Latest Preferred Snowshoes?

sierra

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So after following all the reviews and recommendations for the TSL snowshoes for quite some time now I finally pulled the trigger and bought a pair with all the Black Friday sales. Have some observations and questions:

1) The binding system is pretty elaborate and I don't find it very glove friendly. The Tubbs binding system is vastly simpler to understand and operate. I had to actually sit there with the instruction booklet for some features. It definitely has more customization and pre-setting features but that seems unnecessary. Strapping a snowshoe to a boot is not that complicated to begin with.

2) Lot of moving plastic parts. A lot. Looking at the design I'm trying to imagine ways I'd field repair any failures and that doesn't seem very straightforward. What do you bring for back up - large zip ties, straps, etc?

3) I was disappointed with the traction. Seemed beefier in the photos I had looked at online. Does the flexing of the deck overcome this by angling it properly and getting all those teeth into the snow? Also, how are they descending? The traction seems to decidedly favor a climbing position. It seems like descending the rounded part of the teeth would face forward and I'd think would be more prone to slipping. Richard mentioned traction issues in his comment.

I'm looking forward to getting them out for a test drive. As many mentioned most trails get at least partially packed out and snowshoes are more of a traction/anti-post-holing tool versus a flotation device. When it's really crusty or icy I'm generally in crampons or spikes, not snowshoes, so I'm willing to make that concession. Love to hear your feedback on these points. I believe you were one of the early adopters of these so you probably have a lot of feedback.

I hike with a girl once in a while that has these. I stopped by her house before a trip once and picked them up to check them out, she told me she was "still trying to figure them out". A week later, we were going up Liberty in some crummy sugar snow and I mentioned it would be easier in snowshoes. WE both put on our shoes , she went about 20 ft literally and the bindings disconnected. She couldn't fix them and I tried for 20 minutes and gave up,it was the binding section in the rear that failed. Just my observation, they are very complicated. I wear Tubbs, about as easy as it gets. The girl ended up struggling along bare booting, because to me, that's not a good reason to turn around, lol. :p
 

DayTrip

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Just my observation, they are very complicated. I wear Tubbs, about as easy as it gets.

Yah I've always owned Tubbs and I think I'll always have a strong bias toward their binding system. It really is as easy as it gets. One of the things I've always hated about snowshoes is the lack of flex and how awkward they can be on steep and irregular terrain. The idea of flexible traction was too intriguing not to give them a try.
 

Stillwater70

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I'm on my 2nd pair of TSLs. The plastic bar that holds the foot plate in place broke on both shoes of both pairs. That is definitely the weak point of the shoe; otherwise it is pretty rugged, but wears more quickly than my Tubbs Flex Alps. I secured the broken plastic pieces with heavy-duty duct tape and that solved the problem. Other than that, I think the TSLs have the most comfortable and secure bindings of any snowshoes. My 2nd favorite binding is the Flex Alp. The deck plastic of the TSLs is softer than that of the Flex Alps (which makes them more flexible), so it wears out more quickly. TSLs are much easier to carry.
 

DayTrip

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The plastic bar that holds the foot plate in place broke on both shoes of both pairs. That is definitely the weak point of the shoe; .

By "bar" you mean the rod the front part swivels on/pivots? I'm not sure how newer versions compare but that rod is encased in a pretty thick plastic hub. I would hope that wouldn't break easily.
 

Stillwater70

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By "bar" you mean the rod the front part swivels on/pivots? I'm not sure how newer versions compare but that rod is encased in a pretty thick plastic hub. I would hope that wouldn't break easily.

Sorry, bar is not the right word. It is the clamp at the back end of the toe plate that holds the adjustable heel plate in place. It is the piece with the red buttons on each side, which you press to release the clamp. Other users have reported failure of this piece in the past. I have the red Symbioz Elite shoes, now three or four years old. I'm not sure if they have corrected this problem in the latest version. You are right that the pivot rod at the front is not likely to fail. I forgot to mention that the TSLs have the strongest and easiest to use heel lifts of any shoes I have worn.
 

DayTrip

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Sorry, bar is not the right word. It is the clamp at the back end of the toe plate that holds the adjustable heel plate in place. It is the piece with the red buttons on each side, which you press to release the clamp. Other users have reported failure of this piece in the past. I have the red Symbioz Elite shoes, now three or four years old. I'm not sure if they have corrected this problem in the latest version. You are right that the pivot rod at the front is not likely to fail. I forgot to mention that the TSLs have the strongest and easiest to use heel lifts of any shoes I have worn.

Thanks for the clarification. That makes much more sense. I wondered about that mechanism and have already started pondering what I will carry as a repair for that. It reminds me of a flimsy version of the buckles you see on a down hill ski boot. I also wonder about the ratcheting mechanism catching branches, my other foot, etc and undoing itself or breaking, especially when it is cold or crammed with snow. Would have liked to see a simpler buckle here.
 

John H Swanson

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Ive had good luck with the 3/8" wide wire ties for repairs, not the 3/16" wide ones that are not strong enough.
 

hikerbrian

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Do different TSL models have different buckle systems? I got my kids the Symbioz Hyperflex, and I can't figure out how anyone would have trouble getting these on and off - in fact I got them because I figured I'd be putting them on for them and didn't want to fiddle around for long. Adjust for boot length at home (that's the bar on the bottom that you squeeze on each side). On the trail, stick your boot in, then righty-tighty on the Boa, ratchet down the back like a snowboard buckle. 30 seconds per snowshoe, max, with gloves on. MUCH easier than my MSR Evo Ascents, the straps of which are very difficult to work with once it gets cold (and they slip in your hands when you tighten, and then fall off if you don't tighten enough). I could certainly see that adjustable boot plate being the weak point in the TSLs. Probably wire ties and duck tape would work for a field repair - you don't need the duck tape to stick much if you reinforce with wire ties. And anyway if these are the snowshoes you've chosen for the trip, you're probably not wading through hip-deep powder anyway. In any case, I've got very few miles on them at this point, so take what I've written with a huge grain of salt. I like how the Tubbs bindings look, though I haven't used them. My first snowshoes were Tubbs - side-hilling was a bit of a nightmare, and it looks like that may still be the case, at least for the ones with the aluminum bar around the deck? There really isn't a perfect snowshoe is there... just a series of tradeoffs you either can live with or you can't.
 

DayTrip

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Do different TSL models have different buckle systems? I got my kids the Symbioz Hyperflex, and I can't figure out how anyone would have trouble getting these on and off - in fact I got them because I figured I'd be putting them on for them and didn't want to fiddle around for long. Adjust for boot length at home (that's the bar on the bottom that you squeeze on each side). On the trail, stick your boot in, then righty-tighty on the Boa, ratchet down the back like a snowboard buckle. 30 seconds per snowshoe, max, with gloves on. MUCH easier than my MSR Evo Ascents, the straps of which are very difficult to work with once it gets cold (and they slip in your hands when you tighten, and then fall off if you don't tighten enough). I could certainly see that adjustable boot plate being the weak point in the TSLs. Probably wire ties and duck tape would work for a field repair - you don't need the duck tape to stick much if you reinforce with wire ties. And anyway if these are the snowshoes you've chosen for the trip, you're probably not wading through hip-deep powder anyway. In any case, I've got very few miles on them at this point, so take what I've written with a huge grain of salt. I like how the Tubbs bindings look, though I haven't used them. My first snowshoes were Tubbs - side-hilling was a bit of a nightmare, and it looks like that may still be the case, at least for the ones with the aluminum bar around the deck? There really isn't a perfect snowshoe is there... just a series of tradeoffs you either can live with or you can't.

On the Tubbs snowshoes I didn't have many problems side-hilling (relatively speaking) in my Flex Alps but my Mountaineers are a bit of an issue, which is why I started looking around. I generally hate wearing snowshoes unless there is at least partially unconsolidated snow and a minimum of hard pack and ice. I find snowshoes in hard and icy conditions to be pretty dangerous actually, especially descending. The Tubbs bindings are CRAZY EASY to use.

On the TSL's I have the Hyperflex Elites and they do not have a BOA system. The front buckle has a one-time adjustment for boot size and then a latch much like a downhill boot to lock it in. Pretty straightforward. The rear binding wraps around the ankle and also has a one-time size adjustment which I found tedious to use (stiff, inflexible) and then a ratchet type buckle that you pass the strap through and then ratchet down. This is the mechanism I wonder about the most when it's cold, there is snow crammed in it, etc. It seems like it would be a bit annoying in gloves to attach but it comes undone very easily. I also wondered about the adjustable footplate moving. It seemed to open and close a little too easily.

I got the TSL's primarily for packed and scratchy conditions hoping the flex would provide superior grip, especially when side-hilling and in awkward terrain. On those fluffier, less consolidated days or on more moderate terrain I'll probably still take the Mountaineers out.
 

alexmtn

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I'm a frequent hiker and hike leader. In addition to my own personal experiences with gear, I get to observe and talk with folks in my groups about what they're using. My hiking is centered on White Mountain routes with substantial elevation gain, trailed and untrailed, along with comparable destinations in ME and VT. My MSR Evo Ascents have 'supported' me in the aforementioned endeavors for over a decade. Their chief strengths are (1) bomber ruggedness over/through rocks, roots, heavy spruce and associated traps; (2) unsurpassed traction on steep snow up, down, and traversing; (3) streamlined enough to slip through dense brush; and (4) bindings that will not fail on steep traverses or in vicious tree tangles and won't ice up in wet but cold conditions. The drawbacks: (1) the bindings, while superior in performance, do take some effort and skill to position and fasten; (2) the snowshoes are very noisy/clattery when cruising over packed surfaces; and (3) they would not be my first choice for galivanting across powdery meadows and open trails, though they do hold their own when breaking trail, even without the optional tails (which I rarely find a need for).

The only worthy substitute I've seen in this performance category is the Tubbs Flex ALP. Folks love them, principally because of their super-easy-to-use bindings and their flexible, less clattery deck. Like the Evo's, they're also very grippy and nimble, and somewhat rugged. If I had to replace my snowshoes this minute, I'd likely stay with the Evo's: I value their amazing ruggedness, as I don't want to be in a field repair situation while swimming through dense spruce in several layers of powder. And the bindings: I love to hate them, but boy do they work, and for when I really need them to release such as in a spruce tangle, they won't pick that moment to freeze. Also, the steel side rails on the Flex are intentionally curved so as to keep in place when facing downhill. I like to 'mini-glissade' down steep trail pitches when the snow is copious, and it's harder to do on the Flex.

And good news: if you don't have crazy steep/rough/bony applications in mind, there are lots of fun options to consider as you go for a suitable (for your intended range of conditions) balance of traction, flotation, ease of use (binding), weight and cost.

Alex
 

Dr. Dasypodidae

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I'm a frequent hiker and hike leader. In addition to my own personal experiences with gear, I get to observe and talk with folks in my groups about what they're using. My hiking is centered on White Mountain routes with substantial elevation gain, trailed and untrailed, along with comparable destinations in ME and VT. My MSR Evo Ascents have 'supported' me in the aforementioned endeavors for over a decade. Their chief strengths are (1) bomber ruggedness over/through rocks, roots, heavy spruce and associated traps; (2) unsurpassed traction on steep snow up, down, and traversing; (3) streamlined enough to slip through dense brush; and (4) bindings that will not fail on steep traverses or in vicious tree tangles and won't ice up in wet but cold conditions. The drawbacks: (1) the bindings, while superior in performance, do take some effort and skill to position and fasten; (2) the snowshoes are very noisy/clattery when cruising over packed surfaces; and (3) they would not be my first choice for galivanting across powdery meadows and open trails, though they do hold their own when breaking trail, even without the optional tails (which I rarely find a need for).

The only worthy substitute I've seen in this performance category is the Tubbs Flex ALP. Folks love them, principally because of their super-easy-to-use bindings and their flexible, less clattery deck. Like the Evo's, they're also very grippy and nimble, and somewhat rugged. If I had to replace my snowshoes this minute, I'd likely stay with the Evo's: I value their amazing ruggedness, as I don't want to be in a field repair situation while swimming through dense spruce in several layers of powder. And the bindings: I love to hate them, but boy do they work, and for when I really need them to release such as in a spruce tangle, they won't pick that moment to freeze. Also, the steel side rails on the Flex are intentionally curved so as to keep in place when facing downhill. I like to 'mini-glissade' down steep trail pitches when the snow is copious, and it's harder to do on the Flex.

And good news: if you don't have crazy steep/rough/bony applications in mind, there are lots of fun options to consider as you go for a suitable (for your intended range of conditions) balance of traction, flotation, ease of use (binding), weight and cost.

Alex

Agree with everything in this post as my MSR Denali’s begin their 19th season and my MRS Evo’s begin their 5th or 6th. I like the televators to relieve calf muscles on long steep stretches and I never carry crampons in the Whites unless climbing water ice in gullies as these shoes grip any ice that I encounter on trails or off trails. I have heel extenders for deep snow conditions, but have not used them since I was bushwhacking wNHHH a couple decades ago when we had deeper snowpacks. I recommend carrying an extra pin and cotter ring for the bindings as I once sheared one and wire or thick plastic zip ties do not last long. A small tool with needle nose pliers is useful for replacing the pin and cotter ring.

I still have old Sherpas, Stubbs, and Atlas shoes in my closet, but they only get used now as loaners if I have more than one friend wearing one of the MSR pairs.
 

NH2112

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I like Louis Garneau and GV snowshoes best. Preferred models are Garneau Blizzard III (tube-framed backcountry) and Everest (plastic w/traction rails backcountry), while from GV I like Mountain Extreme (traction frame) and Wide Trail (LARGE tube-framed hiking/utility.)

The Blizzard IIIs are more rounded than Tubbs, Atlas, etc, and have a bit more surface area for the same size. Crampons are steel at toe & heel and very aggressive. 30mm Biothane straps are used to secure the binding pivot to the frame, 1” is standard for other manufacturers (and earlier Garneau models.) A heel lifter is present and goes up/down easily.

IMO the Mountain Extremes are better snowshoes than Lightning Ascents, which felt cheap and flimsy to me. I’ve used my Mountain Extremes as traction boards under the tires of my stuck Jeep without any damage, the frames got bent in a few places but 5 minutes with Vise-Grips made them good as new. They do not accept tails. They have heel lifters, mine are a little hard to deploy and stow but I rarely use them due to liking to stretch my Achilles tendon (I’ve had chronic tendinitis.) Price is about half of Lightning Ascents, with a choice of 3 different bindings - ratcheting, Spin (like BOA), and Alligator (light duty.) Their warranty service is excellent, I’ve beaten the HELL out of mine and sent them in twice and it never took more than 2 weeks to get them back. Compare that to months from MSR.

Drawbacks? You’re not likely to find them locally unless you live in Québec. Garneau is sold by the mfr and most of the big stores, GV are sold by the mfr, Snowshoes Canada, and I‘ve seen them on SunnySports. My last order from GV had a $35 shipping charge added but I think that’s Canada Post.
 
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hikerbrian

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I had the opportunity to take out the TSL snowshoes last weekend. A 3-day Presi-traverse backpack - so I was pretty heavy with the pack, and of course the Presis were their rocky and icy selves. Anyway, I really liked them. Getting them on and off was unbelievably easy. Joyous, even. Grip was excellent even in icy and rocky terrain. Side-hilling was no problem. The heal lifters are the easiest to deploy and retract with a pole of any snowshoes I've seen. They do not float all that well because the decks are quite small. These are not 'shwacking shoes. But in the mostly packed out trails, with their narrow profiles, they were very pleasant to walk in - not noisy and rigid like my Evo Ascents, and I never post-holed. I doubt they'll be as rugged. There are more moving plastic parts than with MSRs, and field repair would be tricky, I think. But maybe they'll last longer than I expect. The traverse was not gentle terrain, needless to say. As of this writing, I'd take the TSLs instead of my MSRs for anything but a bushwhack.
 

skiguy

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I had the opportunity to take out the TSL snowshoes last weekend. A 3-day Presi-traverse backpack - so I was pretty heavy with the pack, and of course the Presis were their rocky and icy selves. Anyway, I really liked them. Getting them on and off was unbelievably easy. Joyous, even. Grip was excellent even in icy and rocky terrain. Side-hilling was no problem. The heal lifters are the easiest to deploy and retract with a pole of any snowshoes I've seen. They do not float all that well because the decks are quite small. These are not 'shwacking shoes. But in the mostly packed out trails, with their narrow profiles, they were very pleasant to walk in - not noisy and rigid like my Evo Ascents, and I never post-holed. I doubt they'll be as rugged. There are more moving plastic parts than with MSRs, and field repair would be tricky, I think. But maybe they'll last longer than I expect. The traverse was not gentle terrain, needless to say. As of this writing, I'd take the TSLs instead of my MSRs for anything but a bushwhack.
Nice to hear these worked for that kind of trip. I've had mine a year now and definitely have experienced similar performance. Although the center length adjustment bar's durability and field repairability concerns me. Keeping a close eye on that.
 
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