What Makes The Perfect Snowshoe?
What Makes the Perfect Snowshoe?
Lightweight, durable, easy to use and easily repairable. How do we get all of these features in a single snowshoe design?
The design of the Northern Lites Snowshoes allows them to be incredibly light without sacrificing durability. Our snowshoes are the lightest in the world when compared to competitive designs that can weigh up to twice as much as ours. Even though our snowshoes are incredibly lightweight, they also provide world-class durability. It is common to attend snowshoeing events and see participants wearing Northern Lites Snowshoes dating back to the beginning of the company in 1992.
These snowshoes are constructed with aerospace grade materials. We use 7075 Aluminum alloy tubing, manufactured to our custom specifications. This tubing is extraordinarily lightweight yet it easily stands up to years of use. The deck, binding and suspension strap materials are all made from a lightweight material that was originally designed for air-dropped fuel bladders in the military. Unlike the PVC or Hypalon Decks of most other snowshoes, our decks, bindings and suspensions retain their strength and flexibility characteristics, even at extremely low temperatures. Our material is also UV stabilized so many years of exposure to the winter sun will leave it looking as good as they day the customer received it. This deck material is also extremely lubricious, which allows it to shed snow easily. This property, combined with the suspension design in the binding, leads to a “tail low” configuration when using the shoes - so the snowshoe slides out of the snow with each step, thus minimizing the amount of snow that the user lifts with each step. This is a further weight advantage to the customer when using our snowshoes, compared to other, less sophisticated designs. Another minor note is that our “tail low” configuration is combined with a passive suspension design that allows for a more natural stride motion and it eliminates the annoying tendency of most snowshoes to “throw” snow up your back with each step!
When you look at these snowshoes, you immediately notice that the deck is attached to the frame with a large number of black clips. These are made with Zytrel – a super tough nylon variant. The large number of attachment points means that the stresses on the deck are widely distributed around the frame, allowing the frame material to be much lighter than would otherwise be the case. In addition, these clips incorporate a secondary cleat feature that noticeably improves traction. In the unlikely event that a clip fails, the remaining clips can easily handle the additional load, allowing you to safely return home from your trek. We even have customers who use simple zip ties for field expedient repairs when using our shoes on extended back country treks or in ultra competitions.
Because our snowshoes are designed to be manufactured by hand in a modular fashion, we can easily repair virtually any damage that is inflicted on our shoes. We routinely have Northern Lites Snowshoe owners contacting us and requesting a minor repair on snowshoes that are 10-25 years old with obvious signs of hard and sustained use. Normal wear and tear finally catches up with them and they send their shoes in for a fast, and usually inexpensive, repair that has them quickly back out on the snow for many more years of use. This is in direct contrast to the typical snowshoe design that normally requires complete replacement of the shoe in the event of damage.
Our TruTrak binding system is the simplest and most reliable binding on the market. Once it is adjusted to a specific shoe, the user can put on and take off the snowshoes in a matter of a minute. Once attached, this binding is set for a day of hard trekking without further adjustment. The TruTrak straps are also the only field replaceable straps on the market. We rarely see them break, but a spare can be carried and easily installed in under a minute if necessary.
All of these design elements work together to give the user the lightest, most reliable, easiest to use and most fun snowshoe on the market!
It’s important to note that we will be updated our website on August 15, 2016. Instead of Men/Women/Youth/Race categories, we now categorize our snowshoes as follows:
- Recreational (QuickSilver and Youth models)
- Race (TruTrak and Direct Mount models with various frame and deck colors)
- Trek & Trail (Elite, Backcountry and Tundra models with various frame and deck colors)
- Predator (new technical models)
The new Predator models were introduced August 15, 2016, on our website and Facebook page. There are three Predator models that are offered. The primary difference from the standard models is the use of a highly aggressive, technical cleat system for enhanced traction in icy/rocky for technical and mountaineering applications. The cleats are constructed of 304 Stainless Steel and are user replaceable in the event of damage or if the user wants to use the standard Dura-Alum cleats (a set is included with each new Predator model). In field-testing, we instructed our evaluators to try and break the cleats. They were unsuccessful. The SSTL cleats are obviously heavier than the Dura-Alum cleats. When the Dura-Alum cleats are installed, the snowshoes are the same weight as the corresponding Trek & Trail models. The weights below are the weights with the Predator cleats installed. These are still lighter than the current standard for technical snowshoes (MSR Lightening Ascent) even though our cleat system is substantially more aggressive (more like an ice crampon than a typical snowshoe cleat). We expect to have published gear reviews of the Predator models in the October-November timeframe.
The three Predator models are:
- Honey Badger. 25” deck, black frame and black deck. 60 oz/pair for user weights up to 175 lbs (including pack and gear)
- Snow Leopard. 30” deck, black frame and black deck. 64 oz/pair for user weights up to 250 lbs (including pack and gear)
- Timber Wolf. 32” deck, black frame and black deck. 67 oz/pair for user weights over 250 lbs (including pack and gear)
Please feel free to contact us here if you have any questions or if we can assist you in anyway!