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Reviews > Snow Gear > Snowshoes > Tubbs FLEX ALP Snowshoes > Test Report by Ray Estrella

Tubbs FLEX ALP 24 Snowshoes
Test Series by Raymond Estrella
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - January 12, 2011
FIELD REPORT - March 18, 2011
LONG TERM REPORT - May 17, 2011

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 50
LOCATION: North Western Minnesota, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 215 lb (97.50 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, plus many western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly UL, I try to be as near to it as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or my twin children.


INITIAL REPORT

The Product

Manufacturer: Tubbs Snowshoes
Web site: http://tubbssnowshoes.com
Product: FLEX ALP 24 snowshoes
Year manufactured: 2010
MSRP: US$ 219.95
Weight listed: 4.4 lb (2 kg)
Actual weight: 4.56 lb (2.07 kg)
Size listed: 8 x 24 in. (20 x 61 cm)
Actual size: 8.25 x 24.4 in. (21 x 62 cm)

No legs, freaky man...

Product Description

The Tubbs FLEX ALP 24 snowshoes are the King of the Mountain of Tubbs' FLEX series of snowshoes. They derive the first part of their name for the FLEX tail design. Just like it sounds the last 5 in (13 cm) of the tail flexes, and is said to absorb shock from heel strike, reducing the amount of stress on the user's joints.

The next part of the name comes from the ALP Traction Rails. These aggressively serrated rails run lengthwise and provide side-hill traction. Two small rails on the tail end keep the tail from slipping downhill on traverses and progressive Snow Brakes running arcoss the deck bottom aid in downhill braking. While the steel rails are riveted to the plastic deck, the snow brakes are formed as part of the deck itself.

More traction comes by way of the most aggressive crampons (what Tubbs call toe traction teeth) I have ever seen on a snowshoe. The six sharp 1.5 in (4 cm) long teeth are placed under the ball of my foot on a rotating plate they call the Rotating Cord Limiter.

Upside down and downside up


Flipping to the top of the FLEX ALP now we see the binding. One of the things I find very interesting is the foot cradle, what is called a Scottish-toe on my mountaineering crampons. The toe of my boot just slams home into the cradle which places my foot in the proper spot on the foot plate. The top straps are very akin to my crampon straps too with nylon straps that come from each side of the toe cradle to the sides of my boots then turn up and over, meeting in the middle at a padded flexible plate that sits on the top of my foot. The straps pull tight and are held by toothed cam buckles. A rubber strap running between the two cam-buckles allows quick loosening of the binding straps by just pulling straight up. Each foot plate is marked R or L to show which foot goes in which shoe.

The back of my boots are held in place by a rubber strap with holes in it like every other pair of snowshoes I own. But instead of pulling the strap past a tooth that slides into a hole like my other shoes do, the FLEX ALP has a hinged slide cover with a peg. Open the cover and the strap can be tightened or loosened easily. When the length is adjusted closing the cover makes the peg go through the nearest hole in the strap and keeps it locked there. A plastic keeper on the strap allows excess to be clipped tight so it is not flapping around.

The rotating foot plate mention earlier lets the crampons dig into packed snow when climbing but it also is designed to let the tail of the snowshoe drop so snow can fall off the tail. Tubbs claims that this reduces cardio-respiratory strain by 7%.
strapped together
The deck is made from some sort of plastic and will flex not only at the tail as mentioned above, but in all directions. This is said to enhance traction, biomechanics and comfort on uneven terrain.

The last goodie to tell you about is the Active Lift heel lift. This is a steel square-loop that lifts from the deck right under the heel of my boots. When used it lifts my heels 2 in (5 cm) above the deck. The Active Lift is only used when making steep straight ascents and lessens strain on the Achilles tendon and calves.

Tubbs sends a big wide strap to keep the snowshoes together when traveling or while on the back of a pack.

Well that is it for the Initial Report. As you can see I have lots of snow here to try them out with. So I am off to play in the white stuff. Please come back in two months to get my first impression of the FLEX ALPs.


FIELD REPORT

Quick & Dirty Nitty Gritty

The Tubbs FLEX ALPs are without a doubt the best snowshoes I have ever used as far as traction goes. They bite into packed snow and do not budge. And the binding is the fastest and easiest to use out of my 5 previous pairs of snowshoes. But the length and deck size are quite lacking when it comes to holding me near the surface of loose snow. They really are more of a day-hiking snowshoe for my weight unless I am on very packed snow.

Oh yeah, they have a problem with the transmission. Reverse gear is broken. Read on for the details.

Field Data

NCT near Shingobee


I have used the FLEX ALPs on two overnight backpacking trips and three snowshoe day-hikes over the past two months.

The first overnighter was to Chippewa National Forest where I hiked the North Country Trail west from Shingobee Recreation Area. The picture above was taken slogging through unbroken snow on the first day.

Then back to Chippewa National Forest where I hiked the North Country Trail the other direction and stayed near Anaway Lake. Temps ran from 24 to 10 F (-4 to -12 C) and there was light snow off and on both days. The picture below is crossing the bridge at Anaway's outlet creek.

Day-hikes were at Buffalo River State Park, Johnson Park, and a pre-hike scouting trip to Shingobee Recreation Area in the Chippewa National Forest. Lowest temps while hiking were -8 F (-22 C) with a -28 F (-33 C) wind-chill.

Backcountry bridge

Observations

The first snowshoes I ever bought were Tubbs. The model was called the Sierra and I bought an optional crampon to supposedly enable them to be used in the kind of mountains found in the Sierra Nevada, my favorite place to hike. Unfortunately the limited traction supplied by the (as I recall) four small teeth were not enough to hold on a traverse near Mt San Jacinto and the snowshoe's back end slid downhill while the ball of my foot stayed in place. The result was a torn meniscus, knee surgery, and the end of my ever using a traditional style snowshoe. Traction became my number one priority when choosing a snowshoe.

I was pretty stoked when I wrote the Initial Report by the amount of traction the FLEX ALPs possess. Once I used them I was blown away. These things do not budge once I plant my feet on packed or semi-packed snow. Using them on packed groomed trails in the Shingobee Recreational Area on my way to joining the North Country Trail was great. The Forest Service uses a machine to keep their portion of the trails (6 mi/10 km) packed for cross country skiers and it leaves a semi-hard surface to each side of the ski tracks for hikers. This area has a lot of elevation gain and loss (for Minnesota) and was at one time one of the first downhill ski areas in the state. So climbing can be a slippery slope when loaded down with a sled dragging me backward. The FLEX ALPs bit in and let me climb with ease. It was like having my mountaineering crampons on.

The trails can be tricky going down in snowshoes too as when I hit the heel end of the snowshoe they can have a skiing effect, taking off downhill before the teeth up front can bite. But the FLEX ALPs snow brakes kept this from ever happening once.

I met three snowshoers dayhiking and one recognized the FLEX ALPs from viewing Tubbs' online video. He asked if the traction was all that and I lifted one shoe to show them. One guy actually jumped a bit, exclaiming, "whoa, look at the teeth on those things". I felt like Freddy Krueger with ski poles…

The bindings of the FLEX ALPs are a joy to use. They are the easiest fastest bindings I have ever owned. Putting them on is simple. I push the front of my boot into the Scottish Toe basket, flip the back strap over my heel and give a tug on it, pressing the cover to lock it in place. Then just grab the front straps and pull to each side. It takes about 15-20 seconds to do max. Taking them off is even faster. A single pull on the center crossing strap loosens both sides of the front binding immediately. Then a tug at the back and I am out. I love 'em.

One thing that I found about the rotating foot plate that is meant to let the tail drop is that it really drops. Too much so at times. I am using my gear sled a lot this winter and there are many times that I need to go backwards with the sled instead of trying to turn around. The first time I tried to walk backwards with the FLEX ALPs on I had my second step dig into the snow and as the shoe was at such a steep angle I could not recover and into the deep soft snow I went. It took a couple days to get it through my thick head to stop doing that.

The only problem that I have with the FLEX ALPs is their length and amount of deck. At only 24 in (61 cm) length and the fact there is a lot of open area in what deck they have I am having a very hard time hiking in deep snow. And we are setting records this year, lucky me…

While pulling the sled, which makes for more downward force, or carrying a full backpack I am really sinking deep. I was going well over 2 ft (61 cm) deep in places on my overnight trips and even with a light daypack on I was sinking around 18 in (46 cm) or more like this photo near the Red River. (Luke, I am your father…)

Darth Raymo


I really think that with the snow I have here in Minnesota the FLEX ALPs are better suited for dayhiking than heavy weight backpacking. But once I get back to California and its steep terrain and Sierra Cement snow I think that these will be the bomb.

As far as the Flex action of the deck goes I can't really say that I have noticed it that much. I think that it is not going to really do anything in as deep of powder as we have here. Hmm, maybe for the sake of the folks that do not know, our temperatures are so low that the snow does not have enough moisture to pack. We can't make a snowman until around April. The majority of the snow in these pictures fell in December. Now it just blows around. While I was on an average of 3-4 ft (90-120 cm) of snow in places it was drifted near 6 ft (1.8 m).

Well enough snow talk. This is the end of my Field Report. Please come back in a couple months to see what other trouble I get into with the FLEX ALP snowshoes. I leave with a shot slogging past the old Buffalo River bridge. (The middle is gone. I have to go a long way down to cross. Go snowshoes, go!)

Buffalo River


LONG-TERM REPORT

Field Data

I used the FLEX ALP snowshoes on one dayhike at Buffalo River State Park. The snow was only a foot or so (31 cm), with a very hard surface, covered by a few in (8 cm) of fresh snow on top. The temperature was 25 F (-4 C).

The same snow conditions were found on an overnighter on the North Country Trail just west of Chippewa National Forest. Temps ranged from 18 to 30 F (-8 to -1 C).

Observations

I only was able to use the FLEX ALP snowshoes on two trips during the Long Term phase of the test. Even then I needed them more for the excellent traction than anything else as we had a major warming trend that saw most of our record snow melt. When the temps dropped back down it left a solid icy surface that could sometimes support my weight. When it did break I did not have far to go to be on the ground and could have gone without snowshoes. But the crampons of the FLEX ALP snowshoes made hiking much more secure.

I did have a three-day trip to Voyageur's National Park that saw very deep snow but had to leave the FLEX ALP snowshoes behind in favor of something with a bigger deck. This remains the only thing that I would like to see different about these snowshoes. The option of a longer deck would make them near perfect for my use.

With the limited (for me) use I was able to get in with them the FLEX ALPs have shown themselves to be quite durable. I see no cracks in the deck, worn hardwear, or frayed straps.

As it is the FLEX ALP snowshoes have become my favorite snowshoe for hard-packed snow and steep terrain. I sold my other snowshoes and am keeping the FLEX ALPs for trips with those conditions.

My most hearty thanks go out to Tubbs and BackpackGearTest.org for letting me test these sweet snowshoes.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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