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Reviews > Snow Gear > Snowshoes > MSR Denali EVO Snowshoes > Test Report by Scott Wasley

April 08, 2008



NAME: Scott Wasley
EMAIL: snw61(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
AGE: 46
LOCATION: Idaho Falls, Idaho USA
HEIGHT: 5' 10" (1.78 m)
WEIGHT: 180 lb (81.60 kg)

I am an avid backpacker, kayaker, backcountry skier, and all around outdoorsman. I began backpacking thirty-five years ago at the age of 10. I have hiked or camped nearly every month, year-round. I have hiked mostly in the Western part of the United States (Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, and Montana). I have a great love for the out of doors and enjoy all the seasons of the year. I am generally a mid-weight hiker, mainly because I like to take a little extra gear to be comfortable. I have recently spent a good share of my time in the Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and Wind River Wyoming area.


Product Information & Specifications

Manufacturer: Mountain Safety Research Inc. (MSR) IMAGE 1
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Origin of manufacture: USA
Listed Weight Denali Evo Ascent™: 4 lbs (1.8 kg)
Listed Weight: 6 in (15 cm) Flotation Tails: 12.2 oz. (346 g)
Listed Size: 8 in x 22 in (20 cm x 56 cm)
Verified Weight Denali Evo Ascent™: 3 lb 15.2 oz (1.8 kg)
Verified Weight 6 in (15 cm) Flotation Tails: 12.4 oz (351 g)
Verified size: 8.2 in x 22.5 in (20.8 cm x 57 cm) Without tails
Verified length with tails: 28.2 in (72 cm)
Users Shoe size: 10 usa (43.5 Europe)
Material: polymer and steel
Warranty: MSR Snowshoes are guaranteed against defects in materials and workmanship without time limit.
Manufacturer's Web Site:
MSRP: $199.95 (U.S. Dollars) Denali Evo Ascent™
MSRP: $29.95 (U.S. Dollars) 6" Flotation Tails

Product Description

Deck: The MSR Denali Evo Ascent™ (hereafter referred to as shoes) is a slender oval shape, with the front part of the shoe rolled up from the base approximately 3 in (10 cm). The decking/frame is a light weight polymer plastic including two steel traction bars riveted to the deck. These two bars run lengthwise on the underside to support the deck and give it rigidity. On the top of the deck is a step-on binding that cradles one's boot. This binding is attached to a steel plate device that hinges when you walk.

Binding: The binding consists of four rubber-type straps, three that go over the boot lace area, and one that goes around your heel. These straps are a durable stretchy polymer material with adjustment holes along the entire length of the strap for full range of adjustment. The adjustment buckles are a modified D-ring including a prong protruding from the buckle that is inserted in the strap hole when the desired tension is achieved. The excess strap can then be slid into a sliding plastic clip, keeping it from flapping around. In addition to the binding system there is a heel lift bar (Televator) that can be pulled up into position using the attached pull tab when ascending steep terrain. The heel lift bar is composed of round steel bar bent into a U shape that connects to the underside traction bar. There are three holes in each traction bar so the user can adjust the lift bar for varying foot sizes and additional heel lift. The articulating binding's pivot points are located under the ball of the foot at each side as expected, and secured by 2 pins on either side. The binding is not spring loaded, but drops/drags as the user steps forward. Also the shoe binding has a rotational stop that prevents the binding from rotating past 80 degrees to keep the shoe from rotating too far forward during usage.

Traction System: The traction system consists of two steel toothed bars 14.5 in (36.8 cm) long, riveted six places to the underside of the polymer deck. Also, there are four steel blade traction teeth integral to the bottom of the binding foot bed. In addition there are multiple series of polymer traction/braking bars molded into the underside of the decking.

6" Evo Flotation Tails: The Flotation Tails are composed of the same polymer deck material as the shoe. The overall size of the tails are 6.75 in x 11.5 in (17 cm x 29 cm), included on the tail is a threaded attachment knob and two keyhole slots for securing to the shoe deck. The user places the tails over the tail spools on the shoe deck, pushing the tail forward on to the shoe, (making sure attachment knob engages with the slot on the tip of the shoe tail) then tightens the attachment knob to be ready to go.

Initial Impressions

Prior to being selected to participate in the MSR Denali Evo snowshoe test, I had seen these particular snowshoes in the store. Consequently, I was somewhat familiar with them. They arrived exactly as expected from what I had seen both in the stores and on MSR's website.

The product was neatly banded together so it could be hung on a display rack. Attached to the shoes were a product card and instruction manual. The product card identified the following: weight, dimensions, snowshoe sizing chart and product description. The instruction manual appeared to be useful by identifying proper placement of foot in the binding, tightening of the strap, using the heel Televator™, attaching the flotation tails, sizing recommendations, snowshoe techniques, user tips, and warranty. This manual and product card are written in six different languages: English, French, Japanese, Italian, and Spanish. The packaging for delivery seemed to be sufficient for an item of this nature.

The product appears to be very high quality. The product appears to be manufactured from multiple types of materials. The decking material is manufactured from a stiff but flexible polymer plastic that appears to be very durable. The steel side traction blades/bars and under foot crampon traction bar appear to be a stainless steel-type material. The boot binding pocket and straps appear to be manufactured from a very durable stretchy type of polymer/rubber. There does not appear to be a left or right foot designation, although the straps are assembled to the shoe as a pair. On the tip of the shoe is the MSR logo and at the rear is the Denali Evo Ascent name. All rivets, hinges, pins, straps, strap keepers, etc. appear to be very durable, tight, and complete. The color of the Denali Evo Ascent™ received for this test is black; a blue color is also available according to the manufacturer's website.

Proposed Test Plan

IThe items I plan to evaluate during this test include:

· Overall Quality of Materials and Workmanship
· Comfort
· Fit
· Function
· Durability


This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.

I would like to thank BackpackGearTest and MSR for the opportunity to test both the Denali Evo Ascent™ snowshoes and the 6" Flotation Tails.

Scott Wasley


Field Conditions

My first time out using the Denali Evo Ascent snowshoes was in the Palisades area near Swan Valley, Idaho. The elevation was approximately 6,200 ft (1890 m) and the temperature was 20 F (-1 C). Snow depth varied between 4 inches (10 cm) and 12 inches (30 cm). The sky was cloudy and snowing lightly; this was the first snowfall of the year.

The next trip I returned to the same area except this time there was approximately 3 ft (1 m) of new freshly fallen powder, including a hard frozen base layer. The temperature was 10 F (-12 C) I was going to my cabin, which is on a side road off the main highway approximately 1/4 mile (.4 km), which has a steep incline. I pulled a pulk-style sled with gear weighing approximately 100 lbs (45 kg) up the unplowed side road to my cabin. The side road had not been traveled, so there was waist-deep powder

Other areas where I have tested these shoes include Tie Canyon near Swan Valley Idaho and Bone, east of Idaho Falls Idaho. The elevation of Tie Canyon is nearly 6,500 ft (1,981 m) there was approximately 2 ft (0.6 m) of snow including a good solid frozen base layer. The elevation of Bone is approximately 6,100 ft (1,859 m) the snow conditions varied from very wind blown icy surfaces to 4 ft (1.2 m) of pure powder. I hiked cross-country in open fields, including crossing a ravine that had a snow covered lava rock field. I did not know there was rock underneath until I started walking on it.

My most recent trip was at the Kelly Canyon Nordic Ski Area near Ririe, Idaho. There was approximately 4 ft (4.1 m) of new freshly fallen powder, including a 12 inch (30 cm) hard frozen base layer. The temperature was 5 F (-15 C). I snow shoed in various types of terrain including up steep slopes, side hill traversing, and straight downhill.


On my first outing, I was excited about the new snow and my first chance to try the new shoes. Because there was minimal snow, I chose not to attach the flotation tails. I quickly donned the shoes over my felt-lined, heavy-lugged winter boots. My boots easily fit into the binding. Adjusting the bindings was quite simple. I began hiking, stepping over logs, rocks, and brush not covered by the snow yet. Because there was not a lot of snow, the crampon often dug into the dirt. Consequently, they scratched slightly, but there was no damage to their functionality. Overall, the shoes functioned very well for the minimal amount of snow available at the time.

During my second visit to the Palisades area, I experienced significantly more snow than I did on my first trip. There was approximately 3 ft (1 m) of new, freshly fallen powder over a frozen icy layer. In addition to the snow, the road into my cabin is quite steep. After a day of cross-country skiing, I donned the shoes over my 3-pin ski boots to make the trek to my cabin. Even while wearing gloves, I was able to quickly adjust the binding to fit my ski boots. Because of the snow depth, I pre-attached the flotation tails to the shoes. The hike to my cabin was a real test of the flotation provided by the shoes and the traction provided by the crampons. Using my ski poles, I pulled a pulk-style sled with gear weighing approximately 100 lbs (45 kg) up the steep incline. I was very impressed with the traction of the crampons. I was able to get a firm hold with each step. Not once did I slide backward as I ascended with my heavy load-which pulled on me quite a bit. In this deep snow, pulling a heavy pulk, I sank 12+ inches (30+ cm) into the snow which was light and fluffy powder. This 0.25 mile (0.4 km) hike was quite an excruciating workout for the snowshoes and me.

I cross-country skied into Tie Canyon with the snowshoes attached to my daypack. I wore the shoes as I made my way out. There was about 6 inches (15 cm) of fresh powder on top of a packed powder base. The flotation tails were attached to the snowshoes for this hike. Walking was extremely easy; the shoes did not bang together or hit my legs. Walking in these semi-narrow shoes did not require a conscious effort.

The most recent trip into the Kelly Canyon Nordic Ski Area near Ririe, Idaho was probably the most intense test for up and down steep terrain. I used the snow shoes with and without the Flotation Tails. I could tell a significant difference when not using the tails in these conditions (as identified above). The tails provided a large amount of needed flotation. I was sinking down approximately 12 inches (30 cm). The Televator bars functioned very well and provided very good support and comfort to my ankle and leg muscles when climbing up steep slopes.


· The bindings performed very well. They are very easy to buckle even with gloves on. They kept my feet securely attached and my heels centered over the shoe, even during vigorous activities (running downhill). This is important as the binding on a shoe is probably the most important part of the shoe.
· The deck material has performed very well. I have scratched them up some by stepping on snow-covered rocks and inadvertently hitting them with trekking poles but it has not affected the function of the shoes.
· The crampon system is also very functional. To date, they have not become iced-up nor have they bent or been damaged, even when walking on rocky surfaces.
· The Televators (Heel Lifts) also function very well. They are easy to pull up into position using the pull-tabs. When I pull them up into position, the bars expand into a slot on the deck that keeps them from falling back down. In my opinion, this is a very good design.
· The flotation tails are very easy to install or remove, even with the shoes still on my feet. During the testing period, the tail locking system remained very secure. I think even if the attachment screw knob came slightly loose, the tail would not fall off.


So far during this test, I have been very pleased with the MSR Denali EVO Ascent snowshoes.


· Quick and easy binding adjustment
· Flotation options with or without the tails
· Slapping sound with each step.

This concludes my Field Report. Please check back in approximately two months for additional test results.



During this phase of the test, I wore the MSR Denali EVO Ascent snowshoes a total of four additional days. I am very impressed with these snowshoes and have been unable to find anything wrong with them. The sleek design makes these snowshoes easy to walk in. These snowshoes are 1 in (2.5 cm) narrower than other snowshoes I have used. The binding is easy to adjust and the buckles remain secure. The deck provides excellent floatation. The option to go with or without the floatation tails depending on floatation requirements for various snow conditions is a great feature. The crampons provide excellent traction, even on the steeps. The Televator heel lift does reduce leg fatigue when climbing steep inclines. The Denali EVO Ascents are well-designed, durable snowshoes suitable for various work and pleasure activities.

Field Conditions

During my LTR test period I used the Denali Evo Ascent snowshoes again in the Palisades area near Swan Valley, Idaho. The elevation is approximately 6,200 ft (1890 m) and the temperature was 10 F (-12 C). Snow depth was approximately between 4 to 6 feet (1.6 m to 1.8m). The sky was clear.

I also wore the snowshoes twice when I went target shooting near Bone, which is southeast of Idaho Falls, Idaho. The elevation of Bone is approximately 6,100 ft (1,859 m). The sky was overcast, windy, and the temperature was in the mid to upper 30s F (1.6 to 3.8 C). Snow conditions were soft and melting.


My latest trip into Palisades was to work on the water system for the homeowner's association. Once again, I pulled a pulk (sled) to my cabin. The pulk was loaded down with approximately 100 lb (45 kg) of gear including propane cylinders, food, and other items. The snowshoes, with the flotation tails attached, provided excellent flotation and traction when pulling this load up the steep incline. I also used the Televator heel lifters. The Televator makes it easier to climb; it is as if one is climbing stairs rather than an incline. Using the heel lifter option decreases how tired my legs get when climbing. I left the pulk and gear at the cabin and proceeded on to the water tank. Upon reaching the tank, I had to dig through nearly 5 ft (1.5 m) of snow to get to the tank so that I could check the water level. The snowshoes provided excellent flotation and traction as I moved around the tank. They were very easy to move around in. I had to spend a fair amount of time kneeling and shoveling. Even while kneeling and wallowing about in the snow while digging, the snowshoes were not overly cumbersome or difficult to maneuver. The hinged binding provided full range pivoting motion without restraint. The snowshoe remained level without the tail flipping up while I knelt in the snow. I was therefore able to move around and get my work done without having to manhandle the snowshoes. The binding straps remained secure, keeping my feet centered in the footbed of the binding. I scuffed and scratched the front of the deck as I bumped into the concrete tank, and accidentally hit them with the blade of the shovel. However, this did not affect the functionality of the snowshoes. Then, I proceed up the mountain to where the main valve is located. Here again, I had to dig through a lot of snow to locate the valve head. The snowshoes performed phenomenally. Without them, I would have been unable to access the water tank and valve. In fact, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to go where I went with snowmobiles. I hiked nearly 1 mi (1.6 km) in extremely deep snow and gained approximately 700 ft (213 m) in elevation. With all the hiking and shoveling, I was exhausted when I finally arrived back at my cabin for an evening of relaxation.

On my target-shooting trip, I did not wear the floatation tails. On one of my trips from my vehicle to the target area, I decided not to secure the heel strap. As I walked, I stepped on the heel strap and immediately fell to the ground. However, the snowshoes did not come loose as a result of this fall. Nevertheless, I recommend users always secure the heel strap. Even though the snow was soft and melting, I was very pleased with how well the snowshoes kept me on top of the snow.

Initially, I was skeptical of the binding buckles and the plastic deck. After testing the snowshoes over the past four months, I really like the binding system-including the buckles. Although the tips of the deck are a little scratched, as are the crampon teeth, overall, the shoes have sustained minimal damage. I am quite pleased with their durability.

This concludes my Long Term Report. I would like to thank MSR and for the opportunity to test the Denali EVO Ascent snowshoes.

Additional Information:

· Quick and easy binding adjustment, even with gloves on.
· Flotation options with or without the tails.
· With the narrow design of the shoe I can walk normally.
· Slapping sound with each step.
· Heel strap keeper can slide off the strap and be lost.
· Heel lift bars are hard to release and fold down while wearing the shoes.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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