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  • Michael Wheiler
    Nov 1 12:04 AM
    • 0 Attachment
      November 1, 2007

      Please accept my application to test the MSR Lightning Ascent or Tubbs Mountaineer snowshoes. I have read the BGT By-Laws (v. 0609) including Chapter 5 and will comply with all of the reporting terms and requirements. My signed tester agreement is on file. As reported below, I will have no difficulty meeting the minimum expected use requirements of two test nights during field testing and five test nights during long term testing and/or the potential extended testing of the snowshoes until the snow disappears in my location. Last spring, I traveled over 100 miles one-way in an attempt to find deep snow and cold temperatures to test a product.

      Personal Information:

      Name: Michael Wheiler
      Age: 51
      Gender: Male
      Height: 5'10" (178 cm)
      Weight: 175 lbs (79 kg)
      Shoe size: 10 US
      Location: Southeast Idaho
      Email: jmwlaw@...


      I have 39 years experience hiking, camping, and backpacking. My backpacking style is evolving from heavy to more light-weight with my packs generally ranging between 30 to 40 pounds (14-18 kg) though I occasionally carry packs weighing in at over 50 pounds (23 kg). I guess that classifies me as a mid-weight backpacker but I would like to start carrying packs weighing under 30 pounds (14 kg). I was a Scoutmaster for seven years (1997-2004) and our troop would camp, hike, canoe, and/or backpack at least monthly. Even though I'm not currently working at the troop level, I still try to get out for a weekend at least once per month and for a week long trek at least once per year. I own and have used extensively over the past several years a pair of Redfeather Hike snowshoes. Last year, I tested a pair of Redfeather Explore snowshoes.

      In this instance, I am willing to test either the MSR Lightning Ascent or Tubbs Mountaineer snowshoes and really have no preference as each has interesting new features. I would need a size 30 in either model to accommodate the additional weight of my normal over-night winter pack (approximately 40 to 45 lbs/18-20 kg) plus my heavier winter boots and clothing. According to the manufacturers' web sites, the Mountaineer 30 is rated for 170-250 lbs/77-114 kg and the Lightning Ascent 30" is rated for 175-225 lbs/79-102 kg in soft snow deeper than 30"/76 cm. I will likely be using the snowshoes mostly in snow much deeper than 30"/76 cm.

      Field Testing Environment:

      Most of my camping occurs in the southeastern Idaho area but spills over into central Idaho, western Wyoming (Grand Teton National Park) and western Montana. The elevations of the areas I frequent generally range from 5,500' (2 km) to 8,500' (3 km) above sea level. However, I have also climbed Mt. Borah in the Lost River Range (12,662 ft/3,859 m); Diamond Peak in the Lemhi Range (12,197 ft/3,718 m); Mt. Leatherman (12,228 ft/3,727 m) in the Lost River Range; and Mt. Rainier (14,411 ft/4,392 m). The weather in southeastern Idaho is fairly typical of a high desert plain. Winter is usually cold and snow depths vary but are generally over 10-12' (3-4 m) in the high country. On average snow depths in the lower mountainous areas can be between 4 to 6 feet (1-2 m). In January and February, although we can expect colder temperatures, we generally try not to camp in anything colder than -10° F (-23° C).

      Test Plan:

      Test Locations. In November I hope to climb the super gully to Lost River Mountain (elevation 12,078 ft/3,681 m). In November, I also plan to take the Bear Creek loop hike of approximately 12 miles (19 km) which includes a stop at a natural hot spring/hot tub. I love getting into the mountains during the winter. There is an indescribable feeling of quiet and solitude when the pines are ladened with snow and the untracked white powder stretches out as far as one can see. It is a glorious time to be in the mountains. In December, I plan to snowshoe into Lower Palisades Lake (elevation 6,131 ft/1,869 m)(8 miles/13 km round trip). I also plan to spend one night in a snow cave in Island Park in December. In January, I plan to cross-country ski into a Yurt in Harriman State Park (elevation of 6,128 ft/1,868 m) for one night and spend the next day skiing around the Park and in February, I plan to spend one night at Crater's of the Moon National Park (elevation 5,325 ft/1,623 m) where one can take a 7 mile (11 km) trek through the Park on snowshoes or cross country skis. I usually spend one night near Warm River (elevation 5,260 ft/1,603 m) during March. By late March most of the snow in this area will only survive at the higher elevations. However, if selected as a tester for the Redfeather snowshoes, in April I will try to hike into Upper Palisades Lake (elevation 6,633 ft/2,022 m)(12 miles/19 km round trip) and will take the snowshoes with me to test the late season higher elevation snow.

      Plan Details. My Test Plan will examine the following features of either the Lightning Ascent or Mountaineer snowshoes:

      A. Ease of Use: Can I use my regular winter hiking boots (slightly insulated with 200 g of Thinsulate) and my heavier Sorrel pack type boots with the snowshoes? How easy is it to attach the binding to the boots? Do the bindings stay attached to the boots during use? If a binding comes loose or comes off during use, how easy is it to reattach the binding to the boot in deep snow? Tubbs claims that the Mountaineer's 3D Fit provides a "combination of control, support, and ease of use to custom fit hiking or technical climbing boots to size 13." MSR asserts that the Lightning Ascent is user-friendly in that the "3-strap step-on binding fits a variety of boots and is fast, secure and easy to use."

      The Mountaineer is reported to have a "stable base with patented control wing design" which allegedly "centers the heel" which should make for easier walking and less fatique. It also comes with the "new RII Revolution Response rotating toe cord" which is supposed to "enhance gait mechanics, lateral flex and traction." This system, according to Tubbs, "sets a new industry standard for the most natural foot position on a snowshoe, reducing fatigue and delivering peak performance in any terrain." Tubbs also states that the Mountaineer's "ergonomically tapered tail optimizes medial clearance and stability."

      MSR, on the other hand, contends that the Lightning Ascent comes equiped with a Televator heel lifter which reportedly "reduces calf fatigue, making climbing easier and more efficient."

      Given my advanced age (51--can't you hear my bones creaking?), any product that makes hiking in the snow less strenuous and more natural would be a welcome addition to my gear. I would be very happy to report on how much less strenuous and natural the Mountaineer or Lightning Ascent snowshoes make hiking in the snow.

      B. Flotation: Neither company's web site addresses how well their snowshoes perform in the category of flotation. Both products have the traditional western rounded tail. This design typically maximizes flotation in deep powder by keeping more snowshoe on the snow with each step. I will likely be spending a great deal of time in deep powder during the testing period and will report on just how well these snowshoes perform with regard to flotation. I will also report on how the flotation varies with the type of snow. Usually the drier the snow the larger the snowshoes' surface area needs to be to maintain good flotation. In that regard, the Mountaineer is slightly wider (1"/2.5 cm) than the Ligtning Ascent.

      C. Versatility: How do the snowshoes work in various types of snow and/or icy conditions? Can I safely navigate flat and steep terrain? Can I comfortably use the snowshoes for ascending and descending? Can I sidehill with the snowshoes? Can I maintain my balance while using either of these snowshoes without trekking poles? Are the snowshoes easier to use with trekking poles? MSR states that the Lightning Ascent is "unmatched on steep terrain." MSR also proclaims that the Ligtning Ascent will provide "unrivaled traction" due to MSR's patent-pending serrated "Total-Traction frame--made from one vertical blade of aerospace-grade aluminum--that delivers unprecedented 360º traction." Tubbs states that the Mountaineer's "aggressive stainless steel Viper/Python crampons provide unsurpassed traction in ascent, descent and sidehill traverse."

      I will report on whether the claims of either MSR or Tubbs in this regard pass muster.

      D. Adjustability: The Mountaineer uses the Asymmetric (L/R) binding. Tubbs claims this binding system provides a "secure, integrated fit with enhanced Cinch Pull for ease of entry/exit." This system also features a "set and forget heel strap." MSR simply claims that its binding is "fast, secure and easy to use." I will report on the accuracy of these claims depending upon which snowshoes I am selected to test. Can I loosen, remove, reattach and/or tighten the bindings while in deep snow and/or with gloved hands?

      E. Durability: Will regular use result in holes, tears or other abrasions in the decking or significant scratching of the frame? How well do the rivets hold up to regular use and unintentional abuse? How is the binding material affected by repeated use? Tubbs notes that the Mountaineer snowshoes are equiped with proprietary ArcTec+ decking which is touted to be "tough and puncture resistant to -40º F (-40º C)." Tubbs also notes that its new Momentum SuperLite 7000 frame is "57% stronger and 20% lighter." I'm not sure I can actually test the accuracy of those statements but I can certainly report on how durable the frame is during the test period.

      MSR simply claims that the materials on the Lightning Ascent are 100% waterproof, "won't soak up water and freeze; straps remain easy to use in all conditions."

      F. Packability: How easy and safe is it to attach the snowshoes to my pack when necessary?

      G. Crampons/cleats: The Lightning Ascent's True-Hinge steel crampon purportedly "ehances foot stability and minimizes heel drift, resulting in more efficient gait mechanics and less expended energy." The "agressive" Viper/Python Stainless Steel Crampon System on the Mountaineer is alleged to provide "unsurpassed traction in all terrain." Do the crampons/cleats allow snow build up and, if so, how easy is it to remove? Are the crampons strategically placed on the snowshoes to provide me with good traction on packed snow, icy and/or steep terrain? I will report on how the snowshoes do perform on and off trail and in a variety of snow conditions and on a variety of terrain.

      H. Hinge System: How much do the bindings pivot and does the amount of pivot in the bindings allow the tail of the snowshoes to fall away enough to shed snow thereby reducing leg fatigue? Does the design of the bindings and the toe of the snowshoe allow for rotation or tracking so I can kick steps into steep slopes? The Mountaineer comes with a "new ActiveLift heel lift" which reportedly "reduces calf fatigue and makes extended climbs easier and more efficient."

      I. Care and Cleaning: How easy is it to clean and maintain the snowshoes?

      J. Weight and Measurements: MSR reports that the Lightning Ascent is the "lightest snowshoes in their class--about 15% lighter than competitors." The listed weight for the Lightning Ascent is 4 lbs 4 oz (1.93 kg) per pair for the size 30. In the comparable size, the Mountaineer is listed at 5.7 lbs (2.6 kg). Measurements for the Lightning Ascent 30 are 8"x30" (20x76 cm). The Mountaineer's measurements are 9"x30" (25x91 cm). I will examine and report on the accuracy of manufacturer's reported weights and measurements for the snowshoes I am selected to test.

      In short, I believe I can give either the MSR Lightning Ascent or the Mountaineer snowshoes a significant and varied workout. I would be interested in testing either brand of snowshoes and I will provide BackpackGearTest and MSR or Tubbs with detailed and informative reports regarding the workouts I give either the Lightning Ascent or Mountaineer snowshoes.

      Previous Involvement With BackpackGearTest:

      Examples of my prior work for BackpackGearTest includes the following:

      Current Testing:

      I am currently testing the GoLite Diablo Parka and have been selected to test the High Sierra Sentinel 65 Backpack. At this time, I have submitted no other applications to test products.


      My reports can be found at http://www.backpackgeartest.org/tester_reviews/jmwlaw

      Beta Testing:

      I performed one beta test for MSR on a component of the Whisperlite stove.

      Monitor Responsibilities:

      I am currently the monitor for the Malachowski Koszulka First Layer Guide Pro shirt (test series about to finish) and the Yakima Products Skybox Pro Cargo Box. I have recently been a monitor for the Leatherman e307x folding knife, the Six Moon Designs Essence Pack, Sierra Designs Rock Creek/Osage sleeping bag, Red Ledge Women's Covert Fleece Jacket, the Valandre sleeping bag, and the La Sportiva Venture XCR hiking boot test series. I have previously served as a monitor for a number of other test series.

      Thank you for considering me as a tester for either the MSR Lightning Ascent or Tubbs Mountaineer snowshoes.

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