MSR Evo Trail Review
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MSR Evo Trail
$149.95 at Amazon
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$279.95 at REI
|$140.00 at Backcountry|
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$90.54 at Amazon
|Pros||Inexpensive, simple, reliable||Rigid, precise, excellent binding security, impressive traction||Fully featured for steep and technical use||Inexpensive, easy to use, versatile||Good flotation, inexpensive|
|Cons||Loud decking on crusty snow||New binding trades ease-of-use for comfort||Loud decking and bulky harness||Unimpressive traction||Less reliable binding technology, poor traction|
|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 contender provides excellent traction, heel lifts, a comfortable binding, and moderate weight||This snowshoe does everything well and at a low price, making it a great value||If you're not getting out much or going far, these budget snowshoes could be right for you|
|Rating Categories||MSR Evo Trail||MSR Lightning Ascent||Tubbs Flex VRT||Atlas Helium Trail||Chinook Trekker|
|Stride Ergonomics (15%)|
|Ease of Use (15%)|
|Specs||MSR Evo Trail||MSR Lightning Ascent||Tubbs Flex VRT||Atlas Helium Trail||Chinook Trekker|
|Uses||Spring snow and moderate terrain||Spring snow and steep terrain||Spring snow and steep 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)||22": up to 180 lbs;
25": 120-220 lbs;
30": 150-280 lbs
|21": 80-160 lbs;
25": 120-200 lbs;
29": 190+ lbs
|23": 80-160 lbs;
26": 150-220 lbs;
30": 200-270+ lbs
|22": 90-130 lbs;
25": 130-210 lbs;
36": 250-300 lbs
|Weight (per pair)||3 lbs 11 oz||4 lbs 0 oz||4 lbs 6 oz||3 lbs 7 oz||4 lbs 4oz|
|Surface Area||183 in²||188 in²||195 in²||207 in²||205 in²|
|Dimensions||24 x 8"||25 x 8"||26 x 8"||27 x 9"||25 x 8"|
|Crampon/Traction Aids||Steel crampons and rails||Steel crampons, rails, and teeth||Steel crampons and rails||Steel crampons and rails||Aluminum crampons and teeth|
|Frame Material||Plastic and steel||Aluminum||Aluminum||Aluminum||Aluminum|
|Deck Material||Plastic||Fabric||Plastic||Nytex nylon||Polyethylene fabric|
|Binding System||Rubber net and straps with pin-in-hole||Rubber net and straps with pin-in-hole||Boa and rubber strap||Nylon straps with plastic buckles, rubber strap with pin-in-hole||Ratchet straps with plastic buckles, nylon strap with ladder-lock buckle|
|Flotation Tails Sold Separately?||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
|Men's and Women's Versions?||Unisex||Yes||Yes||Unisex||Unisex|
|Sizes Available||One size (22")||22", 25", 30"||21", 25", 29"||23", 26", 30"||22", 25", 30", 36"|
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 design initially had us wondering how well it would manage snow conditions, and we were pleasantly surprised to find it excels 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 22 inches, the Evo is best for packed snow and off-trail travel in steep terrain. However, 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 Evo Trail 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 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 Trail 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.
Putting these on is as simple as placing your boot on the snowshoe and pulling on two straps. Taking them off is equally simple, or maybe even easier if you're using the same boots later because the forward strap can be left in position. 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 among the least punishing of all of our tested models. This snowshoe also travels 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. The rubber "net" over the forefoot tightens securely and distributes that force nicely, even in softer shoes. Our testing team has observed that hikers who are new to snowshoeing need practice striking a balance between having the straps too tight and too loose, and the net on the Evo makes this less of a fine line.
The heel is held in place with a simple rubber strap. Both straps are secured with the same plastic buckle, which is spring-loaded. This means that the buckle "wants" to stay in the closed position, making it unlikely that it would pop open unintentionally. Also, both of these buckles are on the outside of your foot, where they're less likely to contact the other snowshoe.
Should You Buy the MSR Evo Trail?
The Evo Trail is durable, easy to use, and versatile enough for novices and experts alike. Some of our testers have used this snowshoe for many years with no problems, even in rowdy, mountainous terrain. Conversely, they're simple enough for a casual stroll on a groomed trail.
What Other Snowshoes Should You Consider?
Those looking for a cheaper and even more basic model, perhaps for the occasional dog walk or short hike to a snowed-in cabin, should check out the Chinook Trekker — they are great for casual use. A model that's similar to the Evo in most ways except with more flotation is the well-rounded Atlas Helium Trail.
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