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Reviews > Snow Gear > Snowshoes > MSR Denali EVO Snowshoes > Test Report by David Heyting

MSR Denali Evo Ascent Snowshoes
Test Series

Initial Report December 6, 2007
Field Report February 18, 2008
Long Term Report April 15, 2008

Tester Information:
Name: David Heyting
Age: 30
Gender: Male
Height: 6’ 0”, 1.83 m
Weight: 205 lb, 93 kg
City, State, Country: Snoqualmie, Washington, USA

Backpacking Background:
I have been hiking and backpacking for over 15 years. A great deal of the backpacking that I do is related to mountaineering and rock climbing in the Pacific Northwest. When not climbing, I’m a hiker that tries to go light in order to push more miles. My main areas of exploration are the Washington Central and North Cascades, but have done lots of hiking in the British Columbia Coastal Range as well as the Oregon Cascades. I am also an avid adventure racer and compete in several races each year ranging from 2 hours up to several days in duration.

Product Information
Manufacturer: Manufacturer: Mountain Safety Research (owned by Cascade Designs)
Model: Evo Ascent
Listed Weight: 4 lb / 1.8 kg
Measured Weight: 4 lb /1.8 kg
MSRP: $199.95 US
Size: Standard
Color: Black
Listed Weight: 12 oz / 340 g
Measured Weight: 12.1 oz / 343 g
MSRP: $29.95 US
Color: Black

Product Description:
The Denali Evo Ascent snowshoes are MSR’s evolution of their popular Denali series snowshoes. They feature many of the same items as the Denali snowshoes, but they have redesigned the deck, bindings and crampon system that the company says will improve backcountry performance and usability.

Dual Shot.jpg
Evo Ascent Snowshoes

The Denali Evo’s feature MSR’s trademarked Televator heel lifter that is designed to reduce calf fatigue. The snowshoes are designed for steep terrain with the Televator technology and with the traction system. The snowshoes feature steel traction blades with saber teeth in addition to the crampon system. The blades run down both side of the deck. The deck is molded plastic that has braking bars to provide additional grip and traction. The tips and tails feature a tapered molding that are designed by MSR to provide easier walking that should feel more natural to the user as per the manufacturer. The Evo Ascents also feature attachable 6” (15 cm) floatation tails that can allow the user to change the snowshoes to meet various conditions, by attaching the tails for additional float. The binding system allows for easy entry and exit by featuring four rubber straps to secure the shoe in the crampon extension plate.

Initial Report
December 6, 2007

Initial Impressions:
Upon opening the MSR Denali Evo Ascents, I was actually quite impressed with the packaging job that was done by MSR. The snowshoes came stacked on top of each other, secured by two large rubber bands. In between the two snowshoes, they also included a piece of cardboard to make sure the bottom snowshoe doesn’t get damaged by the traction teeth. The rubber bands are great to have for future storage of the snowshoes. Also the packaging shows that the design of the snowshoes allows them to stack on top of each in a compact manner.

My first thought is wow these things just look mean. The snowshoes features a dual set of traction teeth that run down both sides of the snowshoe. They are sharp and have some aggressive jagged cuts to them. Based on the design, I would expect the teeth to be able to grip on just about anything. The steel bars are attached to the plastic molded frame via six rivets. Needless to say it would appear based on the construction that the steel traction blades are securely fastened to the deck. The crampon component features four “teeth” for additional traction and completely pivots on a hinge. The “toe cut-out” seems to provide ample room for shoe sizes of all types. The deck is made from molded plastic and is not only sleek looking, but also has some unique features on the bottom of the snowshoes. The manufacturer lists that they have molded braking bars that should provide additional traction as well.

Traction Teeth

The Denali Evo Ascents have a really great feature with the Televator heel lifter. The design of heel lift is to reduce stress on my calves while I hike up steep inclines, by shifting the weight burden onto the snowshoes. I will be interested to see how this works. The Televator simply snaps into place and is easy for me to pull up and down due to the large rubber pull tab that is attached. Due to its large size, I hope it will be easy to pull the Televator into place even with gloves on.

The 6” Denali Evo flotation tails were also included with the snowshoes. During my initial review of the product, I found the tails easy to slide on and off. They essentially just slide into place and then are secured by a screw down bolt. The tails will add additional floatation in varying conditions.


Evo Flotation Tail

The bindings feature four straps, one on the heel and then three that go over the lacing of my boots. The straps have buckles on both sides and can be adjusted easily to fit all different sizes. Because the straps buckle on both sides, the straps can be completely removed from the decks. I am not sure if this will be a good thing or not. I worry about one of the straps possbible coming undone during use.


Strap Binding System

Initial Likes and Dislikes:

Likes: Steel traction teeth - these things look intense!

Dislikes: Nothing so far!

Field Report
February 18, 2008

Field Conditions and Locations:
I have taken the Denali Evo Ascents with me on several trips during the Field Testing period. I used the Denali Evo Ascents while in Government Camp, Oregon which is located at the base of Mt. Hood, where I spent two days snowshoeing in and around the area. I estimate that I logged about 15 miles (24 km) on snowshoes. During my stay, the area averaged about 8 inches (20 cm) of fresh snow per day, thus I was able to experience some days with fresh dry powder. Temperatures were in and around the mid-twenties F (-4 C). I made two trips up Mt. Si, which is a popular hiking destination near my house. I used the snowshoes each time, hitting snow on both occasions around the 3,000 ft (914 m) level. On both trips the snow was hard and covered with an ice crust layer. I spent a day out on Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, with about 4 inches (10 cm) of fresh powder. Hurricane Ridge is at 5,240 ft (1597 m), where I logged a 12 mile (24 km) trip. I also was able to experience some much colder temperatures during a three day trip up to Whistler, Canada where I was able to spend one day in 0 F (-18 C) temperatures while snowshoes in the Creekside area. I experienced a wide range of snow conditions, from fresh dry powder, to rock hard ice crusted snow. All of which gave me great opportunity to evaluate the Denali Evo Ascents.

Evo Ascent Snowshoes in action

Field Performance:
During the Field Testing period, I have found the MSR Evo Ascent Snowshoes to be excellent climbers. The outer layer of traction teeth have provided me with fantastic bite, especially in icy conditions as I experienced on Mt. Si. They have proven to be extremely useful while traversing slopes, as the teeth are able to grip the snow since they are located on both sides of the snowshoe. Typically when traversing a slope on snowshoes the crampon is at an angle that makes it difficult for me to dig the teeth into the snow to gain positive traction. Thus typically I find that I need to be perpendicular to the slope in order to get the crampon to bite. This means that I find myself needing to go straight up the slope in order to keep solid traction, which requires the highest level of exertion. However with the traction teeth on the Denali Evo Ascents, I am able to traverse the slope and thus save energy by creating an easier path. The Televator heel lifts have also given my calves some much need rest during steep hill climbs. They are simple for me to snap in place and feature a great big tab to easily grab and pull into place. The system seems to be working quite well as I have not had them snap out of place while in use.

I have found the straps to be very easy to use in order to get the snowshoes on and off. The buckle system provides for a snug fit that is very easy to adjust and lock in place. I have found that my feet stay in place and I have not had the straps accidentally come apart during any of my trips. I also have found the straps to be easy to use with gloves on. This is a big plus for me as I tend to feel very clumsy with gloves on, so any chance that I have to complete task, without having to take off my gloves is something that I like very much.

So far the snowshoes have proven to be very durable. The plastic decks have very little noticeable wear and tear. I had initially thought they mind get a little bit banged up on rocks and other items while crossing streams and experiencing various terrain in the field, however so far they appear to be quite tough.

I have experienced several days with lots of fresh powder and have felt the Evo Ascent provided solid floatation in varying snow conditions. I can say that I have not been in a situation in which I found myself frustrated with the float or wishing that I had a better float. On the flip side with the traction system they have, they work wonderful in icy conditions. The traction teeth grip into the ice and have kept me from slipping.

Field Summary:
These snowshoes perform well in all types of conditions. However they have proven to be excellent performers for me in steeper terrain. The traction teeth allow for excellent grip, especially in icy snow. The strap system is easy to figure out, easy to use and does a great job of keeping my shoes tucked firmly in place. Overall I have found the Evo Ascents to be a durable, great snowshoe for varying types of snow.

Items for Continued Testing:
I plan on spending time testing the tails during the Field Testing period. I have not yet spent enough time with them to experience how much more flotation they can provide. I would also like to experience some various pack weights, as well. Typically the average weight of my pack has been around 25 – 30 lbs. (11-14 kg). Thus I plan on carrying more weight to again test the floatation with and without the tails.

Field Testing Likes and Dislikes:

Likes: The traction teeth are great for climbing steep terrain.

Dislikes: Nothing so far.

Long Term Report
April 15, 2008

Long-Term Conditions:
During the long-term testing period, I have logged six additional trips with the Denali Evo Ascent snowshoes. I logged about a 6 mile (10 km) course up Tunnel Creek at Snoqualmie Pass in the Central Cascades, during this trip I reached a high point of 4,000 ft (1220 m) and experienced temperatures in the upper 20's F (-2 C). The area had seen about 4 inches (10 cm) of fresh snow in the preceding 36 hours. I also spent two separate outings in the Source Lake Basin, which also located near Snoqualmie Pass next to Alpental Ski Area. Both trips featured about 8 miles (14 km) of round-trip hiking. Temperatures for both of these trips was right around freezing, 32 F (0 C). I reached a maximum height of 4,500 ft (1372 m) My other three trips were all done in and around Mt. Si and Mt. Tenerife. The mileage ranged from 8 miles (14 km) up to 15 miles (25 km). Mt. Si is at just over 4,000 ft (1220 m) and Tenerife is at 4,800 ft (1463 m), with the ridge between the two (which is where the best snowshoeing can be found) droping from Mt. Si down to around 3600 (1097 m) ft and then rising back up towards the Tenerife summit. On these trips I actually packed the snowshoes on the lower portions of the trail as it did not have enough snow to warrant wearing the snowshoes for the entire trip. The Pacific Northwest has had a great snow pack this season, so there has been lots of snow and there has been lots of opportunity to experience varying conditions.

Long-Term Performance:
The snowshoes have performed quite well in my opinion. I have been the most impressed with their ability to grip into ice and compact snow (snow that has gone through several periods of melting and re-freezing which essentially turns the snow into concrete.) The dual traction crampons system has worked great for me. The snowshoes seem to grip well on all types of terrain, from flat to very hilly. The traction has especially come into play one my trips up Mt. Si and Mt. Tenerife as on all of my trips up these peaks, I experienced some compact snow and ice near the top. The traction system performed great. I think the fact that the snowshoes feature traction bars across the entire length of the snowshoe lends itself to excellent performance while traversing across a steep slope that is deemed too steep to climb head on. When using a pair of snowshoes without this unique feature, I find myself having problems gaining traction due to the fact that it is difficult to gain solid purchase with just the crampon alone due to the angle of my foot on the slope. Having traction teeth on both sides of my foot solves this problem of poor traction by allowing me to ram the side of the snowshoe into the snow. Because the Evo Ascents feature a row of teeth on both sides of the shoe, I can penetrate the surface of the snow and gain excellent footing.

As I have noted on my Field Report, the straps have worked out great. They are easy to adjust to take the snowshoes on and off and I have not had a problem with them coming off or loose during use. The buckle and strap system made me a little bit nervous at first, but have proved to be a solid performer.

The molded deck has proved to be very tough. I have beaten them up a little bit on rocks and downed trees. However they are still in great shape and have shown surprisingly little wear and tear considering the abuse that I have put them through. Not being the most agile person in the world, I tend to just hike through things, rather then try to avoid them. This typically leads nicks and scratches on my snowshoes.

Continued Use:
I plan on using the Denali Evo Ascents as my main set of snowshoes moving forward. The superb traction makes these snowshoes a great choice for almost all types of snow conditions. I also have found these snowshoes to be easy to pack and carry on my pack, which is a bonus when hiking into areas that remain snow covered for quite some time.

The MSR Denali Evo Ascent Snowshoes are a great choice for me as I am looking for above average traction, easy packablility and a very durable snowshoe. The Evo Ascents have some great features such as the Televators, which make climbing in the snowshoes much more enjoyable. Then are very durable and feature easy to attach tails that can add some instance floatation for those powder days or if I am hiking with a heavy pack. They are easy to get on and off and I found that I could even buckle them with gloves on! All in all I have found them to be a great winter companion.

Long Term Testing Likes and Dislikes:

Likes: The traction teeth again!

Dislikes: Not much!

This concludes my Test report. Thank you to both BackpackGearTest and to MSR for this fantastic opportunity to test the Denali Evo Ascent Snowshoes.

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