tighten them.  I've read several threads on various boards talking about how disturbingly noisy MSR shoes (and similar designs) can be.  The same people love their performance, but many stopped using them because they made so much racket.

7:52 p.m. on September 16, 2011 (EDT)
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MSR Lightning 'shoes.

 

I have a pair of 30" MSR Lightning Ascent 'shoes bought in 2009. Now the new version of these 'shoes have the ability to add on a tail extension for softer snow conditions.

To also be able to use these tail extensions I'll modify mine this year with small stainless steel bolts & 2 s.s nuts on each bolt plus some judicious grinding of a notch on the lower edges of my tails.

I have some 30" Atlas 'shoes but they have nowhere near the lateral grip of the MSR Lightning Ascent 'shoes. Plus the Ascent version of the Lightning 'shoes have a pop-up heavy duty rod that your heels can rest on when making a steep ascent. Just like pop-up heel rests on backcountry ski bindings. Clever.

 

Eric B.

December 18, 2014
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