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Hands-on Gear Review
MSR Evo Review
Cons: Loud decking on crusty snow
Bottom line: The latest in a long line of innovative, molded snowshoes; they are reliable, inexpensive, and have widespread appeal.
Simplicity merges with versatility on the MSR Evo, which earns our Best Buy Award. 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 a heavy weight load. 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.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Our Best Buy Award goes to 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.
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.
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 Atlas Aspect. 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 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 Aspect 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.
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. 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.
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 Atlas Aspect and on the MSR Lightning Ascent. They are far more secure than the bindings of the Fimbulvetr Hikr or the Louis Garneau Blizzard II.
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.
We awarded the Evo our Best Buy from among the top snowshoes in our review. At only $140, they are durable, easy to use, and versatile enough for novices and experts alike. The light weight makes them a great option for long days on the trail and the optional add-on flotation tails widen the range of applications to include deep snow. The Atlas Aspect and MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes ring in almost twice as expensive as the Evos and offer similar versatility. The Lightning Ascents have a more specialized application in backcountry terrain, justifying their cost with technical specs that other snowshoes do not offer. The best value of any snowshoes in our review (and likely outside our review) is the Evo.
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. For a wallet-friendly pair of snowshoes, they are the ideal selection.
— Jediah Porter
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