Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
msr snowshoes -- evo vs lightning
Display Avatars Sort By:
Charles P
(mediauras) - F

Locale: Terra
msr snowshoes -- evo vs lightning on 09/12/2012 14:53:05 MDT Print View

Hi. Can anybody explain to me the real differences (pros/cons) of the MSR EVO and Lightning snowshoes (the designs, across all categories)? I've been dinkering around with crap snowshoes for years and am looking to make my first real purchase later this year and am drawn to the MSR system with its modular tails. I like the flexibility (in theory) the tails offer. Anyhow, this thread isn't meant to be a debate about which shoes I should buy, I'm just looking for real world info on the snowshoes. They're very different designs but the marketing stuff doesn't really distinguish enough btw them in my opinion. Thx.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: msr snowshoes on 09/12/2012 15:58:26 MDT Print View

Placing the metal teeth at the very edge, and the multiple toothed cross braces, gives the lightning better traction which is more readily applied (esp. on uneven terrain and when sidehilling). The Evos have good traction, the Lightnings have superlative traction.

If you'll snowshoe on lots of wind effected snow and melt-freeze ice, and in alpine terrain, get Lightnings. If you won't, get Northern Lights. If you want something cheaper than either, get the Evos.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Lightning ascents for mountaineering on 09/12/2012 16:08:02 MDT Print View

I would get the Lightning Ascents if you are planning to use for alpine ascents (think mixed rock, snow). If you will be doing primarily snowshoeing on mild terrain then get something else with more focus on flotation.

jason quick

Locale: A tent in my backyard - Melbourne
hmm on 09/12/2012 16:18:31 MDT Print View

Hi there

I have two pairs of the EVO's....and love them.

I find them more durable than the Lightning's...the solid plastic frame seems to be rock solid...weights are roughly the same.

I also use mine for fast alpine, have used them confidently on steep terrain...and the heel 'televator' (which is on both models) is an absolute delight...when the calves are burning, the terrain is flip the televator up and wow.....instant comfort.

Anyways, they are both great shoes, and I will be considering others for my next purchase also...just to try something different.

Edited by jase on 09/12/2012 16:25:51 MDT.

Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Re: msr snowshoes -- evo vs lightning on 09/12/2012 19:42:06 MDT Print View

I have the Lightning Ascents and my hiking buddy has the Evo. They both have held up well even after 3+ days of hiking around Crater Lake, which actually is more rugged than you'd think.

Our Consensus:
Traction- Lightning especially uphill (the Televator rocks)
Traversing- Evos are more comfortable due to traction coming mainly from underfoot instead of the edges of the whole float.
Powder- I did do some powder in the PNW. ...once... Lightning wins but neither were awesome.
Comfort- Tie I guess... Neither is uncomfortable. Sometimes the Lightning binding is a PITA to buckle, but works well.

All in all- IMO you're good w/ either, so long as you get the Televator.

Charles P
(mediauras) - F

Locale: Terra
thanks on 09/12/2012 23:02:09 MDT Print View

Thanks for the clarifying information, very helpful. Seems like both are pretty similar in a lot of ways, until it comes to needing more traction.

Flotation was mentioned: I would love to hear more about differences/similarities in flotation (yeah, okay, conditions matter to thsi and make it extremely variable). And what about tails for either, is it a system that works? With the evo i like the idea of having a shorter snowshoe for play (horsing around with my young kids) and light day hikes in easy terrain with my wife, and then adding the tails when more flotation is needed or if carrying a full pack and heading out for a night or two (my goal this winter: first time snow camping!!). I'm about 165 lbs so theoretically could use the evos without tails when not carrying a pack, and with tails should suffice with a pack. Lightnings should be fine with a pack, w/o tails. ... Guess I'm looking for an all-around snowshoe (which, after all this, could be a pair of Northern Lites....).

Edited by mediauras on 09/12/2012 23:41:28 MDT.

Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Re: thanks on 09/15/2012 20:40:11 MDT Print View

I live in the PNW so I don't really use tails cause there ain't no powder. (I almost wrote "pow" but couldn't bring myself to do it)

I was ~230lbs w/gear around Crater Lake on 25s. I didn't sink, but like I said... PNW... Cascade Concrete...

Depends on your normal snow conditions

jason quick

Locale: A tent in my backyard - Melbourne
tails on 09/16/2012 05:23:28 MDT Print View

I don't use tails on my Evo's...I don't own any either.

I started my snow hiking back before my UL pursuits began, so...

I weigh 160lbs, and vividly remember carrying a workhorse of a pack for an 8 day mountaineering exercise snow trip...I had EVERYTHING packed.. pack weighed in excess of 25kg (55lbs). It wasn't powdered snow, but all things considered, the Evo's didn't sink at all.



jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"msr snowshoes -- evo vs lightning" on 09/16/2012 13:44:18 MDT Print View

I have the msr denali evo ascent shoes with attachable tails. Normally I don't trust modular designs but the tails on these shoes are solid, attach easily and will not break. I find that the grip on these shoes is terrific. I mostly shoe around Lake Tahoe and after a fresh snowfall of a foot or so I do sink in these shoes even with the tails on. So there may be better shoes for flotation if that's your primary concern. (I'm 140 lbs ). I do like having the option of leaving the tails off because it makes striding easier. I've looked at the Lightnings and like the design but I haven't tried them. Mostly though the evos stride well, are very rugged and, again, have killer grip on packed/icy terrain.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Fresh powder and evo ascents on 09/16/2012 14:10:52 MDT Print View

I have the evo ascents and would agree with earlier comments regarding the benefit of the televator. I did a long snowshoe trip over both junction and kersarge passes a couple of years ago and that feature was very helpful for the many thousands of feet of elevation gain. Now, as far as floatation, generally if I can get away without using tails I could also get away without snowshoes for floatation. So rarely did I go without using the tails. On the evo ascents they are 6" (and different from the Evo model). I weigh out at about 210lbs in full winter gear.

I just moved to PA and I will hopefully get an opportunity to try these again this winter in a different environment.

Charles P
(mediauras) - F

Locale: Terra
pow pow on 09/16/2012 22:05:35 MDT Print View

Good insights, thanks. I'm in CA, so the comments on the Sierras are helpful. Sounds like either option would work for me at this point, so now I'm armed and ready to take a fall season deal whatever it might be.

And, heh, early winter predictions are that it will be a deep snow year. Lots of pow pow! ;-) That's the fIrst and only time I will say that.

Jakub Bro┼ż

Locale: Europe
Lightning Ascent 25 on 11/20/2012 14:57:46 MST Print View

I want to say hi to everybody here at first, cause this is my first post on the forum. I like it here and I hope to contribute a little in the future.

I have just purchased Lightning Ascent 25, which was my pick no. 1. The only other candidate was the Elite by Northern Lites (because of the awesome low weight).

First impression is great.

I am really looking forward to try them out in the field and write more about them soon, both here and on my blog.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: re: msr snowshoes on 11/20/2012 16:04:39 MST Print View

"If you'll snowshoe on lots of wind effected snow and melt-freeze ice, and in alpine terrain, get Lightnings. If you won't, get Northern Lights. If you want something cheaper than either, get the Evos.

+1 Unless you're on wind pack or melt freeze ice, you'll love the Northern Lites @ 40 oz/pair. On anything else, you can take the Elites on as steep terrain as you can handle, unless you feel you need the "televator" feature of the Lightning Ascent.
When you add the 12 oz tails to the Evo's, you're approaching 5 pounds/pair; for the Lightning Ascents you'd be at 4 pounds 7 oz with the tails. That's a significant difference at the end of a day in the mountains in either case. Another factor to consider is maneuverability. Both Evo's and Lightning Ascents with tails are 30+ inches, which could be a real PITA if you are in thick timber or brush. The combination of weight and length gets real old in those conditions.

(mountainwalker) - MLife

Locale: SF Bay Area & New England
Lightnings versus Northern Lite Rescues on 11/20/2012 18:43:32 MST Print View

"If you'll snowshoe on lots of wind effected snow and melt-freeze ice, and in alpine terrain, get Lightnings. If you won't, get Northern Lights."


I have the Lightnings, and I had the Northern Lites Backcountry Rescue (just a Backcountry 30 in. mode with orange decking). I'd used the Northern Lites in 3 ft of fresh powder in Northern Vermont, and the Lightnings in deep powder in the mountains around Lake Tahoe and also around Bear Valley. I'm 175 lbs before layers and gear.

The strength of each snowshoe is its weakness. The NLs are FAST across flat and low hill terrain. I mean you can really fly because they are very light on your feet and don't have enough crampon to slow you down. But in alpine terrain in California I found myself slipping in a bunch of places. I switched to the Lightnings in terrain like this after a woman in a local outdoor group slipped in her lighter snowshoes (not NL's but something comparable with less crampon), slid down a short slope into a tree and shattered her ankle to smithereens.

The Lightnings have excellent traction on snow and ice, but aren't as fast over flatter terrain as the NLs.

I would love to see a new model of Northern Lites which combine better traction with light weight.

A member of the Adirondak forums actually built a better multi-directional crampon for his Northern Lites.

Edited by mountainwalker on 11/20/2012 18:44:12 MST.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Lightnings versus Northern Lite Rescues on 11/20/2012 19:59:20 MST Print View

"I would love to see a new model of Northern Lites which combine better traction with light weight."

+1 Starting with teeth along the sides of the frame, like the LA'a. A note on using snowshoes on steep terrain where there is ice or wind pack, particularly if there is a bad runout: It might not be a bad idea to switch into crampons in situations like this. Snowshoes are never going to offer the bite and agility that crampons provide and, given the consequences, the extra few minutes spent changing into and out of crampons is a small price to pay. My 2 cents.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Lightning ASCENT 'shoes on 12/06/2012 14:23:46 MST Print View

I have the 30" Lightning Ascent 'shoes (they have a heel lift) and bought tails to add.

Being that I have the original Lightning Ascent model I had to add a stainless steel bolt and grind notches in each 'shoe to be able to add the extended tails. But it works fine.

I also have 30" Atlas 'shoes and in 2010, while traversing I had a nasty slide down a steep mountainside hitting a tree and injuring my shoulder. These 'shoes are now "lenders".

With the Lightning Ascents I have NO problem with traversing steep slopes.

dave p
(hipass) - F

Locale: Los Angeles
so for the sierra,evo or lightnings on 12/04/2013 23:34:25 MST Print View

bringing this thread back to life because i want new shoes with a heel lift for steepness in the sierra and other cali locations.So are evos as good?i know the evos are quite a bit cheaper and they are 3 inches shorter.I have denalis with tails.Will those tails work on evo or lightnings?thanks

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: thanks on 12/05/2013 17:08:45 MST Print View

"Guess I'm looking for an all-around snowshoe (which, after all this, could be a pair of Northern Lites....)."

There is a lot to be said for the Northern Lites as an all purpose snowshoe. They are very light and will perform well for all but the more extreme(technical) conditions, e.g. steep side hilling or ascents, or hard snow/ice on any significant angle, especially if there is a bad run out. For these conditions, the Lightnings are probably the best option, IME, although I have used my Northern Lites on 45 deree slopes while ascending/descending soft, consolidated snow(not easy on the calves, but doable). I have not used the Evos and am basing that part on what I have heard from friends. Another option, if you decide on the Northern Lites and may possibly encounter icy conditions is to pair them with a set of light crampons and have the best of both worlds. My 2 cents.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Lightning Ascent versatility on 01/01/2014 12:02:45 MST Print View

1. XC and backcountry skis give a LOT more flotation than snowshoes.
(More flotation = easier trailbreaking.)
2. You usually need the largest snowshoes you can handle. (36" in most cases) The MSR Lightning Ascent 'shoes have the increased versatility of add-on tails.

Lightning Ascent 'shoes WITH optional extended tails are a lot shorter than even the Altai "sliding snowshoe" skis.

If one can learn to use 6 foot XC skis in the backcountry you can much more easily learn to use 36" snowshoes.
Get accustomed to 36" LA 'shoes and then you can handle the added tails with just a little learning curve.

In the backcountry snow travel IS about flotation.

icefest From Australia
</comment> on 04/26/2014 04:20:22 MDT Print View

I haven't had had much time to play with the evos so take this with a grain of salt.

I have a set of lightnings which I use in the Australian High country. As mentioned by others they are incredible with melt/freeze snow and hard snowpack.

I've only ever had one problem, and that was in a (incredibly rare) dump of 20cm of powder, where the powder prevented the crampon rings from digging into the hard snow beneath and they became a short set of fat skis. It was fun going down but impossible to climb back up the hill.