Just a quick gear shout out (aka "review") for my ultra-fav snowshoes: MSR Lightening Ascent - wow these ultralight snowshoes are top notch all around.
I recently talked my "Cowboy" into buying a pair of the men's version and he also can't stop gushing over them. I have gone on multiple snowshoe outings with them and have been impressed every single time.
Designed for women with input from a specialized orthopedic gait analyst, MSR has "created a more efficient snowshoe with a lighter, narrower frame, specifically tuned for a woman's stride. Plus, you get all the technical advantages of the men’s Lightning Ascent snowshoe—including unprecedented 360° traction and unmatched, all-terrain performance."
One (in a book of many) difference between a regular joe-blow snowshoe and the ascents is a "televator heel lifter" or ascent bar that easily pops up under the heel of your boot to help reduce calf fatigue and make climbing hills a piece of cake.
Another noteworthy feature is MSR's steel crampon. The teeth along the outer edge and the solid crampon at the boot's toe all dig into the ground creating a solid base to hike around without slipping and sliding.
WIth the four strap step-on binding I don't have to remove my gloves to slip into these bad-boys. It is quick, simple, and doesn't freeze up like those annoying webbing straps of other shoes. They don't loosen up and my boot doesn't slide around in them.
All around these shoes ROCK! I see many many years of backcountry exploring in my future with these. Each time I go out I have a great time- proving, once again, that having the right gear makes ALL the difference between a great adventure of a lifetime or a crappy grumpy memory.
The only con I can think of with these shoes is with the clips that hold the loose ends of the straps in place. The straps are rubberized and, although I have never had one come completely undone mid-trip,they often slip out of the clips, making me have to stop every once in awhile (not due to malfunction, but more out of annoyance as the straps flap in the breeze) to slip them back into the clips. I am thinking of buying a set of more clips and attaching them to the straps in the opposite way the original clips face. That way they hold in both directions are will be less likely to slip out.
The other minor con (and speaking specifically for Cowboy) is that the men's largest shoes don't have an MSR shoe bag for them to be stored in. MSR doesn't make the bags that large. Why??
I have a bag for mine and love it.
It has a nice carry strap and handle and is very convenient for keeping all the wet and muck out of my car. I don't use trekking poles, but it also has straps on the side for those. I have a few friends with other brands (tubbs, etc) and HATE them. The exterior pole system has them slipping and sliding everywhere. In fact, I just went shoeing with a friend of mine. They were so let down by their shoes that they opted to leave them in the car. I gliding effortlessly over the snow while she post-holed it along. hmmmmm.