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TSL Symbioz Hyperflex Elite - Women's Review

A flexible and comfortable snowshoe with incredible traction, perfect for icy packed conditions
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TSL Symbioz Hyperflex Elite - Women's Review (These hyper-flexible snowshoes have stellar traction, allowing for both grounding stability and springy momentum to...)
These hyper-flexible snowshoes have stellar traction, allowing for both grounding stability and springy momentum to each step.
Credit: Kate Pitts
Price:  $300 List
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Manufacturer:   TSL Outdoor
By Kate Pitts and Hayley Thomas  ⋅  Apr 5, 2024
73
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 14
  • Flotation - 30% 4.0
  • Traction - 30% 9.0
  • Walkability - 20% 9.0
  • Bindings - 20% 8.0

Our Verdict

Walking in the TSL Symbioz Hyperflex Elite is a delightful surprise - TSL's radical innovation in “walkability” meant we felt it's the closest you can get to “barefoot” stride ergonomics while snowshoeing. With the most shoe-like frame in our lineup, its hourglass shape mimics the curves of your feet, so it has zilch pronation or duck waddling. TSL's evolutionary design of flexible decking gives an experience of “spring and bounce” that feels like a trail runner propelling you forward on the trail. In addition to excellent stride ergonomics, it has an aggressive traction system that even mountaineers appreciate. Imagine ice crampons underfoot that give you stability fast-packing up icy slopes. The one downside is that the shoe's smaller profile sacrifices flotation. Nevertheless, it is our favorite model for moving fast on packed trails. Our article on the best women's snowshoes will show how it fares versus competing products.
REASONS TO BUY
Amazing traction
Comfortable bindings
Versatile fit
Ascent heel
REASONS TO AVOID
Poor floatation
Difficult to walk backward and side-step
Bindings take a moment to get used to
Editor's Note: This review was updated on April 5, 2024, after retesting the TSL Symbioz Hyperflex Elite.

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Bottom Line A high-traction snowshoe, with a flexible deck, great for ice and packed snowIf superior traction and versatility out in the steep and variable backcountry terrain is what you're looking for, the Lightning Ascent delivers in spadesThese snowshoes provide excellent flotation and support for heavy loads in all winter conditions, offering the float and durability you can trust for winter backpackingExcellent traction and versatile bindings mean you will have no problem heading into a wide spectrum of snow types and terrain levels with this widely popular and durable snowshoeThis snowshoe is perfect for everyday use with its easy-to-use and comfortable binding system, superior flotation, and ability to carry heavy loads
Rating Categories TSL Symbioz Hyperfl... MSR Lightning Ascen... Tubbs Mountaineer -... MSR Evo Trail Snows... Tubbs Wilderness -...
Flotation (30%)
4.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Traction (30%)
9.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Walkability (20%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Bindings (20%)
8.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
Specs TSL Symbioz Hyperfl... MSR Lightning Ascen... Tubbs Mountaineer -... MSR Evo Trail Snows... Tubbs Wilderness -...
Measured Weight (per pair) 4.31 lbs 3.94 lbs 4.56 lbs 3.69 lbs 4.12 lbs.
Sizes Available 20.5", 23.5", 27" 22", 25" 21", 25", 30" 22" 21", 25", 30"
Binding System Symbioz telescopic bindings Paragon Binding Active Fit 2.0 Paraglide Quick-Fit binding
Frame Material Composite, carbon reinforcements Aluminum Aluminum Martensitic steel Aluminum
Measured Surface Area 127.1 in² 143.0 in² 157.5 in² 162.8 in² 156.1 in²
Measured Dimensions 7.5 x 20.5 sq in 7.25 x 22 sq in 8.5 x 21 sq in 8 x 22 sq in 8 x 21 sq in
Binding Mount Full Full Full Full Full
Crampon Stainless steel toe crampon and verticle blades DTX crampon Anaconda toe crampon
Python heel crampon
Steel traction rails Cobra toe and
Tubbs heel crampon
Deck Material Composite TPU coated Nylon Soft-Tec PVC-coated polyester Polypropylene Soft-Tec PVC-coated polyester
Flotation Tails Available? No Yes, 5" No Yes, 6" No
Load with Tails (per size) N/A 22": up to 240 lbs
25": up to 270 lbs
N/A 22" : up to 250 lbs N/A
Men's and Women's Versions? Unisex Yes Yes Unisex Yes
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
21": 80-150 lbs
25" 120-200 lbs
30": 170-250 lbs
One size: 180 lbs 21": 80-150 lbs
25": 120-200 lbs
30": 170-250 lbs
Size Tested 20.5" 22" 21" 22" 21"

Our Analysis and Test Results

The TSL Symbioz Hyperflex Elite is one of the most futuristic and innovative designs we tested. TSL, a snowshoe company in the French Alps, engineered the first plast composite snow in 1981 and developed the first snowshoes with composite bindings. This model is the culmination of their revolutionary “Hyperflex” technology, smashing the rules about snowshoe performance. TSL named it the “Symbioz” because of its technical balance of lightweight frame, aggressive grip, and responsiveness to the terrain underfoot, saying it reflected a more symbiotic walking experience with nature.

Performance Comparison


tsl symbioz hyperflex elite for women - the elite feels like a normal shoe on icy, packed terrain. they are...
The Elite feels like a normal shoe on icy, packed terrain. They are unmatched for premium comfort and energy conservation on packed trails.
Credit: Kate Pitts

Flotation


Flotation can be an essential feature depending on the terrain you prefer. A shoe's float isn't nearly as crucial if you are on packed trails with ice more often. The Symbioz Elite does not score highly in this metric because of its narrow footprint and longitudinal flexibility. Although we don't like how it sinks in deep powder, it is one of our trail favorites.


In general, snowshoes with more surface area tend to provide better floatation. However, the Symbioz Elite is designed to be narrow and short, which allows for a more natural stride but sacrifices some floatation. Stiff and flat snowshoes provide more surface contact since they distribute weight evenly across the shoe. On the other hand, the Hyperflex snowshoes are highly flexible, so the weight is spread evenly across the whole deck when your entire foot is flat on the ground. The hyperflex decking provides a springy momentum on groomed trails and an intuitive flexibility that allows a grounding sensation and the ability to sense the terrain underfoot.

Foot-shaped, lightweight, springy, flexibile, and responsive grip - TSL's Symbioz Hyperflex Elite revolutionized snowshoeing to offer the most enjoyable and “symbiotic” walking experience for trails and packed snow.
Credit: Kate Pitts

Traction


If we wanted to slide downhill, we'd sledding instead of strapping on snowshoes. A few different features offer traction on a snowshoe, and the Elite has one of the most effective traction systems in our lineup. This shoe will keep you over your feet and off your bottom, whether ascending or descending.


The eight curved metal crampons on the underside of the minimal decking are snow piranhas. They are pretty sharp and cut through ice and crusty snow with ease. The canine curve of the eight spikes works similarly to a fishing hook in its ability to grab and hold its grip on the snow with every stride. The bi-directional spikes run along the bottom of the forefoot, making contact with the ground along with your foot; the flexibility of the frameworks to your advantage on uneven terrain, as the teeth bite more effectively than a stiffer snowshoe.

tsl symbioz hyperflex elite for women - massive toe crampons dig deep while ascending steep hills.
Massive toe crampons dig deep while ascending steep hills.
Credit: Kate Pitts

The stainless steel toe crampon bites like a snow carnivore, and the two rows of mountaineering-style spikes work with the flexible decking to give you a secure step wherever you put pressure underfoot. The Elite's composite decking also has cleats and ridges on the frame's underbelly and perimeter that offer traction while ascending, descending, or walking on flat ice. This snowshoe is a clear winner for premium traction and an excellent choice for packed trails or mountaineers in crusty, alpine snow. Since they are effectively sharp, be careful not to snag your puffy jacket or scratch the hood of your car. Luckily, the snowshoes have a carrying bag to keep the crampons sheathed until you're ready to dig into the slopes.

tsl symbioz hyperflex elite for women - crampons on the bottom of the decking grip like ice climbing spikes...
Crampons on the bottom of the decking grip like ice climbing spikes, and smaller ridges and teeth engraved in the composite decking contribute to a 360-degree grip.
Credit: Kate Pitts

Walkability


Having snowshoes on can sometimes feel like wearing clown shoes. While this might be funny to watch for a moment, walking miles in snowshoes that make you bow-legged or duck-walk can make you stiff at best, not to mention that it's just awkward and uncomfortable. Because of its ergonomic shape and heel-to-toe flexibility, the Elite offers one the most natural-feeling strides.


The Elite is one of the most ergonomic shoes for a natural stride and conserving energy in snow conditions. Its short profile, flexible decking, and secure bindings give your foot an intuitive sense of the terrain you don't find in any other snowshoe. Even though it is heavier than summer footwear, the hyperflex decking reinforces your step momentum with carbon inserts that actively respond to your stride and the landscape. The resulting spring feels like a running shoe that bounces your step.

tsl symbioz hyperflex elite for women - carbon fiber inserts reinforce the flexible decking, giving a...
Carbon fiber inserts reinforce the flexible decking, giving a “spring” to your step that propels you onward into winter's beauty.
Credit: Kate Pitts

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 and shaped like a foot. This design intends to give the best walking experience, and we found it especially delightful for women with small hips. The most futuristic feature that the Symbioz offers is its longitudinal flexibility. Generally speaking, we walk heel to toe, and a stiff, flat shoe can make it cumbersome to take your average step. This snowshoe, however, flexes and adapts to every step you take, making it one of the most delightful options for a brisk and effortless pace. Less muscle fatigue and ultra-comfort - our testers agree there is no better walking experience on packed snow.

tsl symbioz hyperflex elite for women - hands down, it's a gold medal for best heel lifter. unlike other...
Hands down, it's a gold medal for best heel lifter. Unlike other snowshoes with a kickstand on the decking, the Elite heel lift hinges down from the foot binding and is the easiest to deploy with a trekking pole.
Credit: Kate Pitts

Bindings


The Symbioz Elite boasts the most unique and “tailored-to-you” binding systems. Set-up is the secret sauce for the perfect fit. Although it requires extra attention during the first use, once you have the “pre-sets” dialed, it is one of the market's most comfortable and secure bindings. They are straightforward to use with gloves, and finding a better fit than these will be challenging.


The Symbioz Elite is comfortable and one of the most adjustable and secure systems we tested. We love the Lock Adjustment, and you press two buttons on the footplate to fit your shoe size precisely. Place your foot on the plastic plate and slide the binding heel in until it fits snugly against the heel of your hiking boot. The next pre-setting is the Memory Lock System, which uses straps to dial in the fit for a comfortable and stable toe cradle. After you adjust the toe box to your boot, no readjustments are needed, and the next time you snowshoe, you tighten and release the forefoot with a latch strap. You can efficiently dial in your custom fit by adjusting the ankle straps with a ratchet system.

TSL has one of the best “custom fit” bindings for comfort and security. The first shoe shoes custom fit boot mount, followed by securing the toe box and the ratchet strap ankle binding. Finally, this model wins the gold medal for the easiest heel lifter to engage with a trekking pole.
Credit: Kate Pitts

The bindings provide a high level of foot flexibility, which makes walking very comfortable. The only downsides are a little time investment for each new user to dial in their pre-sets, and the binding is bulkier than we like when strapping these snowshoes to a backpack. Overall, they get top marks for comfort, adjustability, and security. They fit snugly around different boot sizes, and they never came loose on us during testing, no matter how far we roamed.

tsl symbioz hyperflex elite for women - the mountaineering-style crampons and custom-fit bindings make this...
The mountaineering-style crampons and custom-fit bindings make this an excellent choice for winter Alpinists or casual hikers on packed trails.
Credit: Kate Pitts

Should You Buy the TSL Symbioz Hyperflex Elite?


The TSL Symbioz Hyperflex Elite offers one of the best walking experiences of any snowshoe we tested on packed trails and crusty snow. However, they are not worth the investment if you need flotation for winter backpacking or enjoy hiking in fresh, unpacked powder. If you hike on packed trails or crusty alpine shows where traction greatly outweighs your need for floatation, the Elite offers premium stride ergonomics, especially for women with narrow hips and a flexible frame that supports bounce in your step. Their traction is unmatched, and the bindings provide the most custom fit in our lineup.

tsl symbioz hyperflex elite for women - the elite's bindings are custom fit, with zero-slippage in rugged...
The Elite's bindings are custom fit, with zero-slippage in rugged terrain.
Credit: Kate Pitts

What Other Snowshoes Should You Consider?


The TSL Elite topped the charts consistently across all our categories besides flotation. If flotation is number one for you, consider the MSR Lightning Ascent, which offers excellent walkability and traction but can increase flotation with add-on tails. The Tubbs Mountaineer is also fantastic in deep snow and is a Hauss for heavier loads. If saving bucks is your priority, the MSR Evo Trail gives premium traction and comfortable bindings at a fair price.

tsl symbioz hyperflex elite for women - the symbioz elite wins top marks for icy, packed terrain.
The Symbioz Elite wins top marks for icy, packed terrain.
Credit: Kate Pitts

Kate Pitts and Hayley Thomas