Rating: 5 / 5
These snowshoes rank in the top items I ordered last year, while I learned about and tried out gear to go from heavy or normal weight, to Light, and now to a solid UL packing and trekking system. From the moment that I unwrapped them they were right for me.
They are pictured and described at the Northern Lites web site as follows:
"The international orange Elite Racer was introduced in 2004 to comply with the new, smaller U.S. Snowshoe Association standard of 120in2 minimum surface area. Most racers still prefer our Elite model but some serious racers want both, the Elite for a softer course, and the Elite Racer for a hard course.
Int'l orange decking on black frames with black logo
8"x20" and 34 oz/pr
Surface Area 130in2 - complies with U.S. Snowshoe Association minimums.
For user packing up to 210 lbs.
Cross-Training, Racing, Climbing, Hiking
First, I really like bright color, red-orange 'floor' on them. After reading and thinking about it, I am not experienced enough to worry about 'stealth' winter hiking. Anything orange is going in my gear for the next year or two. I like the black frames, they are just 'elegant' solutions, don't reflect light (old sailor's concern). The bindings are easy to use once you practice two or three times. The heel strap fits great and is easy to use, it pulls through a double opening / "ladder lock" [?] to cinch it up.
Once on they are so light and small that it is like wearing a pair of shoes on the street, basically. They don't bang around on each other even for a begginer like me. The longer 25" pair gave my partner some issues with the banging on each other, but she overcame that issue in about 1/2 hour of use. You have to change the nature of your stride to use snowshoes, we figure, and the longer or wider they are the more that needs to happen.
The crampons are aluminum and we will need to be careful with them, like not walking on a lot of ashpalt from a parking lot to the snow or on a lot of rock when the snow is thin. But, this snowshoe should do me fine.
Out on the Lassen slopes it was icy, wet on the surface of compacted snow and the crampons worked great. So for our environment they worked great so far.
Also, they work with my Steggers, which is why I was looking for a small lightweight shoe. My Steggers work in up to about 8" of powder but it gets tiring. With these lightweight snowshoes from Northern Lites I can carry them for when I run into a powdery snow and slip the Steggers into the Elite Racers, without taking off the Steggers -- and get through all but the deeper powder in this environment. Wearing the Elite Racers is just great compared to my Red Feather Hike 22" shoes -- the Northern Lites are way lighter, much smaller, and it is like walking down the street. I can see why racers use them.
Finally, with the small size and weight, plus the low profile flat laying bindings, they are easy to attach to my pack or a day pack and take in the car for short day hikes anytime. So they get a 5 for now. (They also come with a lifetime of the original purchaser warranty for repair or replacement -- and you can return them within 30 days if not satisfied with them, which is hard to conceive of.) bd