Hiking in the snow is not much fun. Hiking in deep snow is an exercise in futility, or a great workout, depending on how you view it. Hiking on top of the snow, strapped into a pair a snowshoes? Now that’s fun! This winter brought plenty of snow, and the folks at L.L. Bean knew I couldn’t spend the whole winter on my indoor bicycle trainer, so they were nice enough to offer some snowshoes for review.
The snowshoes they sent were their 30 inch long Men’s Summit Trekker models. Since they’re made for L.L. Bean by Tubbs, the bindings are Tubbs’ own ReAct bindings, which only require a single pull to cinch down both straps. Like the bindings, the frame is also gender-specific, taking into account the differences in our bodies so both men and women can walk more naturally on snow with minimal impact to their joints. Construction of the frame itself is 6000 series aluminum in a nice pewter color. This alloy has been used for years in the bicycle industry, as it’s strong, light, and offers good resistance to fatigue. The orange decking is a material called Softec, which manages to be pliable yet puncture-resistant. For maximum bite and traction, both front and rear crampons are carbon steel, rather than aluminum. Everything appeared to be held together by rivets with a good sized washer so they can’t pull through. Rated up to 250 pounds, these durable snowshoes can support my weight plus a day pack for an afternoon out among the aspens above the Sundance resort.
Setting them up couldn’t have been easier (I practiced indoors first, when I could still feel my fingers), with only a few steps required to get the perfect fit. They are clearly labeled left and right, but you only need to remember that the heel strap buckle should be on the outside. Step in, pull the centralized nylon webbing forward, and both straps instantly loosen. Position your foot, and then pull the straps on either side back and down. If you’ve got excess strap, there’s some handy retainers to keep them from flopping around. At the heel, an ingenious buckle system uses holes in a belt and a small pin instead of a ratcheting or friction device. Pull the strap to tighten, pull the buckle to loosen. Simple to use, and locks securely.
I’ve take the Summit Trekkers on three outings so far, and getting in and out each time has been a cinch, no pun intended. On the snow, the Summit Trekkers performed admirably once I found my stride. Even with a 30 inch length, I didn’t experience any issues with maneuverability, although it might be a bit different if I was trying to move at a faster pace, or between close growing trees. But weaving lazily between trees, with no sound but snow crunching underfoot was a pleasant change from being cooped up indoors. I would have brought my camera, but it doesn’t function well when the temperature drops. And aspens in the snow are just white on white anyway. The one feature I didn’t get to try was the Active Lift™ heel lift. This bar flips up for steep climbs, allowing your foot to maintain a more natural angle, while keeping the snowshoe roughly parallel to the surface. There’s also a pivot point under your forefoot, so the tail drops with each step, preventing you from having to lift any extra snow that would otherwise build up on the tail.
The Summit Trekker snowshoe would be a good choice for beginners through advanced snowshoe enthusiasts. Priced at $199 with free shipping, they’re neither the cheapest nor most expensive available. But they combine comfort and performance features with outstanding ease of use, meaning you’ll want to use them more. llbean.com