REDFEATHER EXPLORE SNOWSHOES
TEST SERIES BY RAYMOND ESTRELLA
May 02, 2007
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Huntington Beach California USA
6' 3" (1.91 m)
205 lb (93.00 kg)
I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or fiancée Jenn.
Name: Raymond Estrella
Manufacturer: Redfeather Snowshoes
Web site: www.redfeather.com
Product: Explore 36 snowshoes
Size tested: 36" (91 cm)
Year manufactured: 2006
MSRP: $169.00 (US)
Weight listed: 5 lb 2 oz (2.32 kg) Actual weight: 5 lb 5.8 oz (2.43 kg)
Size measured: 10 x 35.8 in. (25 x 91cm)
User weight suggested: over 220 lb (100 kg) loaded
Warranty: (from web-site) limited lifetime warranty
The Redfeather Explore 36 snowshoes (hereafter called the Explores or snowshoes) are positioned by the manufacturer as a recreational snowshoe that "keep you floating under a serious load". The picture of them above is courtesy of Redfeather Snowshoes. (Note: all quoted passages attributed to Redfeather.)
The Explores are a "Rounded Western Tail" (or Beaver-tail) style shoe. The frame is made of extruded 6000 Series aluminum tube, and has been powder-coated a light gray color. The tubing is .75 in (19 mm) in diameter. (O.D.)
The decking is made of a single piece of what the manufacturer calls TX35. It seems to be very heavy, black poly-vinyl laminate material. The edges have some loose threads/fibers showing, but pulling them does not make it unravel. It is held to the frame by looping tabs of the deck around the frame and securing them with aluminum rivets. The rivets are backed up with washers to help spread the load-stress of each attachment point. A total of 18 rivets hold the deck on, with 10 of them congregated in the middle of the shoe. At the top front of the deck is the Redfeather name and logo. At the bottom is the Explore 36 name. There is a large opening in the decking where the bindings are.
The bindings consist of a solid polymer plate that sit under the ball of the foot. Semi-rigid injection molded polyurethane toe and heel frames go under this plate and wrap around the foot. "Quick-adjust" nylon webbing pulls the frames tight to my boots. A single strap goes across my toe area, while a V-strap crosses the top of my boot in two places, tightened by a single pull.
A flexible urethane heel strap goes around the back/heel of my boot. This strap fixes on a steel hook through holes in the strap. The excess on all straps are run through a urethane O-ring to keep it from flapping loose.
The front plate has a 4.5 in (11.4 cm) wide, stainless steel crampon that the company calls "Lynx" directly under it. It is "powder-coated to shed snow and ice". It has four triangular teeth at the front and on to either side. The whole unit (plate, frames and crampon) is attached to the aluminum snowshoe frame by a pivot rod that hooks to a thick nylon loop riveted to either side. This pivoting action allows my foot to flex forward and down into the snow, biting in on the beginning of a step, with my heel free to go up and away from the deck. As the step continues and my foot releases to move forward the pivot allows the snowshoe to drag on the snow rather than snap upwards, which it would do if my heel were attached to the shoe.
My heel sits on another solid polymer plate. Bolted to it under the deck is a 3.5 in (8.9 cm) wide, rear crampon with five triangular teeth to each side of it. These are meant to help hold the shoe while descending, according to the manufacturer. No mention is made of traversing snow-covered slopes.
This concludes the Initial Report of the Redfeather Explore 36 snowshoes. The following reflects the first two months of real-world use.
I used the Explore snowshoes in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah for one week. The temperatures there ranged from 5 to 28 F (-15 to -2 C). There was about 3' (1 m) of snow, with some fresh powder a couple of the days. Here is a picture of them in use there.
They then went to Minnesota a state that has been hurting for snow this winter. We finally got enough to walk on in February. The temps fell down to -30 F (-17 C) and the snow was very dry, and not much more than a foot deep (0.3 m) except in drifted areas.
I did not apply to test these snowshoes, but rather took over for a fellow tester that could not complete the test. As I tore my Meniscus quite severely in 2003 traversing a mountain on a pair of beaver-tail style snowshoes I decided that I would not use this style in mountainous terrain any longer. Hence the reason that the Explores are in Minnesota rather than in California where I do the majority of my backpacking.
The Explores have worked well to hold my weight above the snow. I purposely sought out an area with deep drifted snow to see if it would float me enough to keep hiking. In 3+ ft (1+ m) of powder snow I sank about 8 in (20 cm) down. Not bad.
I am not crazy about the bindings. They are supposed to be easy to put on with the criss-cross design of the V-strap, but it was more difficult then all of my other snowshoe's bindings. As can be seen in the picture below the bindings would get fouled with snow, making it very hard to adjust or remove.
As I was hiking in Utah, my girlfriend asked why my feet were adducting (turning inward). When I told her they are not she said that I should see my snowshoes, especially the right one. It was kicking way over at an angle as I walked. I saw what she was talking about. The bindings were as tight as I could stand them yet the whole shoe just flopped around sideways as I walked. Below is a picture of it that I had her shoot as I walked towards her. As can be seen my heel is actually landing next to the frame instead of on the heel plate. This happens because the front of the binding is very sloppy. I have never encountered this on my other shoes.
The tester that started with these wore them in some rock strewn areas obviously. The shoes have a lot of nicks on the frame and crampons. The crampons have the protective coating chipped off in several places. As I was not in them at the time I do not know if it is a reflection on the quality of the coating or just the severity of abuse.
They have worked fine in Minnesota. Unfortunately we have had a very sparse winter as far as snowfall goes. I have used them on snow packed trails with a max of 4 in (10 cm) of fresh snow on top, so it was hard to judge the shoes abilities there so far. Hopefully I will get a better chance of some deep snow as spring gets here.
This concludes the Field Report phase of this test. The following reflects the final two months of use.
Since the conclusion of the field test I have barely had enough snow to put the Explores on. Minnesota has had a very strange winter, including a record breaking day that saw temps hit a high of 70 F (21 C) in early March. I took them on a backpacking trip that never saw them off my pack. We got two storms in April that dumped a total of about 10 in (25 cm) outside of town and I ran out to use the Explores once more. (Three days later it was gone again.) Temps were in the upper 30s F (3 C) both trips. Here is a pic of them hitching a ride on my pack.
As mentioned above I just did not get to use the Explores anywhere near what I expected to. I hope that next winter we will see more and I can get out on some longer trips with them.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
The flotation has proven to be quite adequate. I never had any problem with the Explores not providing enough support even in fresh powder. There is plenty of deck to keep me afloat. I feel that these shoes make a fine snow shoe for flatter terrain. I want a little more traction for mountainous country, but Redfeather does not position these for that anyway.
Except for the chipped areas from before I got them, I have not had any durability issues with the Explores. The deck is still taut, all rivets are still in and tight, and the straps are still in good condition. There is some rust on the crampons now where the coating was chipped. The frame is still straight and true.
The crampons worked well in the stuff I used them in. I like the plate above them. My boots did not slip off of it, and I like the hinge much better than the type that flex with the decking. It seems to allow for much more natural walking.
Besides the problem I had with the shoe tracking funny, the only thing that I did not care for on the shoe was the strap system. The nylon straps get quite fouled up from snow and ice and are hard to adjust or even take off at times. They did not give me a feeling of security either. I think that the addition of urethane bindings would improve this immensely.
I would like to thank Redfeather and BackpackGearTest.org for letting me test the Explore snowshoes.
Read more reviews of Redfeather gear
Read more gear reviews by Ray Estrella