The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

MSR Evo Review

The latest in a long line of innovative, molded snowshoes; they are reliable, inexpensive, and have widespread appeal.
MSR Evo
Best Buy Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $140 List | $119.97 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Inexpensive, simple, reliable
Cons:  Loud decking on crusty snow
Manufacturer:   MSR
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 2, 2017
  • Share this article:
65
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 9
  • Flotation - 25% 4
  • Traction - 25% 7
  • Stride Ergonomics - 20% 8
  • Binding Comfort - 10% 6
  • Ease of Use - 10% 5
  • Binding Security - 10% 10

Our Verdict

Simplicity merges with versatility on the MSR Evo. The unibody deck and frame are a single plastic piece with an easy to use binding. Versatility is gained from the semi-aggressive traction system and optional add-on tails for increased flotation in deep snow or for carrying a heavy pack. These earn the Best Buy not only for their wallet-friendly price tag but also for their range of applications, from beginner trails to advanced rolling terrain. The Evos are our go-to snowshoe for everything but the most technical and advanced backcountry conditions. For added floatation in deep snow, check out the Evo Tails.

While we think these snowshoes are a great value for someone who has aspirations to use them regularly. If you're looking for something even cheaper, check out our Best Buy Award Winner, the Chinook Trekker.


Compare to Similar Products

 
MSR Evo
This Product
MSR Evo
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award  
Price $119.97 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$299.95 at Amazon$129.95 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$200 List$260 List
Overall Score Sort Icon
100
0
65
100
0
79
100
0
72
100
0
70
100
0
70
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Inexpensive, simple, reliableRigid, precise, excellent binding security, traction, flotationGood traction, and an easy-to-use, comfortable bindingLarge, with unique hybrid hinged deck/binding interfaceFully featured for steep and technical use
Cons Loud decking on crusty snowNew binding trades ease-of-use for comfortMediocre flotation for the length, strapped deck/binding attachmentLimited tractionLoud decking and bulky harness
Bottom Line The latest in a long line of innovative, molded snowshoes; they are reliable, inexpensive, and have widespread appeal.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.This contender provides excellent traction, heel lifts, a comfortable binding, and moderate weight.
Rating Categories MSR Evo MSR Lightning Ascent Atlas Montane Louis Garneau Blizzard II Tubbs Flex VRT
Flotation (25%)
10
0
4
10
0
6
10
0
5
10
0
10
10
0
4
Traction (25%)
10
0
7
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
5
10
0
7
Stride Ergonomics (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
4
10
0
9
Binding Comfort (10%)
10
0
6
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
Ease Of Use (10%)
10
0
5
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
Binding Security (10%)
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
Specs MSR Evo MSR Lightning Ascent Atlas Montane Louis Garneau... Tubbs Flex VRT
Uses Spring snow and moderate terrain Spring snow and steep terrain Spring snow and moderate terrain Deep snow Spring snow and steep terrain
Optimum weight loads per tested size. Per manufacturer. up to 180 lbs 120-220 lbs 25: 120-200 lbs, 30: 150-250 lbs, 35: 180-300+ lbs 150-250 lbs up to 190 lbs
Weight (per pair) 3 lbs 9 oz 4 lbs 0 oz 4 lbs 7 oz 5 lbs 6 oz 4 lbs 9 oz
Surface Area 173.8 sq in 188.5 sq in 176 sq in 282 sq in 179.4 sq in
Dimensions 22x8 in 25x8 in 25x8 in 31x10 in 24x8 in
Crampon/Traction aids Steel crampon augmented with traction rails Steel crampon augmented with rail and frame teeth Steel crampon augmented with traction rails Steel crampon Steel crampon augmented with traction rails
Frame material Steel traction rails Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Steel traction rails
Deck material Molded plastic Fabric Nytex fabric LG "Lightec" fabric Molded plastic
Heel Lift Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Binding/Deck Connection Hinged Hinged Strapped Hybrid Hinged and Strapped Hinged
Binding system Rubber Straps with pin-in-hole Rubber Straps with pin-in-hole Nylon straps with cam buckles, rubber strap with plastic buckle Boa Boa
Flotation tails sold separately? Yes Yes No No No
Men's and Women's versions? Unisex version Women's version avalible Women's version avalible Women's version avalible Women's version avalible
Sizes Available One Size 22, 25, 30 25, 30, 35 825, 930, 1036 24, 28
Tested Size One Size 25 25 930 24

Our Analysis and Test Results

The MSR Evo snowshoes for their wallet-friendly price, simple unibody design, and versatility suitable for a wide range of experience levels and terrain conditions.

Performance Comparison


For entry level snowshoeing  and occasional use by those with rowdier aspirations  the value-packed MSR Evo takes the cake.
For entry level snowshoeing, and occasional use by those with rowdier aspirations, the value-packed MSR Evo takes the cake.

Flotation


The deck and frame of the MSR Evos is a single plastic mold that is lightweight. This untraditional design had us wondering how well it would manage snow conditions, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that they excel on packed snow as well as fresh snow. The short frame length is only available in a single size. At size 22, it is best for packed snow and off-trail travel in moderate terrain, but the optional add-on flotation tails increase the length by six inches.


This added length increases the flotation range to include deep snow in non-technical terrain. The Louis Garneau Blizzard II, one of our Top Pick winners, offer the best flotation for deep snow conditions. The Crescent Moon Gold 10 is also larger with better flotation. The cousin, and Editors' Choice winning MSR Lightning Ascent offers slightly better flotation than the stock Evo, and also offers the upgrade of the add-on tails.

In their basic form  the blue MSR Evo snowshoes are similar in dimensions to the trail-oriented Top Pick red TSL Symbioz Elite. When you add the optional tail extensions  the Evo competes with the bigger award winners for flotation.
In their basic form, the blue MSR Evo snowshoes are similar in dimensions to the trail-oriented Top Pick red TSL Symbioz Elite. When you add the optional tail extensions, the Evo competes with the bigger award winners for flotation.

Traction


The semi-aggressive traction systems on these snowshoes are best suited for groomed trails, packed snow, and rolling hills. Only the gnarliest of terrain and conditions might justify the burlier traction of something like the Lightning Ascent. The bindings are on a full rotation-pivot crampon for unencumbered range of motion. Brake bars are designed into the deck plastic and perform incredibly on moderate rolling terrain, resisting slipping with incline or decline.


The under-foot crampon teeth and lateral crampons are made from powder coated steel. The under-foot crampons dig into hard-packed snow for security through each stride while the lateral crampons are best for side-stepping and provide some uphill and downhill traction as well. For a more aggressive traction system, the MSR Lightning Ascents have sharper crampon teeth oriented for steep and technical terrain, including ice. The Tubbs Flex Vrt has a traction system remarkably similar to that on the Evo, while the Top Pick TSL Symbioz Elite accomplishes a similar degree of traction with a different system.

The steel crampon  hinged to steel traction bars  all of which is complemented by traction aids molded into the decking makes the MSR Evo grip as well as any in our test.
The steel crampon, hinged to steel traction bars, all of which is complemented by traction aids molded into the decking makes the MSR Evo grip as well as any in our test.

Stride Ergonomics


The hinged binding is what we look for in a snowshoe we'll use in technical and steep terrain. The heel lifters of the Evo also help in steep terrain. The compact size is nice on trails and firmer snow. Drawbacks of the walking comfort of the Evo include the loud nature of the plastic decking and the unforgiving shock absorption of the rigid hinge and deck combination.


The TSL Symbioz Elite is far more comfortable in trail situations, while the Atlas Montane combines great traction with the shock absorption of a strapped binding/deck interface. The MSR cousin Lightning Ascent addresses many of our concerns with the Evo, by making the whole combination quieter with metal and textile instead of molded plastic and by letting the fabric deck material provide at least a little bit of shock absorption.

Binding Comfort


The rubber strapped bindings of the Evo are not the most comfortable in our test. In order for them to fit securely, they must be snugged tight. On stiff boots like those used for snowboarding or mountaineering, this is not a concern. On softer hiking shoes and even winter running footwear, the straps will constrict blood flow and may create pressure points. The trickier binding system of the Lightning Ascent is more comfortable on all types of footwear and terrain. If you will use softer shoes and stay out of technical and off-trail terrain, the bindings of the Tubbs Flex Vrt and the TSL Symbioz Elite are more comfortable.


Ease of Use


The Evos are the easiest snowshoes to use in our test. Novice snowshoers will appreciate the simple Unibody design that lacks daunting features and components. For experienced snowshoers, the Evos have semi-aggressive traction that engages with each step and binding straps that work in freezing temperatures.


Add-on flotation tails (sold separately) are easy to attach for increased stability and flotation. No other snowshoes in our review are as simple and easy to use.

Stripped of the optional tails  the Evo is compact and comfortable for trail walking. Our main wish  especially on older crusty snow  is that the plastic decking weren't so loud.
Stripped of the optional tails, the Evo is compact and comfortable for trail walking. Our main wish, especially on older crusty snow, is that the plastic decking weren't so loud.

Binding Security


Posilock bindings offer an easy to use buckle system that provides flexibility and security. The rubber straps cross over the feet to pull through buckles that resemble those found on belts. The straps are flexible and should be tightened to accommodate for stretch. They are secure on foot but the placement of the binding straps will not be optimum for some footwear options. With small boots, the upper binding straps rest against the ankle creases, but with large boots the long bindings straps are accommodating and remain stretched across the top of the foot.


While traveling through varying snow conditions, the snowshoes remain securely fastened with no question of security. These bindings are essentially identical to those on the MSR Lightning Ascent. They are far more secure than the bindings of the Fimbulvetr Hikr or the Louis Garneau Blizzard II.

Best Applications


The Evo is one of the most versatile pairs of snowshoes in our review. They cross over between recreational use and backcountry applications where technical terrain is in the distance. They are perfect for novices due to their low price, streamlined design, and the glove-friendly, easy to use binding straps. For the intermediate snowshoer, the Evos offer steel traction bars and brake bars for managing diverse snow conditions. And for the experienced winter hiker, they are lightweight and easily extend with add-on flotation tails to accommodate deeper snow and heavier pack loads. The short frame length is ideal on trail but only provides adequate flotation for some off-trail travel.

Value


At only $140, the MSR Evo are durable, easy to use, and versatile enough for novices and experts alike. While they're not the cheapest in our review, they still present a great value for all but the occasional hiker. The Atlas Montane and MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes ring in almost twice as expensive as the Evos and offer similar versatility.

Conclusion


We gave this pair the Best Buy Award because they are versatile, simple, and stable on and off-trail. They are suitable for novices and experienced snowshoers. The simple, lightweight design is sized for both men and women to comfortably explore winter landscapes.


Jediah Porter