TSL 227 ESCAPE EASY SNOWSHOES
TEST SERIES BY MIKE PEARL
May 01, 2011
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT
Woodstock, Vermont, USA
5' 9" (1.75 m)
155 lb (70.30 kg)
My backpacking experience began six years ago, after years of car camping. Most trips are for two or three days, some lasting a week. I hike with a group of two to four, with plans for a multi-day solo hike next summer. I pack a tent or tarp depending on availability of trail shelters. My average mileage is 15 mi (24 km). While aware of weight, it is not my primary concern. I strive for enjoyable outings with functional, reliable gear. I usually travel in woodland mountain terrain. I am a three-season camper, but enjoy hiking all year.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: TSL Outdoor
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Made in: France
Manufacturer's Website: www.tsloutdoor.com
MSRP: Not Listed
Listed Weight on Website: 2.35 lb (1.07 kg) per snowshoe
Listed Weight on Packaging: 1060 g (37.4 oz) per snowshoe
Measured Weight: 2.3 lb (1.04 kg) per snowshoe
Listed Dimensions: 29 in x 9 in (74 cm x 23 cm)
Measured Dimensions: 29.5 in x 9 in (75 cm x 23 cm)
Storage Bag Weight: 10.6 oz (301 g)
Suggested User Weight Range: 150-300 lb (68-136 kg)
User Shoe Size: 4-12.5 mens US (3.5-12 mens UK)
Color: Red & Black
The TSL 227 Escape Easy Snowshoes (hereafter referred to as the snowshoes or the Escape Easy's) are packaged in black vinyl carrying bag. The bag has a mesh front with zipper and two handles, one on the side the other at the top. There is a three panel insert on the front of the bag with images of several of the snowshoes features. The insert also displays the range of intended users shoe size, weight and terrain. The TSL logo is present on the front and side of the bag.
TSL describes the 227 Escape Easy Snowshoes as a "composite snowshoe" which appears to be a plastic material that makes up the decking. The binding is made up of a combination of molded plastic, nylon strap and a ratcheting strap similar to a snowboard binding. All binding parts are secured by metal rivets. On the bottom there are six metal spikes and a three prong toe cleat to provide traction. These parts are secured by metal screws and are replaceable. The spikes are covered with plastic caps.
TSL places the Escape Easy's in the hiking category on the company website. The product insert on the carrying bag illustrates their use for all winter terrain other than mountaineering. The Escape Easy's has several unique features:
-(SSAS) Sound and Shock Absorbing System-TSL patent, is a soft cushion like plastic under the heel of the binding.
-Easy-up-TSL patent, heel lift which can be engaged and disengaged using a trekking pole.
-Hourglass shaped deck is intended to allow for easier walking.
-Adjustment of binding to shoe size with quarter-turn system.
-Ratchet system on ankle strap to secure bindings
-Heel Block used to lock heel of binding to the deck for transport and storage
All parts appear well constructed and free of any flaws. The 227 Escape Easy looks and feels like a solid snowshoe.
|Top & Bottom|
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The instructions supplied are fairly basic and straight forward. The adjustment and use of varies features are explained primarily through illustrations. Several models of TSL snowshoes are covered in the instructions. This makes finding specific features of the 227 Escape model slightly confusing at first glance. A "Code of Conduct" which roughly translates into having common sense when venturing into the woods during winter is found in six different languages. A TSL product warranty is also found in the instruction booklet.
TRYING IT OUT
After checking out the snowshoes and looking through the instructions I tried them on. I made adjustments to the bindings with my boots off. After taking a quick measure of my boots, as suggested by the instruction, the quarter-turn system proved quick and easy. Adjustment is made by lifting the tab, turning it and sliding the heel of the binding. Then turn the tab back and snap it down. It would be more difficult to make this adjustment while wearing the boots as the quarter-turn system is located under the boot.
|1/4 Turn Adjustment|
Next the bindings were a snap. Simply pull the strap at the toe and the ankle strap is just like the one on most snowboards. Just insert the ridged tongue and ratchet until tight. I pushed back the Heel Block and walked around the living room, with the spike protectors still on. The snowshoe's felt light and nimble. I look forward to using them with the spike protectors off!
I will observe the different features and overall performance to the Escape Easy's on several day hikes. The hikes will take place in the Green Mountains of Vermont. While hiking my neighborhood hill of 1,300 ft (390 m) I will focus on three features. The SSAS (Sound and Shock Absorbing System), the quarter-turn and ratchet system on the bindings. Does SSAS limit noise and shock? How quick, easy and securely can adjustments be made with the quarter-turn adjustment and ratcheting systems?
I will focus on the Escape Easy's hourglass shape, Easy-Up heel lift and heel block while climbing two area mountains in order to snowboard down. Does the hourglass shape effect my stride? How does the heel lift work while climbing and is it hands free? Is the heel block an advantage when packing the snowshoes for the ride down?
The TSL Escape Easy's are a composite snowshoe made for use in a wide range of conditions. The snowshoe's features are well designed and easy to use. I only have experience with aluminum frame snowshoes. So I am very curious about the durability and performance of a composite snowshoe. I look forward to putting the Escape Easy's many features to use in the field.
Thanks to TSL Outdoor and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the 227 Escape Easy snowshoes. This concludes my Initial Report. Please check back in two months for the Field Report.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
|hittin' the trail|
All testing takes place in the Green Mountains of central Vermont.
Mt. Tom is 1350 ft (411 m) tall. The summit was reached by a 1 mi (1.6 km) trail with a 650 ft (198 m) gain in elevation. I hiked a total of 5 mi (8 km) on several connecting trails on two different occasions. On trip one the temperature was 35 F (1.8 C) so the snow turning into ‘mash potatoes’. The trail was well traveled with snow about 4 in (10 cm) deep and areas of solid ice covered rocks. The day was sunny with no wind. On trip two the temperature was 18 F (10 C). The trail had 6 in (15 cm) of hard, crunchy snow cover. My pack was 10 lb (4.5 kg) on both days.
Mt. Peg is 1100 ft (335 m) tall with a 380 ft (116 m) gain to reach the top. I traveled 4 mi (6.4 km) over gently rolling terrain. On trip on the temperature was 15 F (-9.4 C) with no wind. The trail varied from well packed to unbroken. Snow cover on the unbroken sections was 30 in (76 cm) deep. On trip two the temperature was 25 F (14 C). Hard pack trail with section of softer snow. My pack weight was 10 lb (4.5 kg) on both days.
The Sherburne Pass Trail is 3 mi (4.8 km) long with a 1807 ft (551 m) gain in elevation. The trail summits Pico Mountain, a commercial ski resort at 3,957 ft (1206 m). It was lightly snowing with a temperature of 10 C (-12 F). Winds were strong as the storm was moving out leaving 12 in (30.5 cm) of light, fluffy, dry snow. I made it out early and received the honor of breaking trail all the way to the top. My pack weight was 25 lb (11 kg) as I had my snowboard and boots for the ride back down.
The Bucklin Trail is 3.6 mi (5.8 km) long with 1800 ft (549 m) gain in elevation. The trail summits the 4241 ft (1293 m) peak of Killington Mountain, a commercial ski resort. The temperature was 20 F (-6.7 C) with light snow changing to clear skies. There was 3 in (7.6 cm) of fresh snow on a fairly tracked trail on top of a 24 in (61 cm) base of snow. Pack weight was 25 lb (11 kg) with snowboard and boots in tow.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
On the Mt. Tom and Mt. Peg hikes I focused on the SSAS (Sound and Shock Absorbing System), the quarter-turn and ratchet systems on the bindings. These three features work quite well. I am especially pleased with the ratchet bindings. They are as equally easy to fasten as they are to remove. The ratchet allows for varying degrees of tension and holds it. I did play with the quarter-turn system in the field to change the binding size. While I was able to make the adjustment, it is best to do so while sheltered from the elements or in temps above freezing. The SSAS removes almost all of the repetitive noise of bindings slapping decking. It decreases the noise enough that I could hear the snow crunching under the shoes, but that is in fresh snow. If the snow is hard the SASS cannot dampen the sound of decking on frozen ground.
The SSAS does make snowshoeing more pleasant in the right conditions. During these hikes I was also aware of the traction and floatation provided by the Escape Easy's. I was impressed with their performance while traveling over ice. There is a stretch of trail on Mt. Tom that is narrow and almost always icy this time of year. The crampons stuck aggressively to the ice covered rocks. I did not lose my footing once on this section. I also found the crampons performed better on these hikes. I experienced less slipping on the toe cleat. I chalked this up to the lesser pack weight.
The Escape Easys are great in all snow conditions other than deep, light powder. On days with +10 in (25 cm) of powder I felt like I sank to the bottom. Even with the substantial sink it was easier to travel with the Escape Easy's than without.
|click to tighten|
The Sherburne Pass Trail and Bucklin Trail hikes I focused on the hourglass shape, Easy-Up heel lift and heel block.
The Easy-up heel lift worked as described by the manufacture. The heel lift goes up and down with a flick from a trekking pole. No wasted energy bending up and down for the heel lift. I just lift my foot from the decking and push the lift in the desired direction. Climbing the uphill sections were less difficult using the heel lift. I did notice the SASS was not as effective when the Easy-up heel lift was engaged. The usual snowshoe sound of heel hitting decking was apparent.
|flip heel lift up|
The hourglass shape of the decking allows me to keep my natural stride. I only stepped on the opposing shoe once. This made for a more enjoyable experience as I did not have to concentrate on not stepping on the shoes. I feel my efficiency increased by not tripping on the gear that is suppose to make walking in the snow easier.
The heel block that locks the heel of the binding to the deck was helpful. The heel block prevented the binding from flopping when handling the snowshoes. The transition between the ground and lashing to my pack was smoother because of this feature. I again became aware of the traction and floatation on
|heel lift up|
these hikes. On steeper sections of trail I felt the crampons did not provide enough traction. When transferring weight to my uphill foot the toe cleat did not hold. I had to step on my toes instead of the ball of my foot to get the cleat to dig in. This lead to extra weight being transferred the front of my front and the toe bindings. The toe bindings cross right where my toes flex and this caused discomfort after awhile. The toe cleat seems to work better when using the Easy-up heel lift. The heel lift puts the toe cleat in a better position and improves its traction. As mentioned before I think my increased pack weight on these two hikes might contribute to this problem. The floatation qualities were the same as previously mentioned.
|flip heel lift down|
After about 25 mi (40 km) of use on six hikes I am impressed with the TSL 227 Escape Easy Snowshoes overall. They have greatly eased the difficulty of hiking in the snow. The hourglass shape, SASS, Easy-Up, and ratcheting bindings are key features that make the Escape Easy's an enjoyable snowshoe. I have only two negatives with regards to the Escape Easy's. The toe binding and cleat have caused some discomfort in the field. These are minor setbacks on an otherwise solid snowshoe.
I will continue to use the Escape Easy's every opportunity that presents. I hope to discover a way to increase the crampons performance.
This concludes my field report. Please check back in two months for my long term report.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
During the long-term testing period I used the TSL 227 Escape Easy snowshoes three more times. I revisited my area hiking trails, this time under different conditions.
Mt. Tom is 1350 ft (411 m) tall. The summit was reached by a 1 mi (1.6 km) trail with a 650 ft (198 m) gain in elevation. I hiked a total of 3.5 mi (5.5 km), with a 10 lb (4.5 kg) pack. The temperature was 30 F (-1 C), on a clear day with a light breeze. The trail was crusted over after thawing the day before. The layer of ice varied in thickness. On some sections I walked on rough-surfaced ice. On others I broke though to snow.
Mt. Peg is 1100 ft (335 m) tall with a 380 ft (116 m) gain to reach the top. I traveled 6 mi (9.5 km) with a 10 lb (4.5 kg) pack. The temperature was 45 F (7 C) and sunny. The trail varied from well packed to unbroken. The snow was soft and wet.
The Pogue is a small pond at 1240 ft (378 m) of elevation, with 1440 ft (439 m) lookout point above. The trails vary from very steep to very gentle through dense pine and maple forest. I hiked 8 mi (13 km) with a 10 lb (4.5 kg) pack. The temperature was 55 F (13 C) and sunny. The snow was soft and wet. On areas of the trail with direct sunlight the snow was patchy. Under the trees the snow was still several inches deep.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
During long-term testing the Escape Easy snowshoes performed almost the same as during field testing. There were two exceptions, the toe binding and toe cleat.
While hiking Mt. Tom I made adjustments to the amount of tension on the toe binding. A minimum amount of tension caused my foot to move in the binding. A maximum amount of tension caused the same discomfort mentioned in my field report.
On my next hike on Mt. Peg I set the toe binding until it was snug. Then I varied the amount of tension to the ankle binding. With the ankle binding rather tight, it minimized the strain on my toes. My foot stayed comfortable for the remainder of the hike.
I then sought out the steepest terrain I could find. I played around with different techniques of stepping uphill. In the wetter snow I did not experience as much loss of traction. I felt the toe cleat bite into the snow and hold best when kicking my toe into the hill as I stepped up. I think this could resolve some of the traction problems I had during field testing. However the wet snow versus dry snow is the biggest variable as far as traction goes.
When hiking to The Pogue and the look out, I enjoyed what was going to be my last day playing in the snow. I did my best to stay on snow while avoiding the mud and rock patches. The Escape Easys did find several rocks but felt solid each time. Being almost entirely plastic, I feared major damage. The only evidence of the abuse was minor scratches.
Several key features stand out making the Escape Easy a noteworthy snowshoe . The hourglass shape, the Easy-Up heel lift and the ratchet binding all made my shoeing experience more enjoyable. Each of these features worked well on its own, as well as an overall system. My ability to cover winter terrain was increased with the Escape Easys.
All parts and the snowshoe as a whole have held up well. The only signs of wear are minor cosmetic scratches in two places. There are scratches on the tops of the snowshoes from the few times I miss stepped. And on the bottoms when rocks made contact.
I will definitely be using the TSL 227 Escape Easy's next winter. They have earned a place among my winter gear.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.
This concludes my test series. I would like to thank TSL Outdoor and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the 227 Escape Easy snowshoe.
Read more reviews of TSL gear
Read more gear reviews by Michael Pearl