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Atlas Aspect

rated 5.0 of 5 stars

The Aspect has been discontinued. If you're looking for something new, check out the best backcountry snowshoes for 2024.

photo: Atlas Aspect backcountry snowshoe

The Atlas Aspect is a unisex backcountry snowshoe that’s available in 24” and 28” sizes. The frame is a hybrid design, with round tubing from the ball of the foot forward and a toothed traction frame behind.

Pros

  • Light weight
  • Packability
  • Traction
  • Simple, effective binding
  • Feels like part of your foot due to suspension

Cons

  • Discontinued - if you like them and they break you’re most likely on your own for repairs

 

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This is an impromptu review based on using the Atlas Aspect 28 today to bushwhack out to the spot I viewed the eclipse from. It was the first time I’ve used these (I’ve had them a year or so), and I chose them because they pack very flat.

I expected to bareboot or use microspikes to get to the spot I was going to view the eclipse from, based on snow conditions on a hike up a mountain with a new acquaintance yesterday. On that hike the snow started off nearly perfect, but had turned to slush by the time we returned to my pickup. So I wasn’t expecting to need snowshoes today and brought my lightest, easiest ones to pack.

I ended up going to a completely different spot than planned, and there was much more snow of better quality. It was still wet but not slushy, and the Aspects worked great. It’s the first time I used snowshoes with the “Spring Loaded Suspension” (SLS) and I was very impressed.

The SLS uses straps riveted to 2 places on each side of the binding and wrapped around the frame. Articulation is limited; the tail of the snowshoe stays closer to your foot when you step. It drops enough that the toe of the snowshoe rides over most obstacles, and you can kick useful steps on steeper terrain. There’s a little stretch to the straps which helps absorb shock.

The SLS suspension is sometimes referred to as “Slings Lotsa Snow” because its elastic nature will flick snow upward from the tail onto your legs or back when you step. I’ve seen it happen but didn’t experience it myself. In any case, I’d be wearing water-resistant or -proof clothing while snowshoeing so I don’t see the big deal.

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Simple rubber straps and pin-style buckles are used, these are very light and quick to tighten and loosen. Strap length is adequate for fairly bulky boots, with the uninsulated all-leather hikers I wore today the free ends of the straps reached almost all the way back across my foot. A pin on the inside of the anchor end buckle allows you to shorten or lengthen straps for the best fit.

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 Toe crampons are steel and fairly aggressive. They held very well on some pretty steep inclines with wet corn snow today. There are no heel crampons but there is a single toothed crossbar under the heel.

 

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A full width heel lifter bar is present, and I find I like these better than narrow bars because if your foot shifts sideways in the binding your entire heel will still be supported. 

 

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The traction frame is deep and digs into snow very aggressively. The single crossbar provides very good braking on steeper ascents and descents.  

 

One thing I noticed today is that the Atlas Aspects pick up very little sticky spring snow. My feet weren’t getting heavier with every step and I didn’t need to bang them against a tree or whack them with my poles every 3rd step. My theory is that the SLS straps don’t allow snow to stick like metal pivot parts do, similar to how the exposed metal on “summer” windshield wiper blades gives snow and ice a place to stick to while rubber-covered winter blades don’t. Whatever the reason, my knees and calves appreciated it!

The Atlas Aspects are also very light at 4lb 6oz for the 28” model and 4lb 2oz for 24”. This is very close to the weight of similarly-sized MSR Lightning Ascents, and over a pound lighter than the 30” Atlas Range MTN. 

The Atlas Aspects just became my go-to for spring snowshoeing when I’m more likely to have to pack them. They’re very light and nimble on my feet, easily clear obstacles underfoot, and provide excellent traction on both climbs and traverses. The model was discontinued in 2018 but right now there are 4 pairs on eBay, so they’re not hard to find if you want a pair. 

Background

I’ve been an avid (some may say fanatic) snowshoer for 12 or 13 years, and did it every now and then since the mid-80s.

Source: bought it used
Price Paid: Can’t remember

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Specs

Price MSRP: $269.95
Historic Range: $111.73-$289.95

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