MSR Evo Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Inexpensive, simple, reliable
Cons: Loud decking on crusty snow
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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.
Flotation is a snowshoe's job number 1. 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.
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 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.
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 deck plastic 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.
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 feel less cumbersome for first time snowshoers to hike in.
A shorter snowshoe is generally a more agile snowshoe. 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.
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.
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 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 will 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.
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. The short length make 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. No other snowshoes in our review are as simple and easy to use.
Regardless of what sort of snow (or dry ground!) conditions our testers encountered, or what shoes we had on our feet, the MSR Evo remained securely fastened with no question of 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. 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.
At only $140, the MSR Evo are durable, easy to use, and versatile enough for novices and experts alike. 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.
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 winter hikers. The simple, lightweight design is sized for both men and women to comfortably explore winter landscapes. 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