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MSR Revo Explore Review

This is a decent snowshoe with a weird flaw - it falls off unexpectedly
MSR Revo Explore
Photo: Backcountry
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Price:  $230 List | $229.95 at REI
Pros:  Good flotation and traction
Cons:  Falls off unexpectedly, can be uncomfortable with soft footwear
Manufacturer:   MSR
By Ian McEleney ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Feb 10, 2020
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63
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 11
  • Flotation - 25% 6
  • Traction - 25% 7
  • Stride Ergonomics - 20% 7
  • Binding Comfort - 10% 6
  • Ease of Use - 10% 7
  • Binding Security - 10% 3

Our Verdict

The MSR Revo Explore performs a snowshoe's basic tasks, preventing post-holing and slipping well. The heel lifter gives some versatility for sustained uphills. The ratcheting straps on the binding were fairly easy to put on and take off. However, the lone strap across the top of the foot can become a pinch point. Also, our testers found that the release lever on the buckle of the toe strap can be a bit too responsive, leading to the unintentional loss of a shoe! This snowshoe is a good choice for winter hikers who want to get off the beaten path about half the time and generally wear footwear with a stiff upper.

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MSR Revo Explore
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MSR Revo Explore
Awards    Best Buy Award  
Price $229.95 at REICheck Price at Backcountry
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Pros Good flotation and tractionFully featured for steep and technical useGood traction, and an easy-to-use, comfortable bindingInexpensive, simple, reliableExcellent binding security, good traction, decent flotation
Cons Falls off unexpectedly, can be uncomfortable with soft footwearLoud decking and bulky harnessMediocre flotation for the length, strapped deck/binding attachmentLoud decking on crusty snowBinding straps can be a little fiddly or uncomfortable with soft footwear
Bottom Line This is a decent snowshoe with a weird flaw - it falls off unexpectedlyThis contender provides excellent traction, heel lifts, a comfortable binding, and moderate weightThis is a great traditional snowshoe that's outshone in a few areas by newer designsThis molded snowshoe is reliable, inexpensive, and offers widespread appealThis a good all around snowshoe
Rating Categories MSR Revo Explore Tubbs Flex VRT Atlas Montane MSR Evo MSR Revo Trail
Flotation (25%)
6.0
5.0
5.0
5.0
6.0
Traction (25%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Stride Ergonomics (20%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
Binding Comfort (10%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Ease Of Use (10%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
5.0
5.0
Binding Security (10%)
3.0
8.0
9.0
10.0
10.0
Specs MSR Revo Explore Tubbs Flex VRT Atlas Montane MSR Evo 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 tested size (per manufacturer) 120-220 lbs up to 190 lbs 25: 120-200 lbs, 30: 150-250 lbs, 35: 180-300+ lbs up to 180 lbs 120-220 lbs
Weight (per pair) 4 lbs 4 oz 4 lbs 9 oz 4 lbs 7 oz 3 lbs 9 oz 3 lbs 13 oz
Surface Area 194 in² 179 in² 176 in² 173 in² 194 in²
Dimensions 25 x 8" 24 x 8" 25 x 8" 25 x 8"
Crampon/Traction aids Steel crampon augmented with rail and frame teeth Steel crampon augmented with traction rails Steel crampon augmented with traction rails Steel crampon augmented with traction rails Steel crampon augmented with rail and frame teeth
Frame material Steel Steel traction rails Aluminum Steel traction rails Steel
Deck material Molded plastic Molded plastic Nytex fabric Molded plastic Molded plastic
Heel Lift Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Binding/Deck Connection Hinged Hinged Strapped Hinged Hinged
Binding system Ratchet straps with plastic buckles Boa Nylon straps with cam buckles, rubber strap with plastic buckle Rubber Straps with pin-in-hole Rubber straps with pin-in-hole
Flotation tails sold separately? No No No Yes No
Men's and Women's versions? Yes Yes Yes Unisex Yes
Sizes Available 22, 25 24, 28 25, 30, 35 One Size 22, 25
Tested Size 25 24 25 One Size 25

Our Analysis and Test Results

MSR has made snowshoes for a long time and currently makes many different models. The Revo Explore has respectable flotation and traction. While they're easy to put on, we found a problem with them staying on.

Performance Comparison


This snowshoe does well overall but it can fall off unexpectedly!
This snowshoe does well overall but it can fall off unexpectedly!
Photo: Jessica Haist

Flotation



This is the most important job a snowshoe has to do, and the MSR Revo Explore does it decently. It's in the middle of our testing pack when it comes to square inches of surface area for the length (we tested the 25-inch model).

The deck tapers towards the tail, but only slightly, for a minimal loss of surface area. The steel frame and plastic deck are fairly rigid; our testers felt this enhanced the flotation.

This snowshoe performs well in our flotation metric.
This snowshoe performs well in our flotation metric.
Photo: Jessica Haist

Traction



The Revo Explore has a respectable amount of traction. The binding cleat sports two large steel teeth. Part of the binding hinge attachment is a lateral steel rail that is toothed. This falls just under the ball of the user's foot. The steel frame is serrated throughout. The plastic deck sports some lateral ridges underneath and behind the user's heel. These are slightly recessed and won't engage on the firmest of snow.

Traction aids. Note the slightly recessed plastic ridges
Traction aids. Note the slightly recessed plastic ridges
Photo: Ian McEleney

On steep downhills, it's natural for a lot of a hikers weight to be on the back of the snowshoe. Our testers found that the longer deck, coupled with only a pair of fairly shallow plastic ridges in the back, meant that this model can be a little squirrely when heading down steep firm snow.

Stride Ergonomics



The Explore has a rigid, hinged connection attaching the binding to the deck. While many of our testers prefer the precision this gives, the lack of flexibility can lead to an unnatural gait on well-packed or groomed trails. The same is true of the deck materials and construction. Their rigid properties are a boon on steeper rougher ground, but feel clunky on the flat and firm.

The rigid deck felt a little clunky on hard-packed snow, or rocks!
The rigid deck felt a little clunky on hard-packed snow, or rocks!
Photo: Ian McEleney

The deck tapers slightly, just under an inch from where your toe sits to the tail of the snowshoe. This makes it slightly harder to step on the back of the other snowshoe. The Explore has a pair of heel lifters (MSR calls them "Ergo Televators") for use on long consistent uphills.

Binding Comfort



When used with stiff or very well insulated boots, we found this to be a reasonably comfortable snowshoe. With only two straps holding the snowshoe to you boot our testers tended to keep both ratcheted down pretty tightly. With softer or more flexible footwear we suspect that this could lead to pinching in the area of the toe strap. MSR has added some foam padding here, which may help mitigate the issue.

The two ratchet-strap binding was comfortable on boots with a sturdy...
The two ratchet-strap binding was comfortable on boots with a sturdy upper, like mountaineering boots.
Photo: Jessica Haist

Ease Of Use



Our testing team was somewhat divided on how easy it is to use the Revo Explore. Those of us familiar with snowboard bindings instantly understood how to use and adjust the ratchet straps. For the non-snowboarders amongst us there was a bit of a learning curve. That being said, once we figured out how the tightening and release levers worked on the ratchet buckle these are pretty fast to put on and remove.

Binding Security



This was the most disappointing metric for the Explore. Almost every tester had it fall off their foot spontaneously at least once! After some investigation, we think we found the cause. When the toe strap is cranked down really tight, the release lever is on a bit of a hair-trigger. It's easy to bump it unknowingly - on rocks, plants, or a trekking pole) and let the strap out of the buckle. Since there is just one strap on top of your foot, you then step right out of the snowshoe!

The black lever makes adding tension easy. The red lever makes...
The black lever makes adding tension easy. The red lever makes releasing it easy too, but sometimes too easy!
Photo: Ian McEleney

Wearing the snowshoes on the correct feet can help mitigate this problem. This keeps the buckle on the outside and prevents it from being bumped by the other snowshoe. Still, it's easier than we would like to trigger the release lever unintentionally. Since there's only one strap on top of our feet that often means losing a snowshoe.

Value



These are in the more expensive half of the snowshoes in our review. While they're not bad, we think there are some similarly priced or less expensive models out there that perform as well.

Conclusion



The MSR Revo Explore performs a snowshoe's basic tasks fairly well, but there are some areas (like staying attached to your foot) where our testers were disappointed.

Weighing the Explore for our specs chart.
Weighing the Explore for our specs chart.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Ian McEleney