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Chinook Trekker Review

If you're not getting out much or going far, these budget snowshoes could be right for you
chinook trekker snowshoes review
This is a good model for hikes on snowy roads and flat trails.
Credit: Ian McEleney
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $100 List
Manufacturer:   Chinook
By Ian McEleney ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 20, 2022
43
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#12 of 12
  • Flotation - 30% 7.0
  • Traction - 25% 2.0
  • Stride Ergonomics - 15% 4.0
  • Ease of Use - 15% 3.0
  • Bindings - 15% 4.0

Our Verdict

The Chinook Trekker fills a particular niche. Twenty-five years ago, it would have been a thoroughly modern snowshoe. However, it looks pretty dated compared to the other snowshoes in our current review. The bindings rely mainly on a ratcheting strap system that's old school — but not in a good way. The Trekker is also among the poorest performers in our test regarding traction. This, combined with the lack of a heel lifter, sends a clear message, "Stay off technical terrain." That said, the price of these snowshoes can't be ignored. The occasional snowshoer who isn't hiking far and won't be venturing into alpine terrain might find these snowshoes just right.
REASONS TO BUY
Good flotation
Inexpensive
REASONS TO AVOID
Less reliable binding technology
Poor traction
Editor's Note: This review was updated on December 20, 2022, after a reassessment of our whole lineup.

Compare to Similar Products

 
chinook trekker snowshoes review
This Product
Chinook Trekker
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award  
Price $100 List
$111.85 at Amazon
$350 List
$349.95 at REI
$280 List
$279.95 at REI
$150 List
$149.95 at REI
Check Price at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
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Pros Good flotation, inexpensiveRigid, precise, excellent binding security, impressive tractionFully featured for steep and technical useInexpensive, easy to use, versatileInexpensive, simple, reliable
Cons Less reliable binding technology, poor tractionNew binding trades ease-of-use for comfortLoud decking and bulky harnessUnimpressive tractionLoud decking on crusty snow
Bottom Line If you're not getting out much or going far, these budget snowshoes could be right for youThe best snowshoes in our test, complete with high end features and simple engineeringThis contender provides excellent traction, heel lifts, a comfortable binding, and moderate weightThis snowshoe does everything well and at a low price, making it a great valueThis molded snowshoe is reliable, inexpensive, offers widespread appeal, and is compatible with add-on tails for improved flotation
Rating Categories Chinook Trekker MSR Lightning Ascent Tubbs Flex VRT Atlas Helium Trail MSR Evo Trail
Flotation (30%)
7.0
5.0
5.0
7.0
4.0
Traction (25%)
2.0
9.0
8.0
5.0
6.0
Stride Ergonomics (15%)
4.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
Ease of Use (15%)
3.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
9.0
Bindings (15%)
4.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
9.0
Specs Chinook Trekker MSR Lightning Ascent Tubbs Flex VRT Atlas Helium Trail MSR Evo Trail
Uses Spring snow and groomed trails Spring snow and steep terrain Spring snow and steep terrain Spring snow and moderate terrain Spring snow and moderate terrain
Optimum Weight Load (per manufacturer) 22": 90-130 lbs;
25": 130-210 lbs;
30":180-250 lbs;
36": 250-300 lbs
22": up to 180 lbs;
25": 120-220 lbs;
30": 150-280 lbs
21": 80-160 lbs;
25": 120-200 lbs;
29": 190+ lbs
23": 80-160 lbs;
26": 150-220 lbs;
30": 200-270+ lbs
up to 180 lbs (up to 250 lbs with tails)
Weight (per pair) 4 lbs 4oz 4 lbs 0 oz 4 lbs 6 oz 3 lbs 7 oz 3 lbs 11 oz
Surface Area 205 in² 188 in² 195 in² 207 in² 183 in²
Dimensions 25 x 8" 25 x 8" 26 x 8" 27 x 9" 24 x 8"
Crampon/Traction Aids Aluminum crampons and teeth Steel crampons, rails, and teeth Steel crampons and rails Steel crampons and rails Steel crampons and rails
Frame Material Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Plastic and steel
Deck Material Polyethylene fabric Fabric Plastic Nytex nylon Plastic
Heel Lift No Yes Yes Yes No
Binding/Deck Connection Strapped Hinged Hinged Hinged Hinged
Binding System Ratchet straps with plastic buckles, nylon strap with ladder-lock buckle Rubber net and straps with pin-in-hole Boa and rubber strap Nylon straps with plastic buckles, rubber strap with pin-in-hole Rubber net and straps with pin-in-hole
Flotation Tails Sold Separately? No Yes No No Yes
Men's and Women's Versions? Unisex Yes Yes Unisex Unisex
Sizes Available 22", 25", 30", 36" 22", 25", 30" 21", 25", 29" 23", 26", 30" One size (22")
Tested Size 25" 25" 25" 26" 22"

Our Analysis and Test Results

The most important job of a snowshoe, indeed its raison d'etre, is to keep you from post-holing. The Chinook Trekker does this. When kept on the mellow terrain it's designed for, it performs adequately. Bottom line: the Trekker is a screaming deal, but that low price comes with some trade-offs.

Performance Comparison


chinook trekker snowshoes review - these have good flotation and are good to walk in - when the walking...
These have good flotation and are good to walk in - when the walking is easy.
Credit: Jessica Haist

Flotation


Flotation is one of the most important qualities of a snowshoe, which is why we cover it first. The Trekker boasts great flotation for a 25-inch long snowshoe — its 205 square inches of surface area rise above many of the other 25-inch options we tested.


This good float is due, for the most part, to the shape of the snowshoe, which has much less taper than the competition. Decks that taper towards the tail make for easier walking but reduce flotation. It's also slightly aided by the deck material. Though the Trekker is made from flexible polyethylene plastic, it's still stiffer than the fabric found on other models.

chinook trekker snowshoes review - testing flotation on a stormy day.
Testing flotation on a stormy day.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Traction


Traction is not a strong suit for the Trekker. We found ourselves spending a lot of brainpower avoiding slips and slides any time these snowshoes were pointed uphill. Hikes we had done easily with other models in this review felt more daunting with this one.


The crampon on the Trekker is made of aluminum. All of the competing models in our review use steel crampons. Aluminum is softer than steel and dulls faster, so keep these snowshoes away from rocks. The cleat under the heel is pretty modest when compared to others as well. We noticed this most on downhills with crusty snow. This led to a few spills and resulted in some of our testers shuffle-stepping down steep or exposed slopes. Steep terrain is not what the budget Trekker was made for. Stick to flat or gently rolling ground and be aware of your surroundings when hiking on a melt-freeze spring snowpack, which can be surprisingly crusty and slippery.

chinook trekker snowshoes review - for traction there are aluminum teeth under the toe and heel.
For traction there are aluminum teeth under the toe and heel.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Stride Ergonomics


The Chinook Trekker is right in the middle of the pack when it comes to walking comfort. The shape has only a very minor taper towards the tail. While this enhances flotation, the cost is a sometimes awkward stride. As long as we kept that in mind and stayed on moderate trails or groomed roads, this didn't seem to be too much of a problem. On steeper terrain or in places where we wanted to be more precise, that shape was somewhat of a liability.


The binding-to-deck connection is managed by a flexible strap. Among the models with this particular design, the Trekker is one of the most natural to walk in. The strapped setup provides a little more give and cushion than a hinge but at the cost of precision on technical terrain. Hikers who are heading into the mountains in the winter should consider models that feature a hinged binding-to-deck linkage which is much more precise. The Trekker also does not have a heel lifter. This feature is found on other models designed for steep or technical terrain. Its absence here is another reminder that this model is not built for that kind of winter travel.

chinook trekker snowshoes review - these snowshoes are best for flat or rolling hiking.
These snowshoes are best for flat or rolling hiking.
Credit: Jessica Haist

Ease of Use


The Trekker is moderately easy to put on. Inserting the end of the ratchet strap into the buckle is a little finicky each time, but once it's in there, you can achieve the desired tightness using the lever on the buckle to crank the strap down.


A smaller lever, which can be tricky to use with bulky gloves, releases the tension when it's time to take the snowshoe off. Most hikers will be familiar with the nylon webbing and ladder lock buckle configuration that comprises the heel strap. If you're using the same footwear, this strap can be left in the same setting. The bindings fold fairly flat to the deck, making the Trekker one of the easiest models to transport as they take up little space in the trunk of a compact car or a checked bag.

chinook trekker snowshoes review - this small lever releases tension.
This small lever releases tension.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Bindings


The bindings on the Trekker are reasonably comfortable. The forefoot straps are mounted on wider plastic "wings" that help to distribute the load around your boot. On stiff snowboard or mountaineering boots, this wasn't particularly important. For folks with softer winter footwear, this is a big advantage over the rubber strap binding system found on other models, which can act as a tourniquet when over-tightened.


It's impossible to overtighten the straps on the Trekker. A small lever on the buckle does the final tightening of each ratchet strap. When too much force is applied to that lever, it slips off the teeth of the strap by design. It's not broken, it just won't let the user apply too much force to the buckle.

chinook trekker snowshoes review - this binding distributes the pressure nicely for mountaineering...
This binding distributes the pressure nicely for mountaineering boots (shown here) and softer footwear.
Credit: Ian McEleney


The bindings on these snowshoes do not inspire confidence the way other, more technical designs do. The ratcheting strap setup was not uncommon on snowshoes even up to the mid-2000s. However, that strap type is less reliable and less durable than some of the new options, and today few pairs in our review feature this technology. The heel strap is standard nylon webbing. In cold and wet environments, this type of webbing tends to freeze and ice up. When this happens, adjusting the buckle is difficult at best.

chinook trekker snowshoes review - the nylon heel strap with it's side-squeeze buckle is not our...
The nylon heel strap with it's side-squeeze buckle is not our favorite.
Credit: Ian McEleney

One thing we do like about the bindings on the Trekker is that all of the buckles are on the outside of the user's foot. On many other models, the heel buckle is on the inside of the foot, where it's more likely to be caught or damaged by the other snowshoe.

Should You Buy the Chinook Trekker?


Despite their flaws, the Trekker could be great for those who won't be doing a ton of snowshoeing. If you're taking your dog on the occasional snowy hike or want to have a spare pair around for when friends are visiting, these totally get the job done without emptying your wallet. Though we don't usually give awards to products that score so low, we think this model is a great value for folks who are using snowshoes very infrequently and don't care much about performance.

chinook trekker snowshoes review - the bindings pack flat for easy transport or storage.
The bindings pack flat for easy transport or storage.
Credit: Ian McEleney

What Other Snowshoes Should You Consider?


Every other snowshoe in our review can do what the Trekker can do and then some. Hikers looking for a similar low price with better performance would do well to click over to the MSR Evo Trail or Atlas Helium Trail. Those looking for top-of-the-line action should look into the MSR Lightning Ascent, which can handle most anything you can throw at it.

Ian McEleney
 
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