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Reviews > Snow Gear > Snowshoes > Fimbulvetr Hikr Snowshoes > Test Report by Richard Lyon
FIMBULVETR HIKR SNOWSHOES
Test Series by Richard Lyon
Initial Report February 22, 2017
Field Report March 26, 2017
Long Term Report May 12, 2017
PERSONAL DETAILS and BACKPACKING BACKGROUND
Male, 70 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 205 lb (91 kg)
Shoe size: 13 US; 47 European
Email address: Montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Outside Bozeman, Montana USA, in the Bridger Mountains
I've been backpacking for nearly half a century, most often in the Rockies. I do at least one weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 10000 ft (1500 - 3000 m). I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp. Though always looking for ways to reduce my pack weight, I still tend to include my favorite camp conveniences. I always sleep in a floored tent and like hot meals. Summer adventures are often on centered on fly fishing opportunities; winter on ski or ski touring.
INITIAL REPORT - February 22, 2017
By no means am I a snowshoe expert, but over the years I have worn many and seen many more. But none that looks like this. What makes this unique (to me) is the design of the shoes' frames, which I hesitate to try to describe in cold prose. Look at the pictures! Rather than a frame to which a decking is attached the Hikrs consist of a single piece of thermoplastic - DuPont Hytrel TPC-ET - with twelve carefully designed and tapered open spaces in roughly a honeycomb pattern. The shoes are asymmetrical - a left and a right. The only metal in the shoes are stainless steel crampons at the instep and heel and heel lifter on the top of the frame and the screws that affix them to the frame. Even the buckles on the polypropelene straps are made of plastic. Fimbulvetr ["great winter" in Old Norse] uses this design strategy for the other two snowshoes it offers, though features and design differ somewhat.
The Hikrs are Fimbulvetr's lightest-weight offering. The manufacturer describes them as all-mountain shoes whose specialty is "steep inclines."
Manufactuer: Snowmotion AS, Ervik, Norway
Website: fimbulvetr.no The photo at the top of this report comes from this website.
Size: One size, unisex
MSRP: $270 US
Dimensions: listed, 60 x 25 cm [24 x 10 in]; measured, 62 x 24 cm [24.3 x 9.3 in]
Weight: listed 2146 g [4.7 lb] per pair; verified accurate
Bearing surface: listed 1380 sq cm/ 214 sq in
Recommended load: listed < 110kg / < 243 lb
Color: Outdoor Orange; also available in Snow White and Just Black
Limited lifetime warranty
Country of manufacture: Norway
Includes a carrying/storage strap with hook-and-loop strips
Advertised features for all three snowshoe models the company offers:
The Unibody described above, said to improve weight distribution. In a pitch dear to my heart, "fewer parts to break." The plastic is said to have a brittleness temperature of -90 C/ -130 F. I don't plan to approach this. If that's the point at which the plastic will succumb to shattering, I am encouraged. A bit more disconcerting is the very next sentence in the manufacturer's description, to the effect that the plastic is completely recyclable.
A patented All Direction Hinge, for improved traction in all directions, said to be particularly helpful on steep descents and sidehills. On my short trial run, described below, I really didn't notice much difference from my regular snowshoes. But downhills and traversing were quite easy.
B4 Binding, "easy to handle, long to last." They are easy to handle. The binding has three straps but four pressure points. One strap crosses the boot at the toe piece, another above the ball of the foot. The third strap straddles the boot just above the instep but is then threaded around the heel. One tug on the third strap and the top of the foot and the heel are strapped in.
Stainless steel Ferris Crampons
Not common to all Fimbulvetr shoes, the Hikrs also have a heel lifter (pictured) and, on the working side, crampons at the heel and instep.
TRYING THEM ON
Before a walk on the snow I fit two different pieces of footgear to the bindings: the Oboz Insulated Bridger Boots that I am currently testing [see separate Test Report] and a pair of Oboz low-cut hiking shoes. Both fit comfortably in the binding, which is easily adjustable by pulling on the straps at the tag end to tighten or the thread end to loosen. All I needed to take them off is to loosen the top strap to free my heel and wiggle my foot out.
TRYING THEM OUT
My five-acre lot, backing onto a forested draw that goes up Green Mountain, offered a highly suitable venue for the Hikrs' maiden voyage. On a cloudy day at 40 F/ 4 C the snow was challenging. Heavy storms a couple of weeks back were followed by about ten days of freeze-and-thaw weather, a few degrees below freezing at night and a few days above freezing in the late morning when the sun hits the meadow, rendering the snowpack wet and heavy, with a hard crust. The technical term for this is "slop." Wearing the low-cut trail runners atop the Hikrs I ventured out for a ten- or fifteen-minute stroll up the hill, into the draw, and back up the hill and down to the house, with some traversing on the sidehill. All easily done without hiking poles. One good omen was that much of the snow accumulating on top of the shoes - and there was quite a bit when I broke through the crust - slid through the holes in the frame with the next step. Very efficient, I'd say.
The color. The only time I needed search-and-rescue in real life (as opposed to training) was on a snowshoe trek during which a companion suffered a broken ankle. The snowshoes I wore that day were also bright orange and were effective, set upright in the snow, as a beacon. Also Montana's newest experiment in wildlife control is extending hunting into the "shoulders" on either end of standard rifle season; in my county the last one ended only a week or so ago. Anything that distinguishes me from a deer or elk is appreciated.
The simple design, which I'm hoping will reduce the need for minor tweaks.
The heel lifter. Very handy and easy to pull up or push down with a gloved finger or the basket of a trekking pole.
The bindings, which are indeed easy to adjust and hold my boots firmly in place.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
Too early to tell.
FIELD REPORT - March 26, 2017
I have worn the Hikrs on six day hikes, one overnight and one three-day backpack trip, and several more short jaunts around my house. This last category probably counts as day hikes as most of them covered a couple of miles (5 km) at least, consistent ascents and descents, and closer to bushwhacking than walking on established trails. Other than one five-minute flurry all hiking was done in fair or overcast weather, at temperatures from 20-50 F (-7 to 10 C). The biggest variant was snow condition. During the testing period Southwestern Montana has encountered two extended springlike weather periods - high temperatures in the fifties F (10-13 C) and plenty of sun, but sub-freezing nights. This resulted in regular freeze-and-thaw snow conditions, with a hard or semi-soft crust (depending on time of day) with heavy, almost slushy snow underneath. If I was out late in the afternoon hiking was comparable to what I would imagine it would be like to walk through wet cement.
We did get one all-day snowstorm that deposited more than a foot (20 cm) of powder snow in the nearby backcountry. This coincided with my overnight backpack, which was to a Forest Service cabin in the nearby Bridger Mountains. Our hike in, on an abandoned logging road, was on hardpacked snow, the hike out on fresh snow that hadn't had a chance to harden. Regrettably backcountry avalanche danger was high that weekend, as indeed it has been consistently throughout the warmer weather. The weather limited our exploring from the cabin, on skis or snowshoes.
None of my hiking on the Hikrs has been in extreme conditions, but there have been many ascents and descents, some of them steep enough to require traversing. More often than not I have been breaking trail. I have carried ski poles on all trips. On the longer backpack my pack weighed about forty pounds (18 kg).
The Hikrs have performed well in these less-than-ideal hiking conditions. I've had the chance to identify some nuances about them that I've needed to adjust to, and I've had enough use to state with confidence that these are excellent all-around snowshoes.
Fit. One thing about the Hikrs that I praised in my Initial Report was their simple and easy-to-use bindings. I adhere to that opinion. They are so easy to put on that this writer on occasion got sloppy in his adjustment, not pulling the top strap tight enough. The result, quite naturally, was that my boot exited the shoe when an edge caught on some brush. This was pure operator error and no fault of the Hikrs. After learning this lesson on the job I now take more care to ensure that the straps are properly adjusted and tightly in place about my footwear. I have worn my Oboz Insulated Bridger boots on almost all of my hiking though a couple of times it was lower cut trail runners. If I change footgear I need to make minor adjustments to the three straps. As noted in my Initial Report this is easy to do if I take the time - a minute or two at most - to do it carefully.
Properly adjusted, the straps have held my feet firmly in the bindings whether walking uphill, downhill, or a traverse. It's now something I take for granted, a statement intended as a great compliment to the Hikrs.
Grip. The Hikrs have performed well here too. The double crampons on the underside of the shoes grip firmly anything that can be gripped - ice, frozen crust, hardpacked snow. On that powder day each Hikr made a platform just below the surface, exactly as they are supposed to do. On no occasion did I slip back when going uphill or forward when going downhill. There's no grip on slush, but then I've never found a snowshoe that managed that. When I went through a watery patch the crampons always found something underneath to grab sufficiently to keep me from slipping.
In the heavier stuff a clump of snow would sometimes stick to the crampons when I raised a foot to step forward. A whack with my pole on the side of the shoe dislodged it. This didn't happen on the powder day or on hardpack, so I put it down to the viscosity of the snow and not the design of the crampons.
Features. The shoes' design makes it easy to sluff snow that spills atop them when they sink below the surface. A slight shake and the snow slips through the holes in the base. The heel lifter is simple and foolproof, and does facilitate walking uphill. It was noticeably easier on my calves on sustained climbs, a couple of which took place on fairly steep terrain. Less work and less fatigue. The base design makes it easy to strap the Hikrs to the sides of my ski touring pack.
Stability. I admit that this was my principal concern when first trying out the Hikrs. These shoes are about four inches (10 cm) shorter than the snowshoes I had been using prior to this test. I am pleased to report that my concern was unfounded. The Hikrs make up for the shorter length by being an inch or two (2-5 cm) wider and not as tapered as their predecessors, so the surface area of the platform is about the same. I have not felt wobbly or in any way less than stable when walking on the Hikrs. If anything the greater width makes a more reliable platform.
Because of the one-piece hard base the Hikrs' flex is entirely in the bindings. This is new to me - all other snowshoes I have used have had a flexible platform - and was part of my concern about stability. While on my maiden voyage on the Hikrs I noticed a slight difference in mobility, I adjusted to it more or less unconsciously. As noted I had no stability problem on any terrain, and I have not felt particularly tired or achy at the end of a hike. (Many manufacturers advertise increased flex as a means of reducing fatigue.) Then again, I haven't done a full day's hiking on the Hikrs yet. Here is something for my Long Term Report.
Care. The Hikrs have required minimal care. After a hike from home I knock off all the snow I can and then bring the shoes indoors (mud room or garage) to let any accumulated ice melt. If at home I'll wipe any snow and melted snow off with a towel. At the trailhead the shoes go separately into the rear of my sport utility vehicle.
Summary. The Fimbulvetr Hikrs are easy to use and perform quite well. So far they have proven out their manufacturer's claim that they are innovative all-mountain shoes.
LONG TERM REPORT - May 12, 2017
Well, the snow gods mocked the prediction in my Field Report that winter was over. After two weeks of sunny temperatures in the 50s and 60s F (10-17 C) the Bridger Mountains were hit with three big storms in five days in mid-April, giving me one last opportunity this spring to hike with the Hikrs. I made the most of it - three day hikes, including one short but steep climb up the nearby Drinking Horse Trail, plus an overnight backpack to a Forest Service cabin Easter weekend. The overnight (planned before the snowstorms) was unlike any other outing during this test. We had expected a leisurely hike in shorts to check out some wildflowers from the Battle Ridge cabin, with no thought of snow trekking. Plans changed upon awakening at home Saturday morning to a foot (30 cm) of fresh snow and a temperature of about 25 F (-4 C), cold enough to keep the snow relatively powdery. At the trailhead we strapped on snowshoes for the short hike to the cabin, dropped our packs, and spent the morning on snowshoes in the nearby basin. The morning was all the snow time we had. The sun came out just before noon and by 5 pm what snow hadn't melted was heavy slush. And when we hiked out the next day the trail, an old Forest Service road, was clear of snow.
The day hikes took place in more traditional spring snow conditions. The snow was what skiers call corn - heavy and wet, great for downhill turns for a couple of hours, then nearly impassable wet cement on east- and south-facing slopes. Tough going on snowshoes, as wet snow clung on the crampons step after step, frequently requiring smacking the shoes with my trekking poles to dislodge it. Because of the deteriorating snow conditions the descents were considerably more rigorous than the ascents, calling for careful use of poles to keep sliding from becoming glissading.
Twice I took the Hikrs to nearby Bridger Bowl ski area, which closed in early April, for some hiking on service roads and hardpacked ski runs. As I started these hikes just after dawn, temperatures were about 20-25 F (-7 to -4 C); skies were clear. The snow was hard and slightly crusty on top, and hiking was not much different than in midwinter, at least for the couple of hours I was out. On one of these outings I did some staged testing, wearing a full backpack, about 40 pounds (18 kg), including skis. On this upslope hike (I skied down) I needed some adjustment to my hiking to accommodate the Hikrs' shorter base. As before, though, this didn't mean contrived or tentative hiking. A slightly shorter step and moderately altered traversing angle on steeper pitches were easy adjustments and once I was used to them I paid little further attention to the issue.
I don't have much to add to the evaluation of these snowshoes in my Field Report. In normal, i.e. winter, conditions the Hikrs have performed much as any other quality snowshoes I have tried. They have given a solid, reliable platform and considerable flexibility. The crampons grip the snow firmly. My only difficulties came in the heavier spring snow conditions, and the problems I've reported here have been no more bothersome than those I have encountered in comparable conditions with other snowshoes, including a very fine pair from a manufacturer that advertises its snowshoes as particularly suited to warmer winter conditions. The Hikrs have generated no complaints about design or performance. As noted none of my testing was extended or extreme, but in everyday winter conditions the Hikrs have done very well indeed.
The Hikrs have been retired for the season, and they look like new after minimal care. In fact I've done nothing beyond removing residual snow and ice and wiping the bases and crampons with a towel. Crampons remain sharp.
Simplicity. Easy to put on, take off, and walk in. The bindings are remarkably simple yet utterly reliable. There's very little that can go wrong.
Design. Particularly the open spaces that allow easy shucking of snow in softer conditions.
Nothing serious. For a multiday trip with a heavy pack I might prefer a larger platform - such as the one on Fimbulvetr's heavy-duty model, the Tankr.
My Test Report ends here. My thanks to Snomotion AS and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Fimbulvetr Hikrs.
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