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MSR Evo Review

This molded snowshoe is reliable, inexpensive, and offers widespread appeal
MSR Evo
Photo: MSR
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $140 List
Pros:  Inexpensive, simple, reliable
Cons:  Loud decking on crusty snow
Manufacturer:   MSR
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 24, 2020
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66
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 12
  • Flotation - 25% 4
  • Traction - 25% 7
  • Stride Ergonomics - 20% 8
  • Binding Comfort - 10% 7
  • 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 an award not only for their wallet-friendly price tag but also for their range of applications, from beginner trails to advanced rolling terrain. The Evo is our go-to snowshoe for everything but the most technical and advanced backcountry conditions. For added floatation in deep snow, check out the MSR Evo Tails.

Compare to Similar Products

 
MSR Evo
This Product
MSR Evo
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award    
Price $140 List$320 List$260 List$200 List$250 List
Overall Score Sort Icon
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67
Star Rating
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Pros Inexpensive, simple, reliableRigid, precise, excellent binding security, traction, flotationFully featured for steep and technical useGood traction, and an easy-to-use, comfortable bindingEasy on/off, versatile
Cons Loud decking on crusty snowNew binding trades ease-of-use for comfortLoud decking and bulky harnessMediocre flotation for the length, strapped deck/binding attachmentCan fall off when paired with bigger boots and feet, pricey
Bottom Line This reliable and well-priced snowshoe is versatile and easy to useOur overall champ combines simplicity and high-quality materials, features, and engineeringThis is a top-scoring model with excellent traction and comfortThis average performer will keep most winter hikers happyWinter hikers will find this model works well most of the time
Rating Categories MSR Evo MSR Lightning Ascent Tubbs Flex VRT Atlas Montane Tubbs Panoramic
Flotation (25%)
4
6
5
5
7
Traction (25%)
7
10
8
8
7
Stride Ergonomics (20%)
8
8
9
7
7
Binding Comfort (10%)
7
8
8
8
6
Ease Of Use (10%)
5
4
8
8
8
Binding Security (10%)
10
10
8
9
4
Specs MSR Evo MSR Lightning Ascent Tubbs Flex VRT Atlas Montane Tubbs Panoramic
Uses Spring snow and moderate terrain Spring snow and steep terrain Spring snow and steep terrain Spring snow and moderate terrain Spring snow and moderate terrain
Optimum weight load per tested size (per manufacturer) up to 180 lbs 120-220 lbs up to 190 lbs 25: 120-200 lbs, 30: 150-250 lbs, 35: 180-300+ lbs 25: 120-200 lbs, 30: 170-250 lbs, 36: 220-300 lbs
Weight (per pair) 3 lbs 9 oz 4 lbs 0 oz 4 lbs 9 oz 4 lbs 7 oz 4 lbs 8 oz
Surface Area 173 in² 188 in² 179 in² 176 in² 200 in²
Dimensions 25 x 8" 24 x 8" 25 x 8" 25 x 8"
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 augmented with traction rails Steel crampon augmented with traction rails
Frame material Steel traction rails Aluminum Steel traction rails Aluminum Fit-Step
Deck material Molded plastic Fabric Molded plastic Nytex fabric Fabric and molded plastic
Heel Lift Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Binding/Deck Connection Hinged Hinged Hinged Strapped Hybrid Hinged and Strapped
Binding system Rubber Straps with pin-in-hole Rubber Straps with pin-in-hole Boa Nylon straps with cam buckles, rubber strap with plastic buckle Boa with rubber strap
Flotation tails sold separately? Yes Yes No No No
Men's and Women's versions? Unisex Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sizes Available One Size 22, 25, 30 24, 28 25, 30, 35 25, 30, 36
Tested Size One Size 25 24 25 25

Our Analysis and Test Results

MSR has been making plastic unibody snowshoes for a very long time. Over the years, those models have ranged from those aimed at the technical user to models designed for small children. All have featured a wallet-friendly price, simple design, and versatility suitable for a wide range of experience levels and terrain conditions. They also tend to be quite durable.

Performance Comparison


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

Flotation


Flotation is a snowshoe's number 1 job. The deck and frame of the MSR Evo is a single plastic mold that is lightweight. This untraditional design initially 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.

A rigid deck can give a snowshoe more flotation than the number of square inches (in this case, 173) might imply. The single piece of plastic that comprises the deck of the Evo is quite stiff. Two longitudinal steel rails on each snowshoe also contribute fore to aft stiffness.


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 steep 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.

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

Traction


Snow can be slippery! Increased traction is the second most important benefit we get from a snowshoe. The semi-aggressive traction system on the MSR Evo is best suited for groomed trails, packed snow, and rolling hills. Only the gnarliest of terrain and conditions might justify burlier traction. The crampons are on a full rotation-pivot binding for an unencumbered range of motion. Three brake bars are designed into the plastic decking and perform well on moderate rolling terrain, resisting slipping on the way up and especially on the way down.


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.

The steel crampon, hinged to steel traction bars, all of which is...
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.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Stride Ergonomics


Energy-efficient walking is what we want. Binding attachment and shape play the most critical roles here. The hinged binding is what we look for in a snowshoe we'll use in technical and steep terrain. It seems a bit out of place on a snowshoe like the Evo, but our testers found that the short length made walking a little more natural. The compact size is nice on trails and firmer snow and feels less cumbersome for first time snowshoers to hike in.


A shorter snowshoe is generally more agile. It's also easier to walk down steep slopes in. Both of these are important qualities on steep, almost technical, alpine terrain. Couple that with the precision of a hinged binding and, the diminutive Evo can also be an appropriate choice for steep alpine terrain.

Moving fast necessitates lightweight gear, and the Evo fits the bill.
Moving fast necessitates lightweight gear, and the Evo fits the bill.
Photo: Briana Valorosi

Drawbacks of the walking comfort of the Evo include the loud nature of the plastic decking and the lack of shock absorption in the rigid hinge and deck combination.

Binding Comfort


The rubber strapped bindings of the Evo are not the most comfortable in our test, though they are decent.


In order for them to fit securely, they must be pulled tight. On rigid boots like those used for snowboarding or mountaineering, this is not a concern. On softer hiking shoes and even winter running footwear, the straps can constrict blood flow and may create pressure points. Hikers who normally wear softer footwear should consider a snowshoe with a binding that wraps around the foot more or features some foam padding.

The MSR Evo binding straps are glove friendly and freeze proof! The...
The MSR Evo binding straps are glove friendly and freeze proof! The wide tabs make them easy to adjust, even in a blizzard.
Photo: Briana Valorosi

Ease of Use


The Evo is one of the easiest snowshoes in our test to use. Novice snowshoers will appreciate the simple Unibody design that lacks daunting features and components. For experienced snowshoers, the Evo has 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. However, without the tails, the short length makes strapping them to the outside of a pack the least punishing of all of our models. They also travel well in a car or in checked baggage.

Stripped of the optional tails, the Evo is compact and comfortable...
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 wasn't so loud.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Binding Security


Regardless of what sort of snow conditions our testers encountered or what shoes we had on our feet, the MSR Evo remained securely fastened with no question of security. Posi-lock 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. Once pulled tight, there is no way they're coming off.


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.

Our testing team has observed that hikers who are new to snowshoeing often don't fasten the rubber straps tightly enough, which can lead to a snowshoe falling off. A balance has to be struck between having the straps too tight (and thus cutting off circulation) and the security of the snowshoe staying on.

Here the MSR Evo are worn with winter boots. The Posi-lock Binding...
Here the MSR Evo are worn with winter boots. The Posi-lock Binding system is easy to use but does require some adjustment beyond the initial fitting. The binding straps loosen out of the tabs in deep snow, but the main buckle remains secure.
Photo: Briana Valorosi

Value


The MSR Evo is durable, easy to use, and versatile enough for novices and experts alike — all at a great price. One of our testers has used a very similar model of plastic snowshoe for over 10 years with no problems. While they're not the absolute cheapest in our review, they still present a great value for all but the occasional hiker.

Conclusion


We gave this pair a Best Buy Award because they are versatile, simple, and stable on and off-trail. They are suitable for novices and experienced winter hikers. The simple, lightweight design is sized for both men and women to explore winter landscapes comfortably. Indeed, the simplicity and low weight alone kept some of our testers reaching for them even when conditions might have called for a larger snowshoe. If you need a reliable snowshoe but don't have a lot of money to spend, this is the model for you.

Jediah Porter