The Atlas Montane is a great snowshoe. There are a few performance differences between it and our Editors' Choice award winner, the MSR Lightning Ascent. The major one is the deck-to-binding attachment. On the Montane, this attachment is strapped while it's hinged on the Lightning Ascent. While our testing team generally prefers the more rigid hinged attachment, the strapped attachment has benefits that some users might prefer.
The Montane in action breaking trail.
The Montane registers about 176 square inches of floatation. This is a little on the low side for a snowshoe of its length, and a reflection of the tapered shape that helps its stride ergonomics. The other two 25-inch long models are the MSR Lightning Ascent and the Chinook Trekker, which feature 188 and 205 square inches, respectively. The MSR Evo has more surface area despite the fact that it is three inches shorter.
The Montane has the most traction of all the standard tubular frame snowshoes in our review. Our reviewers rarely noticed slipping or sliding while in the mountains. Prominent steel teeth under the binding are augmented with toothed steel rails under the heel.
These traction rails are highly effective.
This is one of the key areas of difference between the MSR Lightning Ascent and the Montane. With the Montane, the deck is attached to the binding with a beefy strap. This provides some cushioning on hard snow or groomed trails. Our testers also find the strapped connection allows us to walk with a slightly more natural gait. However, as the terrain becomes more technical and challenging we tend to prefer a hinged attachment, such as those found on the Lightning Ascent, MSR Evo and Tubbs Flex VRT.
The rubber strap linking binding and deck. It provides some shock absorption on groomed trails, but at the cost of precision on technical ground.
This snowshoe is among the more comfortable models in our test. The nylon binding strap is woven through several wide plastic parts, which effectively distribute the load and minimize pressure points. Additionally, there are two small pieces of foam padding that add to the cush.
Thin foam padding inside the binding adds to the comfort.
Ease of Use
Our testers think the Montane is very easy to put on. Like the Louis Garneau Blizzard II and the Tubbs Flex VRT, only two actions are required when donning this snowshoe. First, pull the yellow nylon strap tight across the forefoot. Second, pull the rubber strap tight around the heel. That's it. The buckles on both straps do the rest of the work. For faster removal, the front two straps are linked by a bit of webbing that allows the hiker to open both at once.
The two buckles that control the forefoot strap are linked. Simply pull the yellow webbing to tighten, and the black webbing to loosen.
The Montane's binding is more than secure enough for almost all snowshoeing. While the rubber strap binding system found on models like the MSR Evo lets hikers crank the binding down as tight as a tourniquet, we think that's usually overkill. The Montane binding, when properly tensioned, will keep this snowshoe on your foot.
The "wrapping" design distributed the pressure of the binding, making this a very comfortable snowshoe, even with thin boots.
The Atlas Montane is a reasonable choice for most snowshoe applications. It's best for hikers who know they want a strapped and flexible deck/binding interface.
The heel riser helps keep your foot level on the uphills, which makes them easier.
While this offering from Atlas does really well in some ways, our testers aren't convinced that it is 60 dollars better than the MSR Evo. That is unless you know you want the strapped deck-to-binding connection.
The Atlas Montane represents the pinnacle of the tubular frame snowshoe design. As such it is a very capable snowshoe that should keep all but the most demanding users happy. Our testers almost never worried about traction with these snowshoes. While we would like a little more floatation for the length, it is reasonably comfortable to hike with these strapped to your feet. Speaking of strapping them to your feet, that process is easy and secure. Every model that outscores the Montane has some other frame or deck arrangement, which represents the innovative directions this seemingly boring product is heading.
The Montane was the easiest and fastest snowshoe to take off.