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Tubbs Flex VRT Review

This contender provides excellent traction, heel lifts, a comfortable binding, and moderate weight
Tubbs Flex VRT
Photo: tubbssnowshoes.com
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Price:  $260 List
Pros:  Fully featured for steep and technical use
Cons:  Loud decking and bulky harness
Manufacturer:   Tubbs
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 22, 2019
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75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 12
  • Flotation - 25% 5
  • Traction - 25% 8
  • Stride Ergonomics - 20% 9
  • Binding Comfort - 10% 8
  • Ease of Use - 10% 8
  • Binding Security - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Tubbs Flex Vrt is a solid product that leans toward the high and wild. The feature set checks all the boxes on our list of attributes we look for in a snowshoe for technical terrain. The size is moderate, the binding and deck are joined with a hinge, there are extensive steel crampon points, and the binding is secure enough in most conditions. Generally, for snowshoes, we award our top honor to snowshoes suited to mountaineering. Mountaineering snowshoes also work on trails, while trail shoes barely work at all in the high mountains. Because of this, top honors go to the more technical products. In this way, the Tubbs is a contender for our Editors' Choice Award.

Product Updated Since Testing

Tubbs updated the Flex VRT; read on to learn more.

October 2019

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Tubbs Flex VRT
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Tubbs Flex VRT
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $260 List$329.95 at REICheck Price at Backcountry
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$293.89 at Amazon$64.99 at Amazon
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Pros Fully featured for steep and technical useRigid, precise, excellent binding security, traction, flotationInexpensive, simple, reliableCompact, with uniquely excellent stride ergonomicsGood flotation, inexpensive
Cons Loud decking and bulky harnessNew binding trades ease-of-use for comfortLoud decking on crusty snowSmall footprint and flexible deck creates limited flotationLess reliable binding technology, poor traction
Bottom Line This contender provides excellent traction, heel lifts, a comfortable binding, and moderate weightThe best snowshoes in our test, complete with high end features and simple engineeringThis molded snowshoe is reliable, inexpensive, and offers widespread appealExcellent snowshoes for packed trail and firmer snow useThese unimpressive snowshoes can be a great value for hikers who won't be asking much of them
Rating Categories Tubbs Flex VRT MSR Lightning Ascent MSR Evo TSL Symbioz Elite Chinook Trekker
Flotation (25%)
5.0
6.0
4.0
2.0
7.0
Traction (25%)
8.0
10.0
7.0
9.0
4.0
Stride Ergonomics (20%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
Binding Comfort (10%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
5.0
Ease Of Use (10%)
8.0
4.0
5.0
7.0
6.0
Binding Security (10%)
8.0
10.0
10.0
5.0
4.0
Specs Tubbs Flex VRT MSR Lightning Ascent MSR Evo TSL Symbioz Elite Chinook Trekker
Uses Spring snow and steep terrain Spring snow and steep terrain Spring snow and moderate terrain Groomed trails Spring snow and groomed trails
Optimum weight load per tested size (per manufacturer) up to 190 lbs 120-220 lbs up to 180 lbs S: 65-180 M: 110-260 L: 150-300 lbs 19: 50-90 lbs, 22: 90-130 lbs, 25: 130-210 lbs, 30: 180-250 lbs, 36: 250-300 lbs
Weight (per pair) 4 lbs 9 oz 4 lbs 0 oz 3 lbs 9 oz 4 lbs 9 oz 4 lbs 4 oz
Surface Area 179 in² 188 in² 173 in² 162 in² 205 in²
Dimensions 24 x 8" 25 x 8" 22 x 8" 25 x 8"
Crampon/Traction aids Steel crampon augmented with traction rails Steel crampon augmented with rail and frame teeth Steel crampon augmented with traction rails Steel spikes throughout bottom of deck Aluminum crampons with heel bindings
Frame material Steel traction rails Aluminum Steel traction rails Composite Aluminum
Deck material Molded plastic Fabric Molded plastic Composite Polyethelene
Heel Lift Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Binding/Deck Connection Hinged Hinged Hinged Hinged Strapped
Binding system Boa Rubber Straps with pin-in-hole Rubber Straps with pin-in-hole Combination of rigid plastic, nylon straps, cam locks, and ratchet style straps Ratchet straps with plastic buckles, nylon strap with ladder-lock buckle
Flotation tails sold separately? No Yes Yes No No
Men's and Women's versions? Yes Yes Unisex Unisex Unisex
Sizes Available 24, 28 22, 25, 30 One Size S, M and L 19, 22, 25, 30, 36
Tested Size 24 25 One Size M 25

Our Analysis and Test Results

Flex VRT Updates


Since our testing period with these snowshoes, Tubbs updated the Dynamic Fit binding system, simplifying the Boa system with less cord. Compare the two snowshoes below; the new version is pictured first.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Take note that since we haven't tested the latest version yet, the following review continues to reflect the previous model tested.

Hands-On Review of the Flex VRT


In some ways, the Tubbs Flex Vrt is an amalgamation of many different snowshoes in our review. In other ways, it picks the best of the best from the other products. However, the end result is nothing remarkable. It is solidly built, functions well, and hits a versatile design combination.

For all-around snowshoeing, the traction and comfortable binding of...
For all-around snowshoeing, the traction and comfortable binding of the Tubbs is great. For more technical use, the traction is more than adequate but the binding isn't as secure as we'd like.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Flotation


The fully rigid decking, adding up to 180 square inches in the tested size, is supportive and works well on firm-to-moderately-soft snow. In normal "trail" and dense snow conditions, the Flex will have all the float you need. The rigid, molded, and stiffened deck of the Flex makes all of the surface area effective in floating on softer snow. The flexible deck of the Symbioz Elite is great on trails, but flexes to reduce the effectiveness of the tip and tail in supporting one's weight.


Traction


The crampon and traction rails of the Tubbs combine to provide...
The crampon and traction rails of the Tubbs combine to provide traction that rivals the best in our review.
Photo: Jediah Porter

In head-to-head testing, the generous crampons combined with hardened steel longitudinal rails provide excellent traction for the slipperiest of packed snow and ice. Whether the snow is slippery from wind packing action or from melt-freeze metamorphosis, the sharp steel spikes of the Flex will bite in.


Stride Ergonomics


The Tubbs Vrt is moderately sized, with a hinged binding/deck junction and a rigid platform. This configuration, combined with the excellent traction noted before, make the Tubbs one of the best snowshoes in our test for the steepest and most technical of terrain. The integrated heel lift allows the user to snowshoe straight uphill, with the crampons and flotation fully engaged but the users foot more level. For all these reasons, we recommend the Flex for rugged, firm-snow travel. In all other conditions, there is likely a better choice.


Binding Comfort


The most salient characteristic of the BOA style binding of the...
The most salient characteristic of the BOA style binding of the Tubbs Flex is its comfort. Whether on stiff mountaineering boots, or soft winter trail runners, the binding spreads the force evenly.
Photo: Jediah Porter

The hybrid "Boa" and heel strap configuration of the Flex is well suited to spread the force of the binding pressure over the softest of winter footwear. In the rough conditions we recommend these shoes for, the user will likely wear more rigid mountaineering boot style footwear. In that case, even the tightest cinching bindings do not cause undue pressure. If you use stiff mountaineering boots for snowshoeing, stretchy rubber straps are secure without any compromise in comfort.

Ease of Use


Every tester loved the Boa system for wearing. The primary disadvantage of these bindings, in terms of ease of use, is that they are bulkier to pack. Beyond this we found the operation of this binding to be straightforward.


Binding Security


In our experience, including rugged terrain in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park, the bindings of the Flex held on tenaciously enough. Some other online reviews indicate that the Boa system can ice up. Our test team has experience with the Boa system on snowshoes, ski boots, and snowboard boots and has had no problems in the wettest and coldest of conditions. One test consultant even has a skiing knee brace with the Boa attachment. She has no trouble with that. In short, we trust the bindings of the Flex, but understand others hesitations around this mechanical device.


Value


At the suggested price, the high-performance attributes of the Flex are worth it. If you primarily tromp in mellower terrain, you can spend a lot less for a snowshoe that will do the job.

Conclusion


We're not entirely sure that Tubbs intended it, but these feature a rare set of features that makes them mountaineering specialists. Other products are slightly better in that technical terrain, but they cost more. If you'll get high and wild, the Tubbs Flex Vrt are more than worth a look.

The Tubbs is suitable for normal trail use with occasional off trail...
The Tubbs is suitable for normal trail use with occasional off trail and technical use.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Jediah Porter