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Reviews > Snow Gear > Snowshoes > MSR Denali EVO Snowshoes > Test Report by Jennifer Koles

MSR Denali Evo Ascent Snowshoes

Test Series by Jennifer Estrella

April 1, 2008

Skip to my Initial Report- December 8, 2007
Skip to my Field Report- February 19, 2008
Skip to my Long Term Report- April 1, 2008

Personal Information

Name:  Jennifer Koles
Age:  33
Gender:  Female
Height:  5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)
Weight: 140 lb (64 kg)
Email address: jennksnowy at yahoo dot com
City, State, and Country:  Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

Backpacking Background

I started taking overnight backpacking trips four years ago in the Uinta Mountain Range in Utah. I found myself taking entirely too much gear. I am finding out slowly how to minimize my needs and not require extra luxuries. My previous outdoor experiences consisted of 4-wheel-drive camping in primitive areas and day hiking. I use a four season convertible tent or a three season tent for my shelter. I plan to take more trips, increase my duration, and reduce my two to three day backpack base weight down from 17 lb (8 kg).

Initial Report

December 8, 2007

Product Information

Manufacturer: Cascade Designs
Model: Denali Evo Ascent
Year of Manufacture: winter 2007-2008
Manufacturer Website: www.msrgear.com

Snowshoes Color Available: Blue and Black
Snowshoes Color Tested : Blue
Size Available:
One size (unisex) 8 x 22 in (20 x 56 cm)
Snowshoe MSRP: $199.95 USD

Evo Flotation Tails Color Available/Tested: Black
Evo Flotation Tails Size Available:
6 in
(15 cm)
Evo Flotation Tails MSRP: $29.95 USD

Snowshoe Weight Listed by Manufacturer: 4 lbs (1.81 kg) per pair
Snowshoe Measured Weight :
4 lbs (1.81 kg)
Snowshoe Measurements Listed by Manufacturer:
8 x 22 in (20 x 56 cm)
Snowshoe Actual Measurements: 8.25 x 23 in (21 x 58 cm)

Evo Flotation Tails Weight Listed by Manufacturer: 12.2 oz (346 g)
Evo Flotation Tails Measured Weight :
12.4 oz (352 g)
Evo Flotation Tails Measurements Listed by Manufacturer:
11.4 x 7 in (29 x 18 cm)
Evo Flotation Tails Actual Measurements: 11.5 x 7 in (29 x 18 cm)

MSR Snowshoe Sizing Recommendations: 90-225 + lb (41-102 kg) including pack and clothing weight. The flotation tails may be needed in deep snow or to compensate for user weight.

Denali Evo Ascent Snowshoe

Warranty: Limited lifetime warranty.

Guaranteed against defects in materials and workmanship without time limit. Return shipping changes to the consumer for repaired products are covered. Should a product be found defective under this warranty, the manufacturer will repair or replace it at their option. The warranty applies only to the original purchaser. Proof of purchase is required.

Product Description

The MSR Denali Evo Ascent snowshoes are indicated for use in all terrain. They are a unisex snowshoe that can be worn on either foot. They look like an aggressive and rugged type of snowshoe. These snowshoes do not appear to be lacking in the traction category. There is quite an abundance of steel on the underside of them. That makes me think that they can bite into anything. The underside has steel traction blades with saber teeth running lengthwise down the sides of the snowshoe. The heel does not have a crampon but has plastic molded braking bars below the crampon and foot plate area.

These snowshoes are very lightweight, easily the lightest ones I have ever owned. The snowshoes are designed with a tapered tip and tail to make walking easier and let me use a more natural stride. So hopefully I will not be tripping over my feet and they will work well with a woman's stride.

The snowshoes come with two hefty rubber bands to secure them together when not in use. I like the idea that I can secure the snowshoes together with these hefty bands. The flotation tails came with one rubber band of the same type.

The decking is constructed of a hard synthetic material and the straps are made of rubber type of material. There are a total of ten metal rivets running along the sides of the snowshoes to hold the saber teeth in place. There are two metal spools near the tail of each snowshoe. These spools are to lock the flotation tails into place. Metal rivets are what secure the binding to the crampon plate. The crampon is a hinge type with four teeth and the crampon plate itself is attached to the steel traction blades with a pin/lock type of fastener. Very impressive.

The bindings are designed to allow easy entry and exit from the snowshoes. This binding is referred to as a stand-up binding by the manufacturer. The snowshoes have a crampon extension plate that is designed to eliminate heel drift and a four-strap binding that is meant to provide a great fit and a secure attachment to the snowshoe. The binding plate also has some nubs on it, which I assume are to help secure the foot into place.

binding system

Binding system

The snowshoes are donned by opening the binding and laying it flat with the front straps off to the side. After stepping into the snowshoes I adjust my foot to the proper position by aligning the ball of my foot centered over the crampon hinge and the area marked "ball of foot here". The manufacturer recommends that if large boots are being worn with the snowshoes that there is adequate room between the tip of the boot and the boot hole so that when the boot rotates forward there is enough clearance that the boot does not hit the deck. Well it looks to me that there is a lot of toe clearance since the toe opening measures 3.5 in (9 cm).

There are three rubber foot straps and one rubber heel strap on each snowshoe. The straps have holes in them to place the metal tongue of the tension buckle to secure them in place. There is one tension buckle and one anchor buckle on each strap. The straps can also be adjusted for length on the anchor buckle or by cutting the length. The anchor buckle has a metal tongue to keep the strap at the desired length.

It is recommended to tighten the straps starting at the toe strap first. They are threaded through a D-ring buckle type of metal fastener to the binding body of the snowshoe. I pulled the binding strap snug and placed the metal tongue of the fastener ring into one of the holes on the strap. I placed the tongue into a hole that gave me adequate tightness so the snowshoes would not fall off my feet. The heel strap has the same type of strap system as the foot straps. To fasten the heel strap I pulled the straps to the desired tension and placed the metal tongue of the tension buckle into the hole on the rubber strap. There is one plastic clip (retainer buckle) on each foot and heel strap. This is to secure and tuck away the straps that are hanging down or flopping around. The manufacturer recommends that the heel strap is positioned with the tension buckle towards the inside of the foot.

Crampons

Crampons

The Televator heel lifter is designed to reduce calf fatigue to make climbing easier and more efficient. The Televator bar is located below the heel when my foot is placed in the snowshoe. It consists of a metal bar that pivots with a plastic tab. It is put into action by lifting up on the tab until the Televator bar snaps upright. After making the ascent the Televator is released by pushing it down flat against the snowshoe decking. The Televator is not to be used on flat, downhill, or low angle slopes. The Televator reminds me of walking in 4 in (10 cm) platform heels.

Televator

Televator heel

The Denali Evo Flotation Tails are modular tails that are designed to work with the Denali Evo and the Denali Evo Ascent snowshoes. They are designed to provide more flotation in deep snow or when carrying extra weight such as a pack.

The flotation tails are installed by loosening the knob on the tails. The center tab and the holes on the tails are lined up with the metal spools on the snowshoes. I pushed the two pieces together and they snap into place. When the tails are correctly placed on the snowshoes the metal spools are in the lower (smaller hole). The knob on the tails is tightened to secure the tail in place.

flotation tail

Flotation tail

 

snowshoe with tail

Snowshoes with tails

The instruction manual that was provided with the snowshoes has detailed information on snowshoe techniques on steep terrain and some user tips. There are also some instructions on donning the snowshoes, flotation tails, and using the Televator. There is also sizing and warranty information in the included manual. The manual is written in six languages including English.

Initial Impressions

I looked at the MSR website prior to receiving the snowshoes and I found the site to have the basic specifications of the snowshoes such as measurements and weight. The website also had snowshoeing exercise information and sizing information listed. There were also explanations of the key features of the snowshoes.

When the snowshoes arrived I was very impressed. They arrived with the optional flotation tails which are an additional purchase to the snowshoes. The construction of the snowshoes appeared to be of a high quality and very rugged with all the teeth. I just can not get over how lightweight they are with all those metal teeth.

Field Report

February 19, 2008

Testing Locations

During the past two months the Denali Evo Ascent snowshoes were worn in the following locations:

Day snowshoeing hikes Wasatch Mountain Range in Utah: Multiple locations. The snow conditions varied from 4 in (10 cm) to over 14 in (36 cm) of fresh snow. The weather was below freezing on all the day trips with snow, sunny skies, and windy conditions on various days.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah: This was a one night trip with the camp elevation at 8,000 ft (2,438 m). The daytime temperatures were from 36 F (2 C) and a nighttime temperature of 5 F (-15 C). There was snow on the ground from a trace amount to almost 3 ft (1 m) drifts. Hikes were from 3.5 mi (6 km) to 6.5 mi (10 km) in length.

Wasatch Mountain Range, Utah: This was a one night solo trip. Elevation of about 8,000 ft (2,438 m). The nighttime low was 10 F (-12 C). There was an overnight snow shower with a trace amount of accumulation.

Wasatch Mountain Range, Utah: This was an overnight trip with two people. Elevation of about 9,200 ft (2,804 m) with a low temperature of approximately 14 F (-10 C) with wind gusts. Snow started to fall in the morning hours just before departing camp.

Performance in the Field

During the past two months the Denali Evo Ascents were worn on day trips and overnight backpacking trips. The trips ranged from 3 mi (5 km) to 12 mi (19 km) in total length. The snow conditions varied from wet snow, fluffy powder, to layers of graupel.

I am very impressed with the Denali Evo Ascent snowshoes. They are actually the first pair I have owned in many years that provide normal foot alignment when the bindings are secured. There has been no heel or foot drift during the past two months of testing. I can not say if the lack of foot and heel drift is from the crampon extension plate or the nubs on the binding plate. It can be a combination of the extension plate, the secure binding system, and the design of the binding plate. Since there was no heel and foot drift I did not encounter any arch pain, knee or hip discomfort, or leg cramping.

The bindings proved easy to fasten with gloves on. I had more difficulty donning the snowshoes while wearing mittens. This is mostly because my mittens are bulky. I always found myself donning the snowshoes by fastening the toe strap first. This is the way the manufacturer suggests and I just found it easier for me to get a more secure fit by fastening the bindings in this manner. The binding are super easy to secure and adjust. The bindings are referred to by the manufacturer as stand-up bindings. I found that I could easily don the snowshoes by sliding my foot into the straps while they are partially fastened into the tension buckle. I made sure that the ball of my foot was centered over the crampon hinge by placing it over the words "ball of foot here". I then secured the bindings by pulling the side of the straps tight near the tension buckle tight and then I placed the metal tongue of the buckle into the hole in the strap. I used the retainer clips to hold the excess strap length into place. For every trip I completed this process for all four straps on each snowshoe. I must say that on no trips did the strap pop out of the tongue on the tension buckle.

I found that I was able to wear the Denali Evo Ascents with both my winter pac style boots and with two different types of GORE-TEX backpacking boots. With both pairs of boots there was adequate toe clearance with my foot positioned correctly over the crampon hinge. There was even some room to spare. While wearing some previous models I found that I would trip over my snowshoes while walking. Not with the Denali Evo Ascents!

There were times I found that I did not need the extra length and surface area of the flotation tails. In these cases I would carry them attached to the outside of my backpack. I found the flotation tails have become easier to attach to the snowshoes over time. But it is still easily accomplished by lining up the center tab and the holes on the tails with the metal spools on the snowshoes. Then just snapping them into place. The tails are sometimes stiff to remove. I hit myself in my chin with the tail attempting to remove them from the main body of the snowshoes.

I really like the adjustability of the Denali Evo Ascents have with the removable flotation tails. This just makes the snowshoes so much more versatile. Not only does it save weight by not having the excess surface area in shallow snow but it also saves energy and reduces fatigue. I have used the flotation tails primarily when the snow was deeper than 6 in (15 cm).

I used the televator heel on one occasion. The position of my heel felt strange as it was lifted from the snowshoe deck and supported by the metal bar. I felt like I was walking in platform shoes. The televator heel was easily snapped into place. However, I did have difficulty lowering the televator heels on one of the snowshoes. I had to sit on the ground to release it. I did like the position of my leg and heel in relationship to the snowshoe in this position. I will need to further experiment with the televator heel during further testing of the snowshoes.

I found that the Denali Evo Ascents provided excellent traction on downhill descents. There were no instances of me slipping downhill because of lack of traction. The side rails grip into packed snow exceptionally well. With the flotation tails in place the snowshoes sank about 6 in (15 cm) to 14 in (36 cm) of snow carrying a backpack with approximately 29 lb (13 kg) of weight. I found that the snowshoes floated while descending downhill.

So far I am very impressed the traction and the flotation of the Denali Evo Ascent snowshoes. I am also very impressed with how easy the binding system is to use. What I like best about these snowshoes is that my foot is correctly aligned in the binding system. There is no foot, arch, heel, knee, or hip pain while wearing these.

Long Term Report

April 1, 2008

 

Testing Locations

Finding an abundance of snow that is easily accessible for short trips and day hikes in Southern California has been trying. I was spoiled living in Utah with lots of snow in my backyard. During the past two months the Denali Evo Ascent snowshoes were worn on two overnight trips in the following locations:

San Jacinto State Park, California: The elevation at Round Valley was 9,100 ft (2,774 m). There was snow on the ground with clear skies and no precipitation. The temperatures were 33 F (1 C) for a high and low of 19 F (-7 C). This was a 6 mi (9.66 km) trip. The snow was hard packed, icy, and slushy in some areas. Base snow: over 3 ft (0.91 m).

San Jacinto State Park, California: I went back to this area for another night of backpacking. There was still snow on the ground. We camped at 9,100 ft (2,774 m) and the temperatures were a mild 50 F (10 C) for a high and 25 F (-4 C) for the low. This was a 6 mi (9.66 km) trip. The snow was hard packed, icy, and slushy in some areas. Base snow: 2 ft (0.61 m) and less.

In the trees

Snowshoeing on some hard packed snow.

Performance in the Field

After using the Denali Evo Ascents for the past four months I must say that I absolutely love them. They are comfortable, do not give me leg and foot fatigue or pain, they have great traction, and I love the Televator that allows me to travel the steeps. All and all I had a wonderful experience testing these snowshoes.

During the past two months of testing the Evo Ascents saw less powder and more icy and hard packed snow conditions. Initially on one of the trips to Round Valley I wore my Yaktrax traction devices. The snow and ice was balling up and I was not getting any traction on the snow. So I put on the Evo Ascents. There was no issue of the snow and ice balling up under my feet or under the crampons.

On my two backpacking trips during this testing phase I wore my GORE-TEX backpacking boots since the temperatures were warmer. There was no need on either trip to use the flotation tails since powder was nowhere to be seen. The snowshoes transitioned nicely between the icy, hard packed, and slushy snow that I encountered. The crampons bit through the icy snow and I had no instances of sliding down the icy, hard packed snow.

In the final stages of testing I did have the opportunity to use the Televator more as I climbed steeper slopes. I must say that this is one of my favorite features. It gave me the opportunity to easily climb steeper slopes without much effort and no calf fatigue. It definitely allowed me to go places that I could not even dream of in my other snowshoes and with much ease. The only difficulty is that sometimes the Televator is challenging to release. Especially when I am standing on a steep slope and I have to release it for a decent. I found myself struggling to keep my balance while trying to release the Televator. This is mostly because sometimes it required extra force to release the Televator. But, it is still one of my favorite features.

My other favorite feature is the removable flotation tails. I enjoyed the fact that I can have one pair of snowshoes that can be shorter for hard packed snow and longer for powder conditions. I do not like walking around on hard packed snow with big snowshoes that I end up tripping over my feet with, plus I don't want to walk with the extra weight. I just like the versatility the flotation tails provide. They make the Evo Ascents a 2 in 1 snowshoe (one snowshoe with two options-extra flotation for powder or minimal flotation).

The bindings have held up well with no stretching that I could tell. At times when donning them I had difficulty recalling which snowshoe was the right and the left . The manufacturer suggests wearing them with the tabs on the inside of the feet when they are fully fastened. But, naturally I found myself donning them with the tabs on the outside of the foot when they were fastened. I had to really think about the correct way of putting them on my feet since they are not marked right and left. Anyway, I did have them placed on the wrong feet twice. But, I really did not tell a difference in my gait. I would like to see them marked right and left, it would just make donning them according to the manufacturer's directions easier.

I think these are a great pair of snowshoes that can go pretty much anywhere that snowshoes would allow a person to go. They are lightweight, versatile, adjustable, comfortable, and easy to don and doff. I will be using these for many more seasons.

Things That Rock:

  • Ease of binding use
  • Alignment while walking
  • Comfort
  • Versatile and adjustable with flotation tails
  • The function of the Televator

Things That Are So So:

  • The Televator was at times difficult to release
  • The flotation tails can be difficult to remove when new
  • The snowshoes are not marked left and right

Using televator

Televator in action

Remarks

This concludes my long term report. Thank you Cascade Designs and backpackgeartest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test these snowshoes.

 



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