MSR REVO EXPLORE SNOWSHOES
TEST SERIES BY NANCY GRIFFITH
April 15, 2016
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Northern California, USA
5' 6" (1.68 m)
130 lb (59.00 kg)
My outdoor experience began in high school with a canoeing/camping group which made a 10-day voyage through the Quebec wilds. I've been backpacking since my college days in Pennsylvania. I have hiked all of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. My typical trip now is in the Sierra Nevada in California and is from a few days to a few weeks long. Over the past few years I have lowered my pack weight to a lightweight base weight of 15 lb (6.8 kg) and use a tent, stove and quilt.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Cascade Designs
Year of Manufacture: 2015
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.cascadedesigns.com
MSRP: $199.95 US
Listed Weight: 3 lb 14 oz (1.75 kg)
Measured Weight: 1 lb 15 oz (0.88 kg) each; 3 lb 14 oz (1.76 kg) per pair
Color tested: Orange
Other Color Available: Black
Size Tested: 22 in (56 cm)
Other Size Available: 25 in (64 cm)
Load Capacity (22 in size): up to 180 lb (80 kg)
Made in USA
The MSR REVO Explore snowshoes have a perimeter frame of steel with toothed edges all along and an injection-molded plastic deck. The decking is riveted to the frame from the ball of the foot backward and is wrapped / molded over the frame at the toe end. The underside of the decking has ridges molded in to the plastic to provide grip under the heel of the foot. The ridges at the tail of the snowshoe appear to be 'rudders' for keeping the snowshoe moving directly forward.
The foot plate pivots through the decking on a fully-rotating pivot created by a cross-bar of toothed steel similar to the outside perimeter. The toe crampon is black coated steel.
The bindings have a flexible cradle material that is supposed to eliminate any pressure points on the foot. There are two straps: a front instep strap and a rear heel strap. The HyperLink tightening system has a fine adjustment for tightening the straps. The silver lever tightens the strap one click at a time and the red outside levers loosen the strap one click at the time. Having both red levers depressed at once releases the strap completely. There is a large pull loop on the side opposite the lever system that allows for an easy way to provide tension on the strap while loosening or fully opening the strap.
Under each heel is a steel loop that can be folded up and clicked into place. These 'Ergo Televators' then provide support under the heel of the boot for climbing steep slopes. The purpose of this is to reduce fatigue in the calves on extended steep climbs.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The product tag includes information on how to properly customize the fit. I won't copy it here, but I will explain what I do. First I position the ball of my foot over the front crampon hinge. Then I pass the instep strap over the front of my boot and into the buckle and adjust the strap using the silver ratchet. Then I fasten the heel strap in a similar manner. If needed the instep strap can then be readjusted.
There are also instructions for how to attach the optional tails which are an extension of the rear of the snowshoe that can be added for increased flotation in deep or soft snow.
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS & TRYING THEM OUT
My initial impressions were that the snowshoes seemed pretty much as-advertised on the website. The color, style and bindings are what I was expecting based on what I read and the video I watched on their website.
The snowshoes seem well-made and well-designed. I tried out the binding system (just holding the snowshoes in my lap) and was easily able to tighten the ratchet system by lifting up the silver lever repeatedly. Then I tried to loosen the ratchet system by alternately pressing one red lever and then the other. This worked well as long as I was providing tension on the strap while doing so.
My first real test was to adjust the straps while wearing snow boots. I placed my foot so that the ball of my foot was on the front crampon and then I tightened the strap over the toe of the boot by ratcheting the silver lever until it was tight. Then I positioned the rear strap over the heel of the boot and ratcheted it tight. The white cradle seemed to bunch up a bit as if my boot was too short. But then I tightened the toe strap some more and it seemed better. I'm curious how well these small levers will work once I'm out in the snow and they become frozen and how easy they are to operate when I am wearing gloves.
I was able to easily click the heel elevator loop up into place but had a little difficulty being able to free it to fold it back down. The website says that it engages 'with the flick of a pole grip'. So, I'll have to test this out in the field and see how easily it engages and disengages.
The MSR REVO Explore snowshoes are a combination design of a steel perimeter and a plastic decking along with a HyperLink ratcheting binding system.
Fine adjustment on ratchet system
Easy to adjust bindings (at home at least)
Lots of teeth for traction
Binding system has small parts - Will they operate in cold and snow?
How easily does the heel elevator engage and disengage?
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Over the Field Test period I used the REVO Explore snowshoes for six day hikes. Temperatures ranged from 28 to 36 F (-2 to 2 C) with sunny to cloudy to snowy skies. Snow conditions were mostly fresh powder ranging from 12 in (30 cm) on no base to 10 in (25 cm) fresh powder on 30 in (76 cm) base.
Loon Lake, Sierra Nevada, California: 3.5 mi (5.6 km); 6,327 to 6,478 (1,928 to 1,974 m); 32 F (0 C) with sun and a light breeze. Snow was 12 in (30 cm) deep powder.
Sierra-at-Tahoe, Sierra Nevada, California: 3.0 mi (4.8 km); 7,200 to 7,370 ft (2,195 to 2,246 m); 30 to 34 F (-1 to 1 C) with overcast gray skies. Snow was 12 to 24 in (30 to 60 cm) deep light powder conditions atop an 18 in (46 cm) base.
Ellicott Trail, Sierra Nevada, California: 3.0 mi (4.8 km); 4,700 to 5,000 ft (1,433 to 1,524 m); 32 to 36 F (0 to 2 C) with light snow and gray skies. Snow was 8 to 12 in (20 to 30 cm) deep wet snow conditions. Great packing snow.
Van Vleck Trail, Sierra Nevada, California: 5.0 mi (8.0 km); 6,327 to 6,500 (1,928 to 1,981 m); 28 to 30 F (-2 to -1 C) with partly sunny to stormy skies. Snow depth of 20 to 40 in (51 to 102 cm) with deep powder conditions and 12 in (30 cm) fresh snow.
Donner Rim Trail, Sierra Nevada, California: 3.5 mi (5.6 km); 6,414 to 7,111 ft (1,955 to 2,167 m); 30 F (-1 C) with light snow all day. Snow depth of 24 to 48 in (60 to 120 cm) deep powder with several inches (cm) of fresh snow.
China Wall OHV Area, Sierra Nevada, California: 4.0 mi (6.4 km); 4,900 to 5,100 ft (1,494 to 1,554 m); 30 to 34 F (-1 to 1 C) with light to heavy snow all day. Conditions were 12 to 36 in (30 to 91 cm) deep wet snow conditions, i.e. Sierra Cement with several inches (cm) of fresh powder atop.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Revo Explore came with a longer set of straps in case my boots were too large but I didn't need to use them. The standard pair of straps was long enough to strap in my boots.
The first thing that I discovered was that the toe of the snowshoe is designed perfectly to allow for my gloved hand to grip and carry the shoes. There is plenty of room for my gloves and the edges are rounded and comfortable even for a long carry. This was really helpful when we snowshoed at a ski resort where we parked a long way from the snowshoe trails and had to carry them across parking lots that were not conducive to having them on our feet.
I used the heel lifters quite often for climbing and found them to be extremely useful for climbing steep hills. They are also amazingly strong for just a metal wire. They support my full weight with no give. How did I snowshoe for so long without heel lifters? They were easy to engage using either the handle end of my trekking poles or by bending my knee and using my gloved hand to pull it up. To disengage, I occasionally was successful with my pole but most often found it easier to do with my hand since it requires a pull up and then a fold down. As I practice, I find that I can also wedge the trekking pole handle between my boot and the televator and it will flip down easily.
The bindings worked flawlessly in all kinds of conditions. I purposely re-adjusted them over and over during hikes just to give the mechanism a test while being caked with snow or frozen solid and I never had the slightest problem. The bindings are easy to get on and I am able to quickly get my boot set and the binding adjusted just right. Removing my boot is a bit harder since the binding has to disengage. I do this by pushing down on the red buttons while pulling the loop on the strap to pull out the strap while the binding is free. This works well but I have to admit that my old bindings are even quicker. Yep, I must be spoiled. But I find that my husband is ready to go while I'm still fiddling with getting my snowshoes off. The thing that makes my old bindings faster is that when the binding mechanism is released the strap is in tension and wants to pull out all by itself. With the Revo Explore, I have to pull the strap out manually and it isn't always easy.
The traction teeth along the entire perimeter are excellent for gripping the snow especially on side hill sections. There was only one time on a steep side hill in very wet snow conditions where the teeth weren't grabbing and I was sliding. I had to 'kick-in' to the snow even on the downhill to get a solid footing.
My absolute favorite thing about these snowshoes is that the front crampon doesn't collect balls of snow. The Sierra often has snow that is heavy and wet which makes it extremely sticky...the perfect snowball-making snow. The problem then is that it sticks very well to crampons and can be a royal pain in the neck as the stuck snow grows to the size of grapefruits or larger under the front crampon. But the Revo Explore do NOT do this. In fact I like to call them 'self-cleaning' because if snow did stick to the crampon it would get wiped off each time my foot pivots due to the cross bar underneath my foot.
The flexible cradle that holds my boots is very comfortable. I haven't found any pinch points of discomfort at all no matter how tight I adjust the straps.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Over the Long-Term Test period I used the REVO Explore snowshoes for two day hikes and an overnight backpacking trip. Temperatures ranged from 30 to 50 F (-1 to 10 C) with sunny to snowy conditions. Snow conditions were spring-like ranging from 48 to 120 in (120 to 300 cm) of base.
Van Vleck Trail, Sierra Nevada, California: 3.5 mi (5.6 km); 6,327 to 6,478 (1,928 to 1,974 m); 35 to 45 F (2 to 7 C) with full sun and a light breeze. Snow depth was 48 in (120 cm) base.
Mount Rose, Carson Range, Nevada: 8,900 to 9,300 ft (2,713 to 2,835 m) elevation; 36 to 39 F (2 to 4 C); cloudy conditions with brisk wind. Snow depth was 6 to 10 ft (1.8 to 3 m).
Loon Lake, Sierra Nevada, California: 2 days; 8 mi (13 km); 6,300 to 6,464 (1,920 to 1,970 m); 30 to 50 F (-1 to 10 C) with mostly sunny spring conditions turning to dark stormy conditions on the hike out. 6 to 8 ft (1.8 to 2.4 m) of snow depth. Pack weight was 20 lb (9 kg).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I liked the REVO Explore so much during the Field Test period that I convinced my husband to buy a new pair of them. The heel lifters and the lack of snow balls collecting underfoot were the driving factors. It made for a more enjoyable end to the snowshoe season for both of us.
|Heel Lifters rock!|
The heel lifters are something that I wish I had known that I was living without. They make climbing so much easier. I've gotten good at positioning them too so it's easy to flip them up and down with the handle of my trekking pole. To flip them up I simply slip the top of my trekking pole underneath and pull until they click into place. To flip them down I wedge the handle of my trekking pole between my boot heel and the heel lifter and force it down by pushing with my foot. It's easy enough to engage and disengage the heel lifters that I'm willing to use them often. My legs are thankful.
The bindings have worked very well with no problems icing up or freezing shut. On the overnight trip I suspected that the bindings were wet when I went to bed since it had been a nice day. I wondered if the overnight freezing temperatures would mean difficulty in the morning, but the binding worked with no issues at all. The fine adjustment is nice for getting the fit just right but frankly the cradle hugs my boot so well that even a less-than-perfect fit is perfectly comfortable. I've never felt any type of pinching, binding or discomfort between my boot and the cradle.
I continue to be grateful for the lack of snow build-up under my forefoot. The constant issue with this for my husband was my main reason for convincing him to try the REVOs. No more complaining from either of us or risk of ankle twisting thanks to these snowshoes.
One other thing that I've noticed is now my footprints are more in-line using the REVOs than with my prior snowshoes. My right foot would splay out to the side but with these it seems to stay in a more forward direction like my left foot. This isn't significant in any way really but I wonder if the rudders underneath help to keep my foot going forward instead of out to the side.
The flotation has been adequate with deep powder being lots of effort and wetter snow being easier. I had thought about buying the accessory 'tails' to add to the length but I'm happy with the amount of flotation. Even with my full backpack in deep snow it still required a reasonable effort. Note that my body weight, winter clothing and a full backpack are still not near the maximum weight capacity listed.
The durability has been good with no problems with rivets loosening or any other structural issues. There are plenty of scratches from where I step on the opposite shoe but it hasn't caused any problems. It's hard not to step on the other shoe when flattening a campsite or when conditions are uneven. The spring-like temperatures also open up dangerous holes underneath that make extracting myself a battle which I'm sure caused some other scratches.
The MSR REVO Explore snowshoes are a well-constructed pair of shoes with great features for backcountry exploring.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.
Front crampon doesn't collect snow
Lots of teeth for traction
Fine adjustment of straps
Can't disengage binding with one hand
This concludes my Long-Term Test Report and this test series. Thanks to Cascade Designs and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in this test.
Read more reviews of MSR gear
Read more gear reviews by Nancy Griffith