User Review: MSR Denali Ascent
Price Paid: $135
These are the first snowshoes I've owned, but I did use a borrowed pair of older-model Tubbs Adventure 25s before I got these MSR Denali Ascents.
The Tubbs Adventure 25s were just fine except that their strap-pivot bindings caused snow to get thrown up my back with every step I took. This was no problem at all if I was hiking in cold weather and had a waterproof layer on, but on warmer sunny days I had to choose between getting soaked with sweat (wearing my waterproof outer layer) or covered in stuck-on snow (without the outer layer).
I started looking for affordable snowshoes that had free-pivoting bindings, and found that the MSR's would fill the bill. I also liked the idea of the Denali Ascent's removable tails. I found a pair on sale and got 'em, along with a pair of the 4" tails.
First the Denali Ascent's good points:
1) I generally like the bindings -- they're secure enough if you crank down hard enough on the straps, and they allow you to adjust the position of your foot in the snowshoe. The Denali Ascent's bindings are easy on your boots, unlike the Tubbs bindings which dug wear spots on my leather boots. I like the "Bearpaw" bindings on the Atlas snowshoes best of all, but I guess you can't have everything...
2) The Denali Ascents provide just enough flotation for me with the 4" tails attached (I weigh about 175 lbs. and wear some pretty heavy gear). If I'm on a packed trail for a long stretch, I can take off the tails and still hike along with no problems. However, I did notice that the Tubbs Adventure 25's provided me with just a bit more "float" on unpacked powder.
3) The crampons work quite well for climbing up steep, snow covered slopes. Very secure.
Now the not-so-good points:
1) On packed trails or icy/crusty snow, these snowshoes are noisy! On one trip in the Poconos on a cold day after a thaw, they made a metallic scratching noise that was very annoying.
2) I worry about the durability of the plastic decking. It seems to get scraped and scratched pretty easily. I haven't had any functional problems at all, but I do consciously avoid bumping the snowshoes against tree trunks or exposed rocks.
3) I also worry about how they will act on a steep decline with thin, icy cover. The Denali Ascents don't have any heel crampons, but they do have two rows of metal "teeth" running the length of the underside of the decking, along with braking bumps molded into the underside of the decking. I haven't encountered such a slope with the snowshoes on as of yet, but I'll be careful when I do!
My opinion? I think these are good snowshoes for what I need, and thanks to the removable tails, versatile to boot. They're relatively inexpensive and fit well in my pack. I think they're pretty good, but I'm taking one star off for how noisy they can be on packed or icy snow. (For comparison, I'd take off one star for the Tubbs Adventure 25s due to the way they kick snow up your back. Note that the latest Tubbs snowshoes have a free-rotation binding that would cure this problem.)