REDFEATHER CONQUEST SNOWSHOES
TEST SERIES BY NATHAN KETTNER
INITIAL REPORT - January 03, 2010
FIELD REPORT - April 06, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - May 31, 2010
kettnernw "at" yahoo "dot" com
Colorado Springs, Colorado
6' 1" (1.85 m)
175 lb (79.40 kg)
I'm a medium weight backpacker, meaning my pack usually weighs 30-35 lb (13-16 kg), and I generally hike a moderate pace and mostly in mountainous terrain.
I almost always use a tent (lightweight when backpacking, wall tent when hunting). I'm a weekend backpacker and make lots of day trips and single night outings, plus a few week-long backpack trips. All of my outings have been in the beautiful and rugged Rocky Mountains of Colorado and Wyoming since I started backpacking in 2004.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://redfeather.com/
Listed Weight: 4.25 lbs (1.93 kg)
Measured Weight: 4.17 lbs (1.89 kg)
Measured Length: 24 in (61 cm)
Measured Width: 8.5 in (21.6 cm)
Designed for User Weight up to 175 lbs (79 kg)
Color: Gray w/ Black Binding
Decking Material: Injection-Molded Nylon
Several things jumped out at me when I first got hold of the Conquest snowshoes. The first was the heft. These snowshoes feel solid and heavy to me and indeed are heavier than several other models of snowshoes that I've used. I suspect that most of the 'extra' weight is due to the heavy duty injection-molded nylon decking.
The second thing that struck me was that the hinge is stiffer than I expected. The Redfeather website says the "Live-Action Hinge lifts the tail of the shoe from the snow with every step – for added mobility and speed." It certainly looks sturdy (a heavy rubber strap looped around a part of the decking and then riveted to itself), but probably also adds some weight to the design.
|Live-Action Hinge (as seen from bottom of snowshoe).|
Third, I noticed that the bindings looked quite different than any other binding I've seen or used on a snowshoe or any outdoor equipment for that matter. When I first tried them on with my winter boots, I was impressed with the simplicity of the belt-like buckles. The urethane straps are riveted to the Hypalon II (synthetic rubber) binding which connects to the hinge of the snowshoe. The straps are fastened by simply pulling until you have a snug fit and then fitting the small aluminum knob through the nearest hole in the strap.
|Close-up of buckle on bindings.|
Lastly, I wondered if the small spaces created by the structure of the injection molding on the under-side of the snowshoes would provide a place for snow to get packed-in and slow me down by adding more weight to every step.
TRYING THEM OUT
Since we don't have much snow in town, I'll have to wait until I can get up to the mountains to put these snowshoes through their paces, but I did try them on with my winter boots to make sure they fit. I wear a size 11 US mens and I had plenty of extra length in the straps. As noted above, the straps were very easy to fasten and my foot felt very secure as I swung my foot back and forth and side-to-side.
At first blush, the Conquest snowshoes seem a little on the heavy side, but also seem quite sturdy.
This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.
Thank you BGT and Redfeather for giving me the opportunity to test these snowshoes.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
It was my pleasure to take the Redfeather Conquest snowshoes on four outings during the three month test period. Three of these trips consisted of single day out-and-back excursions consisting of at least 14 miles (22 km) of snowshoeing mostly on designated trails. The fourth trip was an overnight hut trip including 5 miles (8 km) of trails and at least 2 miles (3 km) of off-trail exploring. The conditions on these four trips varied from a rather mild and sunny 50 F (10 C) to a very ideal and cloudy 30 F (10 C).
Locations included the Wet Mountains, Pikes Peak, Lost Creek Wilderness, and San Isabel National Forest - all in Colorado. The elevations encountered at each of these locations was within the range of 8,000 - 11,000 ft (2,400 - 3,300 m) with more than ample amounts of snow to require the use of snowshoes.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Conquest snowshoes performed adequately for me to enjoy each of my outings with them. In the following paragraphs I will highlight some the qualities I feel are important when selecting a pair of snowshoes:
Of course, lighter is almost always better, but at just over 4 lbs (1.9 kg) these snowshoes were quite manageable for me and I did not feel like they slowed me down, even when climbing steep slopes while carrying a backpack in deep snow.
The elastic straps that make up the bindings provided for a very comfortable and secure fit for my winter boots. I never once had to re-tighten the straps or re-adjust my foot in the bindings. Compared to the nylon straps I am used to on my old snowshoes, these bindings were infinitely more secure and comfortable. Also, the ease of donning and doffing these snowshoes made them a real pleasure to have, especially when my hands would have frozen if they were exposed to the elements any longer than the 30 seconds or so that it took to engage the four buckles.
The stiff Live-Action Hinge combined with the relatively short length does indeed lift the tail of the snowshoe with every step. The sensation that this caused was, at first, somewhat annoying and seemed to me an unnecessary waste of energy (why not let the tail drag?). However, it did not take long before I realized the advantage of this design, namely, that I could step over logs and other obstacles or maneuver around them much easier than some of my companions with longer tails dragging behind them. Even backing up was rather easy, especially compared to other snowshoes with free swinging hinges.
|Demonstrating the Live Action Hinge.|
The footprint of these snowshoes is not terribly large, and even with a small backpack, I was probably exceeding the designed-for weight limit (175 lbs or 79 kg) on every excursion. However, I never felt that I was sinking into the snow any more than my companions of similar size. In fact, when several of us were breaking a trail through untrammeled powder off-trail, I noticed that a friend of mine with snowshoes with nearly twice the surface area of the Conquests was floundering just as often as I was.
|Off trail with the Redfeather Conquest snowshoes.|
During the one day I encountered warm temperatures (50 F or 10 C) the Conquest snowshoes did accumulate quite a lot of snow on top and packed into the crevices on the underside of the snowshoes. This caused me to carry a significant amount of extra weight with each step. This problem certainly would have occurred with any snowshoes, but I do think it was exasperated by the lattice structure on the underside of Conquests.
The Conquest snowshoes are more than adequate for any casual snowshoer, such as myself. On the down side, their weight is somewhat more than desirable; and the lattice structure of the injection-molded decking provides too many places for wet snow to get packed in. On the up side, the bindings are the best I have ever used and the short length of the shoes and Live Action Hinge allow for very good maneuverability.
This concludes my Field Report. The Long Term Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
In the past two months I have carried the Redfeather Conquest snowshoes on three short hikes during which I only got high enough in elevation to encounter snow once. I found the snow in the Eagles Nest Wilderness in central Colorado at about 9,000 ft (2750 m). Of course, the snow in late Spring was intermittent for much of the hike which made it less than desirable hiking, but perfect testing conditions. I say perfect testing conditions because we had to doff our snowshoes three different times to cross dry patches and then don them again, providing ample opportunities to test the ease of use.
|Intermittent Snow in Eagles Nest Wilderness|
The weather was sunny and 60 F (15 C) which made the snow more like slush.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I think even the trips when I didn't actually need the snowshoes were a good test of one aspect of the snowshoes - weight. I've touched on this before, so it is no surprise that these snowshoes are not the lightest models available, but they are also not so heavy that they kept me from going as far up the trails as I wanted.
In the slushy wet snow of late May, the Conquests performed well enough. Again, I didn't sink in anymore than anyone else and they kept me from getting my legs soaking wet, which is what happened when I tried to sneak across a few patches of snow without donning the snowshoes.
The first time I knelt down to strap on the snowshoes, I noticed that one of the straps was partially torn.
|Partially Torn Strap|
Fortunately, the tear was above the hole that I use with my hiking boots, so I just had to be careful not to pull too hard on that side of the strap when tightening it. I can't be sure that the tear wasn't there the last time I wore the snowshoes, so I'm not positive that the tear happened while I was wearing them or if the strap was somehow cut in transit or storage. It's very possible that the strap was pinched between the crampons of the two snowshoes in the trunk of my car or while tied to my pack.
During the somewhat limited use I was able to get out of the Conquest snowshoes this test period, I found no new limitations or capabilities. They performed as well as I have come to expect them to perform. The discovery of a tear in one of the straps after just six months of use is obviously not a good sign. However, the fact that I was able to continue my hike and the tear did not seem to get any worse points to a certain degree of durability.
I will continue to use the Redfeather snowshoes during upcoming winter seasons for all kinds of snowshoeing trips, from day hikes to overnight hut trips.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.
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