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GV Wide Trail snowshoes are oversized utility snowshoes…
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $186 US
GV Wide Trail snowshoes are oversized utility snowshoes meant to carry the heaviest loads on the softest snow. Flotation and carrying capacity are second to none out of all the snowshoes I’ve used.
- Binding security, comfort, and ease of use
- Load-carrying capacity
- Build quality
- Lack of traction, though they’re not meant for more than moderate terrain
- They’re almost too big to fit in my Jeep, even with the back seat removed!
The weekend after Thanksgiving (US) GV Snowshoes had a 20% off sale, and I decided to order a pair of GV Wide Trail snowshoes that I’d been thinking about for a couple years. I received them two weeks ago and have put about 10 miles on them so far, and here are my thoughts.
According to GV, Wide Trails are designed for forestry workers, trappers, hunters, or anyone who carries heavy loads and needs maximum flotation. They’re made in Canada, like all GV snowshoes except for the budget GVC and Lynx models.
These things are HUGE, almost cartoonishly so. Surface area is 734 square inches EACH for 12x42 size. (Other available sizes are 11x28, 12x33, and 11x38.) Tubbs gives their Mountaineer 36 surface area as 325 sq in each by comparison. Here they are flanked by my Louis Garneau Blizzard II 1036s, which are pretty enormous in their own right at 575 sq in each. (Surface area calculated by frame circumference so it may not agree with manufacturers’ figures, if given.)
They have a rigid tubular aluminum frame designed for strength with heavy loads. I can attest to the strength of the frames, having bridged gaps with my 280lb of me and my gear several times. No bending of the frames was noted.
All this flotation and strength comes at a price, as the 12x42 Wide Trails weigh in at 7.31lb/3.3kg per pair.
Boots are held in place by the “Comfort Fit” binding, consisting of soft wings with two “Rambus” ratcheting straps over the foot, and a traditional pin-style heel strap. Straps are very long, allowing plenty of room for winter boots such as Baffin or Sorel as well as mountaineering boots. If you wear regular hiking boots you may feel like you’re swimming in the bindings, but they will hold securely. A hard plastic “Stabilizer Control Plate” with toe stop is attached to the Comfort Fit binding.
The binding pivots on a rigid tubular crosspiece which adds torsional stability and prevents the binding from flexing laterally on the snowshoe.
Thick aluminum toe and heel crampons are bolted to the bottoms of the Stabilizer Control Plate and hard plastic heel plate. GV states they’re coated with a Teflon paint to help prevent snow from sticking to them.
A “Heel Stabilizer System” consisting of a strap riveted to the heel pad and a ratchet buckle on the heel strap allows you to limit or stop the tail of the snowshoe from pivoting, making it easier to walk backwards or sideways.
I haven’t been able to get myself into a situation in which a long backwards walk was necessary, and for just a few steps it’s easier just to use your poles to push down on the toes of your ‘shoes than to bend down and tighten the straps. But if you ever are in a situation where it’s necessary to walk backward for a long time, the time it takes to tighten the Heel Stabilizer straps will be worth it. I found out the hard way it’s not a good idea to buckle the straps at all until you need to, trying to go up a moderate slope almost put me on my face when the toe didn’t raise enough to clear some brush.
“Entech” decking is attached by clamps and rivets that wrap around the frame and sandwich the deck, except at the sides of the turned-up toes where the decking is wrapped around and riveted to itself. Entech is designed not to tear if punctured. GV states that Entech is tested to -50°C/-58°F, all other plastics on the snowshoe are tested to -45°C/-49°F.
All fasteners are either rivets or nuts and bolts (binding and heel plate attachments), allowing manufacturer-equivalent repairs to be made by the user with easily accessible hardware and tools. A pop rivet gun, 3mm hex key, and 8mm wrench are all that’s needed.
Okay, the specs and construction are pretty impressive, but how do they WORK? In a word, awesomely. All my testing has been done off-trail and cross-country, in fairly dense hardwood forest with 2-3 feet of snow (powder over loose granular) on the ground.
For as big as these things are, they’re real easy to move in. You do have to plan ahead to find your best route, but other than that you pretty much just walk. On TOP of the snow. You don’t have the flotation that you do with the largest traditional snowshoes, but you have much greater hill climbing capacity thanks to the toe and heel crampons. They’ll never be mistaken for mountaineering or backcountry ‘shoes, but on gently rolling open or forested terrain they’ll get you where you need to go.
The off-trail weight rating for the 12x42s is 140-280lb/64-127kg. Being right around 280lb fully dressed and with a light day pack, I find this rating to be accurate. In powder on top of loose granular I sink about 4".
With a winter overnight pack weighing around 35lb I estimate I shouldn’t sink much more than 6-8". We’ve had a few warmer days followed by below-freezing temps that made the snow unsuitable for these snowshoes, so unless we get a lot of powder in future snowfalls I probably won’t be using these any more this year. I was hoping to test them with a winter overnight pack to see how they handle 300+ pounds, if I get a chance this winter I will.
In summary, I find that Wide Trail snowshoes work as advertised by GV, and recommend them for anyone who needs their capabilities and performance. I’m very impressed with the build quality, sturdiness, and performance of both my pairs of GV snowshoes. Their warranty and customer service is top-notch as well. They may be the sleeper of snowshoe manufacturers.
20 years of snowshoeing with modern snowshoes.