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Comparing the MSR Lightning Ascent 25" and 30" with Tails (Pictures)
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Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
Comparing the MSR Lightning Ascent 25" and 30" with Tails (Pictures) on 11/30/2011 16:07:31 MST Print View

Since I recently moved to the Northern Rockies, I have been excited about getting in to snow sports. (For a guy from Texas, this is all still very new. The heat kept me inside this whole summer, and I'm not about to let the cold do the same.) Snowshoes and XC skis were on my wish list.

When I saw the MSR Lightning Ascents on sale at, I went back and forth between getting the 25" and the 30" models. I ended up buying both, figuring I could compare them and send the pair I didn't want back for a small penalty. I thought I'd share what I found, pictures included. I got the yellows because that is what my wife likes.

First, here are the weights:

25" listed weight: 31 oz per shoe
25" measured weight: 31.3 oz per shoe

30" listed weight: 36 oz per shoe
30" measured weight: 36.4 oz per shoe

5" Tails listed weight: 4.5 oz per tail
5" Tails measured weight: 4.7 oz per tail

MSR Lightning Ascent 25-30 Side-by-Side

One of the things I've seen people on the forums wonder when comparing the two is the placement of the bindings on the 25" versus the 30" models. You'll notice that the bindings on the 30s are set back a little farther than on the 25"s--they're more centered on the shoe.

MSR Lightning Ascent 25-30 Side-by-Side Traction

Not only that, but the bottoms of the shoes are a little different as well. The 30"s have an extra traction bar on the tail of the shoe to compensate for the increased surface area and for the increased weight rating. That's probably a big part of the weight jump from the 25"s to the 30"s (5.1 oz per shoe). It's not all decking.

MSR Lightning Ascent 25-30 Side-by-Side Front End

It's also worth noting that front end of the 30" shoes is raised higher than the 25" shoes, given the extra length on the front decking. They both continue up at the same angle.

MSR Lightning Ascent 25 front decking length
MSR Lightning Ascent 30 front decking length

I measured the front part of the decking at 3 5/16" on the 25" shoes and right at 5 1/2" on the 30" shoes. Basically, the bindings are set back about 2" on the longer model.

MSR Lightning Ascent 25 with tail - 30 Side-by-Side

When I added the 5" tails to the 25" shoes, they do come out right at the same length as the 30" model. But again, as you can see in the picture, the bindings are 2" farther forward than they would be on the 30" model. I'm not sure how much difference this really makes, but it might explain some of the reason that people are finding that the tails only add marginally extra flotation. For 7.2 oz carried or worn, I guess that's up to you.

MSR Lightning Ascent with attached Tail

And just for good measure, here is a picture of the tail attached to the shoe. The end piece hooks into a slot on top of the shoe, and the very burly rubber keeps the tension with the bottom pin. It was somewhat difficult to get on at first (the rubber is very stiff), but I imagine that will change with a little practice. Regardless, the tails feel very secure, and this can all be done with gloves on.

Let me know if anyone wants me to take any more pictures. It will probably be a few more days before I send a pair back to (I'm still trying to decide which ones to keep!)

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
30 v 25 on 11/30/2011 19:53:12 MST Print View

I had 25's the previous two seasons and ended up going to 30's for this season, we get a lot of powder snow and I found myself post holing a fair bit w/ the 25's, certain conditions they were just fine, but experienced enough conditions where they were less than fine

for reference I'm ~ 190#'s, pack can weigh 15-35#'s depending if it's day hiking or an overnight

even w/ the 30's I think I'm going to spring for a set of tails

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
30"s on 12/03/2011 22:12:48 MST Print View

As you can see, I'd go with the 30" Lightning Ascents. Plus, with the more centered binding they will work better with the tail extensions.

I have a pair of Lightning Ascent 30" 'shoes and just tonight I picked up a pair of the Lightning tails (an extra 5") from my local REI. That's because in Jan. of 2010 I 'shoed in 3 feet of snow with a 45 lb pack and did sink in farther than I thought I should. And I cursed myself for not using my backcountry skis with that heavy pack.

My Lightnings are the first year model and were not made to take the tails. However with a little Dremel grinding of the bottom edge of the frame and maybe riveting on (stainless pop rivets) an inverted J piece of aluminum on the top side I'll have the tails fixed in place very nicely.

As a backcountry skier I am used to handling long items on my feet so even with tail extensions it won't seem long at all.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
Re: 30"s on 12/03/2011 22:26:16 MST Print View

I think you're both right. The 30s will serve me much better. I realized that I kept trying to talk myself out of the 30s, but I kept coming back to them.

I took them out today to Glacier National Park, but we never hit enough snow on the trail to need them. Oh well. As everyone keeps reminding me: winter is coming.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Re: 30"s on 12/04/2011 08:36:29 MST Print View

Eric if you get the job done w/ the extensions, please post it up- there are a lot of folks out there w/ the older models that would have much like to have the benefit of the extensions (I probably would have kept my 25's if I could have figured it out :)). I emailed MSR last year if they could/would retrofit the older models for the tails- it was a no go.