MSR Lightning Trail
Rugged snowshoes that you'll forget you're even wearing…
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $220
Rugged snowshoes that you'll forget you're even wearing due to their light weight. Three-strap bindings keep them securely on your feet, and the 360 Degree Traction frame and toothed crossbars keep you securely on the ground.
- Secure bindings
- Not offered in 30"
Even the most hardcore people—which I certainly am not!—take it easier sometimes, and that's what MSR Lightning Trail snowshoes are for. When you're not doing prolonged ascents in the mountains the extra weight of heel lifters and a more beefy frame is just that—extra weight—and the Lightning Trails help you lighten your load.
According to MSR these weigh in at 3lb 6oz, 1lb 3oz lighter than my MSR Lightning Ascent 30s and over 2 pounds lighter than the 5lb 7oz GV Mountain Extreme 830s I've been using for most of the season, and you definitely can feel the difference. The shorter length makes maneuvering much easier on tight, narrow trails and when picking your way between off-trail trees. Lightning Tails can easily be attached for more flotation in softer snow or when carrying a load.
The typical MSR traction means you can pay more attention to the winter landscape around you instead of where you place your feet on every step. Freeze-proof bindings with two straps over the toes and instep and one heel strap secure your feet so they can take advantage of all that traction.
I picked these up a couple years ago for my almost daily hikes on established trails in town. They're also perfect for late-season consolidated or wet snow that doesn't compress very much. With my pack I'm about 75 lbs heavier than the 220 lbs recommended max for these 'shoes, but going off trail is easy since I only sink maybe 3-4 inches. Combined with my close-fitting Asolo Fugitive GTX I can really race around the trail network and get a better workout. It's like wearing running shoes vs hiking boots, and I can go every afternoon instead of every other and not be footsore when it's time for the weekend trek with my snowshoeing partner.
The MSR Lightning Trail 25, men's model.
Closeup of the toothed crossbars and binding pivot. There are no bushings in the pivot so the steel pin rides directly in the aluminum frame, but I haven't noticed any wear on either these or my Lightning Ascents that have seen much more use.
A better shot of the 360 Degree Traction frame, showing the less-aggressive serrations that aren't meant to grip the ice and bare rock found on mountains. The toe crampons are similarly less hardcore, but will dig in very nicely just the same.
Out on the local trails this afternoon. Base depth appeared to be a well-solidified 10-12" or so, and with temps in the mid 40s it was all good snowball snow. A little slippery, in other words. Racing up, down, and across hills—well, "racing" by my standards, anyway—the only reason I even came close to losing my footing was postholes left by people without snowshoes.
I really like these snowshoes, going lighter and without the overkill of a 30" ascent snowshoe or a 36" backcountry touring model has made my almost-daily hikes more enjoyable and easier on my beat-up body.
Update 30 March 2019
I’m revisiting this review after using the Lightning Trails fairly frequently this winter. They were my snowshoe of choice for the groomed (usually) trails at the Unity College Sky Lodge in next-door Moose River
and since the temps have warmed up I’ve been using them on my almost daily off-trail wandering. Though I’ve spent enough time in the area over the past 6 weeks that I’ve left a lot of paths, if not exactly trails!
I think the only time I really had to exercise any caution with my footing was this morning, the snow was frozen to a hard crust after temps dropped below freezing last night and on a few inclines I had to stamp my feet 2 or 3 times for a good bite. Other than that, using these is like walking on dry ground—you simply walk with no concerns.
The largest size the Lightning Trails are available in is 25", I really wish they came in 30" because with my recent and ongoing weight loss they’d be perfect for a lot of my treks. But if I keep making progress the 25s may fill the bill next winter. Regardless, they fill an important niche in my snowshoe collection.
Rugged, lightweight, and comfortable, with excellent traction, I recommend the Lightning Trails without reservation. You won’t be disappointed if you buy them.