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Reviews > Snow Gear > Snowshoes > TSL Escape Easy Snowshoes > Test Report by Michael Williams

TSL 227 ESCAPE EASY SNOWSHOES
TEST SERIES BY MICHAEL WILLIAMS
LONG-TERM REPORT
May 03, 2011

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Michael Williams
EMAIL: mlebwill@yahoo.com
AGE: 37
LOCATION: Milliken, Colorado, United States
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 225 lb (102.00 kg)

I was introduced to backpacking as a teenager through scouts in Colorado Springs, Colorado and fell in love with it. I continued to actively backpack through college and took a break to start a career and family. A few years ago we decided as a family to become very active in hiking, backpacking and camping. Currently my wife, son and I hike and backpack extensively in Colorado and South Dakota as a family. We continually look for the right balance of lightweight, durable, comfortable and safe gear for our family to enhance our outdoor experiences.


INITIAL REPORT

Product Information

IMAGE 1
Courtesy of TSL Outdoor
Manufacturer: TSL Outdoor
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Manufacturer's Website: www.tsloutdoor.com
Model: 227 Escape Easy
Listed Weight: 2.35 lb (1.07 kg) per snowshoe
Measured Weight: 2.34 lb (1.06 kg) per snowshoe
Listed Dimensions: 9" x 29" (23 x 74 cm)
Measured Dimensions: 9" x 29" (23 x 74 cm)

Optimal Load: 150 - 300 lb (68 - 136 kg)
Men's Listed Shoe Size: 4 - 12.5 US (3.5 - 12 UK)

Warranty: Limited Two Year Warranty

Product Details

The TSL Outdoor 227 Escape Easy Snowshoe is a composite snowshoe that is designed for winter hiking. The snowshoe consists of a composite deck material that is hourglass shaped which aids in providing an easier, more natural stride while walking. The decking is a fairly rigid material that has reinforcements on the bottom that appear to also serve as a snow break to prevent sliding. The front of the deck is angled upward to assist with stepping through snow while the tail of the decking actually has a tail. The tail, a short 2" (5 cm) extension of the decking actually continues under the decking and looks like the keel of a boat. I have not been able to find any documentation to this feature, but I'm assuming that its intended purpose is to help with tail drag and control of the snowshoes while walking.

The binding assembly, which is also made of the same composite material, is attached to the decking through plastic pins that again are constructed of the composite material. The binding, which is almost a secondary platform, has two binding points, a toe strap and ankle strap. The toe strap has a boxed-in harness for the boot that is secured with a webbing strap and ladder lock buckle. The remainder of the boot binding consists of a heel binding that goes across the ankle. This strap has a two-part adjustment with a similar webbing and ladder lock component for the instep side of the shoe and a ratchet style strap on the outside of the ankle. Both straps for the heel binding attached to a heel cup that is adjustable based on the size of the boot being used. This heel cup can move vertically along the binding platform and be locked into place to accommodate a wide range of boot sizes.

IMAGE 2
Binding, Heel Adjuster and Binding Platform



On the heel end of the binding platform there is a soft rubber pad that is the Sound and Shock Absorbing System (SSAS). The pad is basically an impact absorber which should help with a soft heel strike. Additionally, the binding platform has a locking mechanism at the end which secures the binding from pivoting for storage and transportation. Integrated into this locking apparatus is the "Easy Up" heel lifting system that simply snaps into place under the SSAS pad when needed for steep terrain. The heel lift system can be engaged with a trekking pole which eliminates the need for bending over to engage the feature.

IMAGE 3
Easy Up Engaged



The 227 Escape Easy Snowshoes features six steel crampon pins which are integrated into the decking material under the binding platform. These pins are replaceable if they wear out and can be accessed through screws on the top side of the decking. In addition to the crampon pins, the binding has a three toothed toe cleat at the front of the binding deck. This toe cleat provides traction when stepping and can be used to kick into steep terrain to gain traction.

IMAGE 4
Toe Cleat, Crampon Pins and Keel Tail

Initial Impressions

These are definitely different snowshoes than I have used in the past. I am very familiar with composite material snowshoes, but the design of these shoes is unique. The hour glass shape makes a lot of sense to me and I'm very interested to see if it aids in maintaining a natural gait while walking in these large shoes. The decking is deceptively large at 9" x 29" (23 x 74 cm) and I'm hoping that the hourglass design helps mitigate the size of these shoes so they perform similar to smaller sized shoes.

Honestly, my initial impression of the bindings is that I'm worried about them. I like the toe attachment and ankle strap; I think they are simple and easy to use. Also, the adjustable heel cup is set nearly to the maximum setting when I use my sized US men's 10.5 (UK 10) Garmont Momentum boots. These boots are very streamlined winter boots that are not bulky and they only allow for an additional 1/2" (1.25 cm) of adjustment for larger boots or feet. An example is that my size US men's 11 (UK 10.5) Columbia Bugaboots are too large for these snowshoes and they don't fit. So my boot options are limited with these bindings.

For my normal use I feel that the traction devices are a bit limited on these shoes, however the crampon pins are something that I have never used before. My concern is not in the effectiveness of the crampon pins but in the angle of the toe cleat. It looks like the toe cleat is nearly parallel with the decking and it may not be effective while taking a normal step.

My final concern with these snowshoes is in the pivoting pins that connect the bindings to the decking. These pins, which are plastic, pivot under the ball of the foot. I'm not sure of the durability of the composite material, which appears to be very rigid and strong, but I have broken steel pivot pins in other snowshoes that I have used in the past. So I am worried that a critical design, which is also the primarily mechanical feature to the snowshoe, is made out of plastic.

Testing Strategy

I have not had a chance to try these snowshoes out yet, so I have high hopes that my initial concerns will be proven unwarranted. I intend to use these shoes primarily on packed or frequently used trails for day trips in Northern Colorado during this test series. I plan on focusing my testing on (but not limited to) the following aspects of these shoes within the two month Field Report phase.

  • How comfortable are these shoes, particularly the bindings?

  • Does the binding securely fasten boots to the shoes?

  • Are they durable with critical features made from plastic?

  • How well do the traction features work, is there enough?

  • How does cold temperatures affect the composite material and binding system?

  • Will snow and ice "cake" onto the snowshoes?

Summary

I am excited to test these snowshoes as they are a significant change in design from what I am used to. There are a few points that I will be cautious with when testing such as the durability of the plastic pins that secure the binding to the snowshoe as well as the function of the bindings. The hourglass shape is very intriguing and I intend to put them to good use.

This concludes my Initial Report. My Filed Report which details the use of the shoes during a 2 month period has been amended to this report below.


FIELD REPORT

Field Conditions & Performance

During the Field Report phase of the testing process I have used the TSL 227 Easy Escape Snowshoes on 4 day trips in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) for approximately 20 miles (32 km) of use. The conditions that the shoes were used in ranged from temperatures of -5 F (-20 C) to 35 F (2 C) all in high wind and blizzard conditions. The elevation ranged from 8,000 ft (2,450 m) to 10,000 ft (3,050 m) and these trails were generally packed powder with a base of approximately 50 in (1.3 m) of snow pack. My typical pack weight during the trips averaged between 15 to 20 lb (6.8 to 9.0 kg).

After using these snowshoes I have very mixed feelings about their performance and my biggest issue lies in the binding assembly for the snowshoe. On my first attempt to use the TSL's, a trip to Mills Lake in RMNP, I got 500 ft (152 m) down the trail and started to have issues with the binding. The binding of the snowshoes have a deck that pivots with the movement of the foot. However, this deck is very rigid and doesn't flex at all with a boot. For example, when I step my heel lifts while my weight is transferred to the ball of my foot and my toes; the decking prohibits this from happening. This was uncomfortable and made me change my stride. Where I ran into trouble was the first steep section of the trail and after about three steps my heel came out of the binding and when I finished my step my heel came down off kilter and I landed on the side of the binding deck and rolled my ankle. I re-secured the binding a bit tighter, and kept going only to roll the same ankle shortly after. That ended my first trip with the TSL's, 500 ft (152 m) down the trail with a sprained ankle and strained Achilles tendon that ultimately put me out of commission for two weeks.

IMAGE 1
Rigid Binding Decking



After reflecting on what happened there are a few things that I noticed about the binding that I do not care for. First because my natural gait is to flex my foot, my heel will continually come out of the binding unless I tighten the bindings so much they are uncomfortable or I change my stride. Second, the binding deck is narrower than the sole of my boot and it feels like I am standing on a narrow board and I feel off balance. During my second trip I focused on changing my stride away from a hiking / walking stride to more of a cross country skiing stride and I found that the binding to work well and the issues I had with the decking were not as prevalent; however there were some steep sections that I could not help but flex my foot and the binding was uncomfortable. I do think that the binding attachments and ratcheting system work very smoothly and are some of the easiest that I have ever used; getting in and out of the snowshoes is not a problem.

The traction devices on the shoes work relatively well but I have noticed some limitations. My most successful trip was a nice hike around Sprague Lake in RMNP and at the end of the hike I took a trip across the lake and the Crampon Pins worked very well. I had great traction and they bit into the ice well. The toe cleat works very well when kick stepping into a very steep slope. The cleat is almost parallel with my boot and it is fairly aggressive getting into packed snow. However, since the cleat is so flat I had some very difficult times getting traction in powder conditions, the cleats simply pushed the snow down like a paddle.

IMAGE 3
Floatation in deep powder

IMAGE 4
Front loaded floatation


What I was very impressed with was the floatation of the snowshoes, these are large snowshoes and they worked great in powder. I was very surprised to see how much floatation these shoes provided; I was on 35 in (90 cm) of fresh powder and I only sank about 6 in (15 cm) at the front of the snowshoes. I mentioned the front of the snowshoes because I noticed that the floatation is greater in the front than the tail of the shoes. I sank about 10 in (25 cm) in the tail and I think that this discrepancy between the front and back is an intentional design element. This keeps the toes of the snowshoes up and really helps with the cross country style gait that I found works with the bindings. I still find this gait to consume more energy but it is very fun when plowing through deep powder.

Observations

While I have used these snowshoes on four trips this season, I have used them less than I would have liked to. Given that I lost 2 of 8 weeks of the testing period to the rolled ankle, I have used my other snowshoes more than the 4 times I took the TSL's out. When I go on a trip that is going to have any type of elevation gain, I want snowshoes that are more suited for steep traverses and inclines. The ability to flex the sole of my foot is something that I have become accustomed to with a snowshoe and the narrow binding deck makes me feel unsafe when I made a lateral traverse on a steep slope. Since I have an aversion to using these on steep slopes I have not had a chance to use the Easy Up heel lifters; but I found them easy to engage with my trekking pole. Having said that, I really had fun with these snowshoes on flat ground and deep powder, they work well in those conditions.

IMAGE 2
Cross Country Skiing Gait

Things I Like…

  • Floatation, Flotation and Flotation!!!

  • The hourglass shape really helps these wide snowshoes feel narrow.

  • The binding straps and ratchet action are great.

Things That I Would Change…

  • The binding deck is too restrictive to how I want to use a snowshoe.

  • The narrow binding deck makes me feel like my foot is going to tip over on either side.

  • The toe cleat is too flat and is only useful when kick stepping into packed snow.

  • I still don't know what that weird tail feature does.

Summary

As I said at the beginning of this report, I have very mixed feelings about these snowshoes. There are conditions, steep or high elevation gain trips, that I'm very skittish about using them. But at the same time; if I know I will be going out on a flat trail that is loaded with fresh powder, I can't think of a better shoe to take. The biggest problem that I have is most of my snowshoeing opportunities will be on steep terrain in the mountains. During the next phase of testing I am going to try them again on a steep section before I say that I won't take them on steep sections. So far, these shoes appear to be very durable, but I have only logged 20 miles (32 km) in them and I'm looking forward to getting some more miles on them.

This concludes my Field Report.


LONG-TERM REPORT

Field Conditions and Performance

During the Long Term phase of the testing period I tried to use the TSL 227 Escape Easy Snowshoes on two additional day trips. Both were in Rocky Mountain National Park around Sprague Lake and the weather was pleasant for both trips. On the first trip, the trail was very snow-packed and there was not any fresh snow or powder on the trail. The trail was relatively flat with some minor up and downhill sections. To be honest I didn't really need the snowshoes for this hike, in fact I was only one on the trail that had snowshoes, but I tried them anyway. I was able to try a little off trail route that was downhill. I used a stride very similar to a cross country ski stride and tried to slide my way down the hill. This worked great until I hit a rock and then rolled the rest of the way down.

On the second trip, which was two weeks later, I tried the same loop. I was able to strap the shoes on at the trailhead and then take them off less than a quarter mile (0.4 km) into the hike. The snow on the trail had receded so much due to Spring weather that most of the trail was rock and gravel so there wasn't any need for snowshoes. When I took them off I tried to strap them to my pack but I found that rather cumbersome. The size and the binding configuration made it very hard to strap the shoes to my pack and I ended up carrying the shoes for most of the 4 mile (6.4 km) trip. The best part of having the shoes for that trip was during lunch when I used them as a wind break to cook soup.

Final Conclusion

These shoes have some good features that I really like. I think the floatation that the deck size and hourglass shape provide is where these shoes have most of their value to me. Having said that; there are more negative features to these shoes that prevent me from wanting to use them over other shoes that I have.

I really had a problem with the binding system. Not only do they not accommodate my fairly average sized insulated pack boots but they don't flex and are very uncomfortable. While the binding straps are very easy to use, it takes quite a bit of work to get both straps to work together to make the straps comfortable yet secure. Between the binding and the straps, I was forced to change my stride and my gait while using these and that is not something I want to do unless I have to.

In addition to changing my gait, which I haven't had to do with other snowshoes I have used, I felt limited in the terrain that I was able to use these shoes in. I really felt that the traction devices were not designed for the type of elevation gradients that I like. I like to snowshoe in the mountains, not in the plains and I didn't feel comfortable going uphill in deep snow with these shoes.

I think the biggest statement about the shoes is that I went on 3 overnight snowshoeing trips this season and the TSL 227's did not get selected for them. When I went into the gear closet to pick what I was brining I never even considered taking these shoes with me. I think my decision to leave them at home was a reflection of the binding and traction issues that I have with the shoes.

This concludes the Long Term Report as well as testing of the TSL 227 Escape Easy Snowshoes. I would like to thank TSL and BackpackGearTest.org for giving me the opportunity to test these snowshoes.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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