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Reviews > Snow Gear > Snowshoes > TSL Walk in the Park Snowshoes > Test Report by Kathryn Doiron

TSL Walk in the Park Snowshoes


Test series by Kathryn Doiron
Initial Report: Dec 16, 2008

Field Report: Feb 17, 2009

Long Term Report: Apr 14, 2009



Personal Information:
Name: Kathryn Doiron
Age: 32
Gender: Female
Height: 5' 8" (1.7 m)
Weight: 150 lb (68 kg)
Email: kdoiron 'at' gmail 'dot' com
Location: Washington DC, USA

Brief Background: I started backpacking and hiking seriously almost four years ago. Most of my miles have been logged in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I have recently finished 1200+ miles (2000+ km) of the Appalachian Trail. My style is to be as light as possible while not spending a fortune. My pack weight tends to hover around 25 lbs (11 kg) with two days of food and 16 oz (0.5 L) of water. I have recently started getting into winter hiking, snowshoeing and kayaking.


Product Information:


Manufacturer: TSL Outdoors
Website: http://www.tsloutdoor.com/
MSRP: N/A
Model Year: 2008
Weight: (stated) 2.05 lb (920 g) each
Weight: (actual) 1.79 lb (812 g) each
Measurements: (stated) 30 in. x 7.9 in. (76 cm x 20 cm)
Measurements: (actual) 30.3 in. 7.9 in. (77 cm x 20 cm)
Size received: 30
Materials: aluminum frame



Initial Report:
December 16th, 2008

The Walk in the Park snowshoes from TSL are designed to be a straightforward, comfortable snowshoe system for walking around in winter. The crampons look aggressive enough to handle hilly terrain but not necessarily mountainous terrain. The decking covers most of the frame nicely with a generous opening for the toe to pivot through. The woman's model comes as a powder blue decking with a white floral, leafy design on the toe portion of the decking and a white logo on the back. The decking is attached to a tubular aluminum frame at several wrap points. There does not seem to be much difference between the women's and men's models other then colour. The women's size 30 is rated to accommodate between 154 lb (70 kg) to 265 (120 kg). The straps have a telescoping system to allow the straps to accommodate a variety of boot and shoe sizes. The straps offer a three point binding system with a toe basket, an arch strap and a heel strap. The toe fits into the toe basket while the other straps wrap around and tie down to hold the foot in place. The toe part of the snowshoe is attached to the frame with a strap and not a metal pivot pin. The heel strike is a large plastic section of the decking with a wide inverted-v section of crampon underneath.

Close up of the front toe design. The TSL snowshoes in their carry bag.
The snowshoes with a boot inside the straps from the front. The snowshoes with a boot inside the straps from the back.

My initial impressions of the snowshoes were that they were not as wide as I expected. I am actually pleased with this as I hope this means I will not have to focus too much on widening my stance with them on. I was also impressed by how long they are. I was initially unsure of what size snowshoe to go with as I fell between two weight ranges, the 25 and 30. I opted for the size 30 as I will be doing some backpacking with these snowshoes on and I wanted to not push the upper range of the snowshoes too closely. I will be interested to see how much the extra length affects maneuverability and how the extra weight effects the flotation. The snowshoes came in a nice bag with little plastic tabs on the crampons. The bag has a handle on the long edge and the top making it easy to carry the snowshoes, or to hang them up for storage. I wasn't sure what type of pivot system the snowshoes would use as the main picture shows a strap pivot, but the smaller picture showing the crampons shows a D-ring system. I have in the past used a pair of snowshoes that had a similar pivot strap system and the snow kick-up was awesome, at least half way up my backside. I will be interested in seeing how much kick up of snow these snowshoes have in powdery conditions. I traditionally snowshoe with poles and will try the snowshoes with and without poles to see how stable the snowshoes are alone. I have two different styles of boot that I plan to test with the snowshoes, plus trail runners if the conditions allow. One pair of boots has narrow toes while the other pair has wider toes. I will look into how well the memory strap system works to remember the last pair of boots I had the straps tightened to. This will also allow me to see how well the straps can accommodate different boot shapes.

Shows the toe pivot and the toe crampon. Shows the back crampon.
Shows the adjustable heel plate. Shows the back of the snowshoe plus heel strike.

I found the adjustable footplate relatively easy to work without having referred to the instructions. It is a simple ratchet type system in that, I have to release the teeth from the ratchet to move the plate back, but I could simply push the plate back in to tighten the system and the teeth would push past the ratchet and catch. The toe was a little tight to get my boot in all the way, but I was simply holding the boot and trying to press it in. I will check to see if stepping into the snowshoe makes it easier to press the toe in completely. The straps were easy to work and smooth to tighten this first use without snow or ice in the way. I will be interested in see how well the straps work once caked in ice and/or snow.



Field Report:
February 17th, 2009

So far I have only been able to get the snowshoes out once in the field testing period, and it wasn't for lack of trying. There simply was no snow when I was out in West Virginia in January and nothing in Pennsylvania in February due to a strange warm spell. I did manage to take the snowshoes out on one trip and still have a big trip planned out in the White Mountains in March that should have the snowshoes seeing plenty of snow.

Trips:
The first and only trip out with these snowshoes was out in West Virginia to the Spruce Knob area. A group of us did a nice 5 mi (8 km) hike in the area after visiting the highest peak. The trail was fairly flat with some uphill and downhill sections. There were a few frozen streams to cross. The snow was about 6-10 in. (15-25 cm) deep and a little heavier than powder. Temperatures were around 24 F (-4 C) over the course of the hike. The snowshoes didn't quite sink down to the base layer in the deeper sections but I was hitting rocks in some of the thinner sections. The crampons gave me a good grip and prevented me from sliding back with each step on the uphill sections. The crampons also worked very well when crossing the frozen streams. I felt comfortable that I wasn't able to slide around.
Image of TSL snowshoes on ice

Impressions and Comments:
So far, I have been very pleased that the pivot allowed the back of the snowshoes to drag rather than causing them to snap snow back at me. The snowshoes tracked straight and were comfortable to walk in. Other than snow crunching, the snowshoes were relatively quiet to hike in. I noticed in cold temperatures, the plastic buckle that keeps the heel of the boot in place on the snowshoe became too cold to unlatch from the little pins. When I was trying to remove the snowshoes, I discovered I was unable to get the strap to release. It was also then that I noticed that the shape of the strap that holds my boots in place actually tapers in. Once I got the taper over the flare of my boot heel, I was unable to slip the strap off. While this was great for hiking, as I had a nice tight fit, it also meant I couldn't slip the snowshoes off nor could I open the plastic strap. In the end I was able to loosen the toe section enough to lift my foot out toe first. While a little uncomfortable, it did work.



Long Term Report:
April 14th, 2009

I managed to get another two trips out of the snowshoes, a nice day hike and a more involved long weekend trip. Read on to see how they performed.

Trips:
Washington, DC had a nice snowfall giving about 6 inches (15 cm) of snow on the ground, enough to take the snowshoes out for a quick run through the park and onto the local trails near my place. The temperature was just above freezing and the snow was between powder and wet, not quite snowball making snow. The snowshoes did well once again in not kicking up too much snow, although there was some. The trail was relatively level so I started bushwhacking off the trail to see how the snowshoes would do on an angle. The snowshoes were able to hold me to the slope without slippage on the slope itself, but my heel was sliding down the heel strike and something was putting pressure on the down slope side of my foot. After the hike and run through the park, I noticed some snow had wadded up under the crampons. I am not sure if this was from me standing still to remove the snowshoes or from the hike through the park. I will evaluate this on future trips. After the trip, I noticed another tooth on the crampons was bent. I don't remember stepping on anything hard enough to bend the crampon tooth but something bent it. I will keep an eye out for this as I continue to use the snowshoes. There is some wear and scratches on the teeth of the crampons from use.

The next trip out was a three day two night backpacking trip up in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. The weather was around the freezing point most of the time and the base layer of snow was granular and about 3-4 ft (about 1 m) deep depending on altitude, possibly deeper. I had about 30 lb (13.6 kg) in my pack. The trip began at about 500 ft (152 m) and went up to 1500 ft (457 m) then up to 2000 ft (610 m) over the course of the three days. The weather was sunny the first two days then rained the third day out. The snowshoes really came in handy on the first day as a group of us pretty much broke tracks hiking around a lake. Due to a combination of no sleep for more than 24 hours, beautiful sunny weather, and almost pristine snow, we ended up goofing off and jumping and running all around the lake making fresh tracks. The snow was about 3 ft (1 m) deep here and had a few little stream crossings. Saturday saw a climb up over the ridge to get to the next camping point, then Sunday we backtracked to the parking area in the rain.

Snowshoes used on snowshoeing trip in deep snow.
Snowshoes being used on a snowshoeing trip in deep snow.

Impressions and Comments:
The snowshoes have been easy to adjust to whatever footwear I have used. This range has included a pair of all-leather boots with narrow toes, a pair of mixed suede/fabric boots with a wide toe and flared heel, and finally to summer weight shoes. I found that with the second pair of boots, there was a significant amount of rubbing on my heel going on that required I switch to the summer shoes. I am not sure if this was due to my boots being a little too big or the snowshoes holding the boots too tight. The problem was mostly resolved with the change in footwear. There was a minor amount of rubbing on my heel but not nearly as much as when I was wearing the boots. The snowshoes did hold the shoes nicely.

The crampons on the snowshoes are not nearly as aggressive as I would have liked given the challenging terrain found in the White Mountains. I was able to walk well on flat surfaces but when it came to climbing, the toe grips were only okay at gripping, while there was little side to side gripping available. I found when the trail angled to the side, I didn't have as secure a grip as I would have liked. There was also not as aggressive a grip in the down direction and I found I slipped a little on the downward trip. The crampons are also not very durable and are already showing signs of wear as well as at least two of the teeth are bent. The bend is not substantial, but it is noticeably out of alignment with the rest of the teeth.

The bag that the snowshoes arrived in has continued to be used as a storage bag and this has kept the crampons of the snowshoes from getting caught on anything while I am storing or otherwise moving the snowshoes around. This has especially come in handy when I noticed the hook and look enclosure along one edge of the storage bag could accommodate poles. This makes carrying the snowshoes much easier while they are contained within the storage bag and keeps my poles together in a pinch too.

Snowshoes in storage bag with poles for handles.
Snowshoes in storage bag with poles for carrying handles.

The decking material is still in very good shape as are the frames for the snowshoes. The straps still are in excellent condition although I have not managed to open the back strap at all since beginning the test. I have since been loosening the toe cup to remove my feet from the snowshoes as the back plastic band has not been cooperative in cold weather no matter what I have on my hands. I found the decking material is very tight to the frames, which did make it difficult to strap the snowshoes to the outside of my pack. I was able to slip the strap between the decking and frame eventually but it was more work than I expected. I later strapped the snowshoes on sideways to avoid passing the strap through the snowshoes.

Wrap up:
The snowshoes do seem to live up to their name of being for "A Walk in the Park". I have found them to be easy to use when walking in park-like conditions and they work superbly under fairly level terrain. Once I started to deviate from level terrain, the snowshoes did have a little more trouble gripping into the more challenging terrain.

Pros:

    - easy to adjust to multiple footwear
    - good floatation
    - easy to use

Cons:

    - not suited for challenging terrain
    - crampons bent and showing wear

This concludes my long term report on the TSL Walk in the Park Snowshoes. I hope you have enjoyed reading this report series and found it useful. I wish to thank BackpackGearTest.org and TSL for allowing me to play with these snowshoes.


Read more reviews of TSL gear
Read more gear reviews by Kathryn Doiron

Reviews > Snow Gear > Snowshoes > TSL Walk in the Park Snowshoes > Test Report by Kathryn Doiron



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