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 sort of mellow terrain it's clearly designed for, it performs adequately. At less than half the price of the competition, they're a screaming deal, but that low price comes some trade-offs.
This is the kind of mellow walking the Chinook Trekker is made for.
The Trekker boasts great flotation for a 25-inch snowshoe. It's 205 square inches of surface area rise above the other 25-inchers: the MSR Lightning Ascent and Atlas Montane. These models have 188 and 176 square inches of surface area, respectively.
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 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).
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 main crampon and under-heel cleat do not provide much traction.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 and Lightning Ascent that can act as a tourniquet when overtightened.
The buckle and ratchet strap. The large lever on the buckle tightens the strap, the small lever releases tension.
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. 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.
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.
This side squeeze ladder lock buckle controls the nylon heel strap.
The heel strap is standard nylon webbing. In cold and/or 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 or its strap end are more likely to be caught or damaged by the other snowshoe.
This product is best for the occasional snowshoer. Flat or gently rolling terrain is best. Steep ground and hard or icy snow should be avoided. Any trip where the failure of the snowshoe would have serious consequences should be avoided.
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.
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.