TSL WALK IN THE PARK SNOWSHOES
TEST SERIES BY NANCY GRIFFITH
April 10, 2009
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
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Northern California, USA
5' 6" (1.68 m)
132 lb (60.00 kg)
SHOE SIZE (TYPICAL):
My outdoor experience began in high school with involvement in a local canoeing/camping group called Canoe Trails. The culmination was a 10-day canoe voyage through the Quebec wilds. I've been backpacking since my college days in Pennsylvania. I have completed all of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. Now I usually hike in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Most of my trips are section hikes or loops from a few days to a week. I carry a light to mid-weight load, use a tent, stove and hiking poles.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Photo Courtesy of TSL Outdoor
Manufacturer: TSL Outdoor
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.tsloutdoor.com
MSRP: Not available
Listed Weight: 750 g (1.6 lb) each
Measured Weight: 700 g (1.55 lb) each
Size: 51 x 20 cm (20 x 8 in)
Measured Size: 53 x 22 cm (21 x 8.5 in)
Compatible Shoe size: 36 to 46 (US 4.5 to 11.5)
Capacity: 30 to 70 kg (66 to 154 lb)
The TSL Walk in the Park snowshoes came in a black nylon and mesh storage bag with an instruction manual. The storage bag has a handle at both the top and the side. The teeth of the crampons came with plastic covers over them.
They are an entry-level snowshoe for recreational use on rolling terrain. They have a frame of aluminum tubing. The decking material is made of a recycled Pebax plastic material called Nexflon which is attached to the frame by wrapping over it and being riveted to itself in 9 locations around the circumference. It is a softer material for buoyancy and comfort. TSL's website claims that this material is shock tested to -40 C (-40 F). There is a plastic wear plate on top at the heel location.
The crampons are made of aluminum. The front crampons pivot through the decking on a strap pivot which is secured at either side by two rivets. The crampons have two teeth toward the front, two on the side and three toward the back. The rear crampons are at the heel location with four angled teeth on either side.
The binding system consists of four areas: telescopic boot length adjustment, heel strap adjustment, toe strap and ankle strap.
Boot length adjustment is done by lifting the tab so that the heel portion ratchets out. Once the boot toe is inserted, the heel portion can be ratcheted back in until a snug fit is made with the heel of the boot. The toe portion of the binding consists of a toe clip with a nylon strap and cinch buckle. Extra strap length can be folded and held beneath a clip to keep it out of the way.
The heel can also be adjusted independently from the boot length if needed. There are adjustable straps on either side for making an even adjustment. A nylon strap on top of the ankle allows for tightening and a buckle allows me to unhook the rear strap without adjusting the length of the strap. Extra strap length can be tucked under the padded ankle strap.
This binding system allows for setting things once and then simple opening the buckle for entry and exit. No adjustment is necessary in the field.
At either side of the toe pivot there are traction pads which are designed to improve durability, improve traction and provide a bumper when the two snowshoes hit each other.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
An instruction manual was included which did not have any specific instructions for the Walk in the Park model. There was a section on the adjustable boot length for aluminum snowshoes in general which applies. There was no instruction about the strap adjustment but it is self-explanatory. There was also a section on code of conduct which was in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Dutch. Mainly it talks about being prepared and respecting nature. There is a two-year warranty which covers manufacturing defects.
INITIAL IMPRESSION & TRYING IT OUT
My body weight with winter clothing plus my maximum backpack puts me at the high end of the capacity for the size 20. Since the snow conditions in the Sierra typically consist of heavy wet snow and since I have had no problem with flotation using similar capacity snowshoes in the past, I opted to test the size 20. I am willing to give up some flotation in order to gain the benefit of lighter weight snowshoes. There should be a limited number of cases where the smaller size will cause any problem.
My initial impression of the snowshoes was their small size. Even as packaged in the storage bag, they were smaller than expected. They are lighter weight than my snowshoes of a similar design.
I found the boot length adjustment to be slightly difficult at first. I lifted up on the tab while sliding the heel section. It is self-explanatory how it works, but I had some trouble moving the heel section. It moved more freely after I actuated it a few times. This is something that I will need to set at home anyway rather than at the trailhead. The front cinch buckle and rear buckle were easy to operate. Again, if I get them set with my boots at home, I shouldn't have to make adjustments on the trail.
There is no indication of a right or left foot on each snowshoe. The shape of the aluminum appears symmetrical. I had assumed that the buckles went the outside, but I found them easier to adjust at the trailhead with them toward the inside. I called TSL customer service to double-check. Customer service said that they can be used either way but typically it is easier to adjust them with the buckles toward the outside. It sounds like it is a matter of personal preference.
PROS & CONS
Made in USA
Overall the snowshoes are as advertised on the website. There are a few discrepancies between the website product description and the information in the technical data sheet. For instance the description says that they fit shoe sizes 36 to 46, but the technical data sheet shows sizes 30 to 45. The website says that it is having difficulty, so some of this may be expected.
In general, the snowshoes seem to be very well-made and have some nice features especially for snowshoes that are in the entry-level price range.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
During the Field Test period, I had the opportunity to use the TSL snowshoes nearly every weekend. I used them for 5 day-hikes and one weekend trip where we snowshoed in to a cabin with backpacks. Total mileage was approximately 25 mi (40 km). The weather varied from sunny spring-like conditions to a heavy snowstorm. The snow conditions included fresh powder, wet heavy snow, sticky snow and icy crusty snow.
Day Trips with day pack of typically 7 lb (3 kg):
University Falls, Sierra Nevada (California): 5.6 miles (9 km); 3,450 to 4,100 ft (1,052 to 1,250 m); 31 to 37 F (-0.5 to 3 C); sunny; solid snow conditions
Blodgett Research Forest, Sierra Nevada (California): 2.5 miles (4 km); 4,000 to 4,300 ft (1,220 to 1,310 m); 30 to 35 F (-1 to 2 C); partly cloudy; sticky snow conditions
University Falls, Sierra Nevada (California): 2.0 miles (3 km): 4,000 to 4,200 ft (1,220 to 1,280 m); 35 F (2 C); partly cloudy; icy, crusty snow conditions
Echo Lake, Sierra Nevada (California): 5.0 mi (8 km); 7,300 to 8,000 ft (2,225 to 2,438 m); 35 to 45 F (2 to 7 C); deep snow conditions; sunny
Loon Lake, Sierra Nevada (California): 6.5 mi (10.5 km); 6,400 to 6,700 ft (1,950 to 2,040 m); 31 to 45 F (-1 to 7 C); deep snow conditions; sunny
Spooner Lake, Sierra Nevada (Nevada): 7,080 ft (2,158 m); pack weight 25 lb (11 kg); 35 F (2 C) freezing rain on hike in and 20 F ( -7 C) snowstorm on hike out; packed snow to slushy conditions on hike in and fresh powder conditions on hike out
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
On the second hike, the strap for the front toe adjustment kept coming out from under the clip that holds the extra strap length. It was somewhat difficult to fold and stuff back under with snow on the snowshoes. It continued to slip out until I stuffed the end of the strap between my boot toe and the toe holder. This is how I held the strap for the remainder of the test period.
I didn't have any problem with the straps loosening during use despite some extreme conditions that certainly put a load on them.
I had difficulty trying to open the rear buckle while wearing gloves in cold temperatures when the buckle had some snow or ice on it. In these cases I had to remove my gloves to operate the buckle.
The traction is very good. I was able to climb very steep sections of trail by digging in my front crampons and was able to descend steep sections of narrow trail without slipping too much. On the Echo Lake trip, we descended 500 ft (152 m) of a very steep pitch and were able to traverse it without problem. It was so steep that the snowshoes slid quite a bit downhill with each step, but the crampons would catch after a reasonable distance making it possible to continue. This was an extreme test and one that I would only try since the snow depth was shallow enough that an avalanche was not a possibility. Walking on the steep side hill terrain did not pose any problem for the snowshoes. My ankles and knees felt it though!
Although the crampons are made of aluminum which is different from my experience with other snowshoes which are steel, there were no durability issues seen. After a hike, I typically only knock off the heaviest snow from my snowshoes and just let the rest melt in a plastic bin in the car on the way home. But there were times when I did bang them together vigorously to remove snow and no damage was done. There are some slight scratches on the aluminum frame. The decking material looks new despite use on some very crusty icy snow.
The weight capacity for the size 20 snowshoe is a maximum of 154 lb (70 kg). On the weekend trip where I carried a backpack plus cross-country skis, I was over the maximum capacity. With my body weight, winter clothing, full backpack and skis, there was probably a total of 165 lb (75 kg) on the snowshoes. However, I did not have any problem with flotation. Even on the hike out where there was 4 in (10 cm) of fresh snow, I did not have problems with sinking. I'm really happy that I chose the smaller size so that I could get the benefit of having lighter snowshoes without much compromise (if any) on flotation.
During one hike the snow really stuck to the snowshoes such that my footprint had no definition at all. ALL of the snow under the snowshoe had stuck to it. After a few steps it would come off and then after a few steps it would stick again. That made for some really heavy hiking. My husband had a somewhat similar experience with his snowshoes, so I blame the conditions and not the snowshoes.
Overall I am really impressed with these snowshoes. I would have to categorize them as entry-level based on their price point, materials and bindings. But so far they have functioned as well as my more expedition-level snowshoes.
Buckle difficult to open when frozen and with hands gloved
Toe adjustment straps slipping from clip
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I was able to snowshoe 3 times during the Long-Term test period. The trip to Yosemite National Park was some of the best snowshoeing that I have ever done. The snow conditions were very deep at the highest elevations on the trail and a heavy winter snowstorm was happening. After that trip though, the weather turned much more spring-like and conditions were less than optimal. On the last trip we found the trail to be half snow and half dirt. We hiked anyway and put our snowshoes on and off multiple times during that trip.
Vernal Fall, Yosemite National Park (California): 5.0 mi (8 km); 4,035 to 5,400 ft (1,230 to 1,646 m); 25 to 30 F (-4 to -1 C); deep snow; light snow to heavy snowstorm conditions at highest elevation
University Falls, Sierra Nevada (California): 5 miles (8 km); 3,450 to 4,100 ft (1,052 to 1,250 m); 37 to 43 F (20 to 24 C); overcast to rainy conditions
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The beginning section of the Vernal Fall trail is paved and was extremely slippery due to heavy foot traffic which had packed the snow down into icy conditions. Although it seemed ridiculous to be wearing snowshoes in this section since the snow was shallow, we wore them just to have good traction. We were able to walk quickly with the snowshoes. Without them, we had to walk very cautiously and were often slipping. Once across the bridge, true trail conditions prevailed and the snowshoes were needed.
The durability of these snowshoes seems to be good. They don't show any significant wear. There are multiple scratches on the aluminum frame both on the top and the bottom. The decking and straps appear to be in nearly new condition. The rivets show no signs of stress. The crampons are in reasonable condition with some slight deformation on one side. In the photo, the left tip is bent down versus the right tip.
Although these snowshoes are an entry-level option, they really performed well in all conditions. I used them in much more extreme conditions than the 'rolling terrain' for which they are recommended. Still, I found that I could count on them for excellent traction and stability.
Even though I was pushing the maximum capacity of the smaller size, I had no problems at all with flotation and am very happy that I chose the smaller pair. They are lighter weight which made for less fatigue on longer hikes.
I found the binding system to be a little bit cumbersome. I like the toe clip and the heel holder but the straps were difficult to tighten well. The ankle strap seemed to slip down by the end of the hike although it never opened or caused any problem with staying attached. The end of the front strap did not stay secure under the clip and so I ended up putting the end of the strap between my boot toe and the toe clip to hold it in place. This meant that I wasn't able to grab it to fully tighten it, but my toe was still completely secure.
The buckle on the ankle strap was difficult for me to open while wearing gloves when it was frozen and snow-covered. I normally had to remove my gloves to operate it.
These snowshoes kick up more snow in the back than my other snowshoes, but it isn't as much as I've seen with other brands. I would say the snow kicks up on the back of my legs to just above my knee height. They don't kick up snow onto the back of my jacket unless I am running.
I found the TSL Walk in the Park to be a fine entry-level pair of snowshoes. They perform well and have good durability. The down-side is the less than optimal binding and strapping system.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Made in the USA
Difficulty opening buckle with gloves or when the buckle is frozen/snow-covered
End of front toe strap not staying secure under the tab
This concludes my Long-Term Report and the test series for the TSL Walk in the Park snowshoes.
I would like to thank TSL and BackpackGearTest.org for choosing me to participate in this test.
Read more reviews of TSL gear
Read more gear reviews by Nancy Griffith