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Reviews > Snow Gear > Snowshoes > Northern Lites Backcountry Snowshoes > Owner Review by Mike Wilkie

NORTHERN LITES BACKCOUNTRY SNOWSHOES
BY MIKE WILKIE
OWNER REVIEW
December 03, 2008

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Mike Wilkie
EMAIL: foreverwild1885 at yahoo dot com
AGE: 32
LOCATION: Davenport, New York (USA)
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 148 lb (67.10 kg)

Hiking for me started at an early age, as I was always an avid camper and as a young Scout my backpacking obsession began. Living in the Catskill Region backpacking has become serious for me over the years. I hike, snowshoe, canoe, snowboard or multi-day backpack through the Catskills or Adirondacks almost every weekend. I am learning and practicing safe lightweight techniques and have greatly reduced my pack weight, adding comfort and miles to my adventures. Being an aspirant of the Catskill-3500 Club and Adirondack-46ers, peak-bagging is my main outdoor activity. My long-term goals are to complete long distance thru-hikes.

PRODUCT INFORMATION

Manufacturer: Northern Lites
Year of Manufacture: 2006
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.northernlites.com
MSRP: US$249.00

Manufacturer Details
Listed Weight (pair): 43 oz (1219 g)
Size: 9 x 30 in (22.86 x 76 cm)
User Weight: 175 - 250 lbs (79 - 113 kg)

Tester Details
Measured Weight (pair): 44.6 oz (1264 g)
Measured Size: 30 x 9.25 in (76 x 23.5 cm)


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FIELD USE

Product Description - Northern Lites snowshoes are designed and are claimed by the manufacturer to be the lightest snowshoes on the market in each models class and beyond. The company offers seven models to choose from and all are designed with lightweight technology. Northern Lites' focus since the early 90's has been about their lightweight design.

The Backcountry model is described by Northern Lites to be used for mountaineering, backpacking, hiking and general use over uncertain terrain. With my experience using these snowshoes, I can say that they do work well for all of these listed activities.

For the past two winters, I consistently used the snowshoes when conditions permitted. The shoes received most use during this past winter as I was out trekking several days a week climbing the Catskill High Peaks. Rough and uneven terrain is usually the norm when traversing the Catskill Mountains. The summit elevations ranged from 3500 ft (1067 m) to 4180 ft (1274 m).

During my snowshoe treks, the Backcountry snowshoes have been dragged over protruding rocks, downed trees, and ice. They have been through some rough terrain and with this abuse; the snowshoes have proved durable with only some minor scrapes and scratches on the bottom of the frame. Initially I suspected them to be not as durable because they are built so light. However, I now have no reason to complain about the snowshoes' durability. I step with confidence when snowshoeing in these mountainous areas.

I have used the Backcountry Snowshoes on steep mountain climbs to summit elevations to no higher than 4000 ft (1219 m). They were also used on moderate to easy hikes with little or no climbing. The snowshoes were used in many various snow conditions. These snow conditions consisted of packed snow trails, icy or wet snow, fresh, deep, powdery snow and very icy conditions with uneven ground or postholes. All used took place in the Catskill and Adirondack Regions. I mostly carried a pack weighing no more than 20 lbs at any given time. Snow depths never exceeded more then three feet (0.91 m).

The aluminum crampons are a simple and lightweight design offering adequate traction on various snow conditions and during all of my winter traverses. Even though they have dull points, the crampons still dug into any sheet ice covering the trail. With the help of both the toe and heel crampons, I receive 360-degree traction. Covering the base of the crampons are de-icing pads that keep ice from collecting, however snow does seem to collect between the heel crampons at times during wet snow conditions .

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Also adding to the traction received are twenty-one perimeter cleats that all contain a bottom tooth that digs and grips into the snow. These hardened nylon cleats also help to add durability to the frame.

The decking offers excellent flotation for all snow conditions, even when carrying the added weight of a backpack. The deck is constructed of Coolthane that has proven to be durable and abrasion resistant. This material also seems to resist the collection of snow and ice, as do all the components of the Backcountry Snowshoes.

Northern Lites' TruTrak Bindings offer great tracking and an easy and secure attachment to the snowshoes. They can accommodate many sized boots and shoes as pictured below. I have used the snowshoes with oversized boots, full hiking boots and mid XCR shoes. The bindings are easy to operate even when wearing gloves. For a secure fit the binding system does not have to be too tight. Because these bindings are collapsible, the Backcountry Snowshoes are easily packable.

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The bindings have three easy to secure and remove over straps that lock into hook buckles. A nylon strap wraps around the heels with a ladder lock for tightening and loosening.

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There is also a Heel Strike Plate designed from toughened nylon positioned over the heel crampon. The heel plate adds traction for the heel helping with the snowshoes' tracking when side hilling.

SUMMARY

The Backcountry Snowshoes have proven to be lightweight and durable affording much comfort during my winter treks. They offer the traction needed on steep terrain, adequate flotation in various snow conditions with the added weight of a backpack and the durability to handle the abuse of rough terrain. Their packability allows me to easily attach them to me pack without the bulk of a bulky binding.


Personally, I feel that the Backcountry Snowshoes are superior for their light weight alone, but with all of these other great features, they are to me above all.

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THINGS I LIKE

Lightweight
Flotation
Traction
Tracking
Durability
Packability
Easy to use bindings with gloves on
Secure fit of bindings without having to over tighten



THINGS I DON'T LIKE

Heel strap can be slightly longer for when a oversized boot is worn.

SIGNATURE

Mike Wilkie

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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