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Chinook Trekker Review

These unimpressive snowshoes can be a great value for hikers who won't be asking much of them.
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $60 List
Pros:  Good flotation, inexpensive
Cons:  Less reliable binding technology, poor traction
Manufacturer:   Chinook
By Ian McEleney ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 8, 2019
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56
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 9
  • Flotation - 25% 7
  • Traction - 25% 4
  • Stride Ergonomics - 20% 6
  • Binding Comfort - 10% 6
  • Ease of Use - 10% 6
  • Binding Security - 10% 4

Our Verdict

The Chinook Trekker wins our Best Buy award. Twenty-five years ago it would have been a thoroughly modern snowshoe. Compared to the other modern snowshoes in this review, however, it looks pretty dated. 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 when it comes to 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 out into alpine terrain might find these snowshoes to be just right.

If you need a solid pair of snowshoes with a modern design but still need to keep the price down, check out the simple, dependable, and relatively inexpensive MSR Evo.


Compare to Similar Products

 
This Product
Chinook Trekker
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $60 List$299.95 at Amazon$199.95 at REI
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$149.93 at REICheck Price at Amazon
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Pros Good flotation, inexpensiveRigid, precise, excellent binding security, traction, flotationGood traction, and an easy-to-use, comfortable bindingLarge, with unique hybrid hinged deck/binding interfaceInexpensive, simple, reliable
Cons Less reliable binding technology, poor tractionNew binding trades ease-of-use for comfortMediocre flotation for the length, strapped deck/binding attachmentLimited tractionLoud decking on crusty snow
Bottom Line These unimpressive snowshoes can be a great value for hikers who won't be asking much of them.The best snowshoes in our test, complete with high end features and simple engineering.This is a great traditional snowshoe that's outshone in a few areas by newer designs.All-around snowshoes optimized for off-trail and deep snow performance.The latest in a long line of innovative, molded snowshoes; they are reliable, inexpensive, and have widespread appeal.
Rating Categories Chinook Trekker MSR Lightning Ascent Atlas Montane Louis Garneau Blizzard II MSR Evo
Flotation (25%)
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
5
10
0
10
10
0
4
Traction (25%)
10
0
4
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
5
10
0
7
Stride Ergonomics (20%)
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
4
10
0
8
Binding Comfort (10%)
10
0
6
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
6
Ease Of Use (10%)
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
5
Binding Security (10%)
10
0
4
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
10
Specs Chinook Trekker MSR Lightning Ascent Atlas Montane Louis Garneau... MSR Evo
Uses Spring snow and groomed trails Spring snow and steep terrain Spring snow and moderate terrain Deep snow Spring snow and moderate terrain
Optimum weight loads per tested size. Per manufacturer. 19: 50-90 lbs, 22: 90-130 lbs, 25: 130-210 lbs, 30: 180-250 lbs, 36: 250-300 lbs 120-220 lbs 25: 120-200 lbs, 30: 150-250 lbs, 35: 180-300+ lbs 150-250 lbs up to 180 lbs
Weight (per pair) 4lbs 4 oz 4 lbs 0 oz 4 lbs 7 oz 5 lbs 6 oz 3 lbs 9 oz
Surface Area 205 sq in 188.5 sq in 176 sq in 282 sq in 173.8 sq in
Dimensions 25x8. in 25x8 in 25x8 in 31x10 in 22x8 in
Crampon/Traction aids Aluminum crampons with heel bindings Steel crampon augmented with rail and frame teeth Steel crampon augmented with traction rails Steel crampon Steel crampon augmented with traction rails
Frame material Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Steel traction rails
Deck material Polyethelene Fabric Nytex fabric LG "Lightec" fabric Molded plastic
Heel Lift No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Binding/Deck Connection Strapped Hinged Strapped Hybrid Hinged and Strapped Hinged
Binding system Ratchet straps with plastic buckles, nylon strap with ladder-lock buckle Rubber Straps with pin-in-hole Nylon straps with cam buckles, rubber strap with plastic buckle Boa Rubber Straps with pin-in-hole
Flotation tails sold separately? No Yes No No Yes
Men's and Women's versions? Unisex version Women's version avalible Women's version avalible Women's version avalible Unisex version
Sizes Available 19, 22, 25, 30, 36 22, 25, 30 25, 30, 35 825, 930, 1036 One Size
Tested Size 25 25 25 930 One Size

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. At less than half the price of the competition, they're a screaming deal, but that low price comes with some trade-offs.

Performance Comparison


This is the kind of mellow walking the Chinook Trekker is made for.
This is the kind of mellow walking the Chinook Trekker is made for.

Floatation


The Trekker boasts great flotation for a 25-inch snowshoe. It's 205 square inches of surface area rise above the other 25-inch options — the MSR Lightning Ascent and Atlas Montane. These models have 188 and 176 square inches of surface area, respectively.


The good float is due for the most part to the shape of the snowshoe, which has much less taper than the competition. It's also slightly aided by the deck material. Though this is a flexible polyethylene plastic, it's still stiffer than the fabric found on other models (like the Louis Garneau Blizzard or Atlas Montane).

The main crampon and under-heel cleat do not provide much traction.
The main crampon and under-heel cleat do not provide much traction.

Traction


Traction is not the Trekker's strong suit. We found ourselves spending a lot of brainpower avoiding slips and slides any time these snowshoes were pointed uphill. The crampon is made of aluminum. All of the competing models in our review use steel crampons. Aluminum is softer than steel and so dulls faster, so keep these snowshoes away from rocks.


The cleat under the heel is pretty modest when compared to those on many of the other models in our test. 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.

Winter adventurers who have a rough and rowdy trip on the menu should consider the test leaders for traction, the MSR Lightning Ascent and the TSL Symbioz Elite.

This strap connects binding to deck. It gives some flex and shock absorption  which is nice on groomed trails  but a liability on tricky ground.
This strap connects binding to deck. It gives some flex and shock absorption, which is nice on groomed trails, but a liability on tricky ground.

Stride Ergonomics


The Chinook Trekker is right in the middle of the pack when it comes to walking comfort. The shape has only a minor taper, but our testers didn't mind that.


The binding-to-deck connection is managed by a flexible strap, and this snowshoe is among the most natural to walk in of the snowshoes with that design. 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 the Lightning Ascent or Tubbs Flex VRT. Those models feature a hinged binding-to-deck linkage that our testers prefer for its precision.

This snowshoe does not have a heel lifter. This feature is found on other models designed more with steep or technical terrain in mind. Its absence here is another reminder that this model is not built for that kind of winter travel.

The buckle and ratchet strap. The large lever on the buckle tightens the strap  the small lever releases tension.
The buckle and ratchet strap. The large lever on the buckle tightens the strap, the small lever releases tension.

Binding Comfort


The binding on the Trekker is reasonably comfortable. The forefoot straps are mounted on wider plastic "wings" that help to distribute the load around your boot. For folks with softer winter footwear, this is a big advantage over the rubber strap binding system found on the MSR Evo, which can act as a tourniquet when overtightened.


It's impossible to overtighten the Trekker's straps. 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. Hikers who use a thin or soft shoe or boot for their winter adventures should check out the cushy Atlas Montane.

Ease of Use


The Trekkers are moderately easy to put on. Inserting the end of the ratchet strap into the buckle is a little finicky each time. 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.


The Crescent Moon Gold 10 and Atlas Montane are the easiest on and off snowshoes in this review. Their binding design is intuitive enough that most hikers can get them on and off without any instructions in short order.

This side squeeze ladder lock buckle controls the nylon heel strap.
This side squeeze ladder lock buckle controls the nylon heel strap.

Binding Security


The bindings on these snowshoes do not inspire the confidence that some of the competition does. The ratcheting strap setup was not uncommon on snowshoes even up to the mid-2000s. However, that strap type is less reliable and durable than some of the new options, and today this is the only pair in our test to feature this technology. They are not nearly inspiring as those found on the MSR Evo or Crescent Moon Gold.


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.

One thing we like about the bindings on this model is that all of the buckles are on the outside of the user's foot. On many other models (including the MSR Lightning Ascent) the heel buckle is on the inside, where it's more likely to be caught or damaged by the other snowshoe.

The Trekker (right) has more square inches for flotation than snowshoes of similar length (like the Montane on the left). This is because of it's tapered shape.
The Trekker (right) has more square inches for flotation than snowshoes of similar length (like the Montane on the left). This is because of it's tapered shape.

Best Applications


This product is best for the occasional snowshoer. Flat or gently rolling terrain is best. Avoid steep ground, hard or icy snow, and any trip where snowshoe failure would have serious consequences.

Value


Despite their flaws, the shockingly low price of these snowshoes is a great value for those who won't be doing a ton of snowshoeing.

The Trekker comes with this handy traveling bag.
The Trekker comes with this handy traveling bag.

Conclusion


Aside from good flotation, the Chinook Trekker has little to recommend it. It would have been a fairly state-of-the-art snowshoe around the turn of the century. Today its materials and design feel dated. Nevertheless, for the hiker who will only occasionally be venturing out in the winter and won't be heading into rough alpine terrain, these could be great. That's why they win our Best Buy award. For hikers who hope to be heading out into the snow on a regular basis, or want to take on increasingly challenging trips, but are still on a budget, the MSR Evo are still a good deal and are also a reliable modern snowshoe. The Atlas Montane cost a bit more but is essentially the updated and dependable version of the Trekker.

Occasional  mild use is what the Chinook Trekker is best at.
Occasional, mild use is what the Chinook Trekker is best at.


Ian McEleney