The Northern Lites Ultralight Backcountry Snowshoe weighs 43 ounces per pair, less than half the weight of most conventional snowshoes from MSR or Tubbs. That’s a big deal because you can slash a few pounds from your winter gear list while reducing the fatigue of clomping around in heavy snowshoes. They are optimized for use in powdery snow and rolling terrain, rather than the icy, rocky, or high-angle terrain that many mountaineering snowshoes are designed for.
Specs at glance
- Weight: 45-46 oz
- Dimensions: 9″ x 30″
- Recommended user load: <250lbs
- Best use: deep powder, rolling terrain
- Boot compatibility: Universal
- Bindings: Two available – ski straps or speed bindings
The experience of snowshoeing in Northern Lites is different from other snowshoes. First off, they are unbelievably lightweight and therefore far less fatiguing in winter. But they also flex slightly when you step on a rock or log. This is due to the use of lightweight aluminum framing, aluminum crampons, and plastic decking that are used in their manufacture.
Northern Lites takes a very different design philosophy than other commercial snowshoe manufacturers. Rather than using a heavy aluminum frame, they use a thinner, lighter one, compensating for the lack of rigidity with decking that is 250% stronger and way lighter than the decking you find on other teardrop-style snowshoes.
Additional weight is reduced by using aluminum instead of steel for the crampons, which have anti-balling plates to prevent snow from clumping to them. The foot and heel crampons are augmented by adding plastic crampon teeth under each decking attachment point, increasing traction on ice and crusty snow. This can be good or bad depending on where you intend to snowshoe. The aluminum crampons and plastic teeth are weaker than steel and will dull quickly if you traverse a lot of rocky terrain.
The Northern Lites Backcountry Snowshoe is only available in one size, a 30″ snowshoe, and no other features are provided, such as televator bars for climbing steep inclines. This is by design to keep them as ultralight as possible.
The bindings on Backcountry Northern Lites fold flat like MSR’s Ascent bindings. When you put on a pair of Northern Lites, you should position your boot or shoe about 1 inch behind the edge of the front hole and tighten the three straps over your foot. Plastic keeper loops are used to keep the plastic straps from flopping around when you walk. An additional nylon strap loops behind your heel to keep your shoes from sliding out of the binding. It’s a very simple binding that’s easy to adjust while wearing gloves.
Optimized for Powder
While Northern Lites’ Backcountry Snowshoes provide a tremendous weight reduction over conventional snowshoes, they’re optimized for snowshoeing in deep backcountry powder rather than on icy and broken-out trails, up steep inclines, or over mixed rocky terrain. If that describes the conditions you snowshoe in, I recommend you check these snowshoes out if shedding gear weight is a priority.
Disclosure: The author owns this product.
Updated: October 2022.