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Crescent Moon Big Sky 32 Review

An all-around snowshoe that tilts its preferences to the wild and deep environments
crescent moon big sky 32 snowshoes review
Credit: Jessica Haist
Price:  $240 List
Manufacturer:   Crescent Moon
By Ian McEleney ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 20, 2022
60
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 12
  • Flotation - 30% 9.0
  • Traction - 25% 4.0
  • Stride Ergonomics - 15% 4.0
  • Ease of Use - 15% 5.0
  • Bindings - 15% 6.0

Our Verdict

The Crescent Moon Big Sky 32 is our recommendation for fresh deep snow. It's a good all-around snowshoe with a size and feature set that lends itself to off-trail travel in softer snow. The Big Sky doesn't grip as well as the techier products, but the stride is easy, and they float nicely in the fresh stuff. If you will venture onto windswept and hard snow above treeline, and the sometimes icy conditions of the US Northeast, something with more crampon bite and rigid hinged bindings is a better choice. But for the forests, trails, and open meadows of the US Mountain West, and for users who prefer an American-made product, the Big Sky 32 is perfect.
REASONS TO BUY
Large
Easy stride
Great flotation
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavy
Heel lifter is clunky
Editor's Note: This review was updated on December 20, 2022, after reassessing our entire lineup for the winter season.

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Pros Large, easy stride, great flotationRigid, precise, excellent binding security, impressive tractionInexpensive, easy to use, versatileCompact, uniquely excellent stride ergonomicsGood flotation, inexpensive
Cons Heavy, heel lifter is clunkyNew binding trades ease-of-use for comfortUnimpressive tractionSmall footprint and flexible deck creates limited flotationLess reliable binding technology, poor traction
Bottom Line An all-around snowshoe that tilts its preferences to the wild and deep environmentsThe best snowshoes in our test, complete with high end features and simple engineeringThis snowshoe does everything well and at a low price, making it a great valueExcellent compact snowshoes for packed trail and firmer snow when flotation isn't the main concernIf 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
Flotation (30%)
9.0
5.0
7.0
2.0
7.0
Traction (25%)
4.0
9.0
5.0
9.0
2.0
Stride Ergonomics (15%)
4.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
4.0
Ease of Use (15%)
5.0
9.0
9.0
5.0
3.0
Bindings (15%)
6.0
9.0
6.0
7.0
4.0
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;
30":180-250 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
Frame Material Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Composite Aluminum
Deck Material Polyurethane fabric Fabric Nytex nylon Composite Polyethylene fabric
Heel Lift Optional Yes Yes Yes No
Binding/Deck Connection Strapped Hinged Hinged Hinged Strapped
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"
Tested Size 32" 25" 26" M 25"

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.

Performance Comparison


crescent moon big sky 32 snowshoes review - deep untracked snow is what this model is all about.
Deep untracked snow is what this model is all about.
Credit: Jessica Haist

Flotation


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.

crescent moon big sky 32 snowshoes review - a foot of new snow and more on the way? flotation is where this...
A foot of new snow and more on the way? Flotation is where this model shines.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Traction


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.

crescent moon big sky 32 snowshoes review - the traction here is appropriate for a model designed for deep soft...
The traction here is appropriate for a model designed for deep soft snow.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Stride Ergonomics


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.

crescent moon big sky 32 snowshoes review - a strapped binding to deck connection makes sense here.
A strapped binding to deck connection makes sense here.
Credit: Ian McEleney

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.

crescent moon big sky 32 snowshoes review - one of the two buckles that adjust the heel strap.
One of the two buckles that adjust the heel strap.
Credit: Ian McEleney

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.

Bindings


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.

crescent moon big sky 32 snowshoes review - the plastic cage on the binding adds some comfort.
The plastic cage on the binding adds some comfort.
Credit: Ian McEleney

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.

crescent moon big sky 32 snowshoes review - the shape of the crescent moon big sky (previously called the gold...
The shape of the Crescent Moon Big Sky (previously called the Gold 10) puts the majority of its surface area under the user's center of gravity. This leaves the tails and tips narrower for better stride ergonomics without sacrificing flotation.
Credit: Jessica Haist

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.

crescent moon big sky 32 snowshoes review - we perform head-to-head testing on all the models in our review.
We perform head-to-head testing on all the models in our review.
Credit: Jessica Haist

Ian McEleney
 
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