YUKON CHARLIE'S W'S ICON SERIES BETA SNOWSHOES
BY KATHLEEN WATERS
May 26, 2012
kathy at backpackgeartest dot com
Canon City, Colorado, USA
5' 4" (1.60 m)
125 lb (56.70 kg)
Living in Colorado and being self-employed, I have ample opportunities to backpack. There are over 700,000 acres/280,000 hectares of public land bordering my 71-acre/29-hectare "backyard" in addition to all the other gorgeous locations which abound in Colorado.
Over the past 15 years, my husband John and I have also had the good fortune to hike/snowshoe glaciers, rain forests, mountains and deserts in exotic locations, including New Zealand, Iceland, Costa Rica, Slovenia and Death Valley.
My hiking style is comfortable, aiming for lightweight. I use a tent (rainfly if needed). Current pack averages 25 lb (11 kg) excluding food and water.
|Manufacturer: Yukon Charlie's|
Year of Manufacture: 2012
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.yukoncharlies.com
Sizes Available: 8x21, 8x25 and 8x29 in (20x51, 20x64, 20x74 cm)
Size Reviewed/Measured: 8x21 in (20x51) measured at widest/longest point
MSRP: US$ 89.00
Listed Weight: 3.4 lb (1.5 kg)
Reviewed Measured Weight: 3.4 lb (1.5 kg)
Frame Colors Available: Carbon
Deck Colors Available (by size): Lemon Zest, Grape Crush, Aqua Blast
Deck Color Reviewed: Lemon Zest
|Photo Courtesy of Yukon Charlie's|
Other details: (from the manufacturer's website)
8x21 Carries: Up to 150 lbs (68 kg)
Warranty: "Yukon Charlie’s warrants this product to be from defects in material and workmanship for the life of the product to the original purchaser, when purchased from an authorized retailer."
The first thing I noticed about the Yukon Charlie's ICON Series BETA snowshoe is its very eye-catching graphics. A bold yellow checkered pattern is slashed with gray and black on the rear and mid-decking and the front toe decking has thick yellow "Vs" topping black and gray checks which somehow remind me of wings. The bindings are a medium gray color flexible material with yellow Quik Clik II buckles and heel grip. The one piece frame is a black matte color. The overall design is quite pleasing, very modern-looking and made me want to get out into the snow!
| ||According to the Yukon Charlie's website, the ICON Series BETA snowshoes are "designed for flat to rolling terrain for the active recreational user." This is a gender-specific snowshoe with technical features Yukon Charlie's advertises will "provide a natural stride," extreme maneuverability and "traction in any condition."|
To start, the profile of the BETA is narrower than my other snowshoes by a full inch (2.5 cm) at the heel strike plate. Just before the frame angles to form the V tail, the width of the BETA is almost 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) less than my other snowshoes. At the widest point, in the front of the snowshoes where the frame turns up (from the ground), the width is almost the same though.
Two - as Yukon Charlie's calls them - Quik Clik II binding straps are positioned one just behind the toes and one over the mid-step. These straps are adjustable via a unique (to me) buckling mechanism which allows tightening of the strap to the proper fit by ratcheting the buckle upward and loosens the strap with a one-handed grip-and-pull (upward) gray plastic tab in the middle of the buckle. The heel strap gets its custom fit by pulling it tight and inserting a metal tab into the proper hole. The excess strapping can then be looped back and held in place with a neat top-opening "belt loop". Once the heel strap is affixed, it needn't be fussed with again unless different sized footwear is worn.
Of course, the "meat" of any snowshoe is the crampons and the BETA snowshoes sport some pretty aggressive aluminum front and rear ones! The four main front teeth are arranged in a semi-circle and are a full 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) long with a shorter serrated tooth in the middle. In the heel traction plate, four 0.75 inch (1.9 cm) serrated sections are off-set from the center of the heel.
Last point to note is the length of the snowshoes as the model indicates is 21 inches (53 cm) long which is 4 inches (10 cm) shorter than any one of my other snowshoes.
FIELD USE AND PERFORMANCE
Over the last several months (January through May 2012), I put the Yukon Charlie's BETA Snowshoes to the test on 5 different backcountry treks and one snowshoe 5K race. My backpack load was approximately 20 lb (9 kg) on each of the hikes and that combined with my winter wear and my own body weight, meant the snowshoes were carrying 150-154 lb (68-70 kg). Of course, for the snowshoe race, I was not toting anything more than the usual base layers, mid-layer and jacket. Icy Snow (speaking to BETA snowshoes): "What big teeth you have!"
Most of the terrain was flat to rolling hills on packed trails through evergreen trees or in open prairie. Temperatures were as low as 8 F ( -13 C) and high as 45 F (7 C). Obviously, I'm talking about snow and/or ice-covered landscapes to a depth of 30 inches (76 cm) or so, although I actually did pack in the BETAs on one occasion where there ended up being a decided lack of snow - so disappointing!
When evaluating snowshoes, I look for only 4 things - how easy are they to put on, how easy are they to walk/hike in, how well do they grip in icy/packed snow and how well do they float on soft snow. If I were giving out one star for each of those criteria to the BETA snowshoes, the BETAs would shine proudly with 3.5 out of 4 stars. AND, the half star off really wouldn't be fair as I far exceeded their intended use.
How easy are the BETAs to put on?
The one word answer would be "very" but I'll expound on that a bit here. Even on my very first attempt at adjusting the snowshoes' fit, it was intuitive. Within the comfort of a 70 F (21 C) living room, I pulled on my favorite winter boots, placed the BETAs on the rug, lifted up the yellow plastic buckles to a vertical position and started to pull out the foot straps to loosen them. Whoops! Pulled the first one out a little too far. No worry though - it was a cinch to thread the strap back into position. Once the foot straps were back where they belonged, I slid my boot under the straps, placing my heel directly over the heel strike pad. Then using just one hand, I ratcheted the two yellow buckles in turn side-to-side while the strap tightened to the just right fit.
The heel strap also needs no instruction as there is a metal tab which acts as a stopper that hooks into one of several holes in the strap to form a custom, snug fit. Once the proper hole is secured, the excess strap is folded back on itself and slid into a sort of open ended belt loop so as to not flap in the breezes. Once the heel strap was secured, I did not have to adjust it again all winter.
As for the ease of adjusting the foot straps in the field, even with my heaviest winter gloves in a frigid temperature of 8 F (-13 C) with a wind chill of -24 F (-31 C), I was able to put the BETAs on. Goodness knows, I wasn't about to take my gloves off if I could help it!
How easy are the BETAs to walk/hike in?
Let me start out by saying - "Grace" is not my middle name! I'm a bit of a klutz on flat dry ground barefooted, so when I am on snow or ice, tromping on hills with "shoes" the size of Bigfoot's? Well, it's not elegant to say the least. More than once I've landed face first in a tangle of legs and trekking poles when catching the edge of one snowshoe with the other.
However, with the BETAs, I don't have to do what I call my "monster stomp" where my legs are splayed outward at what feels like a 45 degree angle and I look like a female version of Frankenstein. The narrow profile of the BETAs allows me to walk almost naturally without fear of one foot tripping over the other. OK, to be honest, the tripping phobia is no more than normal at least.
Shockingly - to me - is my ability to actually run with the BETAs on my feet. This is a very good thing as I have been intrigued with the concept of snowshoe racing (I figured it would be slower than regular racing - ha!) and this past March along with my daughter-in-law and granddaughter entered my first event, a charity 5K race to support breast cancer research. While I certainly didn't win (place or show), I did finish in the front of the pack without a single stumble. With the smaller-than-most size of the BETAs, I was able to pass a lot of other contestants in tight quarters and even maneuver around the pack by climbing off trail a bit. I'll never be a sleek snowshoe-racing fool, but I certainly feel more confident in the ease of snowshoeing in these shoes!
How well do they grip in icy/packed snow?
BETAs (speaking to Icy Snow): "The better to EAT you with, my dear!"
... With apologies to the unknown author of "Little Red Riding Hood" ...
When I've got hard-packed snow, that is where the BETA snowshoes really devour the trails! Thanks to the very aggressive crampons on the front of the snowshoes and grippy heel strike crampons, I am able to securely chomp down on snow-covered trails like a bull dog with a steak bone.
I get a very firm foothold when striding down well-traveled trails where the snow is more crunchy than cushy. My forefoot can dig into even a semi-steep slope quite nicely and the rear crampons keep me from slipping backwards. On descent, the heel teeth function particularly well at keeping me from glissading into the nearest tree, rock, etc.
While I really like the way the BETAs work, I wouldn't mind if the crampons' teeth were a bit more wolf-like (more sharply pointed).
How well do they float on soft snow?
That "half star" I mentioned - this is where it came from and why it's not entirely fair. Plain and simple, when wearing a full pack and my heaviest winter clothing, I had difficulties with the BETA in deep powder. Topping out at probably 150-154 lb (68-70 kg), I weighed slightly over the recommended carry-weight for the 8 x 21 snowshoes. AND, the BETAs are market-positioned for walking/running and light hiking, not backpacking. I knew I was pushing them over the limit so to speak and while I was able to traverse an unexpected fresh snowfield, it was not very enjoyable. I didn't exactly post-hole but I did sink in a good 10-12 inches (25-30 cm) and with a pack and snowshoes, I tired out rapidly. Fortunately, the snow only stretched for a short distance and the BETAs were re-strapped to my pack for the rest of the trek.
With less weight - day pack of 15 lb (68.kg) or no pack at all - if I walked with care, I was able to safely navigate soft snow. I don't think soft snow is the BETAs strong suit, nor does the Yukon Charlie's website really hype them as such. If I know I'm going to be off-trail/backcountry in the future, I will probably leave the BETAs at home and stick to my good old (8x25) Yukon Charlie's Chinooks.
1.) The light weight.of the ICON Series Beta Snowshoes allows me to be faster with less fatigue
2.) The narrow footprint lets me walk with a natural stride, not bow-legged.
3.) The Quik-Clik II Ratchet bindings are a dream to fasten and unfasten.
1.) Not the best snowshoes if pushing the weight limits in deep snow.
My very first pair of snowshoes 'way back in 2002 was a pair of Yukon Charlie's Chinooks. I have had other snowshoes since then but still, almost always, I've pulled out my faithful Chinooks when hitting the trails or the backcountry.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.
In recent years, I've been spending more time on packed-down snow rather than powder and am now entering the snowshoe race frenzy. As a result, I have been coveting a lighter, sleeker pair of snowshoes. So when I was offered the chance to try out the Women's ICON Series BETA Snowshoes, I jumped at it!
Lightweight, good traction, and a stride I can deal with, the BETAs deliver it all! These snowshoes have been all that I had hoped for. So, when I'm not carrying a heavy pack and will be on packed trails of snow and ice, I will be wearing the BETAs from here on out.
Thank you to Yukon Charlie's for giving me the opportunity to pound the snow in these great snowshoes.
Kathleen (Kathy) Waters
Read more reviews of Yukon Charlie gear
Read more gear reviews by Kathleen Waters