MSR REVO EXPLORE SNOWSHOES
TEST SERIES BY MIKE CURRY
April 19, 2016
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thefishguy AT hotmail DOT com
5' 11" (1.80 m)
190 lb (86.20 kg)
I've been backpacking, climbing, ski-packing, bushwhacking, and snowshoeing throughout the mountains of Oregon and Washington for over 25 years. I'm an all-season, all terrain, off-trail kind of guy, and enjoy everything from casual hikes with my children to mountaineering and alpine rock climbing in the Pacific Northwest. While I've carried packs (with winter climbing gear) in excess of 70 pounds (32 kilos), the older I get the more minimalist I become.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Cascade Designs, Inc.
|Snowshoes as received|
Year of Manufacture: 2015
Manufacturer's Website: www.cascadedesigns.com
Listed Weight: 3 lbs 14 oz (1.75k)
Measured Weight: 3 lbs 13.4 oz (1.74 g)
Size tested: 22 in (56 cm)
Color tested - Orange
Optional longer straps included by manufacturer
The MSR Revo Explore snowshoes arrived in their retail packaging, which included a fold-out information and instructions sheet that provided basic backcountry safety tips and information on avalanche.org in addition to the usual informational material and instructions. There was a piece of heavy paper separating the two snowshoes, and they were held together by a robust rubber band, just like the ones I've lost from every other pair of MSR snowshoes I've ever owned. I seem to have a knack for trying to hang on to these, and losing them within a month.
The snowshoes are constructed with a metal perimeter and plastic deck, and the bindings are entirely plastic with the exception of rivets, and the pivot and ratchet handle on the adjuster, which are metal. The materials seem robust, and the bindings attach in the same manner as other MSR snowshoes I've owned and used, using a short pin and keeper. This made me wonder if the HyperLink binding could be swapped for the traditional MSR strap bindings from another pair of my snowshoes (something I might play with at some point).
As with other MSR products I've owned, I was very impressed with the quality of construction. Everything appears to work as designed, looks both well-engineered and well-constructed, and is made of components that appear of high quality. Assembly appears flawless.
The main features of note to me in these snowshoes start with the HyperLink bindings, which depart from the MSR design I'm used to (multiple straps you pull and hook onto a peg on a buckle) in favor of a two strap system: one behind the heel, and one over the instep. Instead of stretching, the straps use a ratchet and release system . . . pulling the silver metal lever repeatedly tightens the strap, and pressing both sides of the red release allows the strap to pull free.
Other key features of interest to me are the two-point underfoot crampon points on the binding, and the aggressive teeth on the perimeter of the snowshoe, and on the bar that goes across the bottom under the ball of the foot. In our often icy and crusty Cascade and Olympics snowpack, the more aggressive the traction, the better.
Overall, my impressions of the snowshoes were very positive.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The instructions provided were very straightforward, and focused primarily on how to use and adjust the bindings, how to properly place the foot on the binding (ball of the foot over the pivot point), how to attach and remove the optional extension tails, and how to use the Ergo Televator heel lift. All are very intuitive, but the instructions provided confirmation of how to use these features.
|Bottom of snowshoes|
TRYING IT OUT
I got the opportunity shortly after receiving the snowshoes to go play at Mt. Rainier and give them some initial testing. This was over the course of two days, and included some light travel over moderately packed snow in relatively warm conditions (just above freezing). The distance was not significant, probably totaling no more than 3-4 miles total, as I was mostly playing with my kids. The snow wasn't so deep that snowshoes were needed, but it was deep enough that they definitely made travel easier.
I began by fitting the binding to my lightweight snow boots (size 11.5 US, 45 European). I wasn't able to slide the boots in with the straps attached, but disconnecting the straps I was able to really easily re-insert them and quickly ratchet them into place.
They were, without a doubt, the fastest bindings I've ever used. The action of the ratchet was crisp, and they release easily by pressing both sides of the red release. Putting them on with gloves on was a breeze, and I was ready to go in literally seconds. It took longer to stand back up from kneeling on one knee than it did to actually put the snowshoe on.
But all was not perfect.
The downside I noticed right away. I'm used to having to really haul on the rubber straps of my other MSR snowshoes to get them reasonably snug. The HyperLink binding is REALLY easy to over-tighten. My initial adjustment resulted in a really bad pressure point on the outside top edge of my feet where the ratchet was. I later loosened them once I realized the pain was being caused by them being too tight, but the pain lingered all day, and the next. I hope this was just a function of them being too tight, but it may also be the way the binding works, combined with some relatively soft boots. We'll see soon how they perform with my more robust climbing boots.
Aside from that, the shoes performed well, providing adequate flotation, and excellent traction. While I wasn't on any steep slopes where I could try the heel lifts, I did sidehill on some steep banks and found the snowshoes to provide excellent traction.
Overall, the MSR Revo Explore snowshoes appear to be a well-designed and well-built pair of snowshoes with a very simple and easy-to-use binding system. While the bindings were initially uncomfortable with my soft boots, this may have been because I initially over-tightened them. They performed well in my first outings with them.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Field Testing has included 5 days (including one overnight) of use, all in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. Total mileage exceeded was approximately 30 mi (48 km). Conditions varied tremendously, including 12 in (30 cm) of fresh powder, classic "Cascade concrete," to wet, soggy snow from heavy rainfall (including a significant ice layer the next morning after it froze).
Elevations ranged from approximately 3,500 ft - 6000 ft (1067 m - 1829 m). Temperatures ranged from approximately 20 F - 34 F (-6.5 - 1 C). Terrain was varied, including level road grades to off-trail slopes with some pitches exceeding 40 degrees.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The MSR Revo Explore Snowshoes have worked well during field testing. There are aspects of the snowshoes I really like, and others that I'm far less fond of.
On the "like" side of the equation, what I like most about the snowshoes is that they grip phenomenally well in a wide range of terrain and snow conditions. The surrounding edge, combined with the underfoot crampons, have provided traction that is as good as I have experienced with any other snowshoes I've ever used on Cascade concrete and icy snow. I felt very confident in all the conditions I encountered, even on relatively step and fairly icy slopes.
Another "like" is the heel lifts. The heel lifts operate extremely well. Pulling them up into place is easy, even with a gloved hand. Dropping them back down is also a snap, but takes a bit of practice to do with a pole. It takes a fair amount of force to get them down (which is good), and seems best accomplished by using my pole as a lever, with the raised heel of my boot acting as a fulcrum.
The durability of the snowshoes has proven to be excellent. They've seen some rough use, and have a fair amount of cosmetic damage (missing paint and scratches on the deck) now, but still function great.
The one thing I have mixed feelings about, though, is the bindings. The bindings function very well. I put the longer straps on, and they fit even with my largest winter mountaineering boots. The ratcheting tightening mechanism works great and is simple to use when tightening the binding straps. The straps have held well, haven't slipped, and are fairly easy to release. The release tabs can be difficult to press on both sides with gloves on, but it's a trade-off I'm happy to make to not have to worry about them accidentally releasing.
The thing I still don't like about the bindings is the pressure points on my feet. What I've discovered is that with patience, I can get them to fit with reasonable comfort with my usual snowshoeing boots. My problem is I'm usually wanting to get going (as are my partners), and I don't feel like taking an extra 10 minutes to make sure they're just right. For me, the trade-off between ease of use (the ratchet mechanism) isn't worth the discomfort or extra time spent messing with them over other binding designs.
I've found the best way to get them adjusted is to get the foot's fore-and-aft positioning just right, then tighten the over-foot strap very, very loosely, and then tighten the behind foot strap enough that it feels like it won't come off. This results in a binding that feels less secure to me, but in practice doesn't appear to be . . . they "feel" loose, but I haven't experienced any foot sliding, so it is just something I need to get used to.
The other trick I've found is that it can be helpful to just leave the behind-the-foot strap connected (but not ratcheted down) when putting them on. Then I just get my foot positioned, insert the over-foot strap, and ratchet it down (and then snug up the behind-the-foot strap). This is super-fast, but ultimately it takes me just as long to put them on because I usually have to try 2-3 times to get my foot positioning right so it won't hurt.
The MSR Revo Explore snowshoes work very well. They're robust, provide good traction on a wide variety of snow conditions and I feel very confident on them on steeper snow. The heel lift is a great benefit on long uphill grinds. The binding works efficiently, and while it has always proven secure, it "feels" loose compared to what I'm used to for the same degree of foot security. The main downside is that the binding creates pressure points on the sides of my foot unless my foot is positioned absolutely perfectly in the binding, which counters most of the time savings of the binding design in my experience so far.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
During long-term testing I have had the opportunity to use the MSR Revo Explore snowshoes for 5 additional days. Terrain has varied from level ground to short stretches of terrain exceeding 45 degrees. Temperatures were generally right around freezing, and precipitation varied between rain, snow, and a mix of the two.
Snow conditions were varied, including one trip with about 10 in (25 cm) of fresh powder, another with crusty wind slab, and most with relatively firm snow (sometimes wet from solar effect).
Total distance covered exceeded 20 miles (32 kilometers).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Overall, there wasn't really anything new to report regarding performance in long-term testing. The snowshoes provided good floatation, excellent traction (particularly on harder snow and wind crust) relative other snowshoes I own, and everything functioned as designed.
The one thing I still struggle with is the bindings. While they are exceptionally easy to operate, which I greatly enjoyed, I still find them very uncomfortable. With my heavy climbing boots I found the binding more tolerable, but still had an irritating discomfort across the top sides of the ball of my foot where the binding exerted pressure. To mitigate this, I had to keep the straps fairly loose. While this made them reasonably comfortable, they felt sloppy on my feet, and didn't instill great confidence on steeper terrain.
My experience with the MSR Revo Explore snowshoes was something of a mixed bag.
Excellent traction on steep/hard snow
Easy to put on and take off
Uncomfortable binding pressure points on feet
I have a number of snowshoe options, and the MSR Revo Explore will take a place among them. While they aren't likely to be my first choice for steep or technical terrain, or for covering long distances, I believe they will have a place for casual trips where my desire for something easy to put on and take off overrides my desire for all-day comfort.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.
I would like to thank Cascade Designs, Inc. and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the MSR Revo Explore snowshoes. This concludes my report.
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