Editors' Choice Snow 2019: MSR Lightning Ascent

These mountain-ready snowshoes are easy to use in any temperature.


Weight 4 lbs, 3 oz


When the temperature is in the single digits, adjusting a fiddly snowshoe binding is a race against frostbite. That’s where the Lightning Ascent’s new Paragon binding comes in.

The biggest difference-maker is the toe portion. Rather than straps or a BOA system, the Paragon has a flexible plastic web that easily accommodated every boot type and size we tried. “It gloved right onto my boot, and I never slid around inside it while climbing Mt. San Gorgonio in California,” one tester says. “If I want security with other bindings I usually have to ratchet them down, which can create hot spots. But the Paragon felt more natural than all of those.” The two toe piece straps, along with the heel strap, tighten with a belt-style closure that was easy to cinch down in bitter cold on the Icefield, even with heavy gloves on.

This snowshoe excels in deep conditions. The Lightning Ascent’s PU decking spans its entire 8-inch-wide frame, giving it excellent float. “The security of the binding also made it easy for me to keep my weight back to stay above powder,” our California tester reports. The toothed frame bit into hardpack without making walking ungainly, and a four-point steel crampon rotates with the front of the foot, attaching to the binding with twist-on fittings for tool-free field adjustments. Just another simplification of a common problem, which is what the Lightning Ascent does best.

m’s 22”, 25”, 30”, w’s 22”, 25”