Atlas Montane Review
Cons: Mediocre flotation for the length, strapped deck/binding attachment
Manufacturer: Atlas Snowshoes
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|Pros||Good traction, and an easy-to-use, comfortable binding||Rigid, precise, excellent binding security, traction, flotation||Fully featured for steep and technical use||Inexpensive, simple, reliable||Good flotation, inexpensive|
|Cons||Mediocre flotation for the length, strapped deck/binding attachment||New binding trades ease-of-use for comfort||Loud decking and bulky harness||Loud decking on crusty snow||Less reliable binding technology, poor traction|
|Bottom Line||This is a great traditional snowshoe that's outshone in a few areas by newer designs||The best snowshoes in our test, complete with high end features and simple engineering||This contender provides excellent traction, heel lifts, a comfortable binding, and moderate weight||This molded snowshoe is reliable, inexpensive, and offers widespread appeal||These unimpressive snowshoes can be a great value for hikers who won't be asking much of them|
|Rating Categories||Atlas Montane||MSR Lightning Ascent||Tubbs Flex VRT||MSR Evo||Chinook Trekker|
|Stride Ergonomics (20%)|
|Binding Comfort (10%)|
|Ease Of Use (10%)|
|Binding Security (10%)|
|Specs||Atlas Montane||MSR Lightning Ascent||Tubbs Flex VRT||MSR Evo||Chinook Trekker|
|Uses||Spring snow and moderate terrain||Spring snow and steep terrain||Spring snow and steep terrain||Spring snow and moderate terrain||Spring snow and groomed trails|
|Optimum weight load per tested size (per manufacturer)||25: 120-200 lbs, 30: 150-250 lbs, 35: 180-300+ lbs||120-220 lbs||up to 190 lbs||up to 180 lbs||19: 50-90 lbs, 22: 90-130 lbs, 25: 130-210 lbs, 30: 180-250 lbs, 36: 250-300 lbs|
|Weight (per pair)||4 lbs 7 oz||4 lbs 0 oz||4 lbs 9 oz||3 lbs 9 oz||4 lbs 4 oz|
|Surface Area||176 in²||188 in²||179 in²||173 in²||205 in²|
|Dimensions||25 x 8"||25 x 8"||24 x 8"||25 x 8"|
|Crampon/Traction aids||Steel crampon augmented with traction rails||Steel crampon augmented with rail and frame teeth||Steel crampon augmented with traction rails||Steel crampon augmented with traction rails||Aluminum crampons with heel bindings|
|Frame material||Aluminum||Aluminum||Steel traction rails||Steel traction rails||Aluminum|
|Deck material||Nytex fabric||Fabric||Molded plastic||Molded plastic||Polyethelene|
|Binding system||Nylon straps with cam buckles, rubber strap with plastic buckle||Rubber Straps with pin-in-hole||Boa||Rubber Straps with pin-in-hole||Ratchet straps with plastic buckles, nylon strap with ladder-lock buckle|
|Flotation tails sold separately?||No||Yes||No||Yes||No|
|Men's and Women's versions?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Unisex||Unisex|
|Sizes Available||25, 30, 35||22, 25, 30||24, 28||One Size||19, 22, 25, 30, 36|
|Tested Size||25||25||24||One Size||25|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Atlas Montane is a great snowshoe. There are a few performance differences between it and our top models. 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 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. Other 25-inch long models feature more surface area.
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.
This is one of the key areas of difference between top performers 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.
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, two small pieces of foam padding add to the cush.
Ease of Use
Our testers think the Montane is very easy to put on. 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 Montane's binding is more than secure enough for almost all snowshoeing. While the rubber strap binding system found on some models 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.
While this offering from Atlas does well in some ways, our testers aren't convinced that it is a lot better than osme cheaper models. 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.
— Ian McEleney