MSR Evo Review
Cons: Loud decking on crusty snow
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|Price||$150 List||$330 List|
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|Pros||Inexpensive, simple, reliable||Rigid, precise, excellent binding security, impressive traction||Good traction, easy-to-use and comfortable binding||Inexpensive, easy to use, versatile||Excellent binding security, good traction, decent flotation|
|Cons||Loud decking on crusty snow||New binding trades ease-of-use for comfort||Mediocre flotation for the length, strapped binding attachment isn't ideal||Unimpressive traction||Binding straps can be a little fiddly or uncomfortable with soft footwear|
|Bottom Line||This molded snowshoe is reliable, inexpensive, offers widespread appeal, and is compatible with add-on tails for improved flotation||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||This snowshoe does everything well and has a low price, making it a great value||We like this fairly-priced snowshoe for everything but the most technical terrain|
|Rating Categories||MSR Evo||MSR Lightning Ascent||Atlas Montane||Atlas Helium Trail||MSR Revo Trail|
|Stride Ergonomics (15%)|
|Ease Of Use (15%)|
|Specs||MSR Evo||MSR Lightning Ascent||Atlas Montane||Atlas Helium Trail||MSR Revo Trail|
|Uses||Spring snow and moderate terrain||Spring snow and steep terrain||Spring snow and moderate terrain||Spring snow and moderate terrain||Spring snow and moderate terrain|
|Optimum Weight Load (per manufacturer)||up to 180 lbs (up to 250 lbs with tails)||22": up to 180 lbs;
25": 120-220 lbs;
30": 150-280 lbs
|25": 120-200 lbs;
30": 150-250 lbs;
35": 180-300+ lbs
|23": 80-160 lbs;
26": 150-220 lbs;
30": 200-270+ lbs
|22": up to 180 lbs;
25": 120-220 lbs
|Weight (per pair)||3 lbs 9 oz||4 lbs 0 oz||4 lbs 7 oz||3 lbs 9 oz||3 lbs 13 oz|
|Surface Area||173 in²||188 in²||176 in²||191 in²||194 in²|
|Dimensions||22 x 8"||25 x 8"||25 x 8"||26" 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||Tempered steel||Steel crampon augmented with rail and frame teeth|
|Frame Material||Steel traction rails||Aluminum||Aluminum||Aluminum||Steel|
|Deck Material||Molded plastic||Fabric||Nytex fabric||Plastic||Molded plastic|
|Binding System||Rubber Straps with pin-in-hole||Rubber Straps with pin-in-hole||Nylon straps with cam buckles, rubber strap with plastic buckle||Nylon straps with plastic buckles, rubber strap with pin-in-hole||Rubber straps with pin-in-hole|
|Flotation Tails Sold Separately?||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
|Men's and Women's versions?||Unisex||Yes||Yes||Unisex||Yes|
|Sizes Available||One size (22")||22", 25", 30"||25", 30", 35"||23", 26", 30"||22", 25"|
Our Analysis and Test Results
MSR has been making plastic 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 number one job. The deck and frame of the Evo Trail 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 it excel on packed snow as well as fresh snow.
A rigid deck can give a snowshoe more flotation than the surface area might imply. The single piece of plastic that comprises the deck of the Evo is quite stiff, and 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, the Evo is best for packed snow and off-trail travel in steep terrain. MSR also sells add-on flotation tails that increase the length by six inches, augmenting the flotation noticeably.
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.
Energy-efficient walking is what we want, and our testers found that the short length of the Evo 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 also generally more agile and 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 sometimes 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.
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 the Evo to the outside of a pack the least punishing of all of our models. They also travel well in a car or checked baggage.
Regardless of what sort of snow conditions our testers encountered or what shoes we had on our feet, the Evo Trail 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. Once pulled tight, there is no way they're coming off.
On rigid boots like those used for snowboarding or mountaineering, tight straps are not a concern. On softer hiking shoes and even winter running footwear, the straps on the Evo 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 other comfort concern is strap placement. With small boots, the upper binding straps rest against the ankle creases, which can be uncomfortable. Our testing team has observed that hikers who are new to snowshoeing need practice striking a balance between having the straps too tight (and thus cutting off circulation) and too loose (leaving them less secure).
The MSR Evo is durable, easy to use, and versatile enough for novices and experts alike — all at a great price. Some of our testers have used this snowshoe for many years with no problems. They're among the cheapest in our review, and they're a great value.
These are good snowshoes 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 much money to spend, this is a good choice.
— Ian McEleney and Jediah Porter
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