TUBBS MOUNTAINEER SNOWSHOES
TEST SERIES BY DAVID BAXTER
June 23, 2008
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Seattle, Washington, USA
5' 9" (1.75 m)
180 lb (81.60 kg)
Backpacking background: I have been hiking for four years, and backpacking for three. I get out on the trails or snow every weekend, regardless of the weather. My trips range anywhere from fairly short dayhikes to longer multi-day backpacking trips. In the winter I snowshoe or snow-climb in moderate terrain and occasionally participate in a glaciated climb. My typical winter pack is about 15 lb (6.8 kg) for a day trip, and 35 - 45 lb (16 - 20 kg) for a glacier climb with an overnight camp. In the summer my pack is around 25 lb (11 kg).
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Initial report January 17th, 2008
Manufacturer: Tubbs Snowshoes
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: Tubbs snowshoes website
MSRP: US $259.95
Listed Weight: 4.5 lbs (2.04 kg)
Measured Weight: 4.68 lbs (2.124 kg)
Other details: This pair is 25 inches (64 cm) long.
Out of the box I found the snowshoes packaged as they are sold in stores - set back to back with cardboard over the spikes. On each side a plastic half-ring gripped the metal tubes of each shoe holding them together. Also included was a simple tag describing the snowshoe features and another showing how to enter and exit the bindings.
The snowshoes are very nice looking in matte silver and black. The deck material is black and made of a thick, tough feeling plastic. It is wrapped around the silver aluminum tubes at the sides and fastened together with sturdy feeling rivets. The binding is mounted to both the metal tubes and plastic deck with a slightly stretchy gray plastic. The entire binding rotates forward and backwards freely with no spring effect. It does bounce up and down a little though and should absorb some shock.
On the bottom of the shoe there are two sets of cleats. The front set is mounted to the bottom of the pivoting boot binding. There are a total of six teeth - four facing forward and two rearward. They are about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) and angled outwards. Towards the rear there is another set of teeth. These consist of three very shark-like teeth running parallel to the frame on each side and two larger teeth at the back perpendicular to the frame. The side-teeth are fairly sharp. These appear to all be machine from one piece of aluminum plate spanning the width of the snowshoe.
|Bottom of the snowshoe|
Mounted on the upper side of this plate is the heel elevator bar, dubbed "Active Lift" on the snowshoe. This consists of a fairly thick metal U-shape that can be pulled up and locked in place to elevate the heel for more comfortable hill climbing. As the bar rises it is locked in place with a small notch in the track it follows. To lower it one simply pushes it backwards and it pops back out of the notch and lies down flat again.
|Heel lift engaged|
The binding is made of a combination of plastic and nylon strap. A C-shaped piece of plastic curls around the toes of the boot and is cinched down with straps on either side of the boot. Friction from pinch points on top hold it in place. At the rear is a rubber strap with small holes in it. This wraps around the heel and is held in place by a peg poking through the holes, much like a belt. All the straps have hooks to secure the extra lengths.
|Binding with boot|
TRYING IT OUT
Construction of the snowshoes seems top notch. Everything fits properly and is in working order. All parts seem very strong and should take some abuse. I am particularly impressed with the single-piece aluminum construction of the rear teeth and heel lift. With one piece of metal supporting the whole thing there are fewer bolts or welds to fail.
The bindings at first appear overly complicated but are easy to enter and exit. One first loosens the straps and pushes their boot in until the toes reach the forward stopping point. Then it is a simple matter of pulling down on the side straps to cinch it down onto the boot and pulling the heel strap tight. Friction holds the straps in place. They seem very securely fastened once installed. Exiting is also quite simple. To release the heel strap there is a plastic lever that releases the strap. It can be either pulled upward or pushed inward to release the binding. For the toe binding there is one handle in the middle that is pulled upwards, loosening both sides at once. All together it is very fast and I was able to do it easily while wearing thick gloves.
I plan to take these snowshoes as my primary pair for the rest of the winter and into spring - until the snow is gone. In that time I will likely encounter all different types of snow: powder, wet snow, Cascade concrete and different depths too. I will report how the snowshoes handle changing terrain and snow. In particular I will pay attention to the bindings and the heel lifts. Does the binding stay in place over the course of a trip? Will it hold the boot in after long periods of side slope travel or uphill? Is it comfortable to wear long term? Is the heel elevator useful? What sorts of slopes will it work on? Is it easy to raise and lower with gloves or a pole tip?
Also of major concern is the durability of the snowshoe itself. Is the aluminum strong enough to resist denting or bending? Will those sharp shark-like teeth stay sharp? Is the plastic decking puncture proof from rocks or roots, or even from a tooth on the other snowshoe? Is the binding securely attached to the frame as well?
The Tubbs Mountaineer series snowshoes are an all-terrain snowshoe designed for steeper slopes. They feature a sturdy deck, longer and more numerous teeth than other models, and a heel elevator. I will use them on many trips while the snow remains and report how well the function. Look for my follow up report in about two months. This concludes my initial report.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Field report, April 15th 2008
I have used the Mountaineer snowshoes on many occasions this winter. I will describe three outings in varying conditions of weather and snow for this report.
Mt. Catherine attempt via Nordic Pass. The trip began at 3500 ft (1067 m) and reached a final elevation of 5000 ft (1524 m). The weather was sunny at first, then became cloudy and finally turned to snow over the day. Temperatures hovered around 32 F (0 C) most of the day. Nearly a foot of new snow had fallen over eight to ten feet of older snow. The newer snow was fairly dry by Cascade standards, though not powder.
Lichtenberg peak via Smithbrook road. The trip began at around 4000 ft (1219 m) and reached 5500 ft (1676 m). The weather was sunny and bright the entire day, with temperatures between 25 F (-4 C) and 30 F (-1 C). The snow was fairly consolidated on this trip with no new accumulation for several days. In the trees it was a frozen hard surface but higher up it was more powdery.
North Mountain. The trip began at 600 ft (183 m) and reached 3600 ft (1097 m) before we turned around. The weather was alternating cloudy and sun, with temperatures around 32 F (0 C) the entire day. A early spring storm had left more than two feet of new snow, which had not yet consolidated. The route followed an abandoned logging road with obstacles including downed trees, creeks, and a wall of snow covered young trees.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Mountaineer snowshoes have handled the varying snow conditions of the Washington Cascades well. I have used them in powder, wet snow, hard packed snow, and crusted over icy surfaces. They have performed well in both traction and floatation.
In powder snow the shoes provide good floatation. In contrast to some other snowshoes these do not allow side to side flexing at the pivot point which helps in very soft snow. The shoe tends to pack the snow down vertically rather than slice sideways beneath the surface. They supported my weight as well as any other designs in deep powder. I did still sink in quite deep but this was more a function of the length of the snowshoes than their design. I have the 25 inch (64 cm) model.
In wet snow they provide more floatation but tend to build up balls of wet snow on the claws. This is very annoying as it reduces traction and increases their weight and induces fatigue. The black plastic decking does not allow snow to stick however, it is only the exposed metal areas. The most difficulty I had was on the shark-like rear teeth. There is a large metal plate here and it constantly collected snow, requiring a hard smack with my trekking pole to dislodge it every so often. It also built up under the toe-cleats, though no more than other snowshoes I have used. The most irritating point of build up was on the upper surface, where the heel elevator bar rises from the deck. There is a rubberized plastic surface where the boot heel rests that would accumulate packed snow. This is particularly irritating since it affects my stride, in effect keeping my heel up and toes pointing down as if walking on tip-toes. This strained the backs of my legs and was very annoying.
Where the snowshoes really shine is on hard packed snow or crusty surfaces. Their extra-long and numerous teeth bite well into hard packed surfaces to provide excellent traction. On the back there are two rear facing flat teeth that push in deep and keep the snowshoe from sliding backwards while climbing steeper slopes. I found this design to be better than my usual pair of snowshoes on this type of surface.
The heel lifter also functions very well. While I cant engage it on the fly easily with the tip of my pole, it is easy to raise by kneeling down and lifting it, even with a gloved hand. Once raised it does not collapse until I push it down, which can be done with a pole tip. I enjoyed this feature on long ascents in hard snow. It greatly reduced the strain on my lower leg and allowed me to climb further with fewer breaks. I found it works best on straight-line ascents of moderate slopes. It is less effective when switchbacking up a hill and made me fell slightly off balance. It was also more effective on steeper slopes, or longer moderate slopes, than gradual hills. For short duration climbs I simply walked up with the bars lowered instead of pausing to raise them, climb, and lower them again.
I found the bindings of the Mountaineer snowshoes to be a mixed blessing. They are very easy to step into and tighten. I can accomplish this with minimal effort even in heavily gloved hands. Once in they also stay rock solid throughout a trip. Very rarely did I have to stop to tighten them. Also they were very easy to exit. A simple upward pull on the strap over the toe, followed by a slight release of the rear strap, and I could step out. But as a consequence of the solid binding I found them to be slightly uncomfortable. The bindings only allow one placement of the foot in the snowshoe and hold it there. There is no way to effectively move ones foot forward or back according to preference. For me the default position left me feeling like my feet were not level, with my heels slightly higher than my toes. I am unsure whether this is in the toe area or due to the raised rubberized surface at the heel. The end effect was that I had minor leg cramps on most trips in which I used these snowshoes. I rarely experience leg cramps.
The Mountaineer snowshoes acquitted themselves very well through the winter. I used them in many varying snow and weather conditions. In all cases they provided sufficient traction and floatation to reach my destination. I especially enjoyed them on hard packed snow and sun crusted surfaces. Their long teeth and heel elevating bar were very effective while climbing in hard packed conditions.
I am still undecided on the comfort of these snowshoes however. The binding, while very effective at restraining my foot and staying tight, does not allow much adjustment for foot placement. I found that this affected my natural stride and led to more fatigue than I've experience with other snowshoes. It hasn't been enough to prevent using these snowshoes, but it is a factor in my decision of which pair to take on a trip.
The major snow falls are ending for the Washington Cascades and Spring snow conditions are beginning to appear. There will be fewer days with unconsolidated snow and many more with hard packed surfaces and sun crusts. The primary reason for using snowshoes will likely be to avoid punching through into buried trees or thinning surfaces over creeks and rocks. Likely the snowshoes will be carried on my back more often, but should still see significant use for the near future.
I will keep bringing these snowshoes for my spring trips. Over the last two months they have worked very well in hard-packed conditions and for climbing steeper slopes. In the Spring my trips are typically snow scrambles in steeper areas. The Tubbs Mountaineer snowshoes should provide excellent traction and climbing utility for these conditions
Please check back in two months for my final report on the Tubbs Mountaineer snowshoes. This concludes my field report.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Since my field report I have only had the Mountaineer snowshoes on my feet once. The rest of the time they've stayed strapped to my backpack, or been left behind. The snow has finally consolidated to the point where I dont need snowshoes.
Norse peak. We attempted Norse Peak, a repeat of a previous attempt. Weather was very sunny and hot, above 80 F (26.6 C). The snow was alternating firm and very soft from the sun, and avalanche danger was very high. The snow was much more suited to booting, despite occasional post-hole steps, because it was so soft. I did wear the snowshoes on our descent where we crossed a broad, flat meadow with snow undermined by creeks. This was to keep from breaking through more than necessity however.
I wore the Tubbs Mountaineer snowshoes throughout our long winter and practically nonexistent spring. Over that time I used them on all types of snow, weather, and terrain. In the end my opinion of them is mixed. Certain types of terrain, especially lower angle slopes, were easy to handle and comfortable. Flat terrain and powder snow also presented no problem. While they ascended steeper slopes fairly well, especially with the heel-lift engaged, they did not descend them well. On several occasions I experienced leg discomfort or loss of traction.
The main source of my discomfort was the binding. It is an especially simple to use binding but that also is the drawback. There is little in the way of adjustment and custom fitting that can be accomplished. I was unable to move my foot forward or back, or adjust the toe area tighter. This led to most of the weight being taken across the top of my foot near my ankle, where the upper part of the binding makes contact. After several trips I had deep red marks here and my feet were very sore. Climbing up hill did not cause this though, it was only on descents. Here my full body weight was being taken on this single area rather than spread across the whole foot. I could not find a way to adjust them to my liking.
Here are my opinions of the snowshoes various attributes:
Binding: While the binding offers simple entry and exit, it lacks adjustment and did not fit my feet well.
Teeth: The teeth on the bottom of the snowshoe provided very good grip in all but soft powder.
Durability: The snowshoes seem very well constructed and durable. Aside from some paint scraping off the aluminum tube frame they appear nearly new.
Flotation: The snowshoes provide very good flotation in all but deep powder.
Climbing: Because of the aggressive teeth the snowshoes climb well.
Heel-lift function: I am mixed on the results of this. The heel lift definitly makes climbing straight up a steep slope on firm snow easier. However it is a little difficult to engage and disengage. Many times I found it simpler to just grind up the slope rather than pause to operate the lift.
My use of the Mountaineer snowshoes has ended for the year. The snow is now firm enough to walk across reliably or melting back. I do not plan to use these snowshoes again next winter. While they had some nice features and worked well in most conditions, I did not find them comfortable. I own two other similar styled pairs that I find much more comfortable.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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