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MSR Evo Ascent Review

These simple and durable snowshoes can pretty much do it all, except for float through deep, soft snow
msr evo ascent snowshoes review
Credit: Jessica Haist
Price:  $210 List
Manufacturer:   MSR
By Ian McEleney ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 20, 2022
54
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 12
  • Flotation - 30% 4.0
  • Traction - 25% 6.0
  • Stride Ergonomics - 15% 7.0
  • Ease of Use - 15% 6.0
  • Bindings - 15% 5.0

Our Verdict

The MSR Evo Ascent is a good all-around snowshoe that leans toward the steeper and wilder side of winter. It boasts good traction and is relatively pleasant to walk in for a model inclined to technical pursuits. The binding system is simple and sturdy. However, the binding has a bit of a learning curve, and novice snowshoers could be challenged to get the strap tension right. Also, the small deck of these snowshoes is not designed for deep and soft snow. That said, aftermarket tails are available to enhance flotation if you think you'll need it. Overall, this is a decent snowshoe.
REASONS TO BUY
Simple
Good traction
Easy to walk in
REASONS TO AVOID
Poor flotation
Slower to put on

Compare to Similar Products

 
msr evo ascent snowshoes review
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MSR Evo Ascent
Awards   Best Buy Award  Best Buy Award 
Price $210 List
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Simple, good traction, easy to walk inFully featured for steep and technical useInexpensive, easy to use, versatileInexpensive, simple, reliableGood flotation, inexpensive
Cons Poor flotation, slower to put onLoud decking and bulky harnessUnimpressive tractionLoud decking on crusty snowLess reliable binding technology, poor traction
Bottom Line These simple and durable snowshoes can pretty much do it all, except for float through deep, soft snowThis contender provides excellent traction, heel lifts, a comfortable binding, and moderate weightThis snowshoe does everything well and at a low price, making it a great valueThis molded snowshoe is reliable, inexpensive, offers widespread appeal, and is compatible with add-on tails for improved flotationIf you're not getting out much or going far, these budget snowshoes could be right for you
Rating Categories MSR Evo Ascent Tubbs Flex VRT Atlas Helium Trail MSR Evo Trail Chinook Trekker
Flotation (30%)
4.0
5.0
7.0
4.0
7.0
Traction (25%)
6.0
8.0
5.0
6.0
2.0
Stride Ergonomics (15%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
4.0
Ease of Use (15%)
6.0
8.0
9.0
9.0
3.0
Bindings (15%)
5.0
8.0
6.0
9.0
4.0
Specs MSR Evo Ascent Tubbs Flex VRT Atlas Helium Trail MSR Evo Trail Chinook Trekker
Uses Spring snow and steep terrain Spring snow and steep terrain Spring snow and moderate terrain Spring snow and moderate terrain Spring snow and groomed trails
Optimum Weight Load (per manufacturer) up to 180 lbs (up to 250 lbs with tails) 21": 80-160 lbs;
25": 120-200 lbs;
29": 190+ lbs
23": 80-160 lbs;
26": 150-220 lbs;
30": 200-270+ lbs
up to 180 lbs (up to 250 lbs with tails) 22": 90-130 lbs;
25": 130-210 lbs;
30":180-250 lbs;
36": 250-300 lbs
Weight (per pair) 3 lbs 14 oz 4 lbs 6 oz 3 lbs 7 oz 3 lbs 11 oz 4 lbs 4oz
Surface Area 183 in² 195 in² 207 in² 183 in² 205 in²
Dimensions 24 x 8" 26 x 8" 27 x 9" 24 x 8" 25 x 8"
Crampon/Traction Aids Steel crampons, rails, and teeth Steel crampons and rails Steel crampons and rails Steel crampons and rails Aluminum crampons and teeth
Frame Material Plastic and steel Aluminum Aluminum Plastic and steel Aluminum
Deck Material Plastic Plastic Nytex nylon Plastic Polyethylene fabric
Heel Lift Yes Yes Yes No No
Binding/Deck Connection Hinged Hinged Hinged Hinged Strapped
Binding System Rubber straps with pin-in-hole Boa and rubber strap Nylon straps with plastic buckles, rubber strap with pin-in-hole Rubber net and straps with pin-in-hole Ratchet straps with plastic buckles, nylon strap with ladder-lock buckle
Flotation Tails Sold Separately? Yes No No Yes No
Men's and Women's Versions? Unisex Yes Unisex Unisex Unisex
Sizes Available One size (22") 21", 25", 29" 23", 26", 30" One size (22") 22", 25", 30", 36"
Tested Size 22" 25" 26" 22" 25"

Our Analysis and Test Results

MSR has been a leader in plastic snowshoes for over 20 years, and they've been making some version of the Evo Ascent that entire time. Over the years, the design has changed very little. While it's starting to feel a bit dated now, our testers think it's a case of, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Performance Comparison


msr evo ascent snowshoes review - this is a reliable snowshoe for setting off into the unknown.
This is a reliable snowshoe for setting off into the unknown.
Credit: Jessica Haist


Flotation


This metric is the reason you're reading this review. The primary quality that determines flotation is the number of square inches the deck provides. The Evo Ascent has about 183 square inches of flotation. This is on the lower side for our review, but not unexpected for a 24-inch long snowshoe. The rigid deck also has a slight taper, which reduces the surface area.

These downsides have upsides, of course. A relatively short length and a slight taper make the Evo Ascent much more nimble on tricky mountain terrain. Flotation can also be augmented with the purchase of add-on "tails."

msr evo ascent snowshoes review - testing flotation on a stormy day.
Testing flotation on a stormy day.
Credit: Jessica Haist

Traction


When it comes to traction, this model shines. It boasts four sharp steel teeth under the toes and two steel rails that run almost the whole length of the deck. Ridges molded into the plastic deck round out the traction feature set. This basic design has been the same for many years, and for our testing team, it's the benchmark for snowshoes designed for mountainous terrain.

msr evo ascent snowshoes review - this model has ample traction.
This model has ample traction.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Stride Ergonomics


In this metric, we look for features that line up with the overall use case of the snowshoe. In this case, that's rugged backcountry terrain, and the Evo Ascent walks like a mountaineer. The heel lifter is a little hard to engage and disengage but stays firmly in place when needed. The deck-to-binding attachment is hinged, which is what we like on this type of snowshoe. That usually means that the snowshoe is a little clunky on firmer ground. While the Evo Ascent are not made for dancing, the short length means that they're as easy to walk with as they could be.

msr evo ascent snowshoes review - this grey rubber tab makes the heel lifter easier to grab.
This grey rubber tab makes the heel lifter easier to grab.
Credit: Jessica Haist

Ease Of Use


This binding has been on MSR snowshoes for well over a decade. Three rubber pin-in-hole straps cover the forefoot, and one secures the heel. These straps are easy to figure out, and they're also quite durable and easy to replace if they do break — it's no wonder this is the snowshoe of choice for rental fleets and guide services. That said, while this used to be one of the easiest-to-use bindings, newer designs require fewer steps to put on and take off.

msr evo ascent snowshoes review - we like that all of the binding buckles are on one side and we got...
We like that all of the binding buckles are on one side and we got the best results by keeping them on the outside of our feet.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Bindings


Our experienced team of testers found this binding to be quite secure and comfortable. The caveat is that we have a lot of experience with rubber straps like these. With rubber pin-in-hole straps, there is a fine line between having them tight enough to be secure but not so tight that they cut off circulation when worn with soft footwear. Hikers that are new to this style of strap should try them out a bit before taking them out on a cold day. Stiffer footwear will be more forgiving with this binding style.

msr evo ascent snowshoes review - though it takes a little practice with softer boots, these three...
Though it takes a little practice with softer boots, these three rubber straps can distribute the pressure nicely.
Credit: Jessica Haist

Should You Buy the MSR Evo Ascent?


These are snowshoes for the occasional or regular snowshoe user who wants a simple and intuitive set of features and wants to buy one set of snowshoes and not think about it again for a decade. They're not for hikers in areas that have deep and soft snowpacks. Those folks need more flotation and should look at a different model or the tail accessories for the Evo Ascent.

msr evo ascent snowshoes review - a small deck limits flotation.
A small deck limits flotation.
Credit: Jessica Haist

What Other Snowshoes Should You Consider?


Hikers who want features for steep above-treeline terrain and more flotation should check out the Tubbs Flex VRT. It has all of the mountain features and a larger deck for more float. For a slight step down in traction (and weight) but a step up in flotation, check out the Atlas Helium Trail.

msr evo ascent snowshoes review - the evo ascent model provides good traction on all sorts of surfaces.
The Evo Ascent model provides good traction on all sorts of surfaces.
Credit: Jessica Haist

Ian McEleney
 
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