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Reviews > Snow Gear > Snowshoes > MSR Shift Snowshoes > Test Report by Michael Williams

MSR SHIFT SNOWSHOES - YOUTH
TEST SERIES BY EVAN & MIKE WILLIAMS
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - January 05, 2010
FIELD REPORT - March 15, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - May 17, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Evan & Mike Williams
EMAIL: mlebwillATyahooDOTcom
AGE: 8
LOCATION: Milliken, Colorado, United States
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 4' 4" (1.30 m)
WEIGHT: 67 lb (30.40 kg)
SHOE SIZE US 3.5 Youth

Evan has been hiking and backpacking in Colorado and South Dakota since he was 5. During that time he has experienced many fun activities in the outdoors and with his family. Evan always carries his own water, food, clothes and gear when he is out exploring. The backpacking gear that will be reviewed in this test will be evaluated by Mike Williams (Evan's father) from a parent's perspective. Evan will use the gear and provide his feedback and how he feels about the gear.


INITIAL REPORT

Product Information

Manufacturer: MSR - Mountain Safety Research
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://cascadedesigns.com/MSR
Listed Weight: 2 lb 7 oz (1.1 kg)
Measured Weight: 2 lb 8 oz (1.13 kg)
Listed Dimensions: 7" x 19.5" (17.8 cm x 49.5 cm)
Number of Binding Straps: 2
Color: Black (Blue is available)

Weight Limit: 125 lb (56 kg)
Footwear size range: US Youth 3 - Men's 8 (33.5 - 41 EU)

Warranty: Limited Lifetime Warranty

Product Details and Description

The MSR Shift Youth Snowshoes (henceforth referred to as Shifts or shoes) are the youth version of MSR's Denali line of snowshoes. These snowshoes are designed to offer the same quality and performance that larger adult versions offer. The primary features of the Shifts are the injection molded deck, steel traction bars and crampons as well as versatile and fully adjustable bindings.

IMAGE 3
As Packaged


These shoes appear to be a smaller version of some fairly technical snowshoes. They are very compact and look like they will pack nicely. The traction features are very robust and consist of 2 steel traction bars, an instep toe crampon as well as snow breaks that are incorporated into the decking material.

IMAGE 4
Traction Bars


The steel traction bars run laterally along the shoe and look like a serrated knife blade. The bars, which are powder coated, have been fully integrated and set in the injection molded deck for a very sturdy construction. The instep crampon, which is also powder coated, is attached to the shoe by a steel pin that runs through the traction bars. The instep crampon pivots on this steel pin to a 45 degree angle.

IMAGE 5
Binding


The binding is firmly attached to the crampon with 6 rivets. The sole of the binding is made from a rubber sheet material that is reinforced with nylon threads. The bindings two top straps and heel strap are also riveted to this material. The binding straps are long rubber straps with multiple eyelets to customize the fit. The straps appear to be long, to accommodate the wide range of shoe sizes this snowshoe will work with, and can be adjusted on either end of the strap so excess strapping does not interfere with the performance when the supplied strap clips are used.

IMAGE 6
With Boot


The decking is constructed of a composite material that is injection molded for a very precise structure. The composite material looks to be slightly flexible but very sturdy and durable thanks to the integrated traction bars. The bottom of the decking includes multiple break bars that should aid the traction abilities of this shoe.

IMAGE 7
Binding in Pivot


Initial Impressions

So far, Evan has taken the Shifts out on two separate trips totaling 7 miles in Rocky Mountain National Park. I was amazed at how fast he picked up walking with snowshoes on. With each step his gait becomes more and more natural. I'm not sure if his quick learning is a factor of being young and easily adapting or the design of the snowshoes, but it is probably a combination of both.

IMAGE 2
On the Trail


There are a few things that Evan will need to learn during this testing period such as turning around and binding the shoes himself which I believe will be a challenge for the little guy.

Evan Says...

IMAGE 1 When I first got these shoes I thought that they were going to work out pretty good because they are wide and fit me good. I like that they don't have a metal ring around the outside and they have a lot of teeth on the bottom. Also I like that the binding moves with my foot and the top has a bar like a handle.

When I first tried them they worked out pretty good. I liked that they worked on hard snow like my Dad's shoes and they match my black boots. In powder I sink down about 3 inches (8 cm) and that makes it fun but I have to work my legs a bit more.

I'm very excited to try them all winter long and to test them with my Dad.

Testing Strategy

We intend to use these shoes primarily on packed or frequently used trails for day trips in Northern Colorado during this test series. We have planned an overnight yurt / hut trip later in the winter and hope these shoes will make that an enjoyable trip. As a parent I plan on focusing the testing on (but not limited to) the following aspects of these shoes within the two month Field Report phase.

  • How well do the shoes work for Evan?

  • How comfortable do I feel with my son using these?

  • How well do the traction features work?

  • Can Evan secure the binding himself or will he need help?

  • Does the binding securely fasten different types of boots to the shoes?

  • How does cold temperatures affect the composite material and binding system?

  • Will snow and ice "cake" the powder coated steel or composite decking material?

  • Are they durable, would I be satisfied with the purchase of these shoes for my son?

Evan will be focusing his testing on the following.
  • How good do they fit my feet?

  • Can I hike far in them?

  • How well can I float on the snow?

  • Do they work on powder when I am heavier?

Summary

I am very excited for the opportunity to test these snowshoes with Evan; we hike and backpack as a family and it will be fun to test gear as a family. These are Evan's first snowshoes so I am hopeful that this experience will help him develop an appreciation for quality gear and getting into the backcountry. I think these shoes are built well and hope they will last him many winters, but we plan to discover that during this test.

This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report which provides a more detailed review of our experiences with this product can be found below.


FIELD REPORT

Field Conditions & Performance

IMAGE 4
On the Trail
During the Field Report phase of this test Evan has used the MSR Shift snowshoes on 6 day trips in Colorado, nearly all in Rocky Mountain National Park for approximately 35 miles (56 km) of use. During these trips Evan saw some significant elevation gain and experienced some fairly steep terrain. The weather that we encountered ranged from 10 F (-12 C) to 40 F (4 C) and in blizzard to sunny conditions. Evan has taken these shoes off trail in very deep powder and used them on broken and packed trails in areas that had around 30 in (76 cm) to 60 in (152 cm) of snow pack.

As a parent I was initially impressed with the design of the snowshoes, as they were virtually miniature versions of fully functioning adult snowshoes. I believe the most impressive feature of these shoes are the traction devices. The steel traction bars perform very well; they bite into everything and have rarely slipped. The toe crampons were equally impressive and there were situations where Evan needed to kick his toe crampon into the snow to step up and the crampons held firm. Evan did experience one situation where he had a difficult time gaining purchase with these shoes. It was a very steep snow bank that was mostly powder and every step that Evan took just slid back down. This situation was early in the testing and more a reflection of technique than the shoes' functionality, as Evan became more experienced these obstacles became less of a challenge.

As with the traction system, the bindings are a smaller version of the adult bindings. I was hoping that these bindings would be easy enough for Evan to be able to secure the straps by himself; however, he has not been able to secure them yet. It takes a little effort to secure the bindings and Evan is not strong enough to do that yet, he can take the binding off by himself though. The bindings have held secure and Evan has not complained about them while on the trail. One of the straps has disengaged 2 times while on the trail, this is not due to the strap mechanism rather the boot that Evan was using. Evan used a soft / pliable child's snowboot that flexed and caused the buckle to disengage, if Evan's boot was stiff like an adult boot that would not have happened.

IMAGE 3
Loch Vale Ascent
The composite decking of the Shift snowshoes are solidly made and we have not had an issue with them. The material does not collect snow or ice and the cold temperatures do not impact them at all. The shoes do provide Evan with good flotation, he is on the lighter side of the weight range of these shoes, but they work well. I do have to say that the material these shoes are made from are louder on the trail than my or my wife's shoes, the deck reverberates the impact of each step and it is a little loud. While the sound level of these can sometimes get annoying I have actually found it to be helpful, if I am in front of Evan and the sound stops I know he has stopped and is taking a break.









Evan Says...

IMAGE 1 I like that they work for me. The snowshoes are comfortable over my boots. My Mom and Dad still help me get them buckled on my feet; I can't do it by myself yet. When the snow is 'crispy' I can float on top. When the snow is powdery I only sink a few inches. Without my snowshoes I would probably sink all the way.

I like that I get to snowshoe with my family.


Observations

I have watched Evan use and test these shoes in a wide range of conditions, from below freezing blizzards to sunny warm days with slushy snow. I believe that Evan has used his snowshoes in a way that will allow me to form an opinion from a parent's perspective on the performance of these snowshoes. My observations are listed below.
IMAGE 2
Mills Lake Ascent

Things I Like…

  • Evan loves them!

  • They are easy for Evan to use

  • They provide good flotation

  • The traction devices excel

  • The binding are secure and do not cause complaints

  • Evan has not tripped over them

Things That I Would Change…

  • A kid friendly buckle for the bindings

  • Evan would have owned them earlier

Summary

I love these snowshoes and I love the trips and experiences they have allowed our family to have. They work well and Evan has learned to use them very quickly. As a parent I have no issues or reservations with my son using these shoes in any situation. We will continue to test the MSR Shift Youth snowshoes and we hope that our experiences are just as good as what we have had so far. Over the next two months we plan more day trips in addition to a weekend overnight trip. Spring is around the corner where we should be able to experience more wet and dense snow rather than the dry fluffy powder we have seen so far.

This concludes our Field Report of the MSR Shift Youth snowshoes, the Long Term report below details our experiences with the shoes over the next 2 month phase of the test.


LONG-TERM REPORT

Field Conditions and Performance

IMAGE 2
Blazing his own trail.
During the Long-Term phase of the test series, Evan has taken the MSR Shift Snowshoes out on three additional trips. These outings included 2 day trips to Rocky Mountain National Park as well as one multi-night snowshoeing trip to the Colorado State Forest. During these trips the weather was absolutely perfect; however the snow conditions were widely different.

For the 2 day trips we mainly went off trail and were able to enjoy a backcountry experience that we have never had before. These trips occurred the day after significant spring storms left 10" (25 cm) of new snow that was quite dense and wonderful to walk on. The Shifts performed admirably and continued to give Evan superior flotation, when compared to his parents, as well as excellent traction.

On the multi-night trip, Evan carried a pack that weighed 15 lb (6.8 kg) that was loaded with clothing, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, food and water. Even with the additional weight, the snowshoes continued to offer great flotation. I would say that the snow conditions during the two day hikes in the National Park were ideal and the snow conditions on this trip were the opposite and not enjoyable at all. I found the snow to be hard packed on top but without structure and once the hard pack broke I sank instantly.

Evan, on the other hand, was doing everything he could think of to break through the top layer and try to sink, which he failed at miserably. When he did break through he didn't sink at all which was due largely to the flotation properties of the Shifts. This lead to some serious bragging on his part that he could go anywhere he wanted and we (his parents) couldn't.

Additionally, during this phase of the testing Evan focused on trying to secure his bindings by himself. While he is getting the straps buckled, he cannot get them tight enough to stay on. There are two reasons for this; first he just isn't strong enough and second, his boots are soft sided (spongy) and that makes it difficult for him. While he can take the shoes off by himself without an issue I hope that he will be able to put the shoes on by himself by next season.

Evan Says...

IMAGE 1I like them. I'm really glad that I got to use them this year. They work well and my mom has the same brand in adult size. Next year I am looking forward to more snowshoeing. I hope to be able to do my own bindings and go further in a day by next year.




Final Conclusion

IMAGE 3
Great family memories.
As a parent I love these shoes! Not only do they look like a full sized adult piece of equipment they also operate like them . I think the areas that these shoes shine are in flotation, traction and durability which in my opinion are the three largest features other than comfort in a snowshoe. I believe that they make Evan feel like less of a child and more like a serious backcountry adventurer which I think motivates him to do more. I trust these shoes, they are built very robustly and I have confidence that they will not fail when my son needs them the most.

If there was any room for improvement on the design I would point towards the binding system. The binding system is a smaller version of MSR's adult bindings and they really need just a touch more strength to secure them properly than my little guy has. Having said that, regardless of the binding system I would continue to double check how he secured them to make sure the shoes are fitting properly. So until he is strong enough to regularly fasten the bindings, I'll be doing most of the work and he can continue to practice.

When I watch Evan walk in the shoes I see a big smile and I know that he is having a blast. Knowing that I trust these shoes takes a lot of apprehension away from me and I can then focus on having a great trip rather than worrying if we will be able to make it home safely. Evan and I really enjoyed testing the MSR Shift Snowshoes and we offer our sincerest thanks to Mountain Safety Research as well as Backpackgeartest.org for the opportunity to test the Shifts. We look forward to many years of continued use as well as cherished family memories with the MSR Shift Snowshoes.

This concludes our Long-Term Report as well as testing of the snowshoes.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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