Why mess with a winner? That's what MSR designers seem to think about these classic snowshoes, and our testers agree. The Lightning Ascent is a perennial staff favorite because of its outstanding flotation and unbeatable traction in all conditions–steep, deep, icy, or any combination.
In this year's testing, the aluminum bar frames and aggressive steel crampons sliced firmly into the crustiest Mt. St. Helens snow, eliminating all slipping and sliding. Heel-lift bars reduce calf-strain on long climbs, and the polyurethane decking is amazingly tough and PVC-free. The glove-friendly, four-strap binding is easy to operate. All that, and the weight is relatively low for the all-around performance. $260; 3 lbs. 12 oz.; 22-, 25-, and 30-inch for men, and 22- and 25-inch for women; msrgear.com