Reviews You Can Rely On

MSR Evo Trail Review

This molded snowshoe is reliable, inexpensive, offers widespread appeal, and is compatible with add-on tails for improved flotation
msr evo trail snowshoes review
Credit: Ian McEleney
Price:  $150 List
Manufacturer:   MSR
By Ian McEleney ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 20, 2022
63
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 12
  • Flotation - 30% 4.0
  • Traction - 25% 6.0
  • Stride Ergonomics - 15% 6.0
  • Ease of Use - 15% 9.0
  • Bindings - 15% 9.0

Our Verdict

Simplicity merges with versatility on the MSR Evo Trail. 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 carrying a heavy pack. This is a decent snowshoe not only for its wallet-friendly price tag but also for its range of applications, from beginner trails to advanced rolling terrain. The Evo is one of our favorite choices for everything but the most technical and advanced backcountry conditions. For added floatation in deep snow, check out the MSR Evo Tails.
REASONS TO BUY
Inexpensive
Simple
Reliable
REASONS TO AVOID
Loud decking on crusty snow
Editor's Note: This review was updated on December 20, 2022, after testing the updated binding system.

Compare to Similar Products

 
msr evo trail snowshoes review
This Product
MSR Evo Trail
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price Check Price at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$350 List
$349.95 at REI
$280 List
$279.95 at REI
$150 List
$149.95 at REI
$100 List
$111.85 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
63
77
73
67
43
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Inexpensive, simple, reliableRigid, precise, excellent binding security, impressive tractionFully featured for steep and technical useInexpensive, easy to use, versatileGood flotation, inexpensive
Cons Loud decking on crusty snowNew binding trades ease-of-use for comfortLoud decking and bulky harnessUnimpressive tractionLess 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 flotationThe best snowshoes in our test, complete with high end features and simple engineeringThis 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 valueIf 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
Flotation (30%)
4.0
5.0
5.0
7.0
7.0
Traction (25%)
6.0
9.0
8.0
5.0
2.0
Stride Ergonomics (15%)
6.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
4.0
Ease of Use (15%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
3.0
Bindings (15%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
4.0
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;
30":180-250 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
Heel Lift No Yes Yes Yes No
Binding/Deck Connection Hinged Hinged Hinged Hinged Strapped
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"
Tested Size 22" 25" 25" 26" 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.

Performance Comparison


msr evo trail snowshoes review - this is a classic snowshoe design.
This is a classic snowshoe design.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Flotation


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.

msr evo trail snowshoes review - the rigid deck let us make use of every last square inch.
The rigid deck let us make use of every last square inch.
Credit: Jessica Haist

Traction


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.

msr evo trail snowshoes review - this has steel traction rails and teeth as well as addition...
This has steel traction rails and teeth as well as addition enhancements molded into the deck.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Stride Ergonomics


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.

msr evo trail snowshoes review - though intended for easy rambles, the evo trail can handle more...
Though intended for easy rambles, the Evo Trail can handle more difficult hikes.
Credit: Jessica Haist

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.

msr evo trail snowshoes review - pulling on the red toggle and strap simultaneously make removing the...
Pulling on the red toggle and strap simultaneously make removing the snowshoe easy.
Credit: Jessica Haist

Bindings


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.

msr evo trail snowshoes review - the rubber net distributes pressure nicely even with soft running...
The rubber net distributes pressure nicely even with soft running shoes.
Credit: Ian McEleney

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.

msr evo trail snowshoes review - the optional flotation tails attach to these metal posts and the...
The optional flotation tails attach to these metal posts and the cut-out in the deck.
Credit: Ian McEleney

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.

msr evo trail snowshoes review - breaking trail with the evo trail.
Breaking trail with the Evo Trail.
Credit: Jessica Haist

Ian McEleney
 
You Might Also Like

Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.

GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

Learn More