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MSR Evo Trail Snowshoes Review

This affordable shoe is equipped with stellar traction and versatile bindings, making it a wonderful pick for varied terrain levels and snow types
MSR Evo Trail Snowshoes
Photo: MSR
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $140 List | $139.95 at REI
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
Manufacturer:   MSR
By Hayley Thomas ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 15, 2020
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77
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 8
  • Flotation - 30% 8
  • Traction - 25% 8
  • Stride Ergonomics - 15% 7
  • Ease of Use - 15% 7
  • Bindings - 15% 8

Our Verdict

The MSR Evo Trail is a fantastically versatile shoe that will instill confidence no matter what kind of terrain you're on. The simple binding system makes ease of use a breeze, and its adjustable nature allows for a snug fit on a wide range of boots. Since the shoe itself is actually quite short, we found that flotation, while adequate, could have been improved. However, we couldn't have been happier after we added the 6" flotation tails. The crampon and teethed side rails provide amazing traction, and the lightweight frame is easy to strap on to a backpack for travel. Between the easy to use binding system, stellar traction, and affordable price point, you can feel confident in these shoes on most every kind of adventure. It is for this reason that the Evo was a clear choice for one of our Best Buy awards.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award    
Price $139.95 at REI$320 List$200 List$205 List$190 List
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Affordable, stellar traction, easy to use, versatile bindingsStellar traction, heel lifts for steep terrain, easy to use, add-on flotation tail compatibleGood traction and flotation, excellent binding system, heel liftGreat traction, Boa binding system, comfortable binding, easy walking, quietExcellent traction, comfortable bindings, fantastic stride ergonomics
Cons Loud on packed snow, duck waddle for those with a narrower gait, straps do not stay in placeExpensive, front of binding difficult to navigate with thick gloves on, side and back stepping are laboriousA bit heavy, tail flips up a lot of snow, toe shape feels a little wideBoa system is more finicky and less repairable than a strap system, on the heavier sideBinding system potentially isn't secure, doesn't float well unless you're very light
Bottom Line Great traction and versatile bindings mean you will have no problem heading into a wide spectrum of snow types and terrain levels with the EvoIf superior traction and versatility out in the steep and variable backcountry terrain is what you're looking for, the Lightning Ascent delivers in spadesThe Montane is an easy to use snowshoe that offers great features for mountainous and technical terrainThe Blizzard III with its impressive crampons and good flotation will make for happy snowshoeing no matter what the terrainThe Flex RDG offers fantastic traction and great stride ergonomics for women while being easy to use and comfortable
Rating Categories MSR Evo Trail Snowshoes Lightning Ascent Atlas Elektra Montane Louis Blizzard III Tubbs Flex RDG - Women's
Flotation (30%)
8
8
8
8
6
Traction (25%)
8
9
8
8
9
Stride Ergonomics (15%)
7
9
8
8
9
Ease Of Use (15%)
7
8
9
7
8
Bindings (15%)
8
9
9
8
7
Specs MSR Evo Trail... Lightning Ascent Atlas Elektra... Louis Blizzard III Tubbs Flex RDG -...
Uses Flat and variable rolling terrain All terrain All terrain Flat, rolling and mountain terrain Variable rolling and mountain terrain
Optimum Weight Load (per size) 180 lbs 22": up to 180 lbs
25": 120-210 lbs
23": 80-160 lbs
27": 120-200+ lbs
22": 60-160 lbs
25": 100-200 lbs
80-150 lbs
Weight (per pair) 3.5 lbs without tails
4.4 lbs with tails
3.8 lbs 4.4 lbs 4.4 lbs 3.5 lbs
Binding Mount Full Full Fixed Full Full
Binding System DuoFit Paragon Binding Wrapp Swift binding Boa binding CustomWrap binding featuring the Boa Closure System
Crampon Steel traction rails and brake bars DTX Crampon All-trac toe crampon Traxion HCS front crampon & V-rail crampon Traction rails and carbon steel toe crampon
Frame Material Martensitic steel Aluminum Aluminum V-frame 6061-T6 Aluminum ErgoStream Plastic frame and decking with steel traction rails
Deck Material Polypropylene Nylon Nytex decking EDGE molded polymer Plastic advanced Torsion Deck
Surface Area (for tested size) 174 in² without tails, 220 in² with 180 in² 176 in² 189 in² 151 in²
Dimensions 8 x 22" 7.25 x 25" 8.5 x 27" 8 x 25" 8 x 22"
Flotation Tails Available? Yes, 6" Yes, 5" No No No
Load with Tails (per size) Up to 250 lbs 22": up to 240 lbs
25": up to 270 lbs
n/a n/a n/a
Men's and Women's Versions? Unisex Yes No, women's specific Yes Yes
Sizes Available 22" 22", 25" 23", 27" 22", 25" 22"
Size Tested 22" plus 6" add-on tails 25" 27" 25" 22"

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 flotation 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.

Performance Comparison


The Evo is a straightforward unisex model good for all types of...
The Evo is a straightforward unisex model good for all types of terrain.
Photo: Hayley Thomas

Flotation


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, flotation-wise, on all different kinds of snow but we found the additional flotation 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 flotation 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.

The decent float is made even better with the use of add-on...
The decent float is made even better with the use of add-on flotation tails.
Photo: Hayley Thomas

Traction


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.

A burly toe pick plus a pair of teethed metal side rails topped with...
A burly toe pick plus a pair of teethed metal side rails topped with perpendicularly placed plastic rails on the bottom of the decking is recipe for stellar traction!
Photo: Hayley Thomas

Stride Ergonomics


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.

Being a unisex model, the Evo proves more difficult for those with a...
Being a unisex model, the Evo proves more difficult for those with a narrower gait to walk normally in.
Photo: Hayley Thomas

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.

Once we discovered the tips and tricks we had no issues strapping in...
Once we discovered the tips and tricks we had no issues strapping in and out of these bindings.
Photo: Hayley Thomas

Bindings


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.

This burly snowshoe had one of the more secure binding systems we...
This burly snowshoe had one of the more secure binding systems we tested. The straps require a very tight pull in order to stay neatly tucked away.
Photo: Hayley Thomas

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.

The individual straps of the Evo binding system are very versatile...
The individual straps of the Evo binding system are very versatile and surprisingly comfortable, providing you fasten them correctly.
Photo: Hayley Thomas

Value


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.

For all but the steepest terrain, the Evo is a fantastic purchase...
For all but the steepest terrain, the Evo is a fantastic purchase with a ton of versatility.
Photo: Penney Garrett

Conclusion


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 flotation 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.

The burly traction, versatile bindings, and affordable price point...
The burly traction, versatile bindings, and affordable price point makes these shoes a great fit for most.
Photo: Hayley Thomas

Hayley Thomas