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TSL Symbioz Elite - Women's Review

A flexible and comfortable snowshoe with incredible traction, perfect for icy packed conditions
TSL Symbioz Elite - Women's
Photo: REI Co-op
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $300 List | $299.69 at Amazon
Pros:  Amazing traction, comfortable bindings, versatile fit, ascent heel
Cons:  Poor floatation, difficult to walk backward and side-step, bindings take a moment to get used to
Manufacturer:   TSL Outdoor
By Hayley Thomas ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 22, 2021
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74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 8
  • Flotation - 30% 4
  • Traction - 25% 9
  • Stride Ergonomics - 15% 9
  • Ease of Use - 15% 8
  • Bindings - 15% 9

Our Verdict

The TSL Symbioz Hyperflex Elite with its eight stainless steel crampons, massive multi-spiked toe crampon, and plastic cleats provides award-winning traction regardless of the terrain. Whether you are ascending or descending, this shoe will keep you over your feet and off your bottom. The highly adjustable bindings and boot pad allow for a very inclusive fit, and the padded straps offer optimal comfort. The angle at which the snowshoe moves from its binding is wide, making ascending and descending easier, but sidestepping and walking backward can be hazardous. The shoe works great for slippery or icy spring conditions and packed trails, but the shoe's overall size lends to a lack of flotation, so unpacked powder is not the terrain for the TSL Elite.

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Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award   Best Buy Award 
Price $299.69 at Amazon$329.95 at REI$200 List$205 ListCheck Price at Backcountry
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Pros Amazing traction, comfortable bindings, versatile fit, ascent heelStellar 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, quietAffordable, stellar traction, easy to use, versatile bindings
Cons Poor floatation, difficult to walk backward and side-step, bindings take a moment to get used toExpensive, 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 sideLoud on packed snow, duck waddle for those with a narrower gait, straps do not stay in place
Bottom Line A flexible and comfortable snowshoe with incredible traction, perfect for icy packed conditionsThis is a serious snowshoe for people that want superior traction and versatility while out in steep and variable backcountry terrainThis is a well-rounded and solidly performing snowshoe fit for all kinds of terrain and objectivesThis is a well-performing snowshoe with great traction suitable for many different kinds of terrain and snowThis affordable shoe is equipped with stellar traction and versatile bindings, making it a wonderful pick for varied terrain levels and snow types
Rating Categories TSL Symbioz Elite -... Lightning Ascent Atlas Elektra Montane Louis Blizzard III MSR Evo Trail Snows...
Flotation (30%)
4.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Traction (25%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Stride Ergonomics (15%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Ease Of Use (15%)
8.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
Bindings (15%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
Specs TSL Symbioz Elite -... Lightning Ascent Atlas Elektra Montane Louis Blizzard III MSR Evo Trail Snows...
Uses Technical mountain terrain and packed snow All terrain All terrain Flat, rolling and mountain terrain Flat and variable rolling terrain
Optimum Weight Load (per size) 20.5": 65 - 180 lbs
23.5": 110 - 260 lbs
27": 150 - 300 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
180 lbs
Weight (per pair) 4.2 lbs 3.8 lbs 4.4 lbs 4.4 lbs 3.5 lbs without tails
4.4 lbs with tails
Binding Mount Full Full Fixed Full Full
Binding System Symbioz’ telescopic bindings Paragon Binding Wrapp Swift binding Boa binding DuoFit
Crampon Stainless steel DTX Crampon All-trac toe crampon Traxion HCS front crampon & V-rail crampon Steel traction rails and brake bars
Frame Material Composite Aluminum Aluminum V-frame 6061-T6 Aluminum ErgoStream Martensitic steel
Deck Material Composite Nylon Nytex decking EDGE molded polymer Polypropylene
Surface Area (for tested size) 229 in² 180 in² 176 in² 189 in² 174 in² without tails, 220 in² with
Dimensions 27" x 8.5" 7.25 x 25" 8.5 x 27" 8 x 25" 8 x 22"
Flotation Tails Available? No Yes, 5" No No Yes, 6"
Load with Tails (per size) n/a 22": up to 240 lbs
25": up to 270 lbs
n/a n/a Up to 250 lbs
Men's and Women's Versions? Unisex Yes No, women's specific Yes Unisex
Sizes Available 20.5", 23.5", 27" 22", 25" 23", 27" 22", 25" 22"
Size Tested 27" 25" 27" 25" 22" plus 6" add-on tails

Our Analysis and Test Results

Comfortable, sticky, and easy to use, the Symbioz Elite is a great snowshoe for navigating icy and technical terrain — they're just not the best choice for floating on top of piles of fresh powder.

Performance Comparison


The Symbioz Elite wins top marks for icy, packed terrain.
The Symbioz Elite wins top marks for icy, packed terrain.
Photo: Hayley Thomas

Flotation


Depending on the kind of terrain you prefer, flotation can be a very important feature. Traction and float are the two main features a snowshoe is meant to provide. That being said, if you find yourself on packed trails with ice more often, then the float that a shoe offers isn't nearly as crucial. The Symbioz Elite does not score highly in this metric because of its narrow footprint and longitudinal flexibility.


Generally speaking, the more surface area, the more float a snowshoe has to offer. However, more surface area usually also equates to more weight, so it isn't always better. The Symbioz Elite, even tested in its largest size, is narrow and flexible, lending to a very natural stride but not much flotation. Stiff, flat snowshoes offer more surface contact as the weight is distributed evenly across the entire shoe. Because the Hyperflex is, well, hyper-flexible, the weight is not spread evenly across the whole deck unless your entire foot is flat on the ground, which only happens for a split second when you are in the middle of your stride.

While the flexible decking lends to a natural stride, it affects...
While the flexible decking lends to a natural stride, it affects flotation negatively.
Photo: Matthew Blake

Traction


If we wanted to slide downhill, we'd strap into some sleds, not snowshoes. A few different features offer traction on a snowshoe, and the Elite does a stellar job including them all. Crampons on the bottom of the decking and the toe are two obvious traction traits, but smaller ridges, cleats, and teeth also contribute.


The eight curved metal crampons found on the underside of the minimal decking are heavy duty. They are quite sharp and cut through ice and crusty snow with ease. The slight curve works similarly to a fishing hook in its ability to grab and hold its grip on the snow with every stride. The stainless steel toe crampon is massive and jagged, ensuring that no hill can stop you. If the decking and toe crampons aren't enough, the Elite is also riddled with cleats, ridges, and teeth to offer traction while ascending, descending, or walking on flat ice. This snowshoe is a clear winner in this category, and for good reason.

The massive toe crampons dig deep while ascending steep hills.
The massive toe crampons dig deep while ascending steep hills.
Photo: Matthew Blake

Stride Ergonomics


Having snowshoes on can sometimes feel like wearing clown shoes. This is exaggerated for those with a narrower gait. While this might be funny to watch for a moment, it can result in injury. Walking 10 miles in snowshoes that force your stride to resemble a duck can cause knee and hip problems. Not to mention it's just awkward and uncomfortable. Because of its curvy shape and heel-to-toe flexibility, the Elite offers a very natural-feeling stride.


For larger-framed bodies, the width of a snowshoe is less consequential, but for those with a narrower gait, it can make or break an experience. The Symbioz Elite is slim throughout, narrowing in at the toes, heels, and arch of the foot. This keeps the narrow-gaited wearer from tripping over themselves or walking funny in an attempt to adapt. The shoe is smaller than many, which affects floatation negatively but works wonders for stride ergonomics. The most unique feature that the Symbioz offers is its longitudinal flexibility. Generally speaking, we walk heel to toe, and a stiff, flat shoe can make it difficult to take a normal step. This snowshoe, however, flexes with every step you take, making walking feel very natural. The only steps that are difficult to take are sideways and backward, which tends to be true for all snowshoes.

The Hyperflex Elite is true to its name. Look at that flex!
The Hyperflex Elite is true to its name. Look at that flex!
Photo: Matthew Blake

Ease of Use


Getting out and exercising can be difficult, especially during the winter. That is why it is important that the tools we use inspire us to get out and stay out, not make things more difficult. Our ease of use metric is based heavily on the bindings, but there are other features like ascent heels and crampon covers that contribute to the overall score as well.


The Symbioz Elite has a complicated binding system that requires a little extra attention during the initial setup. Not only are the toe and ankle straps highly adjustable, but you can alter the size of the soleplate as well. All these moving parts make the fit of the snowshoe very versatile. If you tend to wear the same shoes every time you hike, these adjustments only need to be made once. On the flip side, if you share your snowshoes or like to switch up your footwear, the setup may feel cumbersome. It also took us a moment to figure out which shoe went on which foot, but this question was answered by a quick skim of the manual. Once you understand how the bindings work, they are very easy to use, with or without gloves on. The heel lift is a godsend on steep climbs and can be pressed down or pulled up with a pole. Overall the Symbioz Elite is very easy, and the mesh bag and plastic crampon covers make storing these snowshoes a breeze.

The heel lifts are easily activated and do wonders for climbing...
The heel lifts are easily activated and do wonders for climbing steep hills.
Photo: Matthew Blake

Bindings


Comfort is a large contributing factor to this metric. Your snowshoes shouldn't cause pinching or hot spots. Adjustability is another important aspect of the binding, especially if you like to switch up your footwear. Lastly is security. If you do not feel secure in your bindings, it's going to be difficult to find the confidence to hike far off into the woods.


The Symbioz Elite are not only comfortable, they are also adjustable and secure. Although they are a little bulky and complicated to use at first, they are well worth the trouble. The toe and ankle straps easily adjust with a ratchet system, and the footbed is also adjustable — a unique feature that we find extremely valuable. Simply place your foot on the plastic plate and slide the heel of the binding in until it fits snug up against the heel of your hiking boot. The bindings also provide a high level of foot flexibility which makes walking very comfortable. Not only are they comfortable and highly adjustable, but these bindings are very secure. They fit snug around your boot, every strap has a home, and they never came loose on us during testing, no matter how far we roamed.

The TSL's come with an adjustable sole, which is a unique and...
The TSL's come with an adjustable sole, which is a unique and valuable function.
Photo: Matthew Blake

Value


These snowshoes are not our most expensive option, but they are close. The binding and traction performance doesn't leave much to be improved upon, but the overall snowshoe lacks versatility. They are not worth the investment if you like hiking around in fresh, unpacked powder, but if you are a spring hiker or tend to find yourself in places where your need for traction greatly outweighs your need for floatation, then the TSL Elite is likely worth the money.

Conclusion


The TSL Symbioz Hyperflex Elite performed consistently across all our categories besides flotation. It is a great shoe for a variety of foot sizes and experience levels but performs best on packed snow and ice rather than fresh deep snow. The traction is abundant, the stride ergonomics are stellar, and the bindings offer optimal comfort and security.

These hyper-flexible snowshoes are equipped with stellar traction...
These hyper-flexible snowshoes are equipped with stellar traction and allow for a very natural stride.
Photo: Matthew Blake

Hayley Thomas