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Atlas 10 Series All Mountain Snowshoe REVIEW

Not the lightest snowshoes we tested, but wonderful performers.

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by Will Rietveld | 2005-12-06 03:00:00-07

Atlas 10 Series All Mountain Snowshoe REVIEW

Introduction

The Atlas 10 Series All Mountain snowshoes are feature rich and solidly built. Although features add weight, one can make a strong argument that the comfort and performance of the 10 Series snowshoes are worth the weight.

What’s Good

  • Unique pivot strap design improves traction and stability
  • Binding positions and aligns feet and tightens evenly
  • Easily adjustable binding
  • Lateral crampons provide good sidehill stability
  • Well designed, solidly built, and durable

What’s not so Good

  • Heavier than I would like, on my feet or attached to a pack
  • The tightening strap on bindings occasionally catches on things
  • Bulky to attach to a pack
  • Paint on the frame scratches easily

Specifications

  Manufacturer

Atlas Snow-Shoe Company

  Year/Model

2005-06 Model 1025 (10 Series All Mountain)

  Dimensions

8.5 in wide x 25 in long (22 cm x 64 cm)

  Surface area

Measured surface area 200 in2 (1290 cm2), manufacturer specification 179 in2 (1155 cm2)

  Frame

Anodized 7075-T7 Easton aluminum, ¾-in (19 mm) tubing

  Deck

Duratek, a proprietary urethane-coated fabric claimed to have three times the abrasion resistance of Hypalon and lighter weight

  Binding

Arch-Flex featuring built-in arch support, padded tongue, and uniform tightening system; left and right foot specific

  Crampons

Stainless steel, toe and heel, with two additional 6.5 in (17 cm) long side crampons

  Weight

Measured weight 4.01 lb (1.82 kg); manufacturer specification 3.99 pounds (1.81 kg)

  Load rating

120-200 lb (54-91 kg)

  MSRP

$249

Performance

Based on quality, features, and performance the Atlas 10 Series snowshoes were one of my immediate favorites. These snowshoes really have it together. Just slip your foot into the binding, pull one strap, and it clamps your feet in the right position. They have one of the best bindings in our test group for ease of attachment and release, and the operation is easily handled with gloved hands.

Atlas 10 Series All Mountain Snowshoe REVIEW - 1
The Atlas 10 Series All Mountain snowshoes have a “spring-loaded suspension” that amounts to a pivot strap that wraps around the frame twice, attaching to the front and back of the toe plate (left). Their superb binding (right) is easy to adjust and aligns your feet perfectly.

The Arch-Flex binding is indeed a premium binding, and is left and right foot specific. It is not quite a step-in like the Tubbs Elevation or MSR Lightning Ascent, but is nevertheless easy to put on and take off. By pulling on each end of a looped strap, the binding distributes pressure evenly over your foot to hold it securely. One nitpick: the webbing tightening strap creates a sizeable loop when the binding is tightened, and there is no good provision for securing the loop to keep it from catching on things. I had no problems with the webbing strap stretching when wet, or freezing up so I couldn’t release it. The heel strap is exceptionally easy to adjust and has a ratchet tightener. I had no problem adjusting the binding to my size 11.5 boots or my wife’s size 6.5 boots. The binding has a curved plate under the ball of the foot, which is claimed to provide extra arch support, but I didn’t see that it made much difference when wearing winter boots.

Atlas 10 Series All Mountain Snowshoe REVIEW - 2
The 10 Series snowshoes use the Atlas Arch-Flex binding, which is right and left foot specific. The binding positions your foot perfectly and holds it securely. The photos show the outside (left) and inside (right) of the right snowshoe and binding.

The 10 Series have the Atlas “Spring- Loaded Suspension System,” which consists of a flexible pivot strap that wraps around the frame twice, attaching to the binding’s toe plate at both the front and the back. The binding and pivot strap combination attaches your foot securely to the snowshoe and maintains perfect alignment. I particularly liked this design because it kept my pronated feet straight with the centerline of the snowshoe. On other snowshoes with less rigid bindings I had a problem with my feet not being properly aligned.

The “Spring-Loaded Suspension System” also builds some torsion into the pivot strap, so when you put your weight on the snowshoe it transfers extra downward pressure to the heel and lateral crampons, increasing traction and stability. When you unweight and lift the snowshoe the pivot strap system works normally to raise the snowshoe below your foot for improved maneuverability. The pivot strap/binding design also puts your foot closer to the front of the snowshoe for better articulation and climbing ability.

Crampons on the business side of the 10 Series are made of stainless steel. The teeth on the toe crampon are large and spaced out to resist icing. Unlike most of the other snowshoes we tested, the 10 Series have an extra set of linear crampons in the middle of each snowshoe to increase sidehill stability. I had minimal problems with the crampons icing up, even in slushy or sun-snow/shade-snow conditions.

Atlas 10 Series All Mountain Snowshoe REVIEW - 3
Atlas 10 Series Spring-Loaded Suspension and crampon set (left). Two additional lateral crampons provide extra sidehill stability. Front view (right).

I used these snowshoes weekly over a four-month period on an unusually deep snowpack. It was an awesome experience to walk 10 feet above the ground! The Atlas 10 Series did everything I wanted them to do. They climbed steep slopes to the point where I had to use my hands to hang on. Walking downslope they gripped slopes up to about 40 degrees, then slid on their tails in a controlled slide when I leaned back, which complies with the laws of gravity (and skiing). These snowshoes resisted sliding sideways on sidehills better than the other tubular framed snowshoes we tested (only the MSR Lightning Ascent was better), owing to their extra set of linear crampons in the midsection.

Atlas 10 Series All Mountain Snowshoe REVIEW - 4
In the raised foot position, the pivot strap on the Atlas 10 Series has moderate torsion, as shown. It does not raise the deck of the snowshoe up under the foot as much as other snowshoes with a stiffer pivot strap, but it also didn’t flip snow onto my backside like some of the other shoes.

Other notable features of the Atlas 10 Series snowshoes are their durable materials and construction. The frame is made of anodized 7075-T7 Easton aluminum (the good stuff) for strength and light weight. I expected the points where the decking material and spring-loaded suspension wraps around the frame to be wear points, but after four months of hard use there is no sign of wear at all. All of the attachments are made with heavy duty rivets. These snowshoes are really solidly built! One nitpick: the anodized finish on the frame scratches fairly easily.

The downside of the Atlas 10 Series snowshoes is their weight. At 4 pounds they are right at our weight limit for this review series. All of the superb features of these snowshoes add extra weight. In my running test, these snowshoes glided smoothly, but their extra weight was noticeable. When I strapped them on my pack, I was adding almost 2 pounds more to my load compared to the Northern Lites Elite. Their weight and bulky bindings make these snowshoes one of the least packable in the group of snowshoes we reviewed.

What’s Unique

The Atlas 10 Series All Mountain snowshoes (and other high-end Atlas models) sport their “Spring-Loaded Suspension System,” which combined with the Atlas “Arch-Flex” binding and lateral crampons, provides exceptional stability and articulation.

Recommendations for Improvement

Backpacking Light is a strong advocate for lightweight, highly functional outdoor gear, so predictably we would like to see at least one lightweight snowshoe in the Atlas lineup for performance-minded backcountry enthusiasts (and I’m not talking about racers). One obvious place to save weight would be to go to smaller diameter tubing for the frame. Another place would be to use lighter materials in the binding. This may sound like unfair nit-pickery on an already well-refined product, but if Northern Lites can produce a 2.4-pound pair of multi-purpose snowshoes, Atlas should be able to get the weight down to at least 3.5 pounds.


Citation

"Atlas 10 Series All Mountain Snowshoe REVIEW," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/atlas_10_series_all_mountain_snowshoe_review.html, 2005-12-06 03:00:00-07.

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