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Reviews > Snow Gear > Snowshoes > TSL Escape Easy Snowshoes > Test Report by Michael Williams
TSL 227 ESCAPE EASY SNOWSHOES
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Things I Like…
Things That I Would Change…
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.
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.
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.
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