REDFEATHER ALPINE LIGHT SNOWSHOES
TEST SERIES BY ROSALEEN SULLIVAN
May 11, 2007
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Eastern Massachusetts, USA
5' 9" (1.75 m)
180 lb (81.60 kg)
My pace tends to be slow and steady, while enjoying one hot meal and the rest of my food as bars or "munchies." I am in constant search of ways to lighten up. I usually carry a hammock, down bag and jacket, hiking poles, and an alcohol or fuel tablet stove, etc., retooling gear to complement the current trip. I also make some gear. I especially enjoy backpacks over 3 day periods, but have made longer trips. Last summer, I backpacked from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to the Nantahala River in North Carolina, about 134 miles (216 km) of Appalachian Trail.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Year of Manufacture: 2006
Manufacturer's Website: htttp://www.redfeather.com
|Redfeather Alpine Snowshoes (manufacturer's picture)|
MSRP: US$ 219.00 Ultra 30/ US$ 229.00 Pilot 30
Listed Weight: 4 lb 8oz (2.04 kg) Ultra 30
Measured Weight: 4 lb 10 oz ( 2.10 kg)
Description (From the website):
"CRAMPONS: Eagle crampon system with aggressive 360° stainless-steel crampons which bite securely into hard pack or ice-crusted snow. Powder-coated to shed ice and snow.
FRAME: Extruded 6000 Series aluminum tube V-tail design | Powder-coated grey
DECKING: Hypalon II | Black and blue with white stripes
BINDINGS: Choice of high-performance bindings: Pilot: A rugged, secure binding system which features an injection-molded frame for superior lateral support and two flexible plastic straps which criss-cross the boot's toe while a urethane strap encircles the heel. Entire binding system adjusts easily with two ratchet buckles – even while wearing gloves – for a secure fit. Ultra: A lightweight binding system which combines a quick V-strap to secure toe and a simple ratchet tightening system to adjust the heel strap.
HINGE: The Delta Hinge provides improved lateral support. This feature is exclusive to the Alpine models."
January 2, 2007
The Redfeather Alpine 30 Snowshoes came ready to be hung for a store display. Removing the nylon tie straps, hang tag, and cardboard stabilizers, I found the snowshoes to be ready to wear: No assembly required. The model I'm testing is the 30 in (.76 m), intended for testers up to 220 lb (100 kg), including clothing and gear. My measured weight of the pair was 4 lb 10 oz (2.10 kg), only 2 oz (57 g) more than the listed weight. Considering the strength needed to support a person hiking up and down hills in snow and take the force of a sudden stop, including a fall, and the possible differences in scales, this seems a minor discrepancy.
The showshoes seem to be just as I anticipated, having read the information at the Redfeather site. The information was the same on the website as given on the hang tag. The Alpine model has a tapered back to the aluminum tube frame. What the manufacturer calls "Hypalon" decking, I would describe as a rubbery-feeling synthetic platform. The nylon straps and ratcheted heel strap took about three minutes for me to figure out. That is pretty good for never having used anything like this. From slipping a shod foot into the binding and moving my foot, I can see that the binding will allow my foot to pivot freely from toe to heel while side-to-side movement will be aligned with the snowshoe. The underside features two sets of rather aggressive looking crampons. I hope these give me the promised grip on frozen surfaces.
So far, the weather in New England has not conformed to normal winter conditions, so I haven't had the snowshoes out on a snowy trail, yet. My only experiences with snowshoes prior to this have been in my backyard and local Scout camp wearing "Army surplus" magnesium snowshoes that had cumbersome nylon strap bindings. I found them hard to operate, especially once they iced over. I am looking forward to using the Redfeather Alpine snowshoes (once we get some snow) and discovering how much easier modern bindings are to manipulate than my current antiques.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
In this Field Testing period, I used the Redfeather Alpine Snowshoes to backpack short (about one mile or 1.6 km) distances into local woods to camp out and for treks of about 2 miles (3 km) on local trails for several more trips here in eastern Massachusetts. Temperatures have ranged from below freezing to the 40's F (5 C). Wind speeds have been between fairly quiet to quite gusty. I have not been at any great altitude for this period. In fact, here at home, we are nearly at sea level.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Our "snow drought" here in eastern Massachusetts ended with a huge storm on Valentines Day (February 14, 2007) leaving my area with about 1.5 ft (.5 m) snow for nearly a month. We got down to bare ground for 3 days and were just hit with another Nor'Easter, giving us another 1.5 ft (.5 m) snow here "in my neck of the woods." (A Nor'Easter is a storm that picks up additional moisture from the Atlantic Ocean as it moves to the northeast and then spins around to dump much of this moisture onto the land mass.) My selfish enthusiasm for additional snow has made me very unpopular, as most people are ready for Spring, and here I am relishing the thought of additional play time with the snowshoes.
I hiked in the Redfeather Alpine snowshoes in relatively short bursts. I am new to snowshoeing and have chronic back spasms from an old injury, so I approach new activities with some caution. I also managed a nasty ankle sprain at the end of January which has residual swelling, another reason to be cautious. I had some questions as a "newbie' as to what to expect from any showshoes.
First, how much would I sink in the snow when I use snowshoes? Well I found that "It depends." Most of my hiking was on well-frozen snow that had a chance to sublimate and freeze pretty compactly. I felt pretty secure in my footing as I hiked on compacted snow, seemingly sinking a couple of inches (5 cm). On old snow that had had a chance to cycle through several freeze-thaw days, I found that I sank less than I did on fresh snow. As snow became icy, I didn't notice any sinking and was glad of the claw-like teeth that kept me from slipping on the slick surfaces.
My second question was how well would I maintain my balance on hills and slippery surfaces while wearing snowshoes? Most of the time, I had no problems walking up and down gently rolling hills and short slopes (about 60 degrees). I also found walking off-trail to be no great problem as I intentionally bushwhacked for about .25 mi (.4 km) to see how well I would negotiate around brush and limbs. The snowshoes plowed right through any space as long as the rest of me fit. I did experience one gentle fall walking in this new snow. We had another weird storm that started off with fluffy snow, topped with sleet, and frosted over with more heavy, wet snow. I made a quick jaunt around my yard in the fluffy snow after it had accumulated 6-11 inches (15-28 cm), depending on wind swirls as more snow fell. Normally, I would have headed out to a hiking trail, but the roads had become nasty and the weather predictions were for the snow washing away with the overnight rain. My goal was to see how much I might sink in fresh fluff. Wow! I sank as much as 6 inches (15 cm). The fluffy stuff had no resistance! I am guessing it had too much air in it. The rain turned back to heavy snow, so we then had a slight crust on top of fluff. I found that I sank nearly as much two days later hiking on the now crusted-over fluff as I did while the fluffy snow was falling. Sinking deeply into snow made for some tiring hiking. Happily, using snowshoes, I found that I didn't have great quantities of show stuffed up my pant legs and down my boots or shoes, as I normally do trying to wade through the same frozen cover. This slight crust gave me an opportunity to experience my little slip and fall. On one of the same short 60 degree slopes that I easily negotiated on compacted snow, one of my snowshoes crunched through the crust and then slipped under and down. Basically, I suddenly found myself sitting on soft snow, so no harm was done.
A third question was how would hiking in snowshoes affect my back? I noted earlier that I have chronic back problems from an old injury. I did have to limit hiking in snow to about two hours at a time, less time if I sank deeply into snow. I also sensed some soreness in other places where I have chronic problems, such as my knees and hips. In fairness to the snowshoes, I would have had to stop sooner without them, and the soreness is no greater than I have experienced with any new activity. Happily, that still-swollen ankle from the January sprain was not exacerbated by hiking I also sensed some soreness in other places where I have chronic problems, such as my knees and hips, with the snowshoes.
More questions I had about the snowshoes included ease of use, how the bindings fit over various footwear, etc. Happily, these Redfeather Alpine snowshoes seem to be "user-friendly." I intentionally swapped the shoes between feet and found they functioned equally well on either foot . I had no problems with fastening or unfastening the bindings. The ratcheting heel fastener was a cinch to operate, even when caked with ice pellets. The tapered tail was useful in knocking the last bits of ice that seemed to adhere to the toe and heel plates on the top surface of the snowshoes. I didn't venture out in very cold temps, so I can't speak to the harness system's flexibility in extreme cold, but above 25 F (-4 C), I had no trouble at all.
I have been quite pleased with these snowshoes for short jaunts here in eastern Massachusetts on its gently rolling coastal plain. As a complete newbie to snowshoeing, I found them easy to maneuver, and even easier to figure out how to make "work." The bindings remained easy to remove, even when coated with ice. I felt as if I had good stability and footing in most conditions.
We may not have much more snow opportunities, as we have already had some 60 F (33 C) days. I will endeavor to get in some more hiking before the current snowfall melts and see how the snowshoes perform in the thawing conditions. I will also be looking for signs of wear and how easily the shoes clean up should I walk across muddy stretches between snowy areas.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
May 11, 2007
During the last two months, there has been little snow here in eastern Massachusetts. While I did have some opportunities to travel to Pennsylvania and New York during this time frame, my trips missed their snow opportunities, as well. Consequently, my actual snowshoe use ended shortly after completing the Field Testing phase. All of my snowshoeing has been over local mostly unnamed trails on my state's rolling coastal plains. I did get to go play on the snow as the temperatures rose and the snow began to melt and refreeze along with temperature fluctuations above and below freezing.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Redfeather Alpine Snowshoes have been very kind to this "newbie" snowshoe user. They have been easy to use from day one. The ice-gripping crampons on the bottom kept me from slipping on snow that had compacted, partially thawed, and refrozen. This surface was like irregularly rippled ice and sometimes had a layer of water on top. I was happily surprised that my trail shoes stayed dry as long as the water didn't go above the rubber rands on my shoes. (Rands are the reinforcement strips around some lower shoe margins.) Some water flicked up onto my legs, but I had sprayed my fleece pants with Atsko Water-Guard a waterproofing spray (previously tested for BGT), so the water beaded up and I stayed comfortably dry. The ratcheting heel straps made it easy to get the snowshoes on and off, whether the bindings were wet or had accumulated ice on them. With multiple treks of not more than 5 miles each, I still see little evidence of wear.
For my testing purposes, these snowshoes have been perfect. I am comfortable recommending the Redfeather Alpine Snowshoes to anyone who, like me, is new to using snowshoes, and wants to be able to strap on a pair and go. I was able to hike off trail and over gentle slopes, so I have the expectation that, on future snowshoe adventures, I will be able to get around obstacles like downed trees. In addition to being easily maneuverable, these snowshoes gave me good traction over a variety of ice and snow conditions. The strap configuration made it easy to readjust the fit for different footwear, as well.
Of course, I will be hanging up these snowshoes for several months until snow returns to the area. The Redfeathers will be my first choice when I wish to take a wintry hike next season. The old "Army surplus" snowshoes can stay on their pegs and be my "loaner pair."
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
I thank Backpack Gear Test and Redfeather for this testing opportunity.
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