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Reviews > Snow Gear > Snowshoes > Tubbs FLEX ALP Snowshoes > Test Report by Gail StaisilTubbs FLEX ALP
Test Series by: Gail Staisil, Marquette, Michigan
January 20, 2011
Name: Gail Staisil
Height: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
Weight: 145 lb (66 kg)
Location: Marquette, Michigan USA
Email: woodswoman 2001 AT yahoo DOT com
Initial Impressions and Product Description
The Tubbs Women's FLEX ALP Snowshoes arrived in great condition with a small booklet of information and a hang card denoting that they are women's specific snowshoes.
The Women's model only comes in one length of 22 in (56 cm) and they are 8 in (20.32 cm) wide. A handy carry strap made of webbing with a hook and loop closure was included.
The manufacturer does not suggest a load limit for these snowshoes in their written specs but when I put my weight and intended usage in the interactive chart on the website, the FLEX ALP was one of the recommendations.
The decking surface coverage for this model is 151 sq in (2474 cu cm). Size and coverage are important features to consider when choosing snowshoes and these are definitely on the smaller end of the scale. They will likely allow for easier maneuverability which I look forward to off trail.
The website information for this particular model includes many short videos to explain the features of the FLEX ALP. I found this to be a great visual aid. The FLEX ALP belong to the backcountry category by the manufacturer. This is due to the aggressive traction, and secure bindings intended for "steep, deep and extreme conditions". The manufacturer also has a number of other models for other needs such as for trail hiking.
Design and Technical Features
Women's Specific Design: The design is lighter in weight, and features ergonomically tapered frames. The bindings on women's specific snowshoes are sized and scaled from a women's boot in sizes 5 -11 US (35-43 EU). My footwear is at the largest end of the scale and I was happy that both my oversized winter muks as well as other winter footwear all fit in the binding.
ActiveLift Heel Lift: According to the manufacturer, the lift reduces calf fatigue and Achilles tendon strain on steep ascents. The lift can be activated by just pulling up on it while the snowshoes are on. Each lift is located directly under where each heel of my feet would be once they are in the binding.
Torsion Deck: Reportedly the design adapts to variable snow conditions underfoot. The highly flexible plastic deck allows "torsional articulation throughout the body of the snowshoe" simply meaning that it adapts to the variations in the snow much better having more contact with the uneven terrain. The merits include great traction, biomechanics (better stability) and comfort on uneven terrain.
Rotating Toe Cord- Rotation Limiter: According to the website this design allows the tail of the snowshoe to drop and for snow to shed off the tail. This reportedly lessens the cardio-respiratory strain by 7% as the snowshoer isn't carrying the extra weight of the snow. The underfoot pivot point allows the toe traction teeth to bite deeper when weighted. The rotation limiter is suppose to prevent over rotation and shin bang.
FLEX Tail: This feature is one of the hallmarks of the snowshoe design. Being so flexible it allows movement to roll naturally heel to toe reducing heel strike and reducing stress on ankles, knees and hips. These findings were evident when the manufacturer worked with researchers at Colorado State University to evaluate the biomechanics in a flex tail design versus a rigid tail design (most all snowshoes). The researchers used sensors on the legs of testers to evaluate the joint angles.
ActiveFLEX Binding: The binding is gender specific and asymmetric with left and right noted on the base of each binding with a simple "L" or "R". As an alternative method of knowing which snowshoe is the right or left, make sure the heel strap buckles are on the outside. As earlier noted the binding is sized to fit women's 5-11 US (35-43 EU). It features patented Control Wings that provide extra lightweight control support, comfort and ease of use. The wings are located on both sides of each binding.
ALP Traction Rails: The long traction rails (almost 15 in/38 cm each) are curved and three dimensional. They also have variable teeth height to allow maximum traction. The curved design reportedly decreases the chance of slipping as the curves break up a potential slide (versus having a straight rail) The teeth in front are much shorter allowing grip but lessen the chance of tripping. There are six teeth on the large crampon located under the ball of each foot. These teeth are extremely aggressive measuring more than 1.25 in (3 cm) in length. An additional pair of traction rails (shorter ones) are located near the back side of each snowshoe.
Trying Them ON:
As soon as I received the snowshoes I immediately noted the flexible design and traction rails. These two features are new to me even though I have been snowshoeing for more than five decades. I pulled the rubber Cinch Pull that is located in the center of each binding forward to open the bindings.
The binding looked simple enough so I inserted my boots into the bindings making sure that I had them in the proper one (R or L). There are actually toe stops in the bindings making it quite easy to find the proper place to place the feet as they cannot go too far forward. The balls of the feet should be right over the pivoting or rotating toe cord.
Once my feet were in place, I pulled down on the two instep straps at the same time. There are clips on each side of the binding to secure the loose ends of the straps.
Next I adjusted the heel strap by pulling the strap towards the back. There is also a clip to hold extra strap if necessary. Since my feet are on the large side, there really isn't much strap hanging loose.
I went for a quick walk just to check fit and all is well. I must say that these are the easiest snowshoes to get in and out of that I have ever used. Just reversing the steps I was out of them in a jiffy.
The instructions for care of the FLEX ALP requires little. Just remove snow and store.
I'm looking forward to wearing the Tubbs FLEX ALP Snowshoes for the next four months during many backcountry pursuits including multi-day trips.
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March 15, 2011
USA Locations and Conditions
During the field test period, I have worn the Tubbs FLEX ALP Snowshoes ten times. Locations ranged from snow-covered boreal and deciduous forest communities, backcountry frozen lakes, and ungroomed trails. Elevation ranged from 600 ft (183 m) to approximately 1400 ft (427 m).
Trip 1 - Early February Hike-in Rustic Cabin Trip:
Location: Hiawatha National Forest - Michigan, USA
Type of Trip: Trail
Distance: 19.2 mi (30.9 km)
Length of Trip: 4 days/3 nights
Sledge Weight: Estimated 55 lb (25 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy, light snow
Precipitation: Snow (couple of inches/5 cm of very light snow)
Temperature Range: 5 F (-15 C) to 25 F (-4 C)
Trip 2 - February Sledge Trip:
Location: Hiawatha National Forest - Michigan, USA
Type of Trip: Old road bed and off trail
Distance: 11.4 mi (18.35 km)
Length of Trip: 3 days/2 nights
Sledge Weight: Estimated 50 lb (22.7 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Mostly cloudy
Precipitation: Trace of snow
Temperature Range: 4 F (-16 C) to 29 F (-2 C)
Activities: Snowshoe Running
Locations: Noquemanon Network of Trails
Distance: Aprox 4.5 mi (7.25 km) each run
Performance in the Field
During the field test period I was able to snowshoe on ten different days. The first four days were part of a rustic cabin trip. I pulled my sledge of gear while wearing the FLEX ALP Snowshoes into the cabin area and then spent each day doing day trips. On the last day I returned with the sledge to my vehicle. Snow conditions were variable throughout the four days. There was a crust underneath fresh snow where other people had previously walked on the trek in and out of the cabin area. Groomed ski trails are in the surrounding area so all days were spent with time dedicated to both snowshoeing and skiing.
I used the ski trails to snowshoe with off trail side adventures. Anytime I went off trail to explore, I sunk quite a bit as the flotation was minimal in deep powder as was to be expected. On this trip I wore waterproof winter boots which fit great in the bindings. I love the toe stops on the bindings as there is no question or variance in how far forward the boots should be. I did however have repeated difficulty with the back straps staying in place as I descended and ascended the very hilly area. I stopped often to try to relocate and retighten the straps but they kept slipping down. Truthfully the front of the bindings securely held my boots so after awhile I gave up on trying to keep the back straps in place.
I found the traction to be amazing at all times and I felt real confident walking on everything from ice-covered lakes to climbing and descending ridges. I raised the heel bar to try it on the fly. It operates smoothly but since my snowshoe hikes involve repeated ascending and descending continuously it really isn't necessary for this type of terrain. I would think it would be useful for long climbs however.
My next experience wearing the snowshoes was in quite different conditions. Several days of warm weather wrecked havoc with the snow conditions so I decided to run on the snowshoes instead. The first experience was in weather reaching the mid-40' s F (7 C). I was amazed that I didn't have any build-up of snow on the crampons and I seemed to whiz right along. I was wearing a pair of running shoes in the snowshoes and not only did the bindings adapt well (had the extra length snapped so they didn't flap) and the back straps did not slide off and stayed securely in place on this footwear. Yeah!
Two days later I also went for a snowshoe run. This time the snow had frozen and it was hard as a rock. The crampons held amazingly well as I ran up and down a narrow trail on top of a river gorge. The gorge is quite deep or steep enough that I wouldn't want to fly over the edge. I might add that I am not a fast runner so I felt confident that it wouldn't be a problem. There were a few areas that looked trickier so I slowed to a walk to cross those sections. I know that the Tubbs FLEX ALP weren't designed for snowshoe running but they actually work quite well. The flexible deck accommodated all the variable and crusty snow conditions.
Another three days were spent pulling a sledge wearing the snowshoes for a winter camping adventure. The forest albeit very white and picturesque had a good crust underneath the snow so I didn't sink very far in the new powder conditions. After having the back straps continue to be an issue with my winter boots, I decided to revert to adding a folded piece of cordage looped to each backstrap. Each end was brought around to the front of each boot and fastened. This is a simple way to avoid the slippage problem for my boots. I would imagine that many other boots that have a ridge of sorts on the backs would eliminate this issue.
As a final note, I wore the snowshoes to navigate climbing and descending a huge snowbank of at least 10-12 ft (3-3.7 m) while carrying a ladder and snow scoop to access my late parent's house in the dead of winter. I had to shovel the roof off of the house and this is the only feasible way of getting to and from the house proper (not plowed all winter). After climbing the bank, I trekked across the back yard to where I was able to access the roof. The snowshoes worked great for this chore. Even though the snow was very deep, the snowshoes allowed me to be less clumsy while carrying the equipment.
I might add that these are the easiest snowshoes to get out of and I love it. Simply pulling up on the Cinch Pull releases the binding from my footwear. I do find tightening the binding over the center of the foot takes more than a slight pull on the duo straps. Although they seem to be getting a bit easier to tighten I still have to really tug on the straps to get it secure.
Durability and Care So Far
There have been no issues with durability so far. The crampons and decking are all intact with a few scuff marks on the decking. That is just cosmetic. There really is little care associated with these snowshoes other than to perhaps prevent the crampons from damage. This is easily done by storing the snowshoes with the handy strap around them as it was provided. I just leave the snowshoes in my vehicle with all other winter sports equipment.
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Long Term Report:
May 23, 2011
USA Locations and Conditions
During the long term period, I have worn the Tubbs FLEX ALP Snowshoes six additional times. Locations were boreal and deciduous forest communities and a downhill ski mountain. Elevation ranged from 600 ft (183 m) to approximately 1400 ft (427 m).
Performance in the Field
The first two snowshoe outings during the long term period were a hike to see some frozen ice caves followed by another snowshoe hike to some mostly-frozen waterfalls. The weather was rather warm with temps up to 40 F (4 C) by the time I finished. The snowshoes performed beautifully on the soft snow.
The highlight though was walking on them behind the frozen ice caves. When I got there, there was a small group of people that remarked that I wouldn't be able to grip the slanted surface of the ice behind the falls. Obviously I proved them wrong. Although I was careful, I had no problems exploring the uneven smooth ice surfaces. The traction on these snowshoes is more than amazing.
My final four snowshoe outings of the season were all located at a downhill ski hill facility that was closed to skiing for the season. It was a great adventure to climb up and down the slopes including the black diamond runs. I tried climbing straight up some of the steeper ones and had no issues with the heel bars.
I also switchbacked on other runs. My descents were equally as fun as I didn't slide at all. I had so much fun that I went back on three more days. New snow covered the course a couple of the days and on the other days it reverted to old snow conditions. The snow depth wasn't significant although at times between runs I would sink in a half foot (15 cm) or more.
I've noticed that the duo straps on the bindings seem easier to close with the downward motion but they have never slipped. There has not been a need to retighten. When I wear my winter boots with the bindings I still need to add a piece of cordage to keep each heel strap in place but when I wear my running shoes they stay in place just fine. Even though I snowshoed in borderline sticky conditions, most days very little snow stuck to the crampons. Pictured below is the worse case scenario that barely made a difference while snowshoeing.
Durability and Care
There haven't been any issues with durability. I am extremely pleased with their appearance after wearing them 16 times during the whole test period. I have continued to store them with their carrying strap and they are easy to transport.
Unequivocally the Tubbs FLEX ALP Snowshoes have the best traction system I have ever encountered on snowshoes (and I've worn tons of types of snowshoes) throughout my life. I would really like this traction system to be offered on a longer length snowshoe (up to 30 in/76 cm). I would be the first in line to buy a pair for my long distance deep powder trips in the winter.
Thanks to Tubbs and BackpackGearTest for this opportunity to test the Women's FLEX ALP Snowshoes. This concludes my Long Term Report and the test series.
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