MSR Revo Explore Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Good flotation and traction
Cons: Falls off unexpectedly, can be uncomfortable with soft footwear
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
— Ian McEleney