Redfeather Alpine 30 Snowshoe REVIEW

A heavy, all-purpose snowshoe with an excellent crampon system.

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by Marty Coatney | 2006-02-12 03:00:00-07

Redfeather Alpine 30 Snowshoe REVIEW

Introduction

Redfeather claims that their Alpine snowshoes are “nearly best at everything.” While I found that the stainless steel crampons of the Alpine 30 performed amazingly well, the rest of the package was lacking. At 4.8 pounds (manufacturer’s claim) the Alpine 30 was one of the heaviest snowshoes we tested and the extra weight was not justified by their overall performance in the field.

What’s Good

  • Eagle crampon system offers excellent traction in various conditions and terrains
  • Delta Hinge pivot strap provides outstanding lateral support
  • Easy on, easy off thanks to a well designed ratcheting heel strap

What’s Not So Good

  • Stiff Delta Hinge pivot system flips snow up your back and also causes the front of the snowshoe to dive, sometimes inducing falls
  • Comparatively heavy at 4.6 pounds for the pair

Specifications

  Manufacturer

Redfeather

  Year/Model

2005 Alpine 30

  Dimensions

9 in wide x 30 in long (239 cm x 76 cm)

  Surface Area

Measured surface area 224 in2 (1445 cm2), manufacturer specification not available

  Frame

6000-series aircraft-grade aluminum alloy tubing, 3/4 in (2 cm) diameter

  Deck

Hypalon II

  Binding

“Ultra Binding” - straps over the toe area and a ratcheting heel system

  Crampons

“Eagle Crampon” system - powder coated stainless steel with “Delta Hinge” pivot strap

  Weight

Measured weight 4.6 lb (2.09 kg) per pair; manufacturer specification 4.8 lb ( 2.18 kg)

  Load Rating

Up to 220 lb (100 kg)

  MSRP

$209 with Ultra binding; $199 with Pilot binding

Performance

The Redfeather Alpine 30, at 4.6 pounds (my measurement), is the heaviest snowshoe we reviewed. While loaded with features, the added weight was very noticeable during use. Below, I discuss the pros and cons of the Alpine’s features in relation to their weight.

The Redfeather Alpine 30 uses the Ultra Binding system, which is very similar to the Control Binding used on the Redfeather Trek 30. Both consist of flexible plastic side supports and a 5-inch hard plastic base. The binding is tightened with two nylon straps that cross the foot in three places: one independently adjustable strap across the toes and one strap that crosses over both the arch and the top of the foot. The flexible plastic heel strap uses a ratcheting system that is extremely easy to use, even with cold hands or while wearing over-mitts. This system consists of a short ratchet lever alongside a release. When the lever is extended fully it locks the release open, allowing quick removal of the heel strap.

Redfeather Alpine 30 Snowshoe REVIEW - 1
While the bindings of the Redfeather Alpine 30 were secure and easy to use, they allowed my heels to rotate inwards causing a pigeon-toed gait.

I enjoyed the security and simplicity of the bindings, but they caused my heels to turn towards the inside of the snowshoes and the snowshoe toes to rotate towards each other. While this “pigeon-toe” effect was much more pronounced on the Redfeather Trek snowshoe, the Alpine had similar problems. After prolonged use this began to cause knee and ankle pain in both legs.

The Redfeather Delta Hinge pivot system is basically a standard pivot strap that widens into a trapezoidal shape under the ball of the foot. On the underside, a large aggressive toe-crampon is attached directly to the same strap. The decking material is also attached to the pivot strap from behind, sandwiched between the pivot strap and bindings, which restricts the binding’s pivot range. Compared to other pivot designs, the Alpine 30’s pivot strap does not allow the snowshoe’s tail to drop sufficiently to clear snow. Rather, the tight pivot strap caused snow to be flung up my back and occasionally over my head. I can only wonder how much extra effort I expended each time a load of snow was thrown.

The limited pivot range gives the snowshoe a tendency to “dive” in soft snow. This caused me to bury the front of the snowshoe and land on my face numerous times. I had to be very aware of my feet at all times, and running was not an option. In addition, because the front of the snowshoes did not raise properly when I was performing side-hill traverses, the tail of the leading snowshoe would catch the front of the trailing snowshoe, tripping me in the process. The problem with the Delta Hinge pivot system persisted through many miles of testing by several testers.

Redfeather Alpine 30 Snowshoe REVIEW - 2
The decking on the Redfeather Alpine 30 is sandwiched between the crampons and bindings such that the decking has to stretch for the crampon/binding system to pivot. The decking between the hinge and the crampons never stretched or loosened up. This caused multiple problems including “nose-dive” and snow flinging. Notice the snow being flipped up in the right photo.

On a more positive note, the crampon system on the Alpine 30 is amazing! Another reviewer and I tested them to their limits on a section of the Timberline Trail on Oregon’s Mt. Hood. We traversed into Zigzag Canyon, a 1200-foot-deep gorge on the shoulder of the mountain. There were places where a loss of traction would mean an unplanned glissade, followed by a free-fall to the bottom. Cool, rainy days followed by cold nights during the trip meant the snow had an icy crust in some places and was slushy wet in others. These were conditions where we needed boot crampons and an ice axe, not snowshoes and trekking poles. The Alpine 30 crampons handled the situation with no problem. After learning to trust the crampons, they were the only part of the snowshoe that I didn’t have to constantly think about.

Redfeather Alpine 30 Snowshoe REVIEW - 3
The crampons on the Alpine 30 gave me the confidence to scale steep ravines and wind-packed ridges with little worries, other than my fear of heights.

As for durability, the Alpine 30 performed very well with the exception of the decking paint. The heavy duty aluminum frame along with stainless steel crampons make for very solid snowshoes, though at the price of extra weight. The only signs of wear I found after long-term use under varied conditions, were loss of paint on the decking and a slight bend to one of the toe crampons. These are not necessarily negatives. In areas where the paint rubbed off the Hypalon decking material showed little or no fraying. The damage was purely cosmetic. The bent crampon was strictly because of misuse on my part. I used these snowshoes while making rocky river crossings and while hiking on short stretches of bare dirt. An aluminum crampon would have been damaged to a much greater extent.

Redfeather Alpine 30 Snowshoe REVIEW - 4
Even after using the Alpine 30 in conditions Redfeather most likely never intended, the only damage I found was loss of decking paint and a single bent crampon.

Overall, the performance of the Alpine 30 was lackluster. I liked the ease of use of the bindings and the rock solid crampons, but I’m not willing to carry over 4 pounds on my feet when there are much lighter, and better performing, snowshoes available at comparable prices.

What’s Unique

The Eagle crampon system is rock solid and provides superb traction. They are powder-coated stainless steel, and took a beating while showing little wear.

Recommendations for Improvement

The problems I had with the Alpine 30 are tied to the Delta Hinge pivot system. Providing a cutout in the decking around the bindings and toe crampons would allow the snowshoe to pivot more, avoiding the major heel rebound and “nose-diving” problems I encountered.

Also, these snowshoes are very heavy at 4.6 pounds (in the 30-inch length). Lighter materials all around would make the Alpine 30 much more appealing.


Citation

"Redfeather Alpine 30 Snowshoe REVIEW," by Marty Coatney. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/redfeather_alpine_30_snowshoe_review.html, 2006-02-12 03:00:00-07.

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