Snowshoeing for me is a little like paddle boarding—it seemed a weird until I tried it. Then I loved it. I am going into my third season of 'shoeing and I am finding I can go further and have more fun every time. The MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes are my first pair of serious snowshoes, and, boy, do they ever make travelling on snow easy.
New this season, the Paragon Binding system completes the package. Other attempts at snowshoeing have been a little frustrating, largely because of bindings that were difficult to dial in fit-wise.
If you are curious to see other reviews we've done of MSR products, we've done a whack of 'em. Take a look at the MSR Carbon Reflex 3 tent, the MSR Nook and, three seasons ago, we tested an early version of the MSR Mutha Hubba NX 3. We've reviewed just one other snowshoe on the site, the Atlas Aspect, way back in 2011.
Here are the 'shoes out for an early season stroll. This is the 22" version which works for people up to 180lbs. That's me. Be sure to click on the arrow at right in the orange bar below for the full review.
We all love videos and MSR has produced a boatload of them. Here is one on Paragon Binding design.
Here's the same pic as the one up top with one of the 'shoes flipped. See the stainless toe stopper, the durable, DTS steel crampons and 'round the edge serration? These things have some serious bite for going up.
The Paragon Binding is featured on both the Revo and Lightning Ascent snowshoes from MSR. Two of the key features are the-mesh-like material that covers the forefoot and the toe stoppers which enable you to kick in your toe for proper placement every time.
Another cool feature of the Paragon is the "keylock" feature that allows you to pop the top of the Paragon off, should the need arise. The keylock is integrated with the toe stopper.
Here is a side view of the backstrap that is stretchy and simple to clip in. Note that the televator heel lift is deployed here.
Here is the backstrap hook mechanism up close. I think I preferred the rachet system on earlier Lightnings, but they may have added weight. With this version, the strap seems to "run a little free."
See the deployed televators below. I'm thinking they are pretty standard issue on most snowshoes these days, and for good reason. They make the ascent so much easier.
Just to give you an idea of the difference the Modular Flotation tails make....first picture is without tails, the next is with. I really like the flexibly of having the tails on or off. You could go with the 30" length, but those might be overkill on hardpack. I have the tails in my pack and just throw them on when I need more floatation.
Durable, ultralight ballistic decking fabric is the secret to floating on snow. We've come a long way since cat gut!
We here in the Kootenays enjoy copious amounts of snow. Because of this, I find, with the 22" size, I need the extra float offered by the Modular Flotation tails. These remarkably simple "snap-on" tails make for a very versatile set-up. On the rare occasion that I am travelling on hard-pack, I leave the tails off. If you go for the longest, 30" version, sans tail, you don't get the flexibility of having a snowshoe that works on hardpack and powder. I chuck the tails in my pack and off I go.
The Paragon Binding is new this season and it, along with the toe stopper, makes a big difference in comfort and fit. If you are climbing up something steep, or side-hilling, with a heavy-ish pack, you want to feel secure in your binding. The Paragon delivers.
I find the back of the binding a little sloppy. It's a secure fit and the stretch in the strap helps—perhaps it's the fact that the strap is a little long for my size 9 1/2 shoes. I preferred the ratchet system and stiff strap on the old binding.
Of note: I don't use these snowshoes as a snowboarder looking forward to the descent. I am in it for the snowshoe activity alone. Though I ski tour (and love it), I've found that the more times I snowshoe, the more I like it, too. I have the MSR Lightning Ascent to thank, in part, for this. Snowshoeing on high-quality snowshoes like this is a fun and efficient way to travel on snow. More please...
Price: $379.95CAN / $319.95US
Weight: 1.89kg / 4lb 2oz (25" size)
Sizes: 22, 25 and 30"
Colour: Black, Cobalt
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