MSR Evo Trail Snowshoes Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Affordable, stellar traction, easy to use, versatile bindings
Cons: Loud on packed snow, duck waddle for those with a narrower gait, straps do not stay in place
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Evo Trail by MSR proved versatile and durable. After extensive testing, this shoe ended up at the top of our list for its ability to perform well in varied terrain of all levels. Between its spectacular traction, simplistic binding design, and great floatation with added tails, this snowshoe might be just what you've been looking for! This is particularly true if you like to keep your options open in regard to where you go and what boots you have on your feet.
While we were not sure what we could expect from the small plastic frames, we were pleasantly surprised! The Evo provides a good amount of float for those within the ideal weight range, even without using the additional tails. For those who weigh in a little heavier, the tails work wonders.
The Evo held its own, floatation-wise, on all different kinds of snow but we found the additional floatation tails particularly useful on deep fresh powder. The shoes are roughly 22", but with 6" of additional tails, they jump to a generous 28" in length. While we were mostly content with the floatation sans tails, we feel there is some room for improvement here. We scored the Evo based on performance without the tails as they do not come with the snowshoes and are therefore an additional expense. However, if you choose to purchase these shoes, we highly recommend pairing them with their tails.
Our first impression of the Evo was that it was made of seemingly cheap material and, therefore, would not perform well. Most snowshoe decking is not made entirely of rigid plastic. However, we were pleasantly surprised when we took our first few strides up a steep hill and did not slide at all. Overall we were very satisfied in this department as the Evo performed at the top of our test suite for traction.
When the trail leveled out, and we were no longer hiking at a steep angle, the Evo almost felt like they were too much. They absolutely will work on more mellow hikes, but with the hefty traction rails and crampons, these puppies stick to the snow aggressively when on flat-packed trails. However, as soon as we stepped out into deeper drifts, we were very thankful for the aggressive stick. We felt safe and secure cruising steep and icy intermediate hills. This shoe does not offer heel lifts, so it isn't the best for long stretches of steep climbing, but you'll be good to go on moderate rolling terrain.
So far, we have been raving about how the Evo comes equipped with up to par flotation and out of this world traction, but stride ergonomics is one category it falls short, at least for some. Because of the unisex nature of this particular model, we found the decking to be a little wide. It did not feel as natural to walk in for narrower-gaited humans.
Due to the width of the Evo Trail, most of our test subjects felt as though they had to adopt a little bit of a duck-footed waddle. The front, or toe side, of this shoe is the widest part, so to avoid quite literally stepping on your own toes, you have to point them outward. And, while we are impressed with the float the plastic decking provides, we are NOT impressed with how noisy it is! Many people take the time to pop into nature for quiet serenity, and this shoe makes that a wee bit more difficult, particularly on packed trail. We decided to view this as a challenge to get out further and deeper so we could really enjoy the shoes where they shine the brightest.
Ease of Use
We love a simplistic binding system. Why overcomplicate things with unnecessary straps and buckles? MSR does a great job of keeping the Evo binding straightforward and easy to use; however, there is still room for improvement.
The binding system on the Evo is simple in theory but a little different in practice. After taking the shoes on and off a few times, we realized that if the straps were not adequately tightened, they would, without fail, come loose a few steps into the hike. And when we say tight, we mean really really tight. We're talking so tight you'll think you're overdoing it. You may think this would cause pinching or discomfort, but that's not the case — they have some stretch and give. So strap these suckers down with gusto before you embark on your journey, or you'll be stopping every ten minutes to refasten them. We also found that the long straps, meant to accommodate all types of boots, are less ideal for those with smaller or narrower feet, as the tails are quite long and flop around.
There was more than one trick the user might like to know before strapping in. It is important to pay careful attention to how each foot is placed on the deck before cinching down the straps. Since the shoe is unisex, it is built for all different shaped and sized feet. The area to place your foot is large, leaving more room for error. If you don't ensure that the crampon is under the ball of your foot, you may find that your step is a little off. While these issues are minor and we still love this shoe, they are worth taking into consideration if you are comparing styles.
Overall the Evo bindings feel secure when fastened tightly. Unfortunately, the rubber straps stiffen in the cold air, making it difficult to keep them from popping out of their designated retainer clips. While this does not compromise the integrity of the shoe at any point, we find it messy to look at, and the flopping straps cause many users to have to widen their gaits further to avoid snagging the opposite shoe.
The most important takeaway for success with the Evo bindings is to pull the rubber straps tighter than you may initially think you need to. This will force the proper angle on the buckle tooth. If you don't do this, the straps can work their way undone. Every shoe is unique, and this one just requires a tighter fasten than some others. Once we discovered this, we had no worries or complaints.
While we did not feel uncomfortable in these bindings, the score dropped for a few reasons. As a unisex shoe, they are meant to fit an assortment of boots, but, no surprise, the longer straps are better suited to wider and larger. We also found that while the system is simple, it requires a little finagling to be its best self. Lastly, the straps falling out of their designated clips is just flat out annoying. Where the shoe binding redeems itself is in its security. No matter how many times the strap tails popped out of the clips, the bindings themselves never loosened, and, therefore, security and comfort were not compromised.
This snowshoe is a clear winner for versatility on a budget. So much so that it is a Best Buy winner in the men's category too! If you want something not overly expensive that can accommodate many different types of boots and users, this is a superb option.
The simple design, adaptable bindings, superb traction, and more-than-adequate flotation of the MSR Evo Trail make it a wise choice, in our opinion. Fostering a sense of security and confidence on all terrain from flat packed trails to steep icy ones, the Evo will get you from A to B safely. The add-on floatation tails are a wonderful addition if you plan to share them with folks of different size and weight or if you plan on venturing out into fresh deep snow often. All in all, this Best Buy winner is a solid purchase for any gender.
— Hayley Thomas