Our take The Lightning Explores earned high marks for versatility, uphill grip, and simplicity. Shallow crampons around the entire frame kept our testers glued to slick ice in New Mexico's Valles Caldera National Preserve, while two spiked crossbars and an ample deck prevented postholing in slushy spring snow on Mt. St. Helens. Thanks to their light weight, one tester reports that the snowshoes felt like an extension of his foot when moving fast or maneuvering over obstacles on the trail.
The details By updating the ratchet system from four to two straps, MSR cut the on/off process down to less than a minute. With just a heel and instep binding, testers paired the snowshoes easily with multiple boot types, from everyday hikers to mountaineering boots. Even after 12 straight hours of use while climbing Mt. St. Helens, the bindings held secure through varied terrain.
Trail cred “I would never have made it to the top of St. Helens in any other snowshoes," our tester says. "In fact, I would still be trying if not for the Lightning Explores, as it was a slog. Plus, with a flick of my pole I was able to engage the the heel lifts in an instant, allowing me to prevent cramping in my calves and keep climbing.”