With its tempered steel crampon and traction rails, the lightweight Atlas Helium Trail grips medium-packed snow, ice, and other obstacles with ease. Ascending steeper terrain is easy thanks to a heel lifter, and the angle at which the snowshoe pivots from the forefoot allows snow to slide effortlessly off the tail. The single loop webbing is easy to adjust on the fly, but the strap keeper on the heel is not very effective. The entire snowshoe is made of flexible composite material, paving the way for a natural heel-to-toe stride; however, the straight, wide decking can trip up those with a narrower gait. If you are in the market for a budget-friendly snowshoe for semi-packed snow on beginner terrain, this is a great option.Editor's Note: This article was updated on September 26, 2022, with information on updates to the Atlas Helium Trail snowshoe.
Atlas Helium Trail - Women's Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Easy binding adjustments, excellent traction, flexible, budget-friendly, good for packed snow, lightweight
Cons: Loud, below average float on fresh snow, straps flop around
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Atlas Helium Trail - Women's
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|Pros||Easy binding adjustments, excellent traction, flexible, budget-friendly, good for packed snow, lightweight||Comfortable and simple binding system, carbon steel crampons, uniquely placed heel crampons, inclusive sizing, quiet||Easy and natural stride, unique 3-crampon traction system, easy binding system||Affordable, stellar traction, easy to use, versatile bindings||Lightweight, springy, easy to use bindings, appropriate for running|
|Cons||Loud, below average float on fresh snow, straps flop around||Extra rotation causes shin impact, mediocre flotation on fresh snow||Subpar float on unpacked snow, only supports 200 pounds, bulky heel lift||Loud on packed snow, duck waddle for those with a narrower gait, straps do not stay in place||Does not float or shed snow well, awkward to walk in, minimal traction on steep terrain|
|Bottom Line||A lightweight snowshoe perfect for beginner terrain with easy-to-adjust bindings, great traction, and flexible decking||With its outstandingly comfortable binding system, decent floatation, and stellar traction, this snowshoe is perfect for casual use||A snowshoe with an extreme teardrop shape and three hefty crampons for a natural stride and extra traction||This affordable shoe is equipped with stellar traction and versatile bindings, making it a wonderful pick for varied terrain levels and snow types||While this isn't the shoe for floating on deep snow drifts, if you want to run and skip your way down the trail it's a winner|
|Rating Categories||Atlas Helium Trail...||Tubbs Wilderness -...||Crescent Moon Leadv...||MSR Evo Trail Snows...||Crescent Moon EVA Foam|
|Stride Ergonomics (15%)|
|Ease of Use (15%)|
|Specs||Atlas Helium Trail...||Tubbs Wilderness -...||Crescent Moon Leadv...||MSR Evo Trail Snows...||Crescent Moon EVA Foam|
|Uses||Trail walking||Day hiking||Technical mountain terrain and packed snow||Flat and variable rolling terrain||Flat terrain and trail running|
|Optimum Weight Load (per size)||23": 80-160 lbs
26": 150-220 lbs
30": 200-270+ lbs
|21": 80-150 lbs
25": 120-200 lbs
30": 170-250 lbs
|Up to 200 lbs||180 lbs||Up to 200 lbs|
|Weight (per pair)||3.3 lbs||4 lbs||4.2 lbs||3.5 lbs without tails
4.4 lbs with tails
|Binding System||WrapTrail||180 EZ Pro Binding||Cam buckle quick pull loop and ratchet heel strap||DuoFit||Velcro hook and loop binding|
|Crampon||Toe crampon||Cobra Toe Crampon
Tubbs Heel Crampon
|3 stainless steel crampon system featuring the climbing "toe" claw design||Steel traction rails and brake bars||Ice spikes|
|Frame Material||Composite||Aluminum||Aluminum||Martensitic steel||Dual Density EVA Foam|
|Deck Material||Composite||SoftTec, Composite||Nylon||Polypropylene||Dual Density EVA foam|
|Surface Area (for tested size)||190 in²||225 in²||192.5 in²||174 in² without tails, 220 in² with||160 in²|
|Dimensions||8" x 30"||9" x 30"||9.5" x 29"||8" x 22"||24" x 8" x 2"|
|Flotation Tails Available?||No||No||No||Yes, 6"||No|
|Load with Tails (per size)||n/a||n/a||n/a||Up to 250 lbs||n/a|
|Men's and Women's Versions?||Unisex||Yes||Yes||Unisex||Unisex|
|Sizes Available||23", 26", 30"||21", 25", 30"||29"||22"||24"|
|Size Tested||30"||30"||29"||22" plus 6" add-on tails||24"|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Atlas released a new version of the Helium Trail since our test period. The updated model has a new binding closure system, with rubber straps instead of webbing. The crampons are now made of carbon steel, which makes the snowshoes a few ounces lighter. And finally, the heel lift on the new pair is 12 degrees, as opposed to the previous 19 degrees. Compare the two models above; the version we tested is shown on the left, with the new model on the right. We're now linking to the updated snowshoe in our review.
A supportive, user-friendly binding system and traction rail/crampon combination make this snowshoe a great all-around option for easy to intermediate terrain. Read on to see why the Helium Trail is all the rage for beginner snowshoers.
Flotation is a critical aspect of snowshoeing, and its importance varies depending on the terrain you plan to tackle; it is much harder to stay afloat on loose deep snow than on packed snow. The lightweight plastic composite decking on the Helium offers some flotation, but this snowshoe is better suited for packed trails than fresh powder.
While the Helium Trail will keep you from falling hip-deep into fresh powder, it performs best on medium to heavily packed snow. The entire snowshoe is made of solid composite material, and the surface area is plentiful, but there are a lot of holes that allow snow through, causing the shoe to sink.
At 3.3 pounds, these snowshoes are some of the lightest weight in our test suite, and the louver design sheds snow quickly, ensuring that you aren't hauling any unnecessary weight. This contributes positively to float, but the holes and general shape make this shoe best for less extreme conditions.
The Helium Trail is designed for more heavily packed snow and ice, so while flotation may not factor too heavily into its overall performance, traction does. During our testing, we pay attention to the location and heftiness of the crampons. We also take note of the texture on the bottom of the snowshoe and additional traction features like teeth around the perimeter.
The fore-foot placement of the tempered steel crampon on this snowshoe not only helps shed snow and keep it lightweight for flotation but also helps create traction in the toe. The Helium Trail crampon placement is especially helpful for walking uphill. The jagged teeth cut through snow and ice alike, offering a decent grip on most terrain. The traction rails run two-thirds the length of the snowshoe and parallel to the foot. They provide stability and control in most conditions, and teeth are angled from front to back, ensuring that you can stride forward naturally.
The Helium offers great traction through the toe crampon and rails when hiking uphill, but walking downhill is a different story. Because the rails angle backward, they are not as effective while descending. Since people tend to weight their heels while walking downhill, teeth or crampons near the heel would improve downhill traction.
Regardless of how thoughtful the design is, wearing snowshoes will require adjusting your gait. That said, there are a lot of design factors that help mitigate the duck waddle and stepping on your own toes. The shape and size of the shoe are two that directly affect the way you walk. During our stride ergonomics testing, we also pay attention to the angle at which the snowshoe pivots from the foot. Those with particularly narrow hips are bound to have more trouble with larger snowshoes.
The Helium Trail is a fairly boxy snowshoe and does not offer much curvature. The slight taper at the nose is meant to help keep you from stepping on your toes, but the hard angles easily get caught on each other, especially if you have shorter legs. You won't be falling to the ground every time you take a step, but it is worth noting that this shoe may not be the best option for someone with a particularly narrow gait.
The entire shoe is made of composite material, and the traction rails only run two-thirds the length of the snowshoe, so the shoe flexes naturally from heel to toe while you walk. The angle that the snowshoe pivots from the toe is wide enough that snow falls naturally off the back, ensuring you aren't carrying any unnecessary weight.
Ease of Use
To test this metric, we fasten the bindings over various shoes, from hiking boots to trail runners. We make many adjustments throughout our hikes with and without gloves, deploying the heel lift with hiking poles on all kinds of terrain.
The Helium Trail bindings are very easy to adjust, but tucking the straps away after adjusting them can feel a little cumbersome with thick mittens on. The 19-degree heel lift easily opens up, providing plenty of relief when climbing those long steep hills, and it easily stores flat for the decent. Offered in three lengths, the Helium works well for people up to 270 pounds.
Unfortunately, the composite decking on the Helium is quite loud, which can be distracting when trying to enjoy the outdoors or a conversation with your hiking buddy. The strap keepers around the heel also do not do a great job of keeping the straps tucked away, especially when they get cold and stiff.
Comfort, support, and adjustability are attributes that contribute heavily to a top-tier binding. Unevenly distributed pressure can cause pinching and rubbing, negatively affecting the overall experience.
The Helium Trail features a comfortable, easy-to-use binding system called the Wrapp Trail binding. The webbing straps crisscross over the forefoot, evenly distributing the weight of the snowshoe across the entire front of the foot. These webbing straps can be tightened and loosened by simply pulling on one of two loops.
The TPU heel strap is notched like a belt and is also very easy to adjust on the go. The entire binding system hinges at the toe, offering a natural stride, and slipping in and out of these snowshoes is a breeze. Our biggest bone to pick here is that we had to continuously place the straps back in their keepers after they popped out — something they did often.
It can be difficult to fork over hundreds of dollars just to get started in a new sport, and that's where the Helium Trail comes in. This snowshoe works wonders on beginner trails with somewhat packed snow, ice, and other obstacles. If you are breaking into the wonderful world of winter hiking and want a reliable pair of snowshoes for easy to intermediate terrain, this snowhoe is a great value.
This snowshoe performs best on beginner to intermediate terrain with mostly packed snow. Its composite decking is flexible and lightweight, ensuring a natural heel-to-toe stride, although the width may have you waddling a little if you have a particularly narrow gait. The binding system is easy to use, and while the straps fall out of the keepers, the system remains taught and supportive. If you are looking for a high-performing snowshoe for easier terrain and don't want to break the bank, then the Atlas Helium Trail is the perfect option.
— Hayley Thomas
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