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Reviews > Snow Gear > Snowshoes > Redfeather Conquest Recreational > Test Report by Edwin L. Morse

REDFEATHER CONQUEST RECREATIONAL SNOWSHO
TEST SERIES BY EDWIN MORSE
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - December 19, 2009
FIELD REPORT - April 11, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - May 19, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Edwin Morse
EMAIL: ed dot morse at charter dot net
AGE: 72
LOCATION: Grawn, Michigan USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 145 lb (65.80 kg)

I started backpacking in 1979 with two weeks in northern Michigan along the Lake Superior shore. My gear was cheap, heavy and sometimes painful. My starting pack weight was 70 lbs (32 kg) with food but no water. Since that first time I have made one and two week trips in Michigan, Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Last May I did a 2 week hike in Northern Minnesota. My starting pack weight was 35 lbs (16 kg), including 10 days of food and 2 qt (2 l) of water. I am slowly learning what lighter gear works for me.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Redfeather
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.redfeather.com
MSRP: US$ N/A
Listed Weight: 4 lb 4 oz (1938 g)
Measured Weight: 67 oz (1899 g)
Other details:
Maximum width: 8 3/8 (8.375) in (21.3 cm)
Maximum length: 23 1/8 (23.125) inches (58.7 cm)

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Inside the cardboard shipping box the snowshoes were in a clear plastic bag. They were fastened together, bottom to bottom, with two plastic ties. There was also a hang tag attached, which gave the same information as I found on the website.
out of the box
out of the box

This view shows the snowshoes still fastened together with the hang tag still attached. My first thought was that these are strange looking snowshoes. The first snowshoes I used, over 45 years ago, were constructed of ash wood strips and rawhide. In my opinion, all new snowshoes have several advantages over those first ones I used.

I have no doubt that the descriptions supplied by manufacturers are technically accurate. Those descriptions (and marketing hype) seldom tell me how any new gear will work for me.

According to the website: "FRAME: Injection-molded nylon | Grey

DECKING: Injection-molded nylon thatís been strategically reinforced using Finite Element Analysis for optimum strength-to-weight ratio."

My observation is that the frame and decking are a single piece of intricately molded plastic. Some of the intricacy is functional and some appears to be simply decorative. The six holes, two in front and four in back, may lighten the weight slightly but I think they are just more decoration. The pattern under the heel may provide some grip for my boot heel but I consider it more decoration.
footbed
footbed

This view of the footbed and center of the binding appears to be a combination of function and decoration. Each snowshoe is clearly labeled R or L so there is no doubt which foot should go in which snowshoe. This picture also shows one of the binding straps. There are three straps for the top of my foot and one for behind my heel.
front crampon
front crampon

This view shows the bottom of the snowshoe directly under the footbed of the binding, which is fastened to a 1 3/8 inch (3.49 cm) wide strap across the forefoot opening. The binding is riveted to the top of the strap and the front crampon is bolted to the bottom. This picture also shows the vertical reinforcement ribs.
back crampon
back crampon

Here is a view showing the rear crampon and more of the vertical reinforcement.

Here is a description of the bindings as copied from the website: "BINDINGS: CROSS COUNTRY: Ultra-light made from Hypalon II and urethane straps which cinch down to any running shoe or light hiking boot for flexibility and large range of motion.

HINGE: Live-Action Hinge lifts the tail of the shoe from the snow with every step Ė for added mobility and speed."

The three urethane straps that go over the foot are riveted, on the outside of the foot, to the Hypalon II bindings. The straps loop through an aluminum buckle at the inside of the foot. The strap that goes around the heel is riveted on the inside with the buckle on the outside. This arrangement does make it easier for me to fasten and adjust the bindings.
binding fasteners
binding fasteners

The above view shows two of the buckles. The strap is buckled on the one to the left. The one to the right is still loose to show the detail shape of the buckle. It will take me a few trips to the woods to really learn how to use these bindings.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

There were no instructions with the snowshoes

TRYING IT OUT

When I opened the box I felt like a kid at Christmas with a new toy. As soon as I took a few pictures I had to go outside to try the Conquest snowshoes in the yard. I was a bit concerned about the strap and buckle system. This turned out to be almost easy. I fumbled with the right snowshoe bindings for a little but fastening the second was almost easy.

Both the website and the hang tag led me to think the bindings might only work with running shoes or light hiking shoes. That was a wrong interpretation on my part. Since my feet get cold easily I put on my heavy pack boots. With the outside temperature of 21 F (-6 C) I needed the warmer boots. The binding straps have a very wide range of adjustment.

I walked around the yard for about an hour. I also walked into the woods a ways and climbed over a few big down logs just to see if I could.

SUMMARY

The Redfeather Conquest snowshoes are very different from any other types of snowshoes I've used. The short walk around the yard began my learning process. I can adjust the bindings wearing gloves but not wearing heavy mittens. They easily turn with my feet so I think they might work well for bushwhacking. The "Injection-molded nylon thatís been strategically reinforced using Finite Element Analysis for optimum strength-to-weight ratio" on the bottom of the snowshoes does a great job of picking up and holding snow. I would expect this to be a problem if the temperature were 32 F (0 C) and wet snow. I had to use a screwdriver to scrape most of the snow out of the little pockets and then warm the snowshoes in the bathtub so I could get the weight.



This concludes my Initial Report.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

All my use of the Redfeather Conquest snowshoes has been in northwest Lower Michigan. I've used them in the Manistee National Forest (MNF), The Pere Marquette State Forest (PMSF) and in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (SBD). The part of the MNF where I've been snowshoe hiking is hilly and covered in mostly oak and maple forest occasionally mixed with red or white pine stands. The PMSF is very similar terrain. The terrain in the SBD is often steep sand dunes with mostly soft wood (jack pine, hemlock, red and white pine). There are some areas of primarily oak and maple. I did over 15 day hikes with distances from 4 miles to 10 miles (6 km to 16 km).

On January 1, 2010 I took our son, his wife, their daughter and her dog to the Sleeping Bear Dunes near the mouth of the Platt River. The temperature was 15 F (-9 C) with a strong wind off Lake Michigan when we left the Jeep. Our daughter-in-law, Nancy, and I went snowshoeing in the dunes while our son took the little girl and her dog to play in the deep drifts along the river. Nancy used the Redfeather Conquests while I used my older and bigger snowshoes. In the first picture Nancy is showing off the snowshoes on a very cold and windy day.
cold New Year day
cold New Year day
In the second picture we're starting up the first dune.
climbing hill
climbing a steep hill




On January 7, 2010 I hiked in the MNF with mostly very hilly terrain and a temperature of 27 F (-3 C). I hiked 4 miles (6 km), using the Redfeather Conquests, which constantly had snow pack and build up on the bottoms. Sometimes I could bang them against a tree to get the snow off. The snow buildup caused very poor traction going up or down the hills. When going up the hills I could still use the front crampons for traction but going down with no traction it was like using old style snowshoes with no crampons. There were a few times when the snow build up got so bad I had to take them off and bang the bottoms together to get the snow off. The next picture is just before I kicked the snowshoes against a tree to knock the packed snow off the bottoms.
caked snow
caked snow on the bottom

packed snow on bottoms
packed snow on bottoms

In the above picture the Conquests are leaned against a wheel of the Jeep.



February 18, 2010 in the MNF, I started hiking from the Marilla TH at 9:30 AM with a temperature of 25 F (-4 C). I was using the Redfeather Conquest snowshoes. I didn't have any trouble with snow on the bottoms. After about the first half mile ice started forming under my heels.
ice starting
ice starting to form
Soon I had to stop frequently and use my knife to cut the ice off.
ice under heel
ice under heel

This is a very hilly trail with frequent turns and slippery footing would have me rolling down the hill. I stopped at 4 miles (6 km) and found a log to sit on for lunch. After I ate lunch I started hiking back. About half way back I took the Conquests off and carried them the rest of the way.

On February 23, 2010 I hiked in the PMSF on new trail again with 32 F (0 C) to start. This trail is along the Manistee River with many short steep hills and sharp turns. With sunny skies and rising temperatures the snow was soft and wet.
soft snow and ice
soft snow and ice
I was having the double problem of ice under my heels and snow packing on the bottoms of the snowshoes.
I had to stop frequently to cut ice from the snowshoes under my heels. I hiked in 2 miles (3 km) to a bench at an overlook and stopped for lunch.
wet snow
wet snow
Here is a picture of the snowshoe bottom when I sat down for lunch. After I ate lunch I cleaned the snow off the Conquests and put them in an outside pocket of my day pack. It was much easier hiking back.

On March 4, 2010 I started at the Marilla TH in the Manistee National Forest with a temperature of 42 F (6 C). Before I put the Conquests on I sprayed the heel area with a silicone lubricant hoping that would stop the ice buildup. This idea didn't work, I had to stop about every 5 minutes and cut the ice off. The snow is quickly disappearing. I gave up after about a mile and took the snowshoes off. The side hill trail was a combination of mud, ice and packed snow which made poor conditions for hiking. When I fell and slid 20 feet (6 m) down the hill I decided it was time to quit. I hiked back to the Jeep and carried the snowshoes.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Redfeather Conquest snowshoes did very well when the temperature was below about 25 F (-4 C) and the snow was either, old and well settled, or had even a slight crust. In these conditions, and especially bushwhacking in very hilly forested terrain the Conquests were great for both maneuverability and good grip climbing or descending. I really enjoyed bushwhacking in the sleeping Bear Dunes using the conquests. Most of the pictures I've taken show the problems with the snowshoes. There were just as many days when conditions were good and the pictures I took were of scenery or of other hikers.

Unfortunately, for testing the Redfeather Conquest snowshoes, we have not had our usual cold and snowy winter. It has been warmer than usual and we've had less snow than normal. When the snow is fresh or when the temperature approaches 30 F (-1 C) I get snow packing and building up on the bottoms of the snowshoes. This is not a problem on flat trails. Hiking on steep and hilly trails the snow buildup easily covers the crampons and I have no traction.

The other problem is that, as the temperature rises, I get ice on the top of the snowshoes under my heels. This is a little bit irritating on straight flat trails. When the trails consist of sharp turns and steep hills along a steep river bank it becomes hazardous rather than irritating. I've often had to stop to cut the ice from under my heels to maintain control of my footing.

SUMMARY

Overall, I think the Redfeather conquests have done well for me. The unusual winter provided more days when the two problems I've had with the Conquests became most apparent. In past winters in this area there has been only a week or two in November and April when the snow was wet and melting.

There have been a lot of hikes since my Initial Report when conditions were great for the Conquest snowshoes. When the conditions are favorable I much prefer the Redfeather Conquests rather than the old snowshoes I've been using for over 15 years. They are really good when bushwhacking up and down steep hills when the snow is old and settled or crusty. The small size makes following deer trails through thick stands of jack pines into a fun game.

This concludes my Field Report.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I have had no further experience with the Redfeather Conquest snowshoes in the last two months. All the snow was gone from this area before March 18, 2010. This has been a very unusual winter in this area. Most winters I've been able to snowshoe into mid April.

Since early March there has been no new snowfall. We've had rain and day time temperatures from 40 F (4 C) to 75 F (24 C).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Due to an early spring and warm weather I have had no further experience with the Redfeather Conquest snowshoes.

SUMMARY

Overall, I think the Redfeather conquests have done well for me. The unusual winter provided more days when the two problems I've had with the Conquests became most apparent. In past winters in this area there has been only a week or two in November and April when the snow was wet and melting.

There have been a lot of hikes since my Initial Report when conditions were great for the Conquest snowshoes. When the conditions are favorable I much prefer the Redfeather Conquests rather than the old snowshoes I've been using for over 15 years. They are really good when bushwhacking up and down steep hills when the snow is old and settled or crusty. The small size makes following deer trails through thick stands of jack pines into a fun game that is one of my favorite winter activities.

When conditions are not favorable (wet or packable snow) the Conquests become difficult to use. As I've said earlier wet snow packs on the bottom and ice forms under my heels.

This has been an interesting test but our unusual winter weather created more conditions that were less than ideal than normally expected. I have not yet decided whether to keep these snowshoes or to give them to a friend in another northern state.

I would like to thank Redfeather and BackPackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test and use the interesting Redfeather Conquest snowshoes.

This concludes my Long Term Report.

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

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