MSR SHIFT SNOWSHOES
TEST SERIES BY MIKE CURRY (AND MY KIDS)
INITIAL REPORT - January 05, 2010
FIELD REPORT - March 23, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - May 23, 2010
Mike Curry (and my kids)
thefishguy AT hotmail DOT com
5' 11" (1.80 m)
225 lb (102.00 kg)
Michael and Katharyn have both spent a lot of time in the outdoors. While they had both used snowshoes in the past, last year they spent a great deal of time trekking about on them, and both grew to love snowshoeing. We spend a lot of time as a family in the mountains each winter, much of it snowshoeing.
Height: 54 in (137 cm)
Weight: 65 lb (29.5 kg)
Shoe Size: US Women's 6 (Youth 4.5, 36 EU)
Height: 50 in (127 cm)
Weight: 65 lb (29.5 kg)
Shoe Size: US Youth 3 (35 EU)
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Cascade Designs, Inc. (MSR Division)
|MSR Shift Snowshoes|
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.cascadedesigns.com/msr
MSRP: None Listed
Listed Weight: 2 lb 7 oz (1.11 kg)
Measured Weight: 2 lb 8.5 oz (1.15 kg)
7 x 19.5 in (17.8 x 49.5 cm)
Fits US shoe sizes Youth 3 - Mens 8 (33.5-41 EU)
Color Tested: Blue
The MSR Shift Youth snowshoes arrived held together with a large rubber band and a piece of cardboard separating them (presumably to protect the bindings of the lower pair from the crampons and traction bars of the upper). Two hang tags were attached, providing basic information on the snowshoes in multiple languages.
My first impression was how similar these snowshoes are to my old Denali snowshoes (also manufactured by Cascade Designs under the MSR brand, but designed for adults).
The MSR Shift snowshoes are made of a molded plastic deck with integrated traction bars (made of metal) on the bottom. The traction bars are not attached to the molded deck, the deck is actually molded around the traction bars, which are visible through view holes in the plastic deck.
|Binding Detail - Top|
The binding on the Shift consists of a reinforced material that is riveted to the aluminum deck which has integrated front point crampons. This deck then connects to the snowshoes via a connecting rod that passes through the traction bars. Bent over tabs on the traction bars limit the rotational travel of the binding.
There are three rubber binding straps on the Shift snowshoes: one near the toe, one over the arch of the foot, and one that passes behind the heel. All three are adjustable at both ends. The buckles for the straps are anchored to the binding by rivets. Each strap has an oversized tab on the end to allow for easy adjustment, and each strap has a retainer to minimize the free end of the strap from flopping around.
One interesting feature is that the strap that goes over the instep uses a hook-type buckle at one end rather than the closed buckle found on all other points. I presume this is to more easily facilitate getting the snowshoes on and off by allowing my kids to move that strap completely out of the way without having to unthread it.
The strap adjustment is made by pulling the strap through the buckle to the desired length/tightness, and then pulling it back across itself so that the center pin of the buckle engages a hole in the strap. The tension of the strap prevents slippage.
All in all, the construction and materials all appear to be of very high quality.
|Binding Detail - Bottom|
TRYING IT OUT
My kids were absolutely beside themselves when this package arrived, and they could hardly wait to get at it. Since we didn't have any snow at the time, and since the front point crampons and traction rails didn't appear to be compatible with my hardwood floor, our initial trying it out was limited to seeing how it fit with my kids' shoes. The snowshoes proved able to adjust to the entire range of their footwear, from my daughter's thick snow boots to my son's sneakers. My daughter was able to adjust the straps on her own (after the initial length was adjusted for her), but my son is still struggling somewhat to put them on by himself. The open hook-style buckle on the instep strap does, in fact, seem to make the process easier for my kids to get them on and off themselves. I am interested to see if they will be able to get them on and off by themselves in the field with mittens on.
The MSR Shift snowshoes are well-designed, feature packed snowshoes that have been scaled down for kids. They appear exceptionally well-made, and appear to meet the need for snowshoes with grown-up features but sized for kids. I look forward to seeing how they work in the field.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
My kids have used the MSR shift snowshoes on 5 snowshoeing trips to date, all in the Cascade mountains of Washington State. Terrain has been mostly level, though my kids are all about trying to conquer every cut bank along a snow covered road they can, and have tried them on short slopes of up to 45 degrees. Weather has been exclusively sunny or cloudy, with no precipitation. Temperatures have ranged from 28 F (-2 C) to 50 F (10 C).
It has been a very low snowfall year in our region this year, so snow conditions have been less than ideal, even by Pacific Northwest standards. Snow conditions encountered have included icy crust over corn, slush, and compact moist snow. Powder conditions, or anything close, have not been encountered this year.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
First off, my kids' reactions: They love these snowshoes. When I ask them about it, the are able to articulate their reasons pretty clearly:
|Shift Snowshoes on my Daughter|
1. It is cool to have snowshoes that are made specifically for kids (they don't have to "borrow" one of dad's pairs).
2. They find them easier to get around in due to their smaller size than others they have used.
3. They grip well, and they feel secure in them.
4. They are blue (this is important for my daughter, as her favorite color is blue. My son is largely indifferent).
My observations mirror theirs in many ways. It is, from my perspective, very nice to have snowshoes that are specifically designed for kids. The fact that they are sized more appropriately for them than my MSR Denali snowshoes (which is what they normally have used) makes a tremendous difference; they fall less, they are more confident, and they have fewer problems with stepping on one snowshoe with the other snowshoe. They are able to walk with a far more natural stride, and fatigue more slowly.
My specific observations are as follows:
Traction with the MSR Shift snowshoes is superb. While most snowshoeing trips I take with my kids are intentionally over very gentle rolling terrain, the minute they see a steep cut bank along side the road, they are rushing over to see how far up it they can get. The Shifts easily handle slopes up to 45 degrees with my kids. The limiting factor appears not to be the snowshoe's ability to grip, but rather my kids' ability to balance! After a tumble back down, the kids are also far more able to get back on their own feet in the Shifts than they have been in other snowshoes, which appears to be a result of their smaller size.
The kids both have stated they find the Shifts much easier to use, and more comfortable to walk in, than the adult snowshoes they have used in the past. Their stride is more natural, and they clearly have had more endurance than in the past, which I believe to be a function of their more natural gait. Neither of my kids have complained in any way about the comfort of the snowshoes.
|Note Length of Strap Behind Left Foot|
While I had hoped the binding would be simple enough for my kids to put them on and adjust them, this has not proven to be the case. The issue is that they lack enough grip strength to put enough tension on the straps to get them to hold on the pins. Though the kids aren't able to adjust them by themselves, I will say they seem easier for me to adjust for them than other snowshoes I have used with them. The bindings adjust well to both of their snow boots, and work flawlessly. The strap keepers keep the bulk of the excess strap out of the way, which is very nice. The only design issue I've noticed is that the behind-the-heel strap seems exceptionally long. The slack, even with my daughter's large boots, is about 10 in (0.25 m), which seems excessive, but has not interfered with performance.
My kids abuse snowshoes. There isn't any other way to put it. They seek out the bare patch of gravel on the road to dance on. They kick trees (and each other). They twist and contort. Nonetheless, the Shifts show no signs of damage or excessive wear.
While we haven't encountered any soft powder or anything close to it, the Shifts have provided excellent floatation on the various snow surfaces we have encountered. Even on soft, slushy corn , where dad was sinking in several inches, the Shifts kept my kids from sinking in at all. While we haven't encountered any conditions where flotation was a major concern, I also haven't encountered anything that appears to be a problem in terms of floatation.
The MSR Shift snowshoes work exceptionally well for my children, and are sized and designed well to make snowshoeing more pleasant for them in comparison to using adult snowshoes. They seem very durable so far, and provide excellent traction. Though my kids are unable to adjust the binding straps themselves, I find it fairly easy to do for them. The straps, especially the behind-the-foot strap, seem longer than necessary, but the retainer clips keep the excess tamed.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Long-term testing use included three additional days of testing on two different weekends, both in the Cascade mountains of Washington State. Weather conditions were cloudy or cloudy with light snow. Temperatures were just below freezing on all three days. Winds were light. Snow conditions consisted primarily of fresh moist snow of perfect "snowball" consistency. While this has been a poor snow year in our area, we received some significant late-season snowfall that allowed long-term testing to occur in better snow conditions.
Due to an injury, my daughter was unable to test during the long-term test period. My son conducted all long-term testing with the MSR Shift snowshoes.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Long-term testing revealed little new information regarding the performance of the Shift snowshoes. They have continued to perform well for my son, and have proven to hold up very well to rigorous use. My son is far from gentle on gear, and despite quite a number of falls, clambering over rocks, and skewering the top of the snowshoe deck with his poles frequently, the Shift snowshoes still look great.
My son had the opportunity to test the Shift snowshoes under different snow conditions than encountered during Field Testing. The snow we had on these three days was relatively fresh and still fluffy, but with a relatively high moisture content (perfect snowball-making snow). The Shifts performed famously under these snow conditions. Even with my son carrying a daypack he had plenty of floatation.
One thing I did notice was there was some caking of snow between the binding and upper deck of the snowshoe. While it was easy enough to show my son how to clear this with his pole, I was surprised at how often he stopped to do it. I will probably use a silicone spray before using them in the future to prevent icing and caking.
Overall my experiences with the MSR Shift snowshoes have been positive. They are strong performers under a wide variety of conditions and work well for both my children. They provide excellent floatation, but do so in a size that makes it much easier for my kids to maintain a normal stride. The only drawbacks I saw, and they were very minor, is the excess length of the binding straps (which can be helpful when I have gloves on), the inability of both my kids to put the bindings on by themselves (but they get close!), and some minor icing/caking of snow under the binding.
I suspect both my kids will continue to fight over the MSR Shift snowshoes until I buy a second pair. Then they will likely fight over who gets the new pair. The Shifts do perform much better for my children than other (adult size) snowshoes they have used in the past, and that difference was definitely noticed by them! I suspect the MSR Shift snowshoes will be a regular part of our family snowshoeing trips.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.
I would like to thank Cascade Designs, Inc., and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the MSR Shift snowshoes. This concludes my report.
Read more reviews of MSR gear
Read more gear reviews by Mike Curry