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Reviews > Snow Gear > Snowshoes > Tubbs FLEX ALP Snowshoes > Test Report by Derek Hansen

Tubbs Flex ALP Snowshoes

Tubbs - FLEX ALP 24 Snowshoes

Test Series by Derek Hansen

TESTER INFORMATION

Me
NameDerek Hansen
Age35
GenderMale
Height5' 10" (1.78 m)
Weight165 lb (75 kg)
Email Address derek·/•/·hansen·/at/·mac·/dot/·com
City, State, CountryFlagstaff, Arizona, USA

BACKPACKING BACKGROUND

I am a lightweight backpacker with a typical weekend pack weight of 15 lb (7 kg) and a multi-day weight of 20 lb (9 kg), which includes food and water. Because I pack less than 20 lb (9 kg), I prefer lightweight trail-running shoes. I prefer backpacking with a hammock as part of my sleep system.


PRODUCT INFORMATION

Manufacturer Tubbs (K2 Sports) (Seattle, Washington, USA)
Year of Manufacture 2011, made in China
Manufacturer’s Website tubbssnowshoes.com
MSRP US$219.95
Listed Features
  • Torsion Deck (torsional articulation throughout the body of the snowshoe, enhancing traction, biomechanics, and comfort on uneven terrain)
  • Soft Strike zone works with the FLEX Tail to absorb shock and reduce stress on joints
  • FLEX Tail abosorbs shock from the initial heel strike
  • 3D curved Traction Rails with variable tooth height for side-hill grip in hard-packed and icy conditions, and also help prevent fore/aft slippage on steeper climbs and descents
Manufacturer Recommendations
  • All-terrain
  • Snow conditions: ice, packed, and mixed
  • Backcountry
Measurements
Specifications What They Say What I Say
Weight 4.4 lbs (2 kg) 4.6 oz (2.1 kg)
Strap: 1.9 oz (53.8 g)
Dimensions 24 × 8 in
(61 × 20.3 cm)
24 × 8 in
(61 × 20.3 cm)
Color Black/Orange
Warranty Limited three year warranty


INITIAL REPORT

17 Jan 2011

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

According to Tubbs, the FLEX ALP snowshoe (hereafter ALP or snowshoe) is designed “for the technical snowshoer who reaches for peaks.” First in the FLEX series, the ALP snowshoe features a flexible tail section (about 5 in/13 cm), nearly full-length Traction Rails, ActiveFLEX Binding, rotating foot plate with crampons, ActiveLift heel lift, Torsion Deck, and a Rotating Toe Cord rotation limiter.

The hang-tag instructions come printed in English, German, French, Italian, Norwegian, and Japanese. The instructions focus on the binding and do not mention the ActiveLift heel lift or how and when to use it. The ALP is a few steps up from recreational snowshoeing and is targeted at individuals who do more aggressive snowshoeing in hard-pack snow and steeper climbing.

Crampons

Many snowshoes have a separate deck and frame, but the ALP combines both, allowing the snowshoes a limited flex in multiple directions (Torsion Deck). The Traction Rails are fashioned in a sort of curve or wave for more traction, and the foot area has very aggressive crampons (1.5 in/4 cm in length).

Heel Step

Not mentioned on the packaging but listed on the website is the ActiveLift heel lift — a squared metal loop that can pop up under the shoe to allow a more elevated stance when climbing steep trails.

Bindings

The top binding uses two straps held by buckles on either side of the foot. It requires pulling both sides at the same time to pull the binding tight against the top of the foot. The plastic heel strap uses a peg from the buckle that inserts into holes in the strap. Once the heel strap is set for the boot, it should not need to be adjusted again. Both the two top straps and the heel strap have clips to keep the straps against the snowshoe. The two top straps also have snaps that can hold those straps together. I am not sure which way is preferred while in use.

Snaps

Included with the snowshoes is a 2 in (5 cm) wide strap that can hold the snowshoes together. There is hook-and-loop fasteners sewn to the strap to make the connection secure.

The snowshoes are marked for LEFT and RIGHT foot fittings, but the binding is also formed for a particular side as well.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

This is the most aggressive snowshoe I have ever seen or used. The metal crampons that run the length of the snowshoe are menacing, but are nothing compared to the metal crampons attached to the rotating foot portion. I’ve used snowshoes with plastic crampons (more for recreation than climbing) and they wore down easily; I wonder how the metal crampons will hold up (I’m betting they’ll do much better).

The bindings were pretty easy to understand, although the top straps took some force to tighten. I wonder if they will ease up in time? I am glad that I don’t need to adjust or remove the back strap — this will make getting in and out of the ALP snowshoes much easier than other snowshoes I’ve used before. The heel strap has a certain amount of “memory” and has a bend where it was originally fixed. This bend makes it hard to keep the strap in the keeper, but I’m not sure how that will affect the performance (e.g., if the heel strap will pop out in use).

I’m looking forward to taking these snowshoes out on the trail!

INITIAL SUMMARY

PRO—Tight, snug bindings; adjust-and-forget heel bindings; easy release mechanism.

CON—None so far.

FIELD REPORT

30 Mar 2011

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

During the field report period I was able to go on four day trips totaling about 12 miles of snowshoeing. This winter season has been unusually dry in town (Flagstaff, Arizona: 7000 ft/2100 m) with most of the deep snow remaining in the mountains. This has made it difficult to get any overnight trips coordinated due to camping and hiking limitations and regulations around the San Francisco Peaks, but the varied snow conditions provided a lot of great testing opportunities.

Jan 17 ~ Mount Elden, Flagstaff, Arizona. About 4 mi (6 km), elevation 8000 ft (2400 m). Varying snow levels from 1 to 2 ft (30-61 cm) and varying conditions including soft powder to ice pack. Temperature around 30 F (-1 C).

Jan 29 ~ Mount Humphreys, Flagstaff, Arizona. About 2 mi (3 km), elevation 10,000 ft (3050 m). Deep snow and varying conditions. Temperature in the upper 30s F (~0 C).

Feb 19 ~ Old Caves Crater, Flagstaff, Arizona. About 3 mi (5 km), elevation 7000 ft (2100 m). Blizzard conditions with wet, powder snow. Temperature in the 30s F (~0 C).

Mar 18 ~ Mount Humphreys, Kachina Trail, Flagstaff, Arizona. About 3 mi (5 km), elevation 10,000 ft (3050 m). Deep snow and varying conditions. Temperature in the upper 50s F (10 C).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

One of my disappointments this season has been the dry winter we’ve had in Flagstaff, Arizona. Last year we had so much snow persist at elevation that I carried snowshoes with me everywhere I went and even used them at work to get around. This year the only persisting snow has been up in the mountains, and the regulations up there are somewhat prohibitive for camping and hiking during the winter, making overnight trips difficult and day trips more logistically challenging.

That said, I have really enjoyed the trips I’ve been able to squeeze in during this period and I am delighted with the Tubbs Flex Snowshoes’ performance overall.

Hiking on Elden Mountain

On my first real test on Mount Elden, the remaining snow was on the north side of the mountain and I had to really follow the revine and steep slopes to remain snow bound. This really gave me a chance to test the crampons and the heel lift while climbing uphill.

On Elden, the snow was often crusted over and very hard, but the crampons made easy work of this and I had no problems sliding backward or finding my footing. The one disappointment I found was in the heel lifts. I put them in place and began to ascend but not long into the hike and one of the lifts would collapse. Getting the lifts in place, in the snow, on the slope, was difficult and when it collapsed a second time I gave up on that trip. On my first hike on Mount Humphreys (the tallest mountain in Arizona at 12,637 ft/3852 m -- no, I did not climb to the top!) I also had a chance to try the heel lifts and had them collapse during a climb. I haven’t tried using the heel lifts since.

On Top of Old Caves Crater

My home is surrounded by national forest, including a nearby cinder mountain: Old Caves Crater. When a blizzard approached in February, I was ready for one of the only “backdoor” snowshoes I’ve had this season. The conditions were horrible, but I was determined to get some testing in. I was making fresh tracks all the way to the summit and even took time to pitch my hammock and tarp at the top of the hill for a rest and a time out to dry and warm up. The snowshoes really made the ascent easy, despite the conditions. The snow was very wet, and while I sunk down, I was grateful for the deck that kept the snow at bay.

I had about 20 minutes of solitude at the top of Old Caves Crater before I heard voices approaching. “Not possible,” I said to myself, but alas, coming up the trail and following my indentations was a group of three college kids. They had a difficult time post-holing and getting wet (they were just climbing in sneakers). As I passed them on the descent, they asked if they could borrow my snowshoes (in jest, of course). I wished them good luck.

Deep Tracks

My second trip on the San Francisco Peaks was very interesting. A few recent snows had made for some interesting conditions. In places the snow was deep but deceptive. I would be walking fine on the top of the snow and the bam! I would sink three feet into the snow. At one of these encounters, my left boot broke out of the snowshoe and I had a difficult time staying aloft and recovering the snowshoe buried in the abyss. On some sections of my hike I felt like I was post-holing with snowshoes. Well, I guess I was.

On this hike, I had a few places where the snow had melted away so I removed the snowshoes and hiked a little across the patchy ground before the snow got back to deeper levels. I must say that I love the quick releasing bindings. It is so easy (even with gloves) to pull the strap loose, and also to secure the bindings down around my boots. I also love that I don’t have to adjust or apply the heel binding at all. Once it is set, I have just left it alone.

One thing I was curious about during an early trip was experimenting with how to hold the quick release straps to the snowshoes. It looks like there are strap “keepers” on the sides of the bindings near the deck. There is an indication that these slots were intended for the top straps, but I quickly discovered that the straps will not hold there and quickly fall out. The best and only way I’ve found to keep the straps secure is to use the snap that crosses the straps together and keeps them secure.

Also on Humphreys, I attempted to run in the snowshoes. I lasted about a quarter mile and decided that, while possible, running in snowshoes at 10,000 ft (3050 m) in varied snow conditions (hard pack in places, soft post-holing in others) was a recipe for disaster. I soon went back to just walking.

FIELD SUMMARY

Overall, I really think these snowshoes are great. The aggressive crampons seemed a bit too technical for my ability (they look like they could easily conquer Everest!), but I found they didn’t hamper recreational snowshoeing and really helped on ice crusted snow. They made me feel more confident on the slopes and on varying conditions of snow. I also like the quick-release straps, lightweight deck, and ease of getting in and out of the bindings.

My only real negative was that the heel lifts seemed to pop out of place too often. The lifts helped me feel more sturdy when I climbed up steep slopes, but I felt I couldn’t rely on them 100% of the time.

This concludes this testing period. Please look for my final report in the end of May, 2011.


LONG TERM REPORT

26 Apr 2011

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I was able to sneak one more recreational snowshoeing trip during the long-term test phase. In the past few weeks, almost all the snow has melted away from the peaks, so when a freak spring snow dropped over a foot (31 cm) of snow in town, I made a beeline for the hills. I took a 2-mile (3.2 km) trip straight up Old Caves Crater, beginning at my home at 6540 ft (1993 m) to the summit at 7183 ft (2189 m).

For this last trip I decided to hike straight up the side of the cinder mountain, dodging juniper and Ponderosa pine, and small foliage on my way to the top.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Climbing off trail

The relatively flat course from my front door to the base of the hill was an easy 3/4 mile (1207 m) trip, but within a few minutes of climbing straight up the hill my calves were burning. I decided to give the heel lifts another try, hoping they wouldn't pop down. I finished the approximately 400 ft (122 m) of elevation gain with the lifts and they performed remarkably. My leg muscles were no longer strained and I was able to climb with more confidence and power. I am happy to report the heel lifts did not collapse during the climb.

While the heel lifts were perfect for the vertical climb, when I had to side step obstacles, the lifts made my steps a bit awkward.

The snow was very powdery, but the snowshoes did a great job keeping me balanced and secured to the steep slope. I didn't slip going up hill.

One thing I noticed on this trip was that with my boots so frequently bent, the top straps would loosen a little, which made my right boot slip out of the heel strap at one point.

At the summit, with my climb complete, I set up my hammock for a quick breather.

FINAL SUMMARY

Snow in Flagstaff this season has been light and has frustrated my snowshoeing trips. I plan on writing an addendum next season when I can take these snowshoes on an overnight trip with more miles. Overall, I'm very pleased with how well the snowshoes performed for recreational events on a variety of conditions.

The only few hiccups I've experienced were when I fell into air pockets or when climbing steep slopes for long periods of time and the snowshoes slipped off my boots. It appears that the top straps were coming loose with the extra pressure, but was always fixed by tightening the straps.

The snowshoes have held up very well with only minor scratches and scuff marks.

PRO—Heel lifts really help reduce muscle strain.

CON—Top straps seem to loosen a little during agressive climbing.


I would like to thank Tubbs and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test this product.



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