Gear Review: MSR Revo Ascent Snowshoes

We’ve had these for a year (we are on our second season with them), so I thought it would be a good idea to review them after we have had a chance to use them a season.

We started snowshoeing a few years ago but had always rented the shoes at the mountain. Doing this we got to try out different styles and brands of snowshoes. We liked the ones from MSR the most and started looking for a pair we could buy.

We selected the MSR Revo Explore snowshoes after checking them out at MEC. We put those on our wedding registry, knowing they were a big ask unless people pitched in. When the wedding came we were blown away and instead of smaller items our friends all pitched in and got us a our ZPacks Duplex (save that review for another post!). So for snowshoes we were left to buying them ourselves.

My coworkers we’re very generous and pooled money for MEC gift cards as a wedding gift prior to me taking holiday that year for our wedcation so that gave us a good pool of funds to use for gear. I also was fortunate to get a small bonus (in a form of prepaid VISA cards) at the end of the year. That left us with a lot of money we not only had to use at MEC but some extra to cover other gear. After listing out the gear we needed that year we were able to buy the REVO Ascents instead of the Explores.

I have to say I’m quite pleased with them!

We each got a pair. Natasha has the purple ones. I have the red.

Mass/ Weight

I can’t remember the numbers and we never did a detailed analysis on mass. We only planned to wear them for day hikes so mass was less of a deciding factor (although still important!).

They are not the lightest, but I really don’t feel fatigued with them on for a day. For how durable they are and how aggressive they are I think they are quite light.  We have used heavier ones and these are much lighter than some of the ones we have rented.  Unless you see carrying them on a multi day trip or a through hike I don’t think the weight is a factor to be concerned about with these. They are light enough for me.

Features

They are quite aggressive, as they are meant for ascents. I have had sufficient grip on packed, icy and powder. I don’t think I have slipped once in these. They have enough surface area to keep me from sinking in deep powder as well. Natasha has had similar experiences.

There is a heel riser in the back that you can easily pop up with the basket of your poles. This makes a huge difference and really reduces fatigue. Natasha’s feet are small and her boots are 3 season boots (with small soles) so her riser is close to the edge of the heel of her boots. It still works but I suggest testing the fit of your boots and snowshoes before going out for this reason. I wear a pair of Salomon X Ultra Winter Boots and I don’t have this issue.

The straps are appropriately placed and have enough stretch to keep them tight and not too tight.  The straps remain contained and don’t come undone and “flap around”.

Durability

It’s too soon to tell but they seem to be holding up. We went on several day trips last year (probably twice a month) and the most that happened are scratches due to my toes clipping. Nothing has broken or worn yet. The only thing we have had to do is wax.

Overall

I quite like them. The only reason I might consider another pair is if we have a heavy snow season prior to hiking the GDT next year and need snowshoes instead of crampons or microspikes.  These would be too heavy to carry. But for a two or three day trip in the winter they would work very well.

Trip Report: Snowshoeing Dog Mountain

We went snowshoeing up Dog Mountain on December 23 with some friends.

The day was beautiful!

It was a bit busy; it was apparent when we showed up the parking was filling up.

Once we parked and geared up we hiked. It was quite pretty out. When we reached the fork in the trail for First Lake and Dog Mountain the signage was a little confusing and caused us to delay for about 5 or 10 minutes while we sorted it out. The signs state to go right for Dog Mountain, but what is not clear is that you are supposed to loop around the lake on the right and veer left.

Once we got past that the snow held up on the trail a while but eventually thinned out and got rocky and full of roots. Not the best snowshoeing conditions – just not enough snow!

The trail was fairly busy throughout. At least most of the fellow hikers were babies and dogs, so we had good company!

We got to the top in roughly 1.5 hours. We ate snacks, basked in the sun, then packed up and headed down.

It took us much less time heading down than up. We finished the return in 50 minutes.

Overall a good day but less than ideal snow on the trail. I don’t think I am excited to return again this season unless we get a lot more snow fall.

 

Day Trip Report: Grouse Mountain Snowshoeing

We went out to Grouse Mountain for the first time this year on December 3rd in order to start the season off. We had not gone out snowshoeing yet this season, and were not sure how the snow would be so we decided to take a chance.

When we got to the mountain the line for the gondola was getting long, but because we have passes we were able to skip most of the line and head straight up. Overall it wasn’t incredibly busy, but it seemed like we got there before the rush.

It was a warm, sunny day. The rain let off and there was enough snow on the mountain to make for good snowshoeing.

At the top of the gondola we hit up the restrooms, put on some sunscreen and geared up.

IMG_20171203_105933

The mountain (at least once we got up the gondola) was not that busy.  As we headed towards the trail head it was pretty clear that it was going to be a pretty quiet day.

The plan was to head to Dam Mountain, and maybe further if we felt up to it. The sign on the trail head said that only the “Light Walk” was open, but oddly enough the website and other signage said the trails were all open. So we cautiously kept going until we could get closer to our trail. As we approached the trail it was pretty clear the sign was mis-posted and the trail was open.

The trail up was not busy at all. There were a few others hiking up like we were, but there were no crowds and no children. Best of all there was nobody sliding down at our ankles!

We made pretty good time, and we were able to stop and take some photo breaks on the way up.

IMG_20171203_112429

The snow was almost untouched – I don’t think we will get a chance to go on such pristine snow for the rest of the season!

IMG_20171203_112426

We got to Dam Mountain in under an hour, and there was only one other couple up there with us.  We spent a few minutes up there, took some photos, and decided to turn around and get some other things done in the afternoon.

IMG_20171203_115336

We made good time on the way down again. More people were coming up but it was still a pretty quiet hike.

IMG_20171203_112432

However.. when we got to the gondola line.. it was starting to get a bit busy.  It wasn’t the busiest we have seen it (although usually when it’s really busy there is someone handing out free hot chocolate.. this time not so much). We were probably in the line for 40-60 minutes.

Despite the long wait to get back down, it was a pretty good way to start the season off!

JMT Gear Recap: Clothing

Overall Gear Thoughts:

Overall, we were really happy with our gear and any future purchases although they will be nice are ultimately unnecessary. We had no gear failures or issues and everything worked as intended.

Hiking Clothing

Hiking Shirt

MEC Magnolia Long Sleeved Shirt

This worked well, dried quickly and kept the sun off my skin.

Only complaints about this shirt is the only pocket it has is not accessible when my hipbelt was done up and the white gets super skanky looking.

I have no reservations recommending this shirt – it’s a simple no frills hiking shirt that works well.

For future trips I will continue to use this shirt unless I find an alternative with useable pockets & fun colours.

Hiking Pants

REI Sahara Convertible Pants – Women’s Petite

These worked well, dried quickly and kept my legs relatively clean.

I’m quite pale and tend to burn rather easily – so I decided to bring pants on this trip to try and cut down on the amount of sunscreen I would need to use. I brought convertible pants since I thought I might like being able to convert them to shorts and thought it might be useful for river crossings as well.

I ended up never using the convertible feature of the pants. They dry quickly enough that I didn’t bother taking the legs off for fords and I found that I never got hot enough with them on to bother taking them off.

Some minor nitpicks about these pants: the waistband is lined in fleece fabric, which is nice to prevent it from chaffing/rubbing, but it also retains moisture and the waistband was always the last part of the my pants to dry.

The front and back pockets aren’t large enough to be useful – I never put anything in these pockets. The side pockets are decently sized though – I kept my compass, whistle and knife in these pockets so they were always on me.

Overall these are some of the best women’s hiking pants I’ve come across, but they still aren’t quite perfect.

Socks

DeFeet Aireator HT Socks

This was my first trip for these socks and I’m extremely happy with how they worked out. On previous trips I’ve brought traditional wool hiking socks, but I found those can make my feet extremely hot and they also tend to not dry quickly enough to wash a pair everyday.

These socks kept my feet non-sweaty and cool and dried quickly – they even managed to dry while under my packs raincover when we encountered rain one day.

On future trips I am considering trying toe socks out – the one thing I didn’t like was how dirty my feet got with these and the fact that I could feel dirt between my toes. I’d hope that toe socks might be able to eliminate some of that feeling.

Shoes

Brooks Cascadia 9

This was also the second major outing for my trail runners – on previous backpacking trips I have used boots.

One of my major issues with the boots that I previously used was that they always seemed to eventually wet out in rainy/wet conditions and then they took an extremely long time to dry out after this.

I found a pair of Brooks Cascadias in the clearance bin at the local MEC and decided to give them a go – they tend to be very popular with PCT thru-hikers. They are definitely my favourite hiking footwear to date. I had no blisters, footpain or any other foot issues at all on this trip.

The only thing I dislike about these shoes is how dirty they get my feet [insert picture here]

Sports Bra

Icebreaker Sprite Racerback Bra

The icebreaker sports bra worked perfectly for me – enough support and didn’t cause any rubbing/chaff issues with my pack.

Sleep Clothing

Shirt

MEC Merino T1 Short Sleeve Shirt

This shirt was primarily to be my top layer for sleeping and secondarily an extra layer if I was too cold during the day. I found it to be adequate for sleeping in and keeping me warm along with my poofy jacket in the mornings/evenings before heading out.

I would recommend this shirt and will continue to bring it or its long-sleeved counterpart on future trips.

Bottom Base Layer

Icebreaker Sprite Leggings

Again this layer was primarily for sleeping and secondarily an extra layer if I was too cold. Same as shirt.

I would recommend these leggings.

Rain Gear and Warmth

Rain Jacket

MEC Outathere Jacket

This is an extremely lightweight rain jacket. Ultimately when hiking in rain gear there is always the trade-off of getting wet from the rain or wet from sweating under your rain gear. I tend to prefer wearing rain gear since at the very least I’ll be warmer than without it.

We had four days in a row of rain on the JMT and I was impressed with how well this jacket worked. It kept me dry and was relatively breathable.

The reason I chose the MEC jacket over similar offerings from Outdoor Research and other retailers came down to fit – I think the MEC jacket has a far superior (and adjustable!) hood and it has elastic cuffs which I prefer over velcro cuffs that need to be adjusted if you actually want them to be tight.

Rain Pants

Outdoor Research Helium Rain Pants

These are the lightest pair of rain pants I could find – they have a simple elastic waistband and a short zipper at the ankles to let you put them on over your shoes/boots. They also have one small zippered back pocket. Unfortunately these only come in men’s sizes, but they do fit small. I got a men’s size small and overall they fit well, but they are a bit snug in the hips/bum.

Overall though I’m quite happy with these, they kept me dry and were easy to put on/off without taking my shoes off.

Puffy Jacket

MEC Uplink Hoody

A simple synthetic puffy with a hood. This was my go to layer when in camp or occasionally when starting out in the mornings. On previous trips I’ve used a fleece as my warm layer, but I think I’m converted to puffy jackets

 

Trip Report: Sunshine Coast Trail

Very overdue (publishing some old drafts we forgot about) – here is our trip report from the Sunshine Coast Trail.

Summary

So, unfortunately, we didn’t end up finishing the trail as Kyle got injured on Day 5 and we had to hike out. We did get over halfway through the trail though.

The trail was very pretty and there were some amazing views on it. The trail ended up being significantly more technical & difficult than we had anticipated – the trail itself is very well-marked and easy to follow, with relatively moderate elevation change over the trail.

Day-by-day Reports

Day 1

Mileage: 16.0 km (0.0 – 16.0)

We started out in Lund after staying the night at the Lund Historical Hotel. We had booked the water taxi to take us to the trailhead. The water taxi was $120 and took around 20 minutes from Lund to the trailhead.

The trailhead that the water taxi drops you off on a rock ledge and then there’s a ~5′ scramble to the actual trail.

P1040704

The trail follows along the coast/shoreline for the majority of this section and pops out onto various beaches and bluffs. The trail itself is covered in moss & leaves. We also found that there were a lot of trees down on the trail – this might be since it was early in the season before hey normally do trail maintenance, but definitely something to keep in mind if you are planning on doing the trail early in the year. If there had not been downed trees, the trail would have been quite straightforward and on the easy side of things – the downed trees required a lot of climbing over or going off trail to go around them which made it more challenging.

The elevation gain is very reasonable, the vast majority of it wasn’t steep enough to justify switchbacks and the trail went straight up the hills.

We ended our first day at the first shelter of the trail – the Manzanita Hut.

P1040800

It started raining & hailing quite heavily only a few minutes after we reached the hut. We were considering continuing on and setting up camp further along the trail. But the rain/hail and the fact that we didn’t want to push too hard on our first day made it easy for us to decide to stay at the hut.

The hut was quite nice – there was a cooking area on the main floor and then a sleeping loft upstairs. The sleeping loft had windows at either end that could be opened for ventilation. There was also an outhouse a short distance away, picnic tables and a fire ring. One thing to note about this shelter is there are definitely mice/rodents present. There were mouse droppings in the sleeping loft and both myself and Kyle woke up the next morning with tight throats.

Day 2

Mileage: 27.1 km (to Shangri-La dock at 43.1 km)

We started shortly after 8am. The trail is mostly through forested sections, easy to follow and a surprising number of benches along the way. There are lots of options for camping along the way if you would like a shorter day.

Day 3

Mileage: (to Inland Lake Huts)

This was a hard day. It started out well with the sun shining and a relatively easy hike into Powell River. We got into town a bit before noon, so we stopped for lunch at a restaurant that was right along the trail.

After lunch though was a different story. The directions through town to the next trailhead were not at all clear, so we wasted a bit of time wandering around. Once we found where we were supposed to go, it involved climbing a gravel logging road in the hot sun, then once near the top, going right back down a very overgrown trail. It was not pleasant at all.

We were hoping to make it to Confederation Lake today, but the gravel road walk and the condition of the trail meant that we had to stop at the Inland Lakes instead.

Inland Lakes is actually pretty neat – the trail around the lake is all leveled gravel so that wheelchair users can navigate it and the two shelters were initially intended for groups with disabilities to be able to use. However, they weren’t well used and are now open to the general public as well. We camped in our tent rather than staying in the shelters.

Day 4

Mileage: (to Tin Hat Mountain)

This was one of the most challenging days of hiking I’ve experienced. There were lots of downed trees along the trail and the trail up to Tin Hat Mountain is incredibly steep. It was gorgeous up there though and well worth the effort.

We also passed by the Confederation Lake hut along the way – I’d highly recommend staying here rather than Inland Lake as it is much prettier and a nicer shelter.

Day 5

This was the day Kyle got injured. There was a lot of downed trees along the trail and he tweaked his knee while climbing over one. We kept going for a while and tried to slow our pace, but it quickly became apparent we wouldn’t be able to continue. So we backtracked to an access road we had passed and started walking down it towards the highway. Unfortunately, we got to the road a bit late and missed any loggers that would be leaving for the day. We found a flattish spot along the side of the road and set up our tent. Luckily for us,  a couple on an ATV came down the road about 15 minutes after we had everything set up.

They were super awesome and returned with their truck and gave us a ride all the way into Powell River. We grabbed a hotel room for the night and caught the bus back to Vancouver the following morning.

Recommendations/Conclusions

One week is definitely an achievable timeline if you are physically fit and enjoy hiking all-day. If you are the type that enjoys spending more time in camp, I would recommend extending the trip and doing a resupply in Powell River.

Depending on if you have severe allergies or not – you might not want to stay in the huts. Several of the huts had obvious rodent issues (lots of droppings) and both Kyle and I noticed we were stuffy/had tight throats in the morning after staying in one of the huts.

Check the trail reports and Facebook page before leaving – there was a detour around Tin Hat Mountain that we did not learn about until we reached it. We went around it after speaking to some loggers who said they were not blasting in the area anymore.

Bring a set of maps with logging roads marked on it so you can easily find bailout points or detours.

Consider going later on in the season to avoid significant amounts of downed trees across the trail.