Tubbs Xplore - Women's Review
Cons: Less than ideal traction for steep terrain, bindings don't work with some larger boots, heel strap hard to adjust in the cold
Our Analysis and Test Results
The women's Tubbs Xplore is great for someone new to snowshoeing and winter recreation in general. It's a simple design perfect for beginner terrain that also feels great in deep snow. For the casual winter enthusiast, this is a good option.
This snowshoe has one of largest surface areas we tested, so we weren't surprised to find that it provides decent float. The Xplore seemed at home walking in deep snow, and we preferred that to packed trails, where we found them rather awkward.
Unfortunately, this shoe has a bit of trouble with traction on icy terrain. If you keep to beginner trails and powdery snow, all will be well and good, but when trying to navigate anything steep or icy, our testers had issues. Getting up high angle hills is difficult and requires a lot of energy. Getting down is even dicier — our testers that tried to go straight down without traversing sideways very slowly and carefully found themselves on their bottoms! Still, it performs just fine as long as you stick to non-advanced terrain.
Being on the larger side in regards to surface area, we weren't entirely surprised that the Xplore feels more cumbersome to walk in than many other models in our review. However, a truly well-designed woman's shoe should be able to balance both surface area and easy walking. Unfortunately, this one doesn't quite find that balance, and we ended up stepping on our feet a lot. If you plan to be walking on a lot of packed trails, we recommend considering a different model like the Rendezvous.
Ease of Use
Ease of use was a mixed bag for the Xplore. The binding system is straightforward, and we like how the front straps both cinch tight and release by pulling on a single loop. But the heel strap is rather difficult to tighten, in part because the rubber straps aren't as stretchy when cold.
One tester wearing a larger snow boot also couldn't get their foot all the way into the binding. Combine all of that with the fact that the shape of these shoes is a bit awkward on packed trails and there is no heel lift for steep climbing, and we weren't overly impressed.
The bindings on the Xplore are decently secure, though multiple people in reviews online found that they loosen while walking due to the back strap not staying tight. In our experience, this strap never came completely loose, though it was hard to tighten (especially when cold). The extra strap length didn't stay in its retainer clips most of the time, leaving it to flop around. The front area that holds the toe of your boot secure also doesn't work with some larger boots, so if you can try these on with the boots you plan to wear before purchasing, that would be wise.
The front straps on the Xplore cinch uniformly around the bulk of the foot, which we found quite comfortable. Larger boots may have issues though, because the binding system doesn't open up completely as it does on the MSR models, and the area meant to hold the toe secure is rather small. All in all, it was a decently cozy system if compatible with your footwear, but there are others we liked considerably better.
This snowshoe is best for beginning snowshoers who don't plan to push into advanced or steep terrain. If you want to start out with something not too expensive that will work well on easy trails and for floating out in deep snow, this is a model to consider. But if you want to be able to get more technical in your outings, the Xplore isn't your best bet.
At $130, this is the cheapest shoe we tested. It does, however, offer some of the largest surface area and, therefore, very good flotation. But for only $10 more, you can get either the Rendezvous or the MSR Evo, both of which performed better across the board. While we think the Xplore is a very decent beginner snowshoe, the fact of the matter is that there are better performing shoes for only a little bit more money.
The Xplore is a very decent introductory snowshoe with good flotation and an easy straightforward binding system. It came up short in a number of areas such as traction, binding versatility, and stride ergonomics. For a very casual user of the right size, it's possible none of these things would be a very big deal, but up against our impressive test suite, the Xplore fell behind.
— Penney Garrett