The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Tubbs Flex VRT Review

This contender provides excellent traction, heel lifts, a comfortable binding, and moderate weight.
Tubbs Flex Vrt
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Price:  $260 List | $259.95 at Amazon
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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70
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 9
  • Flotation - 25% 4
  • Traction - 25% 7
  • 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. It might have beat the MSR Lightning Ascent if it had a more compact binding and if the deck material were quieter on crusty snow. As it is, if you can tolerate these minor compromises, the Tubbs is an excellent choice.

Product Updated Since Testing

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

October 2019


Compare to Similar Products

 
Tubbs Flex Vrt
This Product
Tubbs Flex VRT
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $259.95 at Amazon$319.95 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$149.99 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$200 List$139.95 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
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Pros Fully featured for steep and technical useRigid, precise, excellent binding security, traction, flotationGood traction, and an easy-to-use, comfortable bindingLarge, with unique hybrid hinged deck/binding interfaceInexpensive, simple, reliable
Cons Loud decking and bulky harnessNew binding trades ease-of-use for comfortMediocre flotation for the length, strapped deck/binding attachmentLimited tractionLoud decking on crusty snow
Bottom Line This contender provides excellent traction, heel lifts, a comfortable binding, and moderate weight.The best snowshoes in our test, complete with high end features and simple engineering.This is a great traditional snowshoe that's outshone in a few areas by newer designs.All-around snowshoes optimized for off-trail and deep snow performance.The latest in a long line of innovative, molded snowshoes; they are reliable, inexpensive, and have widespread appeal.
Rating Categories Tubbs Flex VRT MSR Lightning Ascent Atlas Montane Louis Garneau Blizzard II MSR Evo
Flotation (25%)
10
0
4
10
0
6
10
0
5
10
0
10
10
0
4
Traction (25%)
10
0
7
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
5
10
0
7
Stride Ergonomics (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
4
10
0
8
Binding Comfort (10%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
6
Ease Of Use (10%)
10
0
8
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
5
Binding Security (10%)
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
10
Specs Tubbs Flex VRT MSR Lightning Ascent Atlas Montane Louis Garneau... MSR Evo
Uses Spring snow and steep terrain Spring snow and steep terrain Spring snow and moderate terrain Deep snow Spring snow and moderate terrain
Optimum weight loads per tested size. Per manufacturer. up to 190 lbs 120-220 lbs 25: 120-200 lbs, 30: 150-250 lbs, 35: 180-300+ lbs 150-250 lbs up to 180 lbs
Weight (per pair) 4 lbs 9 oz 4 lbs 0 oz 4 lbs 7 oz 5 lbs 6 oz 3 lbs 9 oz
Surface Area 179.4 sq in 188.5 sq in 176 sq in 282 sq in 173.8 sq in
Dimensions 24x8 in 25x8 in 25x8 in 31x10 in 22x8 in
Crampon/Traction aids Steel crampon augmented with traction rails Steel crampon augmented with rail and frame teeth Steel crampon augmented with traction rails Steel crampon Steel crampon augmented with traction rails
Frame material Steel traction rails Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Steel traction rails
Deck material Molded plastic Fabric Nytex fabric LG "Lightec" fabric Molded plastic
Heel Lift Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Binding/Deck Connection Hinged Hinged Strapped Hybrid Hinged and Strapped Hinged
Binding system Boa Rubber Straps with pin-in-hole Nylon straps with cam buckles, rubber strap with plastic buckle Boa Rubber Straps with pin-in-hole
Flotation tails sold separately? No Yes No No Yes
Men's and Women's versions? Women's version avalible Women's version avalible Women's version avalible Women's version avalible Unisex version
Sizes Available 24, 28 22, 25, 30 25, 30, 35 825, 930, 1036 One Size
Tested Size 24 25 25 930 One Size

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.

Tubbs Flex Vrt

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 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.
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.

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 the deepest of conditions, the Crescent Moon Gold 10 and Top Pick Louis Garneau Blizzard II are both better suited. In normal "trail" and dense snow conditions, the Flex will have all the float you need. The Flex has a little more surface area than the Top Pick TSL Symbioz Elite, but that surface area is far more effective on the Flex. 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 traction that rivals the best in our review.
The crampon and traction rails of the Tubbs combine to provide traction that rivals the best in our review.

In head-to-head testing, the generous crampons combined with hardened steel longitudinal rails (very similar to those on the classic MSR Evo) 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. The Top Pick TSL Symbioz Elite features similar traction in a more compact and precise package, while the Crescent Moon Gold 10 has a slippery, largely fabric base that pales in comparison to these traction masters.


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. On-trail, for instance, the compact and flexible TSL Symbioz Eite is more forgiving and easier to walk in. In deep and rough terrain, the slightly bigger form of the Editors' Choice MSR Lightning Ascent is better. With this latter tool, the metal and textile construction is quite a bit quieter than the plastic decking of the Flex.


Binding Comfort


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.
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.

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, the stretchy rubber straps of the MSR Evo are secure without any compromise in comfort. The Top Pick Louis Garneau Blizzard II also features the Boa system, and mounts it to a larger, quieter forest and trail breaking form factor.


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. The bindings of the MSR Evo, MSR Lightning Ascent, and Chinook Trekker snowshoes we tested fold flat for lower profile carry. The rigid bindings of the Flex, the TSL Symbioz Elite, the Louis Garneau, and the Crescent Moon Gold 10 take up more space than the flat laying bindings of the other options.


Binding Security


In our experience, including rugged terrain in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park, the bindings of the Flex held on tenaciously enough. The rubber straps of the MSR models are more secure, but the Boa is strong 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.


Best Applications


With a rigid deck, moderate size, hinged binding attachment, secure harness, excellent traction, and high heel lifts, we recommend the Flex for above treeline mountaineering style use. In these environments, the user is far more likely to encounter steep terrain and firm crusts that warrant both traction and flotation. In that case, check out the Tubbs. They'd be a contender for our Editors' Choice Award if they packed smaller, if the deck material were quieter, and if they had just a little more flotation.

The Tubbs is suitable for normal trail use with occasional off trail and technical use.
The Tubbs is suitable for normal trail use with occasional off trail and technical use.

Value


At the suggested price, the high-performance attributes of the Flex are worth it. If you will primarily tromp in mellower terrain, spending basically half the money for the MSR Evo is a better choice.

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, but can't justify the expense of the MSR Lightning Ascent, the Tubbs Flex Vrt are more than worth a look.


Jediah Porter