It's getting to be a sad state of affairs when gearmongers are putting more thought into women's gear then into men's. Whatever happened to "shrink it and pink it?" But there you are: MSR's women's Lightning Axis women's snowshoes are thoughtfully engineered from the ground up for the SheFlogger in your life. The narrow and lower-profile frame is designed for a woman's narrower and shallower gait, to prevent the dreaded hitch in their giddy-up.
All-new for 2011, the women's Axis (men's version available too) sits between the vertically oriented Ascent and the flatlander Flash models. Where most other snowshoes use a tubular frame, MSR's made-in-America Lightning 360 technology uses a vertical piece of hard-care aluminum cut with a water jet that lets the frame be the traction. We can vouch: even on icy sidehills the toothed Lightning frame grabs securely. The wrap-around frames support a nylon deck and are joined by two cross members, also toothed, under heel and ball of foot. Two big beaver-tooth crampon points pivot with the toes, and because they don't form a static box shape they do a great job of preventing balling. Because if there's one thing you don't want while snowshoeing, it's balling. Seriously. Safety first!
The new SpeedLock binding is a rare combination of simplicity and flexibility. Simple because it uses a one-pull elastic-strap-over-tooth system for the heel and instep straps, and a very clever wide-band set-it-and-forget-it toe strap up front. Flexible because you can remove the instep strap if you're on moderate terrain, and you can adjust the toe-in and toe-out up to 8 degrees for the pigeon-toed and duck-footed among us. When you hit the steep stuff, use the handle of your trekking poles to flip up the heel lifters, and you've got a few inches of relief from calf fatigue.
The Axis is a mere 3lb 12oz for a pair of 22 inchers, designed for up to 180lb. A 25 inch length is available for up to 210lb (remember, she's carrying gear here…). Need more float? No problem, for just over 9oz you can snap a pair of tails on. They're designed to increase floatation by a third, and with a little practice they snap right on without removing your shoes. For the additional weight you get a nice bit of extra bounce. Since our SheFlogger is preggers, I expect these will get more and more use as a much-needed counterbalance, especially since she knows she's not supposed to be shredding the steeps this season.