The Atlas BC24, a new snowshoe for winter 2006-2007, is designed for climbing, making it perfect for mountaineers, snowboarders or backcountry skiers. It's 24 inches long for better maneuverability but has the surface area of a 25 inch snowshoe. It has the most aggressive crampon system I have ever seen and it has a superb binding that lays flat for easier packing. What is there not to like about the BC24
The Atlas BC24 is designed for climbing, making it perfect for mountaineers, snowboarders or backcountry skiers.
- Extremely aggressive crampon system
- Outstanding binding - easy to put on, and lays flat for packing
- Sturdy construction
- Spring-loaded suspension and binding provide perfect tracking
- Heel lift for steady climbs
- Excellent traction and lateral stability
What’s Not So Good
- Heavy (4.2 pounds per pair) for a snowshoe that will be carried on a pack much of the time
- Not enough flotation for soft snow
- Crampons ice up badly in wet snow
|Atlas Snow-Shoe Co.|
|Atlas 2006 BC24|
|8.75 in wide x 24 in long (22 cm x 61cm)|
|Anodized 7075 aluminum alloy tubing, 3/4 in (19 mm) diameter, flattened at the front and mid-side|
|Duratek, a proprietary urethane-coated fabric claimed to have three times the abrasion resistance of Hypalon and lighter weight|
|Summit molded urethane with two urethane toe straps and one urethane heel strap, built-in arch support, right and left specific|
|Stainless steel toe, heel and lateral|
|Measured weight 4.16 lb/pair (1.89 kg); manufacturer specification 4.13 lb (1.87 kg)|
|Spring-loaded suspension, heel lift bar|
|Up to 200 lb (91 kg)|
The Atlas BC24 is designed for a specific purpose - climbing. They are targeted at users whose end goal is snowboarding, backcountry skiing or mountaineering. However, they are also recommended for general backcountry snow travel. The BC24 excels in many ways for these applications, but it also has a few drawbacks that will be mentioned later in the review.
The Atlas BC24 snowshoe, bottom (left) and top (right).
The BC24 is very rugged and will take some hard use. The frame is 7075 aluminum alloy, one of the strongest available. The front and mid-sides are flattened to create a very stiff geometry. The brown anodized coating scratches fairly easily, so it’s not hard to accumulate a lot of visible scratches in the finish.
The decking is Atlas’s Duratek, which is a proprietary urethane-coated fabric claimed to have three times the abrasion resistance of Hypalon while weighing less. It has a fabric core, and is unquestionably durable.
I especially like the Summit binding on the BC24. It’s relatively simple, easy to put on and very secure. Its base is contoured to provide arch support. The snowshoes are clearly marked as left and right foot specific. There are two toe straps (many other snowshoe bindings use three) plus a heel strap, all made of durable urethane. They tighten very easily and hold tight using the tried and true hook-and-hole fastening system. The bindings lay flat, making it easier to attach the snowshoes to the outside of a backpack.
The Summit binding is nearly a step-in. Just position your foot, tighten the two toe straps, and then tighten the heel strap. It’s very rugged and secure.
The crampons on the underside of the BC24 are plain wicked! They may be the most aggressive snowshoe crampons I have seen. The pivoting toe plate has seven 1-inch long claws on it. The crampons are shovel-like to get a good bite while climbing, and all are sharp. Under the heel there are more shovel-like crampons, and fore and aft of it are two sets of lateral crampons. The Atlas crampons beat anything offered on other snowshoes for reliable traction on wind-packed snow and ice.
The Atlas BC24 has very aggressive toe, heel and lateral crampons (left). The toe crampons (right) are shovel-like to enhance climbing ability. Note the wrap-around pivot strap (left) that creates Atlas’s Spring-Loaded Suspension.
Finally, the BC24 has Atlas’s Spring-Loaded Suspension, which is now standard on all Atlas snowshoes. This unique suspension/pivot system consists of a long pivot strap that connects to the aft end of the binding above the frame, wraps around the frame, and then connects to the fore end of the binding below the frame (left photo above). It doesn’t put spring into your step, as the name implies. Rather, the design builds some torsion into the pivot strap and tilts the toe down, so the binding quickly aligns the snowshoe for each step. The result is consistent tracking and improved stability. The pivot strap/binding design also puts your foot closer to the front of the snowshoe for better articulation and climbing ability.
In the raised foot position, the pivot strap on the Atlas BC24 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 other snowshoes.
The Atlas BC24 does what it was designed to do - climb - very well. It excelled on firm cold snow, wind-packed snow, ice, steep slopes and side hills. The combination of a stiff frame, secure binding, aggressive crampons, and heel lift bar (when needed) allowed me to climb like a mountain goat in these snowshoes. Nothing else comes close.
Their limitations were more apparent in soft snow and wet snow. I used the BC24 for snow travel while carrying a backpack, and for winter camping. My weight plus the weight of my backpack can reach up to 200 pounds, so a “backcountry” snowshoe needs to have extra surface area to provide more flotation when I am carrying a backpack. Also, more flotation is required in soft untracked mountain snow. The BC24, with 24 inches of length and 173 square inches of surface area, simply does not have enough flotation for soft snow conditions. On many occasions I was sinking in a foot or more with the BC24, which makes breaking trail very laborious.
I compared the flotation of the Atlas BC24 with a 30-inch snowshoe side by side in soft snow. The 24-inch long BC24 (right foot) sank in almost twice as much as a 30-inch long snowshoe (left foot).
While the BC24’s aggressive crampon system delivered superb performance in firm cold snow, it turned into a weakness in warm wet snow conditions. When traveling from colder shade snow to wet sun snow, the crampons clogged up with ice and nearly doubled the weight of the snowshoe. I found myself frequently kicking the snowshoes against trees to clean the crampons out. Most snowshoes ice up, but the BC24 does it more because of its extensive crampon system. I like to spray the crampons with silicone to keep snow from sticking.
The extensive crampon system on the BC24 is more prone than most to icing up in wet snow conditions, which can double the weight of the snowshoe.
The Atlas BC24 snowshoe is a standout if it exactly matches your needs and conditions - it's a champ for climbing in firm cold snow conditions. For other applications and conditions - backcountry snow travel with or without a pack in soft or wet snow conditions - it’s a mixed bag. Its traction and stability are superb, but its flotation in soft snow is inadequate and it has a greater tendency to ice up in wet snow.
Another issue is weight - although the BC24 is very sturdy (a definite plus), it is also on the heavy side at 4.16 pounds per pair. A snowshoe that will be carried much of the time should be lighter. I would like to see a Backcountry 30 (30 inches long) with all of the BC24’s great features that weighs less than 4 pounds per pair.
For climbing in firmer cold snow I highly recommend the BC24, especially if your snowshoeing facilitates another snow activity. However, for mixed backcountry snow travel, including soft snow and carrying a backpack, I would recommend a lightweight 30 inch (or larger) snowshoe that provides better flotation.
The Atlas BC24 has a superb binding and crampon system for exceptional stability and climbing ability.
Recommendations for Improvement
- Drop at least half a pound of weight per pair
- Increase the surface area for better flotation in soft snow
- Better yet, give us an “ultralight” version that is 30 inches long and weighs less than 4 pounds/pair