TSL’s Symbioz Elite Snowshoes are designed for use in mountainous terrain with aggressive crampons and a heel lift for climbing steep and icy slopes. They have a large horizontal front crampon, good for digging into slopes, with 8 stainless-steel cleats (rotated 90 degrees) down the sides to prevent side slipping. But what sets these snowshoes apart from all others is the comfort and ergonomics of snowshoeing in them. It doesn’t matter if you’re snowshoeing along a packed trail or breaking trail in deep powder, it feels like you’re walking in a normal pair of shoes when you wear them, not bowlegged, or pronated, or duck-footed, the way that many other snowshoes make you feel. Snowshoeing with them is simply easier, resulting in less fatigue and greater comfort. Much greater comfort.
Specs at a Glance
- Sizes (L, M, S)
- Dimensions: 27 x 8.5″ / 23.5 x 8″ / 20.5 x 7.5″
- Weight: 4 lbs. 12.8 oz. / 4 lbs. 4.8 oz. / 4 lbs. 1.6 oz.
- Rec. Max Load : 150 – 300 / 110 – 260 / 65 – 180
There are several factors that make these snowshoes unique.
First is the hourglass shape, wider in the front and narrower at the rear, which keeps you from stepping on your opposite snowshoe as you walk. Slots in the decking help keep snow from accumulating on top, while the short length helps keep your gait normal. The shorter length of these snowshoes means that they have less flotation that much larger ones, something to consider if you’re looking for a less technical snowshoe designed for flatter terrain and deep powder.
Next is the adjustable binding system which can be set both length-wise and across your toes to precisely fit your boots. The binding “remembers” your settings, so you can just slip your boots into them without having to re-adjust the binding every time you use the snowshoes. Simply flip the plastic hinge above your toes to lock your forefoot in place and ratchet close the padded strap that reaches around the front of your ankle. Once set up, it’s as simple as slipping on a pair of loafers. Fast transition times are important in winter because you need to keep moving to stay warm. The last thing your hiking partners want to do is watch you fight with a snowshoe binding.
The nice thing about the Symbioz Elite binding system is that you don’t have to make the toe or the ankle binding super tight when you strap yourself in. Both the toe and heel bindings lock your boot in without the need for a lot of pressure from the straps. This eliminates rubbing and hotspots inside your boot, while maintaining good blow flow, which will keep your toes and feet warmer.
The Symbioz Elite is like a lot of other mountaineering style snowshoes in that is has a heel lift, which can be deployed when you’re climbing up a hill. The function of the lift is to raise your heel, so it feels like you’re walking on level ground even though you’re hiking up an incline. This greatly reduces calf fatigue, so you can keep hiking longer. Rather than flip the lift up under your heel like MSR snowshoes, you push it down with Symbioz Elite, a process which is trivial to do with the handle or basket of your trekking pole. It’s equally easy to flip it up, again with your trekking pole handle.
Finally, there’s the Hyperflex frame, made with a springy plastic decking and carbon fiber strips, which allows the snowshoe to flex around ground features, keeping the crampons and cleats in the snow while reducing slippage. The flex also helps reduce the amount of balling (clumping of snow) that occurs on the bottom of the snowshoes when you get them wet or in warm conditions.
If there’s one gotcha with the Symbioz Elite, it’s the bulk of the binding which prevents stacking the snowshoes and lashing them to the back of your pack, the way you can with a lay-flat ski-strap-style binding. This means you need a backpack with sufficiently long side compression straps, so you can lash the Symbioz Elites to the sides of the pack when you have to carry them.
The TSL Snowshoes’ Symbioz Elite Snowshoes are optimized for use in steep technical terrain with aggressive crampons and a comfortable binding system that can be preset to match your precise boot size. But what makes these snowshoes unique is the comfort and ergonomics of using them. They facilitate a very natural stride that feels a lot more like hiking than snowshoeing, helping to conserve your energy across a wide range of snow conditions.
Disclosure: The author purchased this product with his own funds.
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