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Reviews > Snow Gear > Snowshoes > Tubbs Mountaineer Snowshoes > Test Report by Michael Wheiler
TUBBS MOUNTAINEER SNOWSHOES
Test Series Reports
By Michael Wheiler
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Click Here to Skip To The Initial Report: January 23, 2008
Click Here To Skip To The Field Report: April 27, 2008
Click Here To Skip To The Long Term Report: June 23, 2008
Product Description And Specifications Per Manufacturer Unless Otherwise Noted:
Warranty: Tubbs warrants all Tubbs products to be free from defects in materials and workmanship for the life of the product to the original purchaser from the original date of purchase at retail. It will be repaired if, upon inspection at an authorized Tubbs Service Center and agreed upon by a Tubbs Warranty Service Technician, it is found to be defective in materials or workmanship. This warranty does not apply to damage resulting from normal wear and tear, accidents, abuse or negligence. This warranty does not apply to repairs or alterations that have been made outside of an authorized Tubbs repair facility, and is subject to specific terms and limitations as specified.
The Tubbs Mountaineer snowshoes arrived on January 18, 2008 carefully packaged and in excellent shape. The snowshoes looked like what I expected after viewing the manufacturer's website and checking them out at a local retailer. On the web site, Tubbs claims that the Mountaineers are designed for "deep powder, untracked snow, steep slopes and mountainous traverses." After a quick examination to make sure the snowshoes were undamaged, I read the information contained on the hang-tags as referenced above. The hang tag asserts that the Mountaineers are "For the ultimate ascent by the technical hiker and backcountry explorer."
I then carefully inspected the snowshoes. The decking is attached to the frame by 20 large headed aluminum rivets with washers. I saw no frayed or otherwise damaged decking material. The binding fits through a hole in the decking material and is attached to a rod hinge system which, in turn, is secured to the frame by a piece of heavy vinyl type material (light gray in color) on each side of the hinge. See photograph below. Each vinyl strip is formed into a loop through the hinge and securely closed with two aluminum rivets. The semi-rigid polyurethane toe frame is secured to the hinge between a solid polymer plate (directly under the ball of the user's foot) and a powder-coated stainless steel plate (underneath the snowshoe) which are bolted together with four bolts. The solid polymer plate contains the Tubbs name and logo, either an "R" for right or an "L" for left, and raised ridges. The heel plate is also made of solid polymer and is attached to a powder-coated stainless steel plate (underneath the snowshoe) by way of four bolts. It has a larger Tubbs logo and raised ridges.
The heel plate also houses the ActiveLift heel support. Neither the web site nor the hang tags say much about the ActiveLift heel support. The support is a stainless steel rod which goes through the heel plate and decking and attaches on each side to the rear crampon. The rod is under tension and when manually lifted upward it moves toward the front of the heel plate and locks into place so as to remain in the vertical position. The lift then prevents the user's boot from going all the way back down to the heel plate and decking. According to Tubbs, this design "reduces calf fatigue and makes extended climbs easier and more efficient."
Heel Lift In Down Position
Heel Lift In Up Position
Heel Lift Attached To Rear Crampon
Tubb's RII pivot system is designed to allow for "lateral flex so [the user gets] shock absorption and responsiveness on uneven terrain. This system won't allow for the shoe to rotate too far on a steep slope, yet it sheds snow off the back so you don't end up carrying a few ponds of white stuff with you up the mountain."
The semi-ridged bindings wrap around the user's boots and are pulled tight over the boots with two pieces of nylon webbing. The binding consists of the semi-ridged plastic toe plate and a semi-ridged upper piece which are riveted together by a ridged light gray plastic. The Cinch Pull system is attached by rivets to the upper piece and the sides of the toe plate. Two light gray nylon webbing straps are attached to the toe and sides of the system. Both straps are threaded through a pressurized buckle on each side. The buckles are opened by pulling up on the ActiveFit flexible urethane strap which in turn loosens the straps on the binding. To tighten the binding simply grasp each strap and pull. This system is designed by Tubbs to provide an easy entry and exit from the binding. A flexible urethane heel strap also threads through a plastic tension buckle. By lifting up on the light gray plastic buckle tab, the grip on the strap releases and the strap can then be pulled through the buckle to the desired tightness. secures the boot's heel to the binding.
In the hang tags, Tubbs provides the following description for putting on the snowshoes: "Place your snowshoes in L/R position with heel strap buckles on the outside. Using the Cinch Pull, pull forward to release the webbing's tension and easily 'open' the binding. Slide your boot into the binding, placing the ball of your foot directly over the rotating toe cord. The reinforced toe stop features a dual pivot design to enable smooth entry and exit. Center the padded tonuge over the top of your boot. Grasp both ends of the instep straps and pull out in a downward motion simultaneously. Your action will cause the binding to tighten around your boot at the toe and midfoot, centering the boot against the patented Control Wings. Repeat, if necessary, until the straps are comfortably secure. Thread excess webbing into retainer on binding's base buckles. Set and forget the heel strap against the heel of the boot by pulling the strap firmly back, locking into place. Secure excess strap with heel strap clip."
Tubbs describes getting out of the snowshoes as follows: "Unlock the heel strap by pulling forward on the buckle tab and loosening the strap. Grab the Cinch Pull and pull forward towards the boot's toe to fully loosen the instep straps, lift the binding up and slide your boot out."
The Mountaineer's crampons are trade marked under the names of Viper and Python. The front Viper crampons are located directly under the front foot plate. The front six teeth on each of the Viper crampons are approximately 1" (2.54 cm) in width and approximately 1.5" (3.81 cm) in length. The rear Python crampons are located directly under the heel plate. The eight teeth that make up the rear crampons look like a series of shark's teeth with a width of approximately 0.75" (1.91 cm) and approximately 1" (2.54 cm) in length each. See photograph below.
Test Plan: In January, I am currently planning to use the Mountaineers on a snowshoe hike near Sun Valley and in Harriman State Park. In February or March, I will also use the snowshoes during a hike to Lower Palisades Lake and near Kelley Canyon.
(April 27, 2008)
On January 11, 2008, I used the Mountaineers to pack into my campsite during an over-night cross-country ski trip in Harriman State Park (elevation 6,270 ft/1,911 m). The temperature was 19 F/-7 C. There was 5 ft/1.5 m or more of snow on the ground. There was little to no wind during the hike into the campsite. I was using my heavily insulated Sorrel snow boots and I carried a nearly full backpack (weight 36 lbs/16 kg) and pulled a sled with group gear during the trek to our yurt at about 1/2 mile (0.8 km) from the trail head. The trail was fairly level. The snow outside of the groomed ski trail was fine, grainy powder. Until I was able to travel on the packed trail to our campsite, on average, the Mountaineers would sink 1-2 feet/0.3-0.6 m into the light powder on each step before providing me a base from which to take the next step. It was a serious work-out to reach the packed trail leading to the yurt. Once I reached the packed trail, the Mountaineers traveled across the hard-packed snow without sinking or slipping.
On January 25, I used the Mountaineers on a hike near Sun Valley, Idaho (elevation 5,920 ft/1,804 m). The temperature that day was a pretty constant 25 F/-4 C. There was a slight breeze but not enough to make much difference. It had snowed approximately 10 in/25 cm the night before and I was the first one on the trail--as such I was breaking trial for a large part of the trip. At one point, I decided to leave the trail and cross a ravine to another trail which I could see had been previously used by another snowshoer. On that section of my trip, I estimated that the snow was close to 6 or 7 feet/1.8-2 m deep and consisted, in large part, of untracked powder. The total trip was about 3 miles (4.8 km) with some very steep ascents and descents. I was wearing over-the-calf, lightly insulated leather boots and I was carrying a partially loaded pack weighing about 15 lbs/7 kg. The flotation of the Mountaineers in the fresh new powder was not good. At times, I was sinking to mid-thigh in the deep, powdery snow. However, once I reached the trail being used by the other snowshoer, I noted that his snowshoes were providing comparable flotation.
Summary of Observations:
While the tone of the previous section may seem a bit negative, the Mountaineers are really the best snowshoes I have used to date. My favorite part of the Mountaineers is the ActiveFit bindings. The bindings were very easy to step into and tighten around my boots. To attach the binding to my boots, I would lift up on the Cinch Pull and push the toe of my boot into the toe of the binding with the padded tongue over the lower portion of the laces on the boot. I would then kneel down, grasp the ActiveFit instep straps (one in each hand) and pull down. This motion tightened the binding around the front of my boot. I would then reach around and grasp the heel strap, pulling it tight against the heel of my boot. I would then adjust the heel strap clip to the desired length and slip the excess heel strap into the clip. Removing the bindings was maybe even a bit easier. I would kneel down, pull up on the Cinch Pull, remove the heel strap from the clip, lift up on the plastic buckle tab, slide the heel strap off the heel of my boot, stand up and lift the boot out of the binding. I found that it was easy to attach and remove the bindings even with gloved hands and while working in deep snow. While on the Sun Valley hike, I removed the bindings to allow me to take pictures of the snowshoes. Although I was walking around in thigh deep powder, I experienced no difficulty removing the shoes and putting them back on again. Once attached, I have not needed to re-tighten the bindings as they have remained secure on my boots.
My second favorite part of the Mountaineers is the Heel Lift. Engaging the Heel Lift required me to stop hiking, kneel down, lift the heel of one boot, grasp the Heel Lift with one hand, pull it up and lock it into place. I then had to repeat the same on the other shoe. While it was easier to engage the Heel Lift with ungloved hands, I could do so with gloves on my hands as well. Although engaging the Heel Lift was a little inconvenient, the little extra effort it took to engage the Heel Lift before climbing a steep slope was worthwhile. With the Heel Lift engaged, I could maintain a more level, less taxing step while climbing a steep slope. The best way I can describe the effect of the Heel Lift is that it felt more like I was climbing a flight of stairs than I was climbing a steep incline. During the Sun Valley hike, I actually compared climbs on steep slopes with and without the Heel Lift engaged and I noticed less stress and fatigue in my lower legs when using the Heel Lift. This is a very cool feature--one that I will look for in future snowshoes. Based solely on the diameter of the steel wire which makes up the Heel Lift and the pressure being placed on the wire while climbing, I do have some concerns about the long term durability of the Heel Lift but so far I have seen no signs of weakening. I will report on the continued durability of the Heel Lift in my Long Term Report.
The traction provided by the Viper and Python bindings was superb. I was able to use the Mountaineers on some very steep ascents and descents as well as on some steep side hill routes. The crampons provided excellent bite and allowed me to climb, descend and parallel without significant slipping. During these two trips, I did not have the opportunity to use the Mountaineers much on hard packed or icy snow conditions. I hope to be able to report on the Mountaineer's performance in such conditions in my Long Term Report. I did not notice any snow balling up under or around the crampons on either trip.
So far, Tubbs' claim that the RII pivot system was designed to keep the shoe from rotating too far on a steep slope and still shed snow off the tail to keep the user from carrying a few ponds of white stuff up the mountain is accurate. While using the Mountaineers in deep powder, it was apparent that the tail of the shoes would drop away allowing snow on the tail to drop off. Yet, when using the Mountaineers on steep slopes the tail did not pivot so far forward that it was difficult to climb. Coupled with the Heel Lift, this design made climbing steep slopes much easier.
Although I have a natural tendency for some slight pronating or in-toeing, I did not notice any exaggeration of that tendency while using the Mountaineers. I was generally able to keep the Mountaineers in line without stepping on the shoes. I also did not notice additional stress on my knees while using the Mountaineers.
The flotation provided by the Mountaineers was exceptional on packed surfaces but only average in deep, untracked powder. My experience has been that the light, "dry" powder we tend to get in Idaho compacts more than the more moisture laden powder that we occasionally receive. As such, no snowshoe I have used keeps me from sinking sometimes up to my thighs in our typical powder snow. However, on groomed and semi-packed snow surfaces, I found that the Mountaineers were sinking only 1-3 in/2.5-8 cm. When I took off the Mountaineers and tried walking on the same surface with just my boots, I would sink sometimes up to my knees. Thus, the Mountaineers saved me from significant post-holing.
While I have found a few scratches on the toe of the frame on both shoes, I have found no other wear or tear on the Mountaineers. I have planned some longer hikes in spring snow conditions--generally icy and hard packed. I will report in my Long Term Report on any wear noted following these outings.
LONG TERM REPORTI have enjoyed testing the Mountaineers and they have become my snowshoes of choice. My thanks to Tubbs and BackpackGearTest for giving me the opportunity to test the Mountaineer snowshoes.
(June 23, 2008)
I next used the Mountaineers on February 22-23, 2008 during an overnight snowshoe hike near Kelley Canyon Ski Resort (elevation 6,177 ft/1,883 m). Kelley Canyon is located northeast of Idaho Falls. I had planned to leave work early but, as usual, I was delayed and had to hike in by the light of my headlamp. The temperature was 26 F/-3 C. It was overcast and threatening to snow but there was no wind. The snow pack, typical for late February, was hard and icy. The trail I chose was fairly flat at first but then climbed steeply to the spot where I intended to camp for the night. I was carrying a fully-loaded backpack (48.5 lbs/22 kg). After about a 3/4 mile (1.2 km) hike, I reached my destination for the evening. After I set-up camp, it was about 8:00 p.m, so I decided to take a little night snowshoe hike without my pack. According to my GPS, I hiked 2 miles (3.2 km). For the most part, the Mountaineers handled the snow conditions well. However, twice, while going down a steep slope, the crampons slipped on an icy spot and I fell on my back in the snow.
On March 21-22, 2008, I snowshoed into Lower Palisades Lake near Swan Valley, Idaho (6,131 feet/1,869 meters elevation). The round trip for this hike is 8 miles/13 kilometers. Typical spring snow conditions existed--icy hard pack which, during the heat of the day, turned soft and grainy. However, with cold overnight temperatures, the snow froze hard and turned icy again. My backpack for this overnight trip weighed 48 pounds/22 kilograms. The trail was mostly a gradual climb into the lake with some fairly steep ascents and descents but this year several snow slides created some very steep and slippery side-hilling. In one spot, the trail was completely obliterated and the side hill sloped steeply toward Palisades Creek which was full of fast moving, icy cold, spring runoff. I was very impressed with the snowshoes while crossing these stretches of snow. While I was packing into my camp site, the temperature was warm enough that I only had to use a light jacket but it was overcast. As such, in places exposed to the sun, the snow was soft and sugary. In those places, the snowshoes sunk deeper into the snow and I found that the crampons had less ability to grab in the softer snow. Overnight, the weather cleared and the temperature dropped significantly. The trail through the snow was frozen solid by morning. After I returned home from this trip, upon examining the Mountaineers, I found lots of light scratches on the frame especially around the toe of the shoe. I am not exactly sure what caused this scratching but I believe it was due to the frozen hard snow that I traveled on coming out from the lake.
I last used the Mountaineers on April 11-12, 2008 north of Island Park, Idaho near Henry's Lake (6,470 feet/1,972 meters elevation). On this trip, I stayed overnight outside a friend's cabin and took a short snowshoe hike of approximately 2 miles/3.2 kilometers the next day. My route took me over some very steep inclines and descents and some equally steep side hills. The snow was hard pack/ice during the morning but started to soften up by early afternoon and became a bit slushy. Flotation not as good nor was the traction with the crampons. This was an off trail hike as I was simply bushwhacking my way across country. There were places in the sun where the snow had softened so much that I sank up to my knees with each step. Likewise, when walking down steep slopes exposed to the sun, the snow would not hold my weight and even with the crampons I would start to slide. As such, I tried to travel in the shaded areas as much as possible as that snow provided much better traction and support.
I tried to use the Mountaineers on May 10, 2008 but was unable to get to an elevation where there was enough deep snow to justify using the snowshoes. I did not use the Mountaineers after that date due to a lack of snow.
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