TSL Symbioz Elite - Women's Review
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TSL Symbioz Elite - Women's
|Price||$195.93 at REI|
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$297.50 at Amazon
$319.95 at REI
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|Pros||Amazing traction, comfortable bindings, versatile fit, ascent heel||Stellar traction, heel lifts for steep terrain, easy to use, add-on flotation tail compatible||Great for varied terrain, comfortable bindings, super easy to use, good floatation, large crampon and traction rails, pivot limiter for a natural stride, well-rounded||Comfortable and simple binding system, carbon steel crampons, uniquely placed heel crampons, quiet||Affordable, stellar traction, wide fit bindings|
|Cons||Poor floatation, difficult to walk backward and side-step, bindings take a moment to get used to||Expensive, front of binding difficult to navigate with thick gloves on, side and back stepping are laborious||Traction suffers a little while descending, expensive||Extra rotation causes shin impact, mediocre flotation on fresh snow||Loud on packed snow, duck waddle for those with a narrower gait, straps can flow around a little|
|Bottom Line||A flexible and comfortable snowshoe with incredible traction, perfect for icy packed conditions||This is a serious snowshoe for people that want superior traction and versatility while out in steep and variable backcountry terrain||A high-performing, all-terrain snowshoe with a comfortable and easy-to-adjust binding system and excellent traction||With its outstandingly comfortable binding system, decent floatation, and stellar traction, this snowshoe is perfect for casual use||This 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 -...||MSR Lightning Ascent||Atlas Range-MTN - W...||Tubbs Wilderness -...||MSR Evo Trail Snows...|
|Stride Ergonomics (15%)|
|Ease of Use (15%)|
|Specs||TSL Symbioz Elite -...||MSR Lightning Ascent||Atlas Range-MTN - W...||Tubbs Wilderness -...||MSR Evo Trail Snows...|
|Uses||Technical mountain terrain and packed snow||All terrain||Mountain terrain||Day hiking||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
|22": 75-150 lbs
26": 120-200+ lbs
|21": 80-150 lbs
25": 120-200 lbs
30": 170-250 lbs
|Weight (per pair)||4.2 lbs||3.8 lbs||4 lbs||4.1 lbs||4.0 lbs|
|Binding System||Symbioz telescopic bindings||Paragon Binding||Wrapp MTN, Boa Fit||Quick-Fit Binding||Paraglide|
|Crampon||Stainless steel||DTX Crampon||X-Trac toe crampon||Cobra Toe Crampon
Tubbs Heel Crampon
|Steel traction rails|
|Frame Material||Composite||Aluminum||Aluminum||Aluminum||Martensitic steel|
|Deck Material||Composite||Nylon||Nytex nylon||Nylon||Polypropylene|
|Surface Area (for tested size)||221.4 in²||179.2 in²||266.4 in²||228.0 in²||174.5 in² without tails, 220 in² with|
|Dimensions||27" x 8.5"||7.25" x 25"||26" x 7.5"||9" x 30"||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||Yes||Yes||Unisex|
|Sizes Available||20.5", 23.5", 27"||22", 25"||22", 26"||21", 25", 30"||22"|
|Size Tested||27"||25"||26"||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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Should You Buy the TSL Symbioz Hyperflex Elite?
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.
What Other Snowshoes Should You Consider?
The TSL Elite performed consistently across all our categories besides flotation. If flotation is number one for you, consider the MSR Lightning Ascent or Atlas Range-MTN. The Tubbs Wilderness is also fantastic in deep snow and offers some of our favorite bindings for a very fair price. If saving bucks is more of your priority, the MSR Evo Trail is one to seriously consider.
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