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APPLICATION: Snow x 3 - Tubbs or MSR Snowshoes - Christensen

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  • Ryan Christensen
    Application to test either the Tubbs or MSR Snowshoes Last year, I applied and was selected to test the TSL Over The Top snowshoes. However, things did not
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2, 2007
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      Application to test either the Tubbs or MSR Snowshoes

      Last year, I applied and was selected to test the TSL Over The Top snowshoes. However, things did not work out with the manufacturer and the test was cancelled. Consequently, I missed the opportunity to test snowshoes.

      Therefore, I ask that you kindly accept and consider my application to test either the Tubbs Mountaineer or MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes. I have read the Survival Guide v. 0609 and Bylaws V. 0609 and I agree to comply with all requirements and timetables. My signed Tester Agreement is on file with BGT.

      Reviewer Information:

      Name: Ryan L. Christensen
      Age: 43
      Gender: Male
      Height: 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
      Weight: 235 lb (107 kg)
      Shoe Size: 10.5
      Email address: bigdawgryan (at) yahoo (dot) com
      City, State, Country: Idaho Falls, ID, U.S.A

      Backpacking Background:

      I began hiking, camping, and backpacking at twelve and continued until 25. After an extended hiatus due in part to a bad back, I resumed bicycling, hiking and backpacking several years ago. Recently, I began snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. I now share my love for backpacking and these other sports with my teen-age boys. For several years, we have hiked or camped nearly every month, year-round. I am a lightweight backpacker, but carry a full array of necessary gear.

      Field Information:

      Some locations I am currently considering include the Portneuf Range near Pocatello, Idaho; Craters of the Moon National Monument near Arco, Idaho; the Kelly Canyon Nordic Area near Idaho Falls, Idaho; and Harriman State Park near Ashton, Idaho. Average low winter temperatures for southeastern Idaho are in the low teens to 0 F (-10 to -18 C). However, at higher elevations, temperatures may easily be 10 to 15 degrees colder and the snowfall greater. Furthermore, temperatures can and often do drop to - 30 F (-34 C) or colder.

      Month Avg High Temp Avg Low Temp Avg Snowfall
      November 44 F (6 C) 22 F (-5 C) 2.9 in (7 cm)
      December 34 F (1 C) 16 F (-8 C) 7.1 in (18 cm)
      January 28 F (-2 C) 10 F (-12 C) 10.4 in (26 cm)
      February 34 F (1 C) 14 F (-10 C) 7 in (17 cm)
      March 44 F (6 C) 23 F (-5 C) 4 in (10 cm)
      April 59 F (15 C) 32 F (0 C) 2.1 in (5 cm)

      In the November - December time period, I am considering a snowshoe trip (depending on snowfall) in the Portneuf Range. “The yurt system in this mountainous area of Southeastern Idaho is made up of five Mongolian yurt-style structures. Southeast Idaho is known for its exhilarating wide-open powder slopes and uninhibited cross-country travel. The yurts along the Portneuf range are spaced so skiers can make yurt-to-yurt trips--or, if desired, parties can ski into one yurt and make day trips with the yurt serving as a base camp. Designed for all ability levels, the lower yurts are easily accessible to beginners and families, while the higher yurts are oriented to more experienced backcountry skiers.” Access to the easiest of the lower yurts requires a 350 ft (107 m) elevation gain where as the most difficult of the yurts in this system to reach requires a 2,300 ft (700 m) elevation gain over 3.5 miles (5.6 km).

      I am considering a snowshoe trip in to the Palisade Lakes area in January. The Palisades Creek Trail that leads to the lower and upper Palisades Lakes is located approximately 50 miles (80 km) southeast of Idaho Falls Idaho and nearly 60 miles (97 km) west of Jackson Hole Wyoming. The Upper Palisades Lake sits at about 6,800 feet (2,071 m) above sea level.

      In January/February I am planning a snowshoe trip with my three sons to Craters of The Moon, which located 84 miles (135 km) west of Idaho Falls. This is a 750,000-acre (3,035 km2) National Monument and Preserve with lava flows and cinder cones. The elevation in Craters of the Moon National Monument ranges from 5,330 ft (1,625 m) to 7,729 ft (2,356 m).

      In February, I am planning several snowshoe/cross-country ski trips in the Kelly Canyon Nordic Area located 26 miles (42 km) northeast of Idaho Falls, in the Targhee National Forest, near the South Fork of the Snake River. It starts at an elevation of approximately 5,900 ft (1,798 m) and reaches elevations as high as 6,700 ft (2,042 m). The Kelly Canyon Nordic Area includes 24 miles (39 km) of cross-country ski trails, and approximately 5 miles (8 km) of snowshoe trails and a variety of backcountry skiing experiences. In late February, I have an overnight cross-country ski trip to Harriman State Park planned. This may actually become both a ski and snowshoe trip. Harriman State Park is located 77 miles (124 km) north of Idaho Falls at an elevation of 6,120 ft (1,865 m). Harriman State Park is in a 16,000-acre (65 km2) wildlife refuge near Yellowstone National Park. This park has 21 miles (34 km) of trails, with 10 miles (16 km) groomed. The park has a looped trail
      system with flat trails of less than 5 kilometers, and longer trails that climb hills and lead to scenic views of the Tetons.

      There are other potential locations for snowshoeing/cross-country skiing trips in the Palisades area. In addition, the Teton Valley area of Idaho, near Jackson Hole Wyoming, has approximately 31 miles (50 km) of groomed public trails for cross-country skiing and virtually unlimited areas for hiking and snowshoeing.

      Below are average weather conditions for Jackson, Wyoming and surrounding area. Again, at higher elevations, temperatures can easily be 10 to 15 degrees colder.

      Month Avg High Temp Avg Low Temp Avg Snowfall
      November 39 F (4 C) 14 F (-10 C) 10 in (25 cm) city
      December 26 F (-3 C) 6 F (-14 C) 76 in (193 cm) mtns approx 9,000 ft (229 m)
      January 28 F (24 C) 2 F (3 C) 86 in (218 cm) mtns approx 9,000 ft (229 m)
      February 33 F (24 C) 7 F (3 C) 74 in (188 cm) mtns approx 9,000 ft (229 m)
      March 43 F (6 C) 17 F (-8 C) 62 in (158 cm) approx 9,000 ft (229 m)
      April 53 F (12 C) 24 F (-4 C ) 1.2 in (3 cm ) precip

      Proposed Test Plan:

      I began snowshoeing two years ago, and therefore consider myself a novice. Consequently, my testing will be from a novice’s perspective. My test plan will focus on three areas: ease of use, function, and durability.

      Ease of Use:

      The first area my testing will focus on is Ease of Use, especially the binding.
      1. Can I easily wear my Gore-Tex hiking boots and my heavier Sorel Caribou snow boots with these snowshoes? The Lightning Ascent and Mountaineer have different adjustments; will their respective bindings adjust easily to my different boots? Can I adjust the binding easily with one hand, whether gloved or mittened?

      2. Once adjusted, will the bindings stay tight and attached to my boots? If they loosen, or become unattached, can I easily make the necessary adjustment even in deep, unpacked snow? Will they remain secured to my feet if I should happen to take a tumble?

      3. How easy are the bindings to release? Can I easily release the bindings with one hand, whether gloved or mittened?

      4. The Mountaineer and Lightning Ascent each have their own version of a heel lift, how easy is it to engage and disengage? Will snow depth influence this?

      5. How easy are these snowshoes to walk in? Tubbs says the Mountaineer’s RII Revolution Response pivot system “enhances gait mechanics, lateral flex and traction, and sets a new industry standard for the most natural foot position… reducing fatigue and delivering peak performance.” MSR claims its True-Hinge crampon “enhances foot stability and minimizes heel drift, resulting in more efficient gait mechanics and less expended energy.” I am keenly interested in anything that claims to help me reach “peak” performance, or expend less energy. Will they live up to the manufacturer’s claim?

      6. How easily can I secure the snowshoes to my backpack?

      7. What care and maintenance is required to ensure years of hiking pleasure?


      Next, my testing will consider Function. On most of my outings, I will be traversing uneven mountain terrain and will therefore consider the following based upon the terrain encountered.

      1. The Lightning Ascent has a vertical blade frame whereas the Mountaineer has a traditional tube frame. Will the frame provide good lateral support? Will it do so whether or not I am carrying a loaded pack? Will I be able to maintain my balance without using trekking poles?

      2. MSR claims its Serrated Total-Traction frame and crampon provides unprecedented 360 degree grip. MSR’s design intrigues me. Tubbs claims its Viper/Python crampon provides unsurpassed traction in ascent, descent, and sidehill traverse. Superlatives, superlatives, superlatives… bottom line, will the crampons provide good traction? Will the traction vary when ascending, descending, or traversing laterally, or in differing snow conditions, i.e. packed, deep powder, and even ice?

      3. Will snow build up in the crampons? If so, can I easily remove it?

      4. I hate sinking up to my knees—or beyond—in deep snow when snowshoeing in the backcountry. Will these snowshoes provide enough floatation to keep my 235 lb (107 kg) frame and a light (10 lb or 5 kg) to heavy (45 lb or 21 kg) pack on top of the snow whether on a groomed trail or in deep snow? Based on their respective sizing charts, I would need the 36 inch Mountaineer or the 30 inch Lightning Ascent. Being a fairly big guy, I am somewhat skeptical that a 30 inch snowshoe will provide enough floatation to keep me and my gear atop deep snow. How will the floatation differ in varying snow conditions?

      5. Each snowshoe has a slightly different hinge system. Will it permit the deck to rotate enough to shed snow as I walk? Will it permit me to kick into steep slopes?

      6. The shape and measurements of these snowshoes is different. In addition, the Lightning Ascent weighs about 2 lb less than the Mountaineer. Regardless of which one I test, can I easily walk in them? Will they require an unexpected amount of energy to move? Will my heels shift, or will they remain centered? Will the size and shape of the snowshoe allow it to clear my legs as I walk, or will it take some work on my part to avoid this? How will this vary in different snow conditions?

      7. MSR claims its decking is “100% waterproof and will not absorb water and freeze.” Regardless of which snowshoe I test, will the decking material or the straps freeze or ice up? If so, will this be problematic?


      Finally, I will consider durability, especially in the long-term report.

      1. Each snowshoe has a different style aluminum frame. How durable is the aluminum frame, Will it bend, dent, scratch, or nick, easily?

      2. How durable is the decking material; will it resist abrasion, puncture, etc.?

      3. How durable are the binding ratchets and straps?

      4. Will the ratchets work smoothly and keep the bindings secure after multiple uses?

      5. Will the straps fray after multiple uses?

      6. Will the crampons wear well, providing years of good traction?

      7. Will the rivets hold up well with multiple uses?

      In summary, although a novice, I am large and athletic and should be able to put these snowshoes through a thorough testing. Based on my size, load I will be carrying, and conditions in which I will be snowshoeing, I do not believe the MSR Denali Evo Ascent snowshoes will work for me. Therefore, my first choice is to test the Tubbs Mountaineer 36 inch snowshoes. My second choice would be the MSR Lightning Ascent 30 inch snowshoes.

      Many thanks to Tubbs, MSR, and BGT for considering me for this snowshoe test.

      Current Tests:

      • Danner 453 GTX hiking Boots (Long-Term Test Phase)
      • Joby Gorillapod (Field Testing)
      • Sierra Designs Nahche Sleeping Bag (recently selected)
      • Coleman Pro Series X2 Tent (shipping February 08)

      Test Applications Currently Under Consideration:

      • None

      Previous Reviews:

      Please click the link below to access my Owner Reviews and Test Reports.


      Ryan L. Christensen
      E-mail: mailto:bigdawgryan@...

      "Excellence is not an act, but a habit." Aristotle
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