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Reviews > Snow Gear > Snowshoes > Redfeather Pace Snowshoes > Gail Staisil > Test Report by Gail Staisil
Redfeather Women's Pace Snowshoes
Test Series by: Gail Staisil, Marquette, Michigan
Updated: May 1, 2007
Redfeather Women's Pace Snowshoes
December 17, 2006
Name: Gail Staisil
Height: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
Weight: 140 lb (64 kg)
Location: Marquette, Michigan USA
The Redfeather Pace Snowshoes are a women's specific snowshoe offered in the Recreational Series from the manufacturer. According to the website, the Redfeather Pace Snowshoes are not only designed to accommodate a women's narrower stride, but offer performance attributes. The Snowshoes feature a powder-coated aluminum frame, an Optima binding system, TXN35 decking, and Delta-Live Action Hinges. The latter lifts the tails of the snowshoes with every step. The Pace Model are available in two sizes based on body weight. The 25 in (64 cm) model is appropriate for body weights up to175 lb (79 kg) whereas the shorter 21 in (53 cm) model is recommended for body weights up to 125 lb (57 kg).
The Redfeather Pace Snowshoes Model 25 arrived on December 11. The snowshoes were latched together with two zip ties and a section of cardboard was used to protect the snowshoes from the sharp crampons. A simple hang tag was attached to one of the snowshoes. It noted warranty information as well as some informative details on the materials used in the Pace Snowshoes. The snowshoes arrived in perfect condition.
The first thing I noticed about the Redfeather Pace Snowshoes is that they felt heavier than I expected them to feel for snowshoes that are designed primarily for trail running or other light pursuits. I had requested the Model 25 version of the Pace Snowshoes based on my weight of 140 lb (64 kg). I'm assuming that the majority of weight in the construction of the snowshoes comes primarily from the stainless steel crampons and the aluminum frame tubing. All the other materials including the deckings and bindings are made out of lightweight materials. The snowshoes look just like they did on the website so there really wasn't any surprise as to their graphics or detail. I also immediately noticed that the snowshoe's foot plates were labeled "R" and "L" for right and left foot respectively. This is the first time I've encountered such markings on any snowshoes that I have owned including running models. Upon further inspection, I noticed that the frames of the snowshoes are symmetrical so the markings must be keyed more to the asymmetrical shapes of the top footplates located underneath where the ball of each foot would be located.
There weren't any directions included with the snowshoes for adjusting them to fit but it was rather instinctive. I have snowshoed for most of my life so I found it easy to adjust them correctly but I don't think a beginner would have had a problem either.
The Optima Bindings consist of footwear harnesses that are made out of a very soft and pliable material. Buckles and nylon webbing are riveted to the harnesses with 0.5 in (1.3 cm) in diameter lightweight rivets. After loosening both of the binding webbing straps on one snowshoe, I placed my trail shoe-encased foot into the binding with the ball of my foot over the top of the traction plate. The uppermost strap lays over the top of the ball of the foot. It consists of nylon webbing that threads through a plastic D-ring on an angle to form a "V" shape. The second closure strap pulls straight across the top of the foot at the arch. The heel strap consists of a very soft polyurethane strap that is easily adjusted by pulling the strap through a metal ring. The ring has a prong that holds the strap in position. I repeated the steps for the other foot.
An integral part of the bindings, a ridged plate is attached to the binding material of each snowshoe under the ball of the foot. These top asymmetrical plates are shaped for the placement of the respective foot to lie over the plate correctly. The plates are riveted to the soft binding material itself, and they form the Delta-Live Action Hinges. The hinges lift the tails of the snowshoes with every step and allow them to spring back. Additional rear plates lie directly over the rear crampons offering additional support to their placement. The rear or ridged heel plates act as a tracking device to keep the the feet aligned vertically to reduce lateral movement. It is important to line up one's feet correctly as it could cause inefficient tracking. The entire binding system can be interchanged with any other type of binding system that Redfeather manufacturers.
The Pace 25 Snowshoes are outfitted with two sets of crampons on each snowshoe. The Sure-Grip crampons are made out of powder-coated stainless steel and feature some impressive looking sharp teeth or points. There are six metal teeth each on both the front and rear crampons. The front or toe metal teeth measure nearly 1.5 in (3.8 cm) in length from the base whereas the rear metal teeth measure about 1 in (2.5 cm) from the base. The teeth are more pointed and not as rounded as other snowshoe crampons that I have used so I am looking forward to seeing if there is a noticeable difference in grip while ascending and descending hills.
The snowshoe frames are made out of extruded 600 Series aluminum tubing. The tubing is bent into a symmetrical shape with a bent and rounded top section on each snowshoe. The sides of both ends of the tubing are butted up against each other at the bottom of the frame. The resulting shape forms a V-shaped tail that is supposed to allow a natural stride. The ends of the tubing are plugged with tapered plastic-type material. The tubing used on the snowshoes is powder coated to hinder snow from sticking to the frame. The frame suspends or supports the decking material.
The decking material used in the Pace snowshoes is called TXN35. It is a very soft and pliable material that has been shaped, stretched and riveted around the frames at several points to hold the decking in place. The decking material is shaped so that there are many open areas where snow can filter down through the frame to eliminate potential snow build up. I tried to search for more information about the TXN35 material but after an extensive search, I couldn't find any data. I then e-mailed Redfeather's Customer Service for more information and they informed me that it was a type of vinyl. The solid sheets of vinyl decking material give the snowshoes flotation as they couldn't float over the surface of the snow without its presence. The material is also very slippery so hopefully that will hinder the build-up of snow on top of the partial decking.
Overall, the attention to detail and workmanship seems keen to what I would expect from a major manufacturer of snowshoes. What's next? Let it snow! Almost 43 in (109 cm) of snow have fallen so far this season but currently the snow depth is minimal. Since this area receives at least 200 in (5 m) of lake-effect snow a year, I am anxious to begin testing the Pace snowshoes for trail running and day hiking.
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Redfeather Pace Snowshoes
March 5, 2007
Locations and Conditions
During the field test period, the Redfeather Pace Snowshoes were worn both for numerous dayhikes and for snowshoe running. The majority of those outings took place on the Harlow Lake Trail system and Mt Marquette Trail system within my local area. The latter trails are very aggressive with a significant amount of steep ascents and descents. Both hilly locations include conifer and deciduous forest communities with many rock outcroppings. Neither trail system is groomed in any manner. I also wore the snowshoes on a three-day snowshoeing trip to a rustic cabin in the Hiawatha National Forest. I wore them while pulling a heavy sled full of gear a short distance of 1.5 mi (2.5 km) both to and from the cabin as well as daily snowshoe hikes while I was there. Most of these hikes were about 3 mi (5 km) in length and the hilly terrain consisted of hemlock, spruce and beech forest that surrounded numerous lakes.
Elevation for all outings in the field test period ranged from 600 ft (183 m) to almost 1550 ft (472 m). Snow depth of 18 in (46 cm) to nearly 3 ft (91 cm) was experienced. Temperatures for all outings ranged from a low of -5 F (-21 C) to a high of 26 F (-3 C). However, cold and windy conditions were prevalent with significant wind chill factors at times. Humidity ranged from 60 percent to 95 percent.
I guess I am somewhat of a purist when it comes to snowshoeing. I prefer using only ungroomed trails so mostly all of my snowshoe hiking and running has been done on trails that aren't mechanically groomed in any manner. I mostly snowshoe after fresh snow has fallen so that I can make my own tracks rather than follow the tracks of others. To me, that's the fun part. Much of the snow that has fallen this year has been more powdery than normal for this area so that significantly relates to how deep I have sank while wearing snowshoes. New snow hasn't been a problem as many days have produced several inches with about 165 in (4.2 m) of snowfall so far this season. Most of my runs are 3 to 4 mi (5 km to 6.5 km) in length and my hikes are often 5 miles (8 km) or less in length.
I have worn the Redfeather Pace Snowshoes both with my current trail runners (a new pair of La Sportiva Rajas) and my Columbia Bugabootoo Boots. Both types of footwear have been easy to insert into the Optima Bindings. The binding straps have been easily adjusted to accommodate both the smaller and lighter trail runners as well as the bulky snow boots. I wear a women's size 10.5 US (42.5) trail shoe and a size 11 US (43 EU) snow boot. There is plenty of room so that my feet are centered on the bindings and there's still room beyond the toes of the footwear for them to not catch on the decking material. Once the bindings are secure, I haven't experienced any loosening of the straps. I was initially a bit hesitant about the prongs that are used to secure the rear binding straps, as I felt that they appeared rather slight to hold my feet in place while running. As I gained more confidence I began to feel more secure in the fact that it was doing the job well. Most of my other snowshoes have had ratcheted buckles or a simple buckle system to secure the back straps. The prongs are much easier to use and seem to stay secure as long as the straps are fed through the rubber loop beneath each prong for extra security.
Although I have a past history of doing snowshoe races, I no longer run race events. However, I still snowshoe run as part of my winter regimen of exercise. Generally I prefer there to be quite a base of snow for this to occur. Early in the season, with only a base of about a foot (30.5 cm) of snow on the ground, my snowshoe runs were very conservative in nature. I tripped on several occasions when one of the crampons would hit an unseen object underneath the snow cover. It normally turned out to be a dead tree branch or similar. The crampons on the Pace shoes are very sharp compared to the other snowshoes that I own. While this can certainly add to secure traction, it can be a hindrance when I hit an object as it grips tightly and doesn't slide anywhere. In other words, the stops can be very abrupt hence the conservativeness of my running effort. However, as the snow depth increased the crampons became a wonderful asset. They were very useful when I traveled across a frozen lake to check on my ice-fishing companions several times during my cabin trip. They provided superior traction even though the ice surface was rather smooth in spots. In addition, the crampons have grabbed aggressively while descending and ascending hills making slippage minimal.
As the snow depth increased during mid winter, the effort to run has become harder. I have sunk at least a foot (30.5 in) in a snow depth of several feet (91 cm). Normally, I cannot even see the snowshoes underneath the snow when I am in a rest position. The snow has been mostly of the powdery form so this is not out of the realm for the size of the Pace Snowshoes. Snow kick-up when I run is significant but that is perfectly normal. I always wear short gaiters to keep the snow from entering my footwear.
During the short trek (1.5 mi/2.5 km) to the rustic cabin, the trail's snow depth was several feet but it was somewhat packed with only a few inches of new snow over it. I pulled the sled without any hardship while wearing the Pace Snowshoes. On the return trip with my gear a few days later, it had snowed almost a foot (30.5 cm) of new snow and the travel was difficult as I sunk very deep into the snow (14 in to 16 in/35.5 cm to 40.75 cm). This was to be expected and is of no fault of the snowshoes as a bigger pair would of been a wiser choice if the distance would of been longer. However, my day hikes were longer (3 mi /5 km or more) during this trip and the conditions varied as far as sinkability. I felt it was an excellent chance to experiment as I had no particular lengthy marches in mind for this trip anyway.
The Optima Bindings have stayed secure and not caused any lateral sloppiness. My feet have stayed perfectly aligned without having to resort to adjustments. That is very keen as I dislike stopping to make frequent adjustments. The ridged footplates including the ridged heelplates most likely help to keep my feet from slipping sideways. The soft vinyl bindings are very comfortable against my footwear and there haven't been any noticeable points of irritation.
The snowshoes have been easy to remove after an outing by releasing the backstrap from the prong and then making the frontstraps a bit looser so that I can wiggle my footwear out of the bindings. The pliability of the bindings doesn't seem to be affected by the cold but sometimes there are squeaky sounds presumably that are emitted when the materials used in the snowshoe bindings rub against my footwear when they are subjected to below freezing temps.
The narrow width of the Pace snowshoes (7.5 in/19 cm) is something that I have really enjoyed. My stride seems to be a lot more efficient and I haven't been smashing my ankle bones with the frame of the opposite snowshoe. I can relate from my experience in the past that this is painful when done repeatedly. The narrower width is supposed to be designed for a women's stride and it seems to work well for me. Additionally, the relatively lightweightness of the snowshoes has made the repetitive motion used in snowshoeing less tiring. It is a bit of a trade off compared to wearing a pair of snowshoes with larger decking. I definitely sink further with the smaller-framed snowshoes but there is less weight to move repetitively.
So far, I haven't experienced any build-up of snow on the bottom of the crampons or the heelplates. The temperatures have been mostly cold during the field test period and the only time I encountered slushy snow was on top of a frozen lake where I hiked. The slush didn't stick to the crampons or cause a build-up of snow after I walked off of the lake onto more powdery snow. The latter often caused problems with my old snowshoes so I look forward to more conditions that would allow me to further evaluate the performance of the Pace Snowshoes in that aspect. Late winter often brings warm sticky snow so I will address that more in the long term period.
So far, there haven't been any durability issues. The snowshoes have been subjected to mostly fresh snow conditions so the powder-coated frames haven't even been marred or chipped. The soft TXN35 decking material and binding material seem to be holding up well and there is only the slightest scarring of the vinyl material used for the decking. However, there aren't any signs of fraying of the edges of these materials. The buckles are working fine and the steel points on the crampons are still quite sharp. I've been storing the snowshoes in a snowshoe bag in my vehicle so that they are ready to go. This has worked out great many times when I had planned on skiing only to find that the course hadn't been groomed for skiing. The snowshoes came out for another run or hike instead!
So Far, So Good...
Overall, I am very pleased with the Redfeather Pace Snowshoes. They haven't only been comfortable to wear but have performed well in the variety of conditions that they were subjected to. In the long term period, I will both continue to look at performance issues and carefully at durability issues. The snowshoes will be subjected to old snow, fresh wet snow and icy conditions that sometimes can be harsh on equipment.
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Redfeather Women's Pace Snowshoes
May 1, 2007
Locations and Conditions
During the Long Term Test Period, the Redfeather Women's Pace Snowshoes were used primarily for day hikes and runs in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Areas included the Noquemanon Trails and the surrounding bush in Marquette County and off-trail hikes near the village of South Range in Houghton County. Locations ranged from and included conifer and deciduous forest communities with many rock outcroppings to small peaks. Elevation ranged from 600 ft (183 m) to almost 1500 ft (457 m). The conditions for snowshoe outings mostly hovered in the 16 F (- 9 C) to 40 F (4 C) range. Sky conditions included clouds, snow, and a bit of sun.
During most of the entire testing period, Snowfall has been consistent and over 230 in (5.84 m) of snow has fallen this winter. Early March brought a period of very warm temps making the snow very wet and sticky. During one 40 F (4 C) day, I made a trek to the top of Whealkate Bluff, a 1500 ft (457 m) peak that towers over a small village that lies at 1100 ft (335 m). Most of the height is directly vertical so its always tough to maintain traction year round on any surface of the small peak. In fact, the bluff was used in the past for motorcycle race climbs and is sometimes used as a challenge for snowmobile climb events. The snow depth was still a couple of feet (0.6 m) deep and I sank maybe only a few inches (8 cm). I didn't use my hiking poles so it was a great test to see if I would be able to ascend and descent without significant sliding. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to maintain an upright position with little slippage. The sharp crampons really dug into the wet snow and provided great traction. To top it off, I didn't experience any build-up of snow on the crampons themselves which would of certainly hindered traction. I was very pleased with the performance of the snowshoes and no, I didn't run up and down the peak . My heart rate was high enough just getting to the top at an easy pace.
Snowshoeing on the crust
Middle March temperatures hovered around the freezing point. March 20 brought an additional 5 in (12.7 cm) of snow in the form of heavy wet snow. I snowshoed the day after it fell resulting in sinking to the crust underneath the snow. A few days later the new snow had already formed an additional crust layer. I snowshoed again partly on an ungroomed ski trail with numerous side trips off into the bush where no grooming of any sort had ever occurred. I sunk through the softened crust in some areas and in other areas that were still hardened by the nights freezing temperatures resulted in mostly floating on top of the crust. I was easily able to infiltrate through low brushy tree vegetation without getting hung up on the branches. As I descended and ascended numerous knolls and ridges off trail, I noticed that the heel plates were building up icy patches underneath my boots. Later when I removed the snowshoes, there was at least a half inch (1.27 cm) of ice that had accumulated over the top of the plates. However, this is not an uncommon problem with these types of snow conditions as I've also experienced this with every type of snowshoe I've used in the past. Regardless, I was very happy that the crampons themselves didn't build up snowballs of ice.
Late March snow cover made snowshoeing more difficult. Although more than half of the woods had good snow cover, I was forced to remove my snowshoes at intervals to avoid walking through a few muddy areas. This was OK though, as I was happy to be snowshoeing at all with the warmer temperatures threatening the early disappearance of snow for the season. If the muddy intervals were short, I just carried the snowshoes and for the longer times that I couldn't use them I just attached them to my day pack. I could of probably walked through the mud with them but I didn't want to unnecessarily mar them with exposed rocks. After several days of warm temps it no longer was possible to snowshoe, but that surprisingly changed quickly.
Huge Blizzard ---Yeah!!!!
Early April brought a surprise. A huge blizzard brought over four feet (1.22 m) of lake-effect snow in a couple of days. The almost bare ground was again deeply covered in a pristine white world of snow. The temperature ranged from 16 F (-9 C) to 25 F (-4 C) and the wind chills were significant with the 30 mph (48 km/h) wind with 45 mph (72 km/h) gusts. I headed out on four consecutive days into the very deep snow. Since there weren't any layers of crust in the snow, I sank quite deeply with the snowshoes. Most of the time I sank approximately 1.5 ft (0.5 m) and in areas of drifts I sank to the top of my thighs. Of course, it was impossible to move forward in those areas so I had to back out of them. This is no reflection on the snowshoes because any of my snowshoes would of been buried in over four feet (1.22 m) of powder. I used the trails and old road beds around Mt Marquette on three of the outings. I ascended and descended an elevation difference of about 600 ft (183) from the bottom to the top. I again had another chance to snowshoe at Whealkate Bluff which is over 100 mi (161 km) west of my home for another outing. Snow was again very deep and powdery. Snowshoeing was very laborsome but I didn't have any mileage objectives so covering a couple of miles (4 km) in a couple of hours was fine. During all of these outings the snowshoes performed as well as could be expected in these conditions. The forefoot straps and heel straps stayed in place and traction was excellent when descending and ascending.
I continued to snowshoe for a few more days. The temperatures warmed and the snow compacted gradually so that I was only sinking 8 in to 10 in (20 cm to 25 cm). It was really perfect and I did a couple of bushwhack treks through the forest. I weaved in and out of the trees and was delighted to find many occurrences of animal tracks and tunnels down through the snow where squirrels were searching for their caches. They were probably just as surprised as I was to experience so much snow so late in the season. I ascended and descended repeatedly to get around large rock formations. The snowshoes worked beautifully and there was only a build-up of ice on the heel plates due to the nature of the now warm and more sticky snow.
My only small disappointment during the test period has been that I had some issues with the heel strap coming undone on both snowshoes at various intervals. I thought I had sufficiently snugged the rubber rings beneath the prongs insertion points. Through trial and error, I found it was best if the straps are super stretched so that the straps are very tight. That way the straps can't slip out of the prongs. During the field test period, I didn't seem to have an issue with them even though I have consistently wore the same two types of footwear in both periods. Looking back, the only thing that stands out is that every time the prongs slipped out of place, I was snowshoeing more aggressively on sticky or very wet snow (rather than deep powder). While this could only be considered a nuisance, I would much rather prefer that the snowshoes have ratcheted straps in the back or straps similar to the forefoot straps for more security. In my past experiences, such an arrangement was also easier to fasten or use. If the Pace Snowshoes were worn in a running race (as this is what they are designed for), this would most likely cause numerous delays in performance if a person had to stop and redo one or both of the straps.
The snowshoes have held up well during the entire test period. They were exposed to a variety of mostly deep snow conditions but removed if I encountered areas devoid of snow. This no doubt added to their great condition. The decking material, frames, bindings and crampons all have remained mostly unmarred.
Overall, I have been very happy with the performance of the Pace Snowshoes (other than the minor disappointment with the backstrap issue). I will continue to use them for future winter outings for years to come. Throughout the years, I have worn five other pairs of snowshoes including two pairs of snowshoes that were designed primarily for running. The Pace Snowshoes have outperformed the others. The greatest attribute has been undoubtedly been the narrower profile and the perfect tracking system making hiking and running more efficient. I chose mostly to hike and run in deep unmarred snow making it a challenge for flotation, but this is perfectly normal for the decking size of the Pace Snowshoes. I didn't expect the snowshoes to keep me near the top of the snow. I prefer to make my own tracks and it provides an awesome workout. The balanced hinges have worked perfectly and the level of fatigue experienced in my feet and legs was remarkably low compared to other less efficient snowshoes that I have used. These are definitely a keeper!
This report completes the test series for the Redfeather Pace Snowshoes. Thanks to Redfeather and BackpackGearTest for the great opportunity to test the Pace Snowshoes throughout the entire winter season.
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