Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

Sunday Afternoon Snowshoeing

I just came back from a 2 hour snowshoeing trip. The weather was fine with only -15°C and a bit windy, a bit sunny. I walked a bit more than four kilometers, most of it on the ice, and made a break in the middle, on one of the islands, where I practiced pitching my MYOG Tarp and made a cup of hot cacao with my Ti-Tri. I used alcohol to melt a pot of snow and boil the water, just for trying something new out, but realized that I'm really more of an wood fire man. Sitting there and waiting without needing to do anything isn't anything for me, and with a wood burning stove you can spend your time put more wood on it, getting wood, etc. Yeah, I'm a fire bug =)

Tarp pitched high...

... and pitched low.

I do record my trips lately using Trailguru, a nifty little app for the iPhone. Trailguru is free, and it records your walk on top of Google Maps. It allows you to include photos on you map, and breaks your data down into useful information - now I know for example that I need roughly 13 minutes to walk one kilometer, or have an average speed of 4,7 km/ h. It even tells you how much calories you've burned, if you need to know that kind of stuff. Here is a map with all my data from today's walk.

Waiting for the snow to melt and the water to boil.

Pitching the tarp was good, my beaks really need some fixing. I think I am going to add to more pull-out points to the beaks, which should help them to be more tight. Playing around with it, I realized that if I take a safety pin or two with me, I can pin the beaks together and create an almost closed end. In the next few days I will try to get out for an hour or two each evening and go snowshowing, as the big tour is coming up, next Friday the seven backpackers arrive and we'll start hiking on Saturday.

Video: MSR Lightning Ascent Review

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And the snowshoe madness continues! This time I take it a step further and made a video of my 2009 MSR Lightning Ascent, and tell what I like about them, what I do not like, and if it is worth to wait for the new snowshoes from MSR or get some now.

As mentioned in the video, my pair is 1694 g, that's for the 25 inch model. In case you're wondering, I am 175 cm tall and bring around 65 kg on the scale, with winter gear that might go up to 80 kg for a three nights out trip including gear. At the moment we have powdery snow and dry, cold temperatures (it was -16°C as I shot the video). What that means is that the snow doesn't carry well, however, there is a clear difference seen in comparison to walking without snowshoes - I sunk in till I hit the ice or ground, while with the MSRs on I only sunk in a bit. As winter progresses and we get more wet snow, the MSRs will be the real winners - I wish I'd had them on my Easter trip last April.

The heel lifters are awesome. It is so useful and makes walking uphill a stroll in the park, it puts less stress on your achilles heel and I wouldn't want to miss it. I also run with them, and that's no problem either, works good. I feel that I am able to walk faster with snowshoes on, because I sink less in and avoid potholing. Three to four kilometers an hour are possible, that is double the speed if I am without. The only complaint I have, as mentioned in the video, is that I don't like the bindings. I think they're rubbish and I believe the new Speedlock bindings will be much superior.

In case you're wondering, yes, I also wear Trailrunners in winter. I'm sporting my Adidas Supernova Riot 2 with the Ascents, a perfect match and it brings the weight moved per foot to 1202 g. I'm not certain if that's still considered in the realm of ultralight, though I bet it's lighter than wearing boots and snowshoes.

I reckon that if you're walking much in the hills - like most of my UK outdoor blogger mates, or Philip from the US who also sports a pair - the Lightning Ascent would be the way to go. That heel lifter alone makes it worth it if you walk a lot uphill, you achilles heel will thank you. The question is just, buy now the MSR Lightning Ascents, or wait for the new ones in all black? That really depends on how much you think you're going to need them this season. Much of Europe and the UK got a load of snow this season and it might be a good time to invest into snowshoes, who knows if it is going to be the same next winter. On the other hand, if you can wait then you might want to consider the new MSR Lightning Axis, which are pretty much the same as the Ascents just with the better binding. If you think you can handle the binding (Philip can, he likes it as he said in his review) then get the MSR Lightning Ascents - all black is soo cool, and how did Joe say? "If Ozzy used snowshoes they'd be 2010 MSR Lightning Ascents."

News: MSR Lightning Axis, Evo Tour and Lightning Flash Snowshoes

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Its winter, the Outdoor Retailer show in the USA is in full swing and I have more news on the new snowshoes from MSR. Sit back and relax while savouring these exclusive news.

Currently MSR sort their snowshoes into "Steep & Challenging" and "Flat & Rolling". For the 2010 - 2011 line-up they brings six new adult models on the market, which are going to be separated into

- "Explorer Series" which is for all-terrain traction and versatility with a focus on all day comfort and ease-of-use.
- "Ascent Series" which features the most aggressive snowshoes for travelling from point A to B, regardless of what lies in-between.
- "Trek Series" which has all condition traction and reliability, being engineered for optimal efficiency on rolling terrain.

They all come with a variety of new features which you can read about if you look here. I got an update on the modular floatation tails, and the good news is that they are now an option for all Lightning models. The bad news is, that they won't fit on Lightning models released before 2010. So I and a few others who hoped we could equip our existing snowshoes with these additions do not rejoice. Honestly talking, I do not understand that move from MSR. If you made them compatible with old models people would just but the tails, but so you force them to also buy new snowshoes. Anyhow.

MSR Lightning Axis, from top to bottom: Male model, Flotation Tails.

I already shed some light on the Axis, but here the key features once more:

• 360° Traction Frame
• Steel Pivot Crampons
• Modular Flotation Tails
• Axis™ Gait Efficiency Technology
• SpeedLock™ Binding System w/Optional Instep Strap
• Ergo™ Televator™ Heel Lift

Men's sizes are 56, 64, and 76 cm and weights are estimated at 1768 g - 2052 g. Colour is Tomato Red. Ketchup, thus.
Women's sizes are 56 and 64 cm and weights are 1598 g and 1712 g. Purple as a colour for the ladies is nice.
The Floatation tails are 12 cm long, giving men the ability to have a 88 cm long snowshoe and women 76 cm long. Woohoo, no more sinking into powder with those on. The pair of tails puts 257 g on the scale, at least that is the estimated production weight. In shops July 2010, in time for the southern Hemisphere's winter.

MSR Evo Tour

The next new snowshoes is the Evo Tour. It promises outstanding traction on all types of terrain, and the one-piece composite construction of the unibody deck has steel traction bars to bite into snow and ice. The Evo Tour also has tails to be more flexible, and comes with the Speedlock binding. They give you an optional strap if you're climbing in the Himalayas, so that you can have absolute control in very challenging terrain. I reckon that strap will not be need in Finland with our few hills.

The key features for easy assessment:

• Integrated Traction
• Steel Pivot Crampons
• UniBody™ Deck
• Modular Flotation Tails
• SpeedLock™ Binding System w/ Optional Instep Strap
• Televator™ Heel Lift with Pull

The Evo Tour are unisex snowshoes, but they give you the choice of mustard or steel grey as a colour. Why they fared away from ketchup and purple I don't get, that were existing colours and now its back to basics. The estimated weight is 1751 g for the pair, and those 15 cm long tails will add 346 g to the total. Out in July.

Both Evo Tour & Axis will be in the Explorer Series at home.

MSR Lightning Flash, male model

The MSR Lightning Flash is the third new snowshoe, and is at home in the Trek Series. To me it looks like a stripped down Lightning Ascent. The key features are

• 360° Traction Frame
• Steel Pivot Crampons
• Modular Flotation Tails
• SpeedLock™ Binding System

The real beauty in these are the weight. Men can choose from a 56 cm or 64 cm long version, which weigh 1417 g or 1502 g. That's over 300 g lighter than the Lightning Ascents, but you luck out on the heel lifter. Women's model is even lighter, at 1374 g for the 56 cm long version, and 1403 g for the 64 cm long model. The colours are dirt white for men and ice white for woman. Judging from the photos they look the same, white. Good for magic tricks, you will look like your floating on top of the snow. Floatation tails are the same length and weight, 12 cm and 257 g for the pair.

There's a few more models - Lightning Ascent, Evo Ascent, and Evo - which were redesigned, but nothing major.

All in all interesting news, me thinks. None of the snowshoes are as light as Phil's Yowies, but they do promise to have slightly more grip. I like the addition of floatation tails, but don't understand why they weren't made to fit also with old models (well, I do understand it - they want to make more money - but I find it plain stupid, to be perfectly frank). Why the Lightning Ascent was allowed to keep those four binding belts I don't get, differentiation, I guess, but as a matter-of-fact I would do away with them. The Lightning Flash look like the way to go for the UL backpacker, a shame that they weren't given the heel lifter, that's a useful extra if walking long uphill.

Update: Added the photos of the other, redesigned snowshoes.

MSR Evo Ascent


MSR Lightning Ascent. Absolut Ninja in all black.

They will be available in autumn 2010, and a good source in Europe is Bergzeit in Germany who have topnotch service and are super fast in delivering your gear to you!