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Tubbs Xpedition Snowshoes
Owner Review By Bob Dorenfeld
March 12, 2014

Tester Bio
Name: Bob Dorenfeld

I'm an active hiker, snowshoer, skier, backpacker, amateur geographer and naturalist.  Home base for me is the Southern Colorado Rockies, where I'll hike from 7000 ft (2100 m) to above treeline, with an occasional desert trip to lower altitudes.  Six to 12 miles (10 to 20 km) in a day is my norm, including elevation gains up to 4000 ft (1200 m).  Most of my backpack trips are two or three nights, sometimes longer, carrying 30-40 lbs (14-18 kg).  My style is lightweight but not obsessively so - extras like binoculars, camera and notebook make my trips more enjoyable.

Email: geartest(at)sageandspruce(dot)net
Age: 55
Location: Salida, Colorado, USA
Gender: M
Height: 5' 6" (1.68 m)
Weight: 135 lb (61 kg)


Product Overview

Manufacturer:    Tubbs Snowshoes
Website:    www.tubbssnowshoes.com
MSRP:    US$239.95
Year of Manufacture:  2011
Length:  25 in (64 cm) [longer lengths avail.]
Width (widest point):  8.25 in (21 cm)
Weight/Pair:  4.6 lb (2 kg)
Weight/Pair (measured):   4.1 lb (1.9 kg)
Optimal Load:  120-200 lb (54-91 kg)
Surface Area:  188 in² (1213 cm²)
Materials:   aluminum, plastic, carbon steel
Gender:  Men's (Women's available)
Color:  Varies by production year


 Overview

The Tubbs Xpedition Snowshoes are designed for challenging conditions (deep snow, ice, steep terrain) as well as for easy snow trekking.  Their shape is "modifed bear paw", falling between "bear paw" (short and wide) and Michigan (long and narrow with tail), and therefore suitable for a wide range of conditions.  Both front and back of the shoe is turned up to optimize travel through snow.  The frame is made of black-painted aluminum, and the decking is soft and flexible plastic with the look and feel of neoprene (Tubbs uses SoftTec™).  Toe and heel crampons underneath the foot bed are of carbon steel, and bindings are made of molded plastic and flexible webbing.  The one-piece decking is riveted to the sturdy aluminum tubing with 14 integral loops around the frame, while the foot binding pivots on a hinge about one third back from the snowshoe's toe, where it's fastened securely to the frame.  The binding toe has a generous swing space in front for just about any size of boot.  For the Xpedition, Tubbs uses a quick-attach and -release mechanism consisting of one toe strap in front, and one heel strap at the rear, held in place by friction sliders (front), and friction clamp plus a peg (rear).  There is also a heel riser that hinges up under the boot heel to angle the foot when climbing or descending steep slopes.  On the bottom of the snowshoe, the crampon pattern beneath the toe roughly describes an oval 4 in (10 cm) wide, and beneath the heel a U of the same width.  Crampon tooth depth varies from 0.25 - 0.5 in (0.6 - 1.3 cm), with the longer teeth at the front of the toe area.  My Tubbs Xpedition snowshoes were purchased in 2011 and sport black frames, yellow and gray decking, and yellow and black bindings.  Newer models have updated colors, but as far as I can discern the design, materials, and functionality are identical to my 2011 model.

A Bit of Background__

When I purchased my first pair of snowshoes in 1973 I was so excited to tramp around in shoes with ash frames, varnished-leather webbing, and half-grain leather bindings.  Later I graduated to a pair of neoprene-webbed shoes in wood frames that I built from a kit, which were definitely an improvement over the unfortunate tendency of leather to stretch when wet, playing havoc with the bindings especially.  But several years ago I finally got with the program and obtained a pair of modern-style snowshoes with some nice performance features that make snowshoeing a real pleasure in all kinds of conditions.

Field Performance    

I've used my Xpedition snowshoes over three winters, and have trekked some 150 mi (240 km) in just about every snow and weather condition imaginable in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.  Powdery dry stuff, wet and icy snow, very deep to very shallow snow - you name it, I've hiked it with these Tubbs.

Before I go into performance details, let me describe how the bindings work.  These are the easiest-to-use snowshoe bindings I've seen on the market, although initially I was skeptical, even after watching a demonstration in person.  Do note:  the Xpeditions are designed as right and left, heel strap buckle (yellow, in front of my hand in the right photo below) should be on the outside of the foot.

Binding toe
Binding Heel

Insert the foot into the toe area,
pushing forward flush to the front of the binding.  There is only one adjustable strap holding the toe: then with one hand on each strap end, pull tightly, slightly down and to the rear.  Done!  To loosen, pull on the center strap where "REACT" is printed.  The heel strap is similar but tightened from one side only; if necessary, first loosen the strap by pulling through the buckle closest to the boot, step on the binding, position the back of the strap just above the boot's heel, then tug on the loose end of the strap to tighten.  Finally, push down on the buckle top, where friction and a small peg will hold the strap tight.  Any extra strap can be tucked into the provided slot on the other side of the boot heel.

Now I'm ready to go, very easy.  Getting out of the snowshoes is quick as well...just pull on the toe strap to loosen, then flip the heel strap buckle up and pull the strap loose.  I usually give a gentle kick and the shoes slip right off.

How well do these shoes do in the field?  I'll summarize by snow condition based on my three years' experience:

Moderate snow depth and dry conditions
I found the Xpeditions to perform very well in this kind of snow.  The decking sheds the snow easily, and I rarely get any accumulation on the rear or at the bottom.  The upturned rear of each snowshoe helps to minimize drag on the forward step. The bindings are very secure, and I've never had my boots slip or slide as long as both toe and heel straps are tight.  The large toe holder surrounds the entire front of the boot, allowing good control at all times.  At around 135 lb (61 kg) my weight is at the lower range of what my model is rated for.  When trekking up or down hills the crampons grip nicely and prevent sliding.  I've never felt any chafing on the hinge point where the binding is attached, which is important since I normally want the shoes to swing freely down at the rear to facilitate easy balance and to throw off accumulated snow.  The shoe's moderate length means I can easily execute tight turns in brush, or sit on the ground or a tree and stay comfortable without removing them.

Wet and very wet snow conditions
This would be a challenge for most snowshoes, and for the Xpedition this is no exception.  Despite a special coating on the carbon steel crampons, snow would stick in big clumps to both the shoe bottoms and along the tops, requiring much kicking (but no screaming please!) to constantly lighten the load.  However, I can say from experience that the sticky snow accumulation is much worse on other types of snowshoes, so I accept this as a condition of wet snow.  When the snow is only slightly wet, accumulation is not nearly as much of a problem.  In fact, I usually avoid snowshoe trips when very wet snow would get in the way of a fun hike.

Deep and dry snow conditions
Some of my most challenging snowshoe hikes have been in fresh, dry, untracked, >3 ft (90 cm) snow.  The bindings perform just fine, but at these times I wish for shoes that are half again as long.  Despite my being at the low end of the weight range for this 25 in (64 cm) model, I usually sink over 12 in (30 cm) with each step.  Since no length extension is available for the Xpedition, I just high-step it through the powder and enjoy the extra exercise.  I would consider another snowshoe shape, such as Michigan or bear paw, if I find myself in an all-day trip through very deep and dry untracked snow.

Icy and packed snow conditions
When it's icy I like to hike only moderate snow terrain and trails (no ice climbing), but for me this is where the Xpeditions really shine!
Crampon pattern  I find that the crampons grip well at almost any angle - pushing forward downhill, traversing a steep icy slope and exerting pressure sideways, or climbing straight uphill.  The crampon teeth are positioned directly under the foot, and if I keep that in mind I can watch my step appropriately and ensure that the teeth get as good a grip as possible.  At present the carbon steel teeth show little or no sign of wear, despite having accumulated some mileage on poor snow cover with exposed rocks and dirt.  Heel riserTo help with steep slopes (up or down), a nifty feature of the Xpeditions is the heel riser, a U-shaped metal bar that I can flip up with my fingers to lock into place under each boot heel.  This has the effect of leveling my feet and legs and makes walking much more comfortable and secure on firm steep slopes. 

I did find another use for the riser (but I'm not sure it was designed to do this) - as a heel lock to keep my boot flat on the shoe while walking.  The metal bar just happens to fit into the back groove of the boot heel intended for crampons.  On one particularly tricky and icy slope, having the boot locked-in like a ski helped me nogotiate the traverse without losing my balance.

Extreme slope conditions showed off the well-designed binding, since I've never had it come loose or feel insecure, even in some quite precarious situations when large trees or rocks would not have made for soft landings.  Even on those times when I was sure that the bindings had worked loose after some tough hiking, I was surprised that they didn't need tightening after all.

Boot sizing
Tubbs does not size their snowshoe bindings, and as far as I can tell my bindings would accommodate a very large range of shoe size (mine is U.S. men's 9 (42 European)).  I've used them with some lightweight just-cover-the-ankle boots, as well as with heavy full-grain leather trekking boots.  The only difference is that I may need to loosen the toe and heel straps a bit to accommodate a bigger boot; otherwise performance of the snowshoe is identical.

Wear and tear
This photo shows how the webbing has become worn and frayed at the edges where it's folded around the aluminum frame.  Webbing wearDuring my first winter using the Xpeditions I was somewhat careless about walking on poor snow cover, and didn't notice until the end of the season how much abrasion the webbing received from rocks and dirt.  At this time the wear is not a problem, as structural integrity has not been compromised.  However, I'm now certainly more careful about where I walk, and I'll take off my snowshoes when necessary to prevent further damage to these edges.  I've also duct-taped a couple of the edges to protect them.  Otherwise, the soft deck material has held up very well, and only shows some superficial scratches on the colored top surface; the bottom is pristine as it's protected by the tubular frame.

The painted aluminum frame has also suffered many inevitable scratches, but like the webbing its shape and strength has not suffered at all.

The bindings are almost as good as new, with only a bit of fraying apparent on the front toe strap fabric where it slides in and out of the friction buckle. 

I've seen little wear on the carbon steel crampon teeth, and I have as much confidence in them now as I did when they were new.


Concluding Thoughts    

My final evaluation is an almost unqualified approval of the Tubbs Xpedition snowshoe: they perform very well under a wide variety of conditions, given their size and modified bear paw shape, and the bindings hold my boots securely. The only design change I would recommend to Tubbs is to consider another method of attaching the decking material to the frame so that the pliable plastic edges are not exposed to abrasion.  I would do this by adding a metal or stiff plastic loop around the tubular frame, and attaching the decking to it, keeping the soft edges away from the frame and the ground.  Otherwise it's an excellent product, and I expect to put many more miles and winter seasons on these Tubbs Xpeditions in coming  years.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Easy in-and-out bindings
  • Bindings hold boots securely under wide variety of conditions
  • Snow slides off easily under most conditions
  • Excellent crampon gripping at different angles and snow/ice conditions
  • Optional boot riser for climbing/descending steep slopes
Cons
  • Soft decking material can abrade where it wraps around aluminum frame

Reviewed By
Bob Dorenfeld
Central Colorado Mountains





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