Crescent Moon Big Sky 32 Review
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Crescent Moon Big Sky 32
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|Pros||Large, easy stride, great flotation||Rigid, precise, excellent binding security, impressive traction||Inexpensive, easy to use, versatile||Compact, uniquely excellent stride ergonomics||Good flotation, inexpensive|
|Cons||Heavy, heel lifter is clunky||New binding trades ease-of-use for comfort||Unimpressive traction||Small footprint and flexible deck creates limited flotation||Less reliable binding technology, poor traction|
|Bottom Line||An all-around snowshoe that tilts its preferences to the wild and deep environments||The best snowshoes in our test, complete with high end features and simple engineering||This snowshoe does everything well and at a low price, making it a great value||Excellent compact snowshoes for packed trail and firmer snow when flotation isn't the main concern||If you're not getting out much or going far, these budget snowshoes could be right for you|
|Rating Categories||Crescent Moon Big S...||MSR Lightning Ascent||Atlas Helium Trail||TSL Symbioz Elite||Chinook Trekker|
|Stride Ergonomics (15%)|
|Ease of Use (15%)|
|Specs||Crescent Moon Big S...||MSR Lightning Ascent||Atlas Helium Trail||TSL Symbioz Elite||Chinook Trekker|
|Uses||Deep snow||Spring snow and steep terrain||Spring snow and moderate terrain||Groomed trails||Spring snow and groomed trails|
|Optimum Weight Load (per manufacturer)||up to 225 lbs||22": up to 180 lbs;
25": 120-220 lbs;
30": 150-280 lbs
|23": 80-160 lbs;
26": 150-220 lbs;
30": 200-270+ lbs
|S: 65-180 lbs;
M: 110-260 lbs;
L: 150-300 lbs
|22": 90-130 lbs;
25": 130-210 lbs;
36": 250-300 lbs
|Weight (per pair)||5 lbs 2 oz||4 lbs 0 oz||3 lbs 7 oz||4 lbs 9 oz||4 lbs 4oz|
|Surface Area||256 in²||188 in²||207 in²||162 in²||205 in²|
|Dimensions||32 x 10"||25 x 8"||27 x 9"||22 x 8"||25 x 8"|
|Crampon/Traction Aids||Steel crampons||Steel crampons, rails, and teeth||Steel crampons and rails||Many steel teeth||Aluminum crampons and teeth|
|Deck Material||Polyurethane fabric||Fabric||Nytex nylon||Composite||Polyethylene fabric|
|Binding System||Rubber straps with plastic buckles||Rubber net and straps with pin-in-hole||Nylon straps with plastic buckles, rubber strap with pin-in-hole||Combination of rigid plastic, nylon straps, cam locks, and ratchet style straps||Ratchet straps with plastic buckles, nylon strap with ladder-lock buckle|
|Flotation Tails Sold Separately?||No||Yes||No||No||No|
|Men's and Women's Versions?||Yes||Yes||Unisex||Unisex||Unisex|
|Sizes Available||One size (32")||22", 25", 30"||23", 26", 30"||S (20.5"), M (23.5"), L (27")||22", 25", 30", 36"|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Crescent Moon has been making snowshoes in Colorado since 1997. The company is all about snowshoes and makes several all-foam models in addition to the more standard frame and deck construction reviewed here. As a completely domestic company, from design to manufacturing, they have a unique appeal for some customers.
In our review, a review for which the product selection largely focuses on the all-around, the Big Sky 32 is among the larger snowshoes we tested. There are much larger snowshoes available out in the world, including Crescent Moon's super-sized Denali 37 model, but for the all-around types, the Big Sky 32 is among the largest.
The tapered shape puts the bulk of its surface area under the user's center of gravity, leaving the tails and tips narrower for better stride ergonomics. The tubular frame is completely rigid fore-to-aft, so every one of the measured 256 square inches is put to maximum use. In short, the Big Sky 32 tops our charts for flotation. You won't find a better floating snowshoe that is also suitable for packed trails.
Though not quite as important as flotation, this is still a key consideration for snowshoes. The Big Sky 32 has a tubular frame, and it is clearly designed for flotation in deep snow. In our experience, models with those two qualities often fall short in the traction metric. While previous versions were underwhelming, Crescent Moon has updated the traction on the current Big Sky 32.
In addition to metal teeth under the forefoot, there is a generous set of spikes under the heel. Smaller teeth adorn the toes and the binding mounting strap. While this still wouldn't be our first choice on traction alone, the grip is no longer the Achilles heel of this model. We think this current version has a suitable amount of traction for a snowshoe that's designed for deep days.
As a general rule, flotation and stride ergonomics are in opposition — bigger snowshoes are less fun to walk in. With the Big Sky 32, the highly tapered shape makes for a stride and ergonomic experience that isn't as cumbersome as you might think. There's no way you'll forget you have snowshoes on — the frame is wide right under the forefoot, and the tapered tail nestles next to the somewhat narrowed tip with each step - -but this allows for a great "gait to flotation" ratio.
Many of our testers prefer a hinged binding-to-deck attachment over a strapped one. However, considering this snowshoe's intended use, we think the strapped connection makes more sense. Not only does it allow for a little extra cushioning, but it also keeps the tails of the snowshoe from dragging in the snow as much as they might. This is because the strap stops the snowshoe from completely rotating around your foot. On a model that's designed for soft snow use, when we're often working hard anyway, it's a good choice.
Ease of Use
With one-handed on and off, the bindings of the Big Sky 32 are fairly easy to use. The forefoot has a fairly common single-pull design. Pull one strap to tighten the whole forefoot cage, and pull a different one to loosen it. It would be a nice touch if the "loosen" webbing was a different color, but this is a minor complaint.
The heel strap has two buckles, which seemed like overkill to us, but they are fairly intuitive. One ladder-lock buckle lets you adjust the strap's overall length, this is useful if you're mostly using the same pair of boots most of the time. Then a ratcheting buckle gets you in and out with ease. We are 100 percent confident they will not ice up for you.
Included with this model is a removable plastic heel lifter. On other models, the heel lifter is a metal wire that flips up for use or down for storage. On the Big Sky 32, it's a piece of plastic that keys into the heel piece of the deck and then swivels into place when needed. While this did the trick on steeper slopes, we prefer the wire system. It's a bit easier to use and doesn't give us another doodad to keep track of.
We had no problems with the binding of the Big Sky 32 staying on, as long as we stuck to gentler terrain. When things got rowdy or technical, we did notice our boots moving around a bit in the binding, though there was no fear of them coming off. Looking at other design elements, like the average traction and the strapped binding/deck interface, it is clear these aren't designed for super-technical terrain. Considering that, the binding is as secure as it ought to be.
The wide straps of the Big Sky 32 spread the force of retention over even the softest of winter footwear. As long as you use even slightly insulated shoes, which you'll want for winter use anyway, the straps won't cut or compress your foot or boots. Mechanical buckles maintain the tension in the bindings, and we think this can sometimes be a more comfortable arrangement than rubber straps. Stretchy rubbery straps are slightly more secure, but it takes some experience to figure out how to not overtighten them.
The plastic forefoot cage on this model is oddly roomy. Our lead tester wears a men's size 10, and even in bulky mountaineering boots, there was plenty of room to spare. This could be why we experienced some wiggling in the binding. Take note if you have smaller feet or svelte boots.
Should You Buy the Crescent Moon Big Sky 32?
In case you skipped over everything we've written above, the Big Sky 32 is purpose-built for deep, soft snow. If lots of new snow on flat or rolling terrain is on your menu this winter, this is the snowshoe for you. They're not as ideal for steep and mountainous ground, so take note.
What Other Snowshoes Should You Consider?
If you are looking for a snowshoe that is a little more versatile than the Big Sky, consider the Atlas Montane. It has less flotation — but still a respectable amount — and other features help it perform better in rowdy situations. The Atlas Helium Trail also has decent flotation, coupled with a well-rounded set of other features, including being quite light.
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