TSL WALK IN THE PARK SNOWSHOES
TEST SERIES BY JOHN R. WATERS
April 21, 2009
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT
John R. Waters
White Lake, Michigan USA
5' 9" (1.75 m)
178 lb (80.70 kg)
43 in (109 cm)
38 in (97 cm)
My backpacking began in 1999. I have hiked rainforests in Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico, on glaciers in New Zealand and Iceland, 14ers in Colorado and Death Valley's deserts. I hike or snowshoe 6-8 miles (10 km-13 km) 2-3 times weekly in Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, with other day-long hikes on various SE Michigan trails. I also hike in Colorado and am relocating there, which will increase my hiking time and trail variety tremendously.
My daypack is 18 lb (8 kg); overnights' weigh over 25 lb (11 kg). I'm aiming to reduce my weight load by 40% or more.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
|Manufacturer: TSL Outdoor|
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.tsloutdoor.com
Listed Weight: 2.05 lb (920 g) each
Measured Weight: 1.81 lb (820 g) each
Measured Weight: 4 lb 8 oz (2041 g), Both snowshoes and included carrying case
Sizes Available: Women's 20, 25 and 30, Men's 25 and 30
Size Tested: Men's 30
Dimensions: 30 x 8 in (76 x 20 cm)
Recommended User Weight: 154 - 265 lb (70 - 120 kg)
Fits Shoe Measurements: 10-15 in (43-52 cm)
* 4 point binding adjustment (HWS)
* Telescopic size adjustment
* Memory recall tightening strap system
* Nexflon decking materials
* Crampons SNOWGRAB
* MADE IN THE USA
|Picture Courtesy of TSL Outdoors|
Warranty: TSL Products carry a two year warranty after date of purchase against manufacturing defects and as long as they are used in a proper manner.
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS - Dec 08
For the most part, and confirmed by the TSL Outdoor website, snowshoes are pretty predictable in appearance. In my experience, it is the variations which make some snowshoes stand out from the rest.
When the Walk in the Park Snowshoes arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by the very nice, durable storage bag. While the website posts a graphic of the snowshoes, the bag was not pictured or mentioned. The bag is constructed from a heavy duty black vinyl-like material, The TSL logo and the words "TSL Sport Equipment" are stenciled in white down the front right side of the bag. A good portion of the front of the bag is mesh fabric.
There is a nice size (approximately 7 x 5 in/19 x 13 cm) pocket on the front of the bag. The front pocket has a clear vinyl "window" which contains a retail placard. The placard can be accessed from inside the pocket and something else (ID, map?) could be displayed in its place. The pocket is not expandable, so nothing much more than a map would fit though.
The bag is closed via a zipper. The zipper starts about 3/4 down the right side of the bag, goes over the top and down about 1/3 the left side of the bag. At the top of this closure is a large webbed loop for hanging while in storage and along one side there is a similar strap for carrying (or hanging).
My first impression of the snowshoes was that they looked narrow. The snowshoes measure barely 8 in (20 cm) at the widest part. Other snowshoes I have used are all 9 in (23 cm). I was otherwise prepared for the look of the Walk in the Park having combed through the website for any information in anticipation of their arrival.
Black decking with a subtle snowflake pattern (the Web site says black but I'd call it more a darker gray), wraps around the aluminum frame at 10 points, one in both the back and the front and four on either side. While TSL uses two different materials for their snowshoe line - T-Bax and Nexflon - TSL uses Nexflon, a softer material for the decking on the Walk in the Park model. Nexflon is purported to be more buoyant and comfortable in all temperatures and has been "shock tested to -40 C (-40 F)".
The decking is secured at the wrap-around points with metal rivets. The aluminum frame tapers both front and back from the widest point just in front of the toe basket. Both the front and back are rounded, like a beaver tail, unlike some other snowshoes which have an extended pointed rear.
A metal "TSL" embossed oval is riveted to the front decking and a "Walk in the Park" logo is stenciled on the back decking.
In between the logos are the boot strapping mechanisms of the snowshoes. There are four adjustment points to the TSL Heel Wrap System. First is the buckle adjustment at the toe basket. The webbed strap crosses over the toe basket, through the buckle and then gets tucked into a plastic holder at the top of the toe basket. This should keep the excess strapping neat and out of my way. The heel strap is factory pre-adjusted and according to TSL should not need changing except for very large or very small feet. I'm hoping it will work for me and I won't have the desire to make adjustments. At the ankle, there is a third padded strap which can be adjusted via a standard buckle. It, too, has a convenient slot to tuck in the excess strapping. Lastly, there is a telescopic heel piece which allows for maximum adjustment for shoe coverage.
Rounding out my inspection of the snowshoe uppers, I noticed a very large heel striker plate.
Underneath the snowshoe are the patented SnowGrab crampons. Two sets are positioned for optimal traction, one set under the heel and one set under the toe basket. The heel crampons are aligned vertically on each side and consist of four teeth in each set. They look aggressive enough. I was glad all the crampons were covered with removable/reusable plastic covers (that can be stored in the pocket on the carrying bag). The toe crampons are positioned three in the back, two in the front and one each on either front side. These also sported protective covers.
TSL's Anti-Shin Bang Articulation was noticeably different to me. The toe basket rotation is blocked at 90 degrees so as to prevent the back of the snowshoe from banging the back of my legs. The toe basket does not rotate freely but rather "springs". This is going to interesting to try out which is what I plan to do this coming Christmas weekend on our family's annual snowshoe trip in Estes Park in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
According to the provided TSL instruction website, the Walk in the Park Snowshoes are, "A comfortable and straightforward series for walking outdoors in the winter months." They are positioned mid-way in the TSL Outdoors product line, meant for flat terrain to mild slopes. They are not meant for steep inclines. The included pamphlet gives directions for the various adjustments in 6 languages. The pamphlet also covers the complete line of TSL snowshoes, both composite and aluminum, so I had to sort through to find only that which applied to the aluminum series of which Walk in the Park is one model. When I found that halfway through the pamphlet, I found the Walk in the Park model isn't even mentioned. I guess TSL hasn't updated it yet. So, no instructions
There is a PDF file on the TSL website that can be downloaded which has some graphics showing some of the snowshoe adjustments, but using the snowshoes, including the adjustment of the all the various straps is a fairly intuitive process; I got it, even without reading the simple instructions.
I'm initially impressed with the Walk in the Park Snowshoes. They appear to be exactly as promised on the TSL Outdoor website and the workmanship looks to be excellent. I could not find any rough edges, loose pieces or any other irregularities. So far, so good!
This concludes my Initial Report of the TSL Walk in the Park Snowshoes. Please see below for the results of my first two months' testing of this product.
FIELD LOCATIONS/CONDITIONS - Feb 09
This was a good season for snowshoeing. We didn't get much snow in Canon City, Colorado where I live. SO, even though I live on 37 acres (15 hectares) and can walk right off my property into over 200,000 acres (81,000 hectares) of state and federal land, I had to drive off into the mountains west and north of here to get deep enough snow to snowshoe in. And deep it was. The areas I snowshoed in had snow depths of over 3 ft (91 m) to 4 ft (1.2 m) or more.
Here is where I snowshoed:
Mount Evans - a mountain in the Front Range region of the Rocky Mountains, in Clear Creek County, Colorado. It is one of 54 fourteeners (mountains with peaks over 14,000 feet/4200 m) in Colorado, and the closest fourteener to Denver. This was a 3 mi (5 km) snowshoe trek cut short because we didn't expect the wind chill to be so bad. At 11,200 ft (3414 m) above sea level, the ambient temp was -1 F (-18.3 C) and the wind was blowing over 40 mph (65 kph), creating a wind chill below -25 F (-32 C).
Sangre de Cristo mountain range - west of Westcliffe, Colorado about 9,000 ft (2743 m) above sea level. Using different trails on 3 different snowshoe treks about 2 or 3 mi (3 - 5 km) each. Temperatures ranged from 5 F (-15 C) to 22 F (-6 C).
Ski Cooper at the Tennessee Pass in Leadville, CO - over 10,000 ft (3048 m) above sea level. I snowshoed for 2 days and over 9 mi (14 km) in temps from 12 F (-11 C) to 28 F (-2.2 C) in moonlight and sunshine.
Other locations used for regular hiking ranged from 5,600 ft (1707 m) above sea level to over 7,000 ft (2134 m) with temps ranging from 14 F (-10 C) to over 60 F (16 C)
(Anyone from Florida getting the chills reading this?)
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Of course, when trekking and snowshoeing at these altitudes and temperatures, I have to make sure that I'm dressed properly. Exposed skin can get frostbite quickly and it becomes more difficult to work with gear. Making adjustments with gloves on can be clumsy. Removing gloves because gear can't be manipulated with gloves on can be downright dangerous.
There are a few things that I look for in snowshoes:
1. Ease of putting on and taking off when wearing gloves in really cold nasty weather
2. Tracking on the trail. Do they cause me to drift from side to side or trip over my own feet?
3, Light weight.
4. Lift. How far do I sink down in deep snow?
5. Stability. Do they grip icy trails when traversing steep inclines?
6. Do they clump up with show and ice quickly and is it difficult to clean them off.
7. Do they hold up under adverse conditions?
The TSL Walk in the Park snowshoes are easy to get on and off, even with winter ski gloves on. There are two securing points forward of the ankle. A toe guard with an adjustable strap across the top of my boot and a single adjustable strap across the top of my foot just forward of my ankle that is part of the heel guard. These only have to be adjusted one time for each size of boot I use. The heel mounting is on a carrier with ratchet type notches. The entire foot assembly is in two sections. The heel section adjusts with the ratcheting forward and backward into a slot in the toe assembly. I can loosen the Phillips head screws that attach the heel carrier to the footbed and then push it forward and backward to engage the ratchet notches so I can move the heel support closer and tighter to the heel of my boot. This ratcheting makes the heel assembly fit just great.
1. Insert toe of boot into the toe section as far forward as possible
2. Tighten the strap on the toe section and tuck the extra strap into the strap holder. There is no quick disconnect on the toe holding section. It's easy to just pull a boot out once the heel is released.
3. With the Phillips screw that holds the heel section to the toe section loosened up and my boot pushed forward into the toe section, I just pushed the heel section forward against the back of my boot until the ratcheting on the heel section clicked into place. I then removed my boot from the assembly and tightened the Phillips head screw.
4. I put my boot back into the toe section and pulled the heel section up over the heel of my boot until it was above the sole of my boot. The rear plastic strap that wraps around the back of the boot canters out to the rear so it can be grabbed even with gloves on to allow me to pull the strap up over the boot heel. At that time, the fittings were pretty secure as they were.
|5. I took the middle strap that is part of the heel section, ran it across the top of my boot just forward of my ankle and connected it to the quick disconnect buckle and adjusted the strap to be tight, then stuffed the extra strap into a excess strap holder that is part of the strap padding.|| |
When I'm done snowshoeing, to get the shoes off, I just have to squeeze the middle quick disconnect connector to unhook the middle strap and then use my other foot (even with the snowshoes on) to push the heel strap down so I can lift my boot out. Works great, except I do find that squeezing the front and middle connectors somewhat of a challenge because it does take a good amount of pressure to squeeze it to make the disconnect happen. I do like that I can remove the rear heel strap from a standing position.
| ||Tracking on the trail is pretty good. I had no issues with tripping over myself or feeling like my ankles were twisting under any conditions of deep powder, crusted snow, ice, or packed snow. The shoes' foot assemblies didn't bind up when going uphill or downhill under any conditi ons whether walking slow or running. I felt in control at all times. The foot assembly pivots on a flexible plastic bar, so there is no way for ice to clog it up. Some other shoes I have pivot on tubing which can get packed with snow and freeze up making the pivoting difficult under some conditions and require constant pounding to loosen up. The Walk in the Park shoes always pivoted just fine. (see image left of the pivoting rod). I had no issues with stepping side to side and no issue with walking backwards.|
These are not ultra-light shoes, but they are lighter than others I have used. They meet my requirements for being easy to carry and easy to pack.
I had a good time trying these out on deep powder and ice crusted snow. As can be seen from the pictures below, I did not sink down more than 4 or 5 inches (10 or 13 cm) in crusty snow over 4 feet (1 m) deep and in powder of the same depth; I went down maybe 8 inches (20 cm) to about half way up my boot to my ankles. My son, who was using a different brand of snowshoes in the same powder, had 30 inch (76 cm) shoes and he was maybe going down 4 or 5 inches (10 or 13 cm) in that same powder. We would both go down about the same depth on the crusty snow. So the extra surface area of the larger shoes and the fact that he also weighs about 40 lbs (18 kg) less than I do, kept him higher afloat more in powder. In all though, the performance for floatation was quite good.
| || |
The shoes have good grip on ice. We crossed some areas that were glare ice and they performed as well as any other shoe I've used. The spikes on these shoes are quite aggressive. I never felt like I was rolling side to side and the pivoting mechanism worked as well on ice as in snow. They never caused me to lurch or feel unstable even on ground not snow covered.
| ||Do they hold up in adverse conditions? I did have an "oops" on Mt Evans, north of Denver, Colorado. I was using these snowshoes for the first time and I was determined to set them up and adjust them at the trailhead to see how difficult that would be to do in the field. I was not planning on -25 F (-32 C) wind chills. When I took the snowshoes out of the car and put them on the ground to set them up I ended up running after them as they were blowing all the way across the trailhead parking lot. I was also not planning on plastic tabs hardening up and breaking on the heel strap. Each side of the heel strap slides through 4 tabs that form the corners of a square. In the middle of those tabs, in the center of that square, is a plastic nipple that engages holes in the heel strap to hold it in position. Two tabs on one side broke right off and one tab on the other side broke off (see image). I'm not superman. They just quickly broke right off. I was able to secure the heel strap by making sure there was a lot of tension on both side, but it needed to be replaced. |
I called TSL support and explained the situation. They immediately and without question sent me two new heel assemblies free of charge which arrived by UPS ground within normal ground shipping time of 4 days. I replaced the heel assemblies and the snowshoes are as good as new. What I don't know is whether the replacements will do the same thing. I do know that I have the snowshoes adjusted, and unless I use a different pair of boots, I will not need to readjust the heel assembly. If I do ever have to do that, I will take the time to use the ratchet adjustment rather than try and use the adjustments on the sides of the heel assembly.
Now that we are moving into warmer weather here in Colorado, I'm afraid that finding conditions for snowshoeing will be a challenge. Last week, Feb 20, 2009, we took off into the Sneffles range out by Ridgeway, Colorado and the trails were not deep enough for snowshoeing even at 8,000 ft (2,400 m) above sea level. In fact, the temp was up to 50 F (10 C) and it was sunny. We ended up doing a regular several mile/kilometer hike wearing only a few layers. We have not had as much snow as last year. Even the high mountain glaciers are melting.
I was hoping to get to use these way into April. Perhaps we'll get a few more good snows in the mountain nearby us and we can trip up to 12,000 ft (3,600 m) and get more snowshoeing time in.
I have really enjoyed testing these so far and would really like to get in several more miles/kilometers in. However, I doubt if I'll be able to duplicate the -25 F (-32 C) wind chills conditions on Mt. Evans again this season.
I like these snowshoes and will add these to my equipment list as a keeper.
This concludes my Field Report of the TSL Walk in the Park Snowshoes. Please see below for the results of my last two months' testing of this product.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Well, winter is winding down. It's April 21 and it is going to be 87 F (31 C) today in the Arkansas Valley area of southern Colorado. It's like summer here in Canon City, but looking around, the higher mountains are still all white.
In the past few weeks I was able to use the TSL snowshoes in the Sangre De Cristo mountain range - west of Westcliffe, Colorado and at about 9000 ft (2743 m) above sea level, using different trails, on 2 different snowshoe treks of about 2 or 3 miles (3 or 5 km) each. Temperatures ranged from 5 F (-15 C) to 22 F (-6 C)
I also took them with me on a trip to Ridgway, Colorado with every intention of using them over that weekend because the forecast was for a winter storm, but the storm fizzled out and the extremely warm winter weather left us with weather that permitted only regular hiking. The TSLs performed as expected in the back of the Subaru.
|TSL Snowshoes in Action near Westcliffe|| |
|TSL Snowshoes Close Up|
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
In the Sangres, the snowpack was still well deeper than 3 ft (1 m ), although the strong winter sun created hard and crusty surface with snow crystals underneath. In hard crusty snow like this, when each step leaves behind a thin broken crust, I find that my feet tend to twist inward. That makes walking straight difficult and I tend to lurch from side to side. The powder under the crust is crystallized and does not compact since there is little water content. So it is possible to easily twist an ankle when snowshoeing in conditions like this.
I didn't have any trouble with the TSL shoes under these conditions though. The footbed allowed enough twisting to more-or-less keep my feet level and the slightly narrower width of these shoes made walking across the crusty surface easier. I still had to pay attention to not place my feet at too much of an angle so I didn't twist an ankle, though.
The TSL snowshoes have been working out well. Other than the issue I had early on in extremely low wind chill with the tabs on the straps snapping off (and TSL immediately sending out replacement straps at no cost), these snowshoes have performed very well. Ted McGuiness of TSL informed me that TSL is changing the tab design and using a softer material for the strap itself. I can't comment as to whether that will perform better at lower temperatures since we are past the test period, but I am impressed that TSL listens to and makes changes to their products based on field input.
The snowshoes are comfortable and are very easy to get on and off. There have been no additional signs of wear and tear after miles and miles (kilometers and kilometers) of use.
I'm going to be headed up to Rocky Mountain National Park in 2 weeks, where there was a fresh 3 ft (1 m) snowfall a few days ago. There is a snowpack up there in excess of 100 in (250 cm). We are planning a whole week of snowshoeing and I'm counting on the TSL Walk in the Park Snowshoes to continue to perform well.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Thank you to BackpackGearTest.org and TSL Outdoors for allowing me to test these.
John R. Waters
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