Friday, January 20, 2017

MSR Shift Snowshoes for Kids (Gear Review)

We don't snowshoe a "lot" but when we do, we need our snowshoes to perform. We don't use snowshoes if a trail is perfectly packed and easy to walk on in normal boots. We also avoid the cute little forest walks when we head out. Our first snowshoe trip of this season for example required climbing 320 metres up hill over 3.9 km. With a round trip distance of 8 km, it was one heck of a way to launch our snowshoeing season with a 7 year old.

 MSR Shift Snowshoes for Kids (Gear Review)

My 7 year old had been using a small pair of Atlas snowshoes for the past few years. We liked them for easy flat outings but we were starting to notice that they didn't have enough traction to get up the big hills. They fell off too easily and weren't strong enough for the big trips we wanted to start doing. It was time to graduate to a real pair of youth snowshoes and to sell the preschool ones.

Fortunately, we were given a pair of MSR Shift Snowshoes from Alberta company, All Out Kids Gear, to try out this winter and we are extremely impressed with them so far. We've used them on the Rawson Lake Hike in Kananaskis and on the Emerald Lake Circuit in Yoho National Park. We've tested them on hills, on flat terrain, in powder, on packed trails, and while playing. They have performed well in all areas.

Close up view of the MSR Shift Snowshoes

Basic Design of the MSR Shift Snowshoes

"The MSR Shift Snowshoe is an excellent youth snowshoe. Perfect for the 5-12 age group. Fits boot sizes 1-7 adult. Injection-molded decks will stand up to years of use allowing them to be handed down. Metal crampons and traction bars that run down both sides provide great traction. The Shift has a free pivoting binding, that allows the snow to slide off, and not be kicked back up." (All Out Kids Gear)

For full information on weight, size, and other specs, visit the All Out Kids Gear website. 

Personal notes on design:

  • My son has size 1 feet and is about to turn 8 years old so he is fully in the range for kids that these snowshoes are intended for.

  •  The snow does indeed slide off the snowshoe and does not kick back up at the child (as described above.) I've seen snowshoes kick a lot of snow up at a person's backside but that is not the case with the MSR Shift Snowshoes.

Snowshoes designed for durability, longevity, and performance!

Performance: Hills, Climbing, and Running

This is the area where I have been most impressed so far. When we hiked the Rawson Lake Trail, my son decided he would RUN down the entire trail (the trail that we had climbed 300+ metres up.) He never once fell and was running so quickly, neither my husband nor I could keep up.

The trail was quite steep at times and I made my way down carefully in my own snowshoes to avoid falling. I walked as quickly as I could, but there was no way I was going to start running at top speed. Noah flat out ran though, and ended up at least 5 switch backs below us at one point, waiting for us to catch up while he rested on a log (wondering why his lame parents were so slow I'm sure.)

It's not every pair of snowshoes that you can actually go trail running in so the MSR Shift Snowshoes get a huge check mark in this department. Kids love running down trails so for us, this area of performance is imperative and not purely an option.

Trail Running and nobody could catch this kid!

Performance: Flat Terrain and Packed Trails

We recently hiked the Emerald Lake Circuit in Yoho National Park on flat, mostly packed down terrain. My son was able to hike normally in his Shift snowshoes with a regular gait and speed. They weren't clunky, uncomfortable, or heavy on his feet.

I'm very picky about the design of snowshoes because I want to be able to hike with a normal gait when snowshoeing and don't like feeling as if I have these heavy paddles strapped to my feet. The MSR Shift Snowshoes perform well in this area and definitely allow children to walk comfortably on a packed trail.

Snowshoes that allow for a normal gait and easy hiking

Peformance: Powder and Playing in the Snow

"Let's ignore the powder, the big soft field where we could make snow angels, the rocks and stumps to jump off of... and let's just hike!!" - Said no kid ever!

Kids want to play in the snow while snowshoeing and there's no way you're going to keep them contained to the official packed trail. While the trail up to Rawson Lake in December was packed down, the lake certainly wasn't. With Emerald Lake, we frequently got off the beaten path to play in the snow and ended up short-cutting our way back across the lake on the return, blazing our own trail through the fresh snow.

Snowshoes that perform in powder and deep snow

On both recent hikes, the MSR Shift Snowshoes performed well in deep powder. They never fell off while playing, they stayed on while my son jumped off of big rocks, and they allowed him to wade through some pretty impressive snow without completely sinking.

The Shift Snowshoes aren't designed for slogging through fresh knee deep powder for hours (you'd want bigger snowshoes for that or tails on the end) but they are great for playing in deep snow or for venturing off the packed trail to explore.

Kids will always want to go off trail to play

Overall Opinion:

The MSR Shift Snowshoes are easy to put on, stay on reasonably well (because face it, if you don't do the straps up tightly enough, any pair of snowshoes will fall off,) and perform in a variety of conditions.

Kids will be comfortable in them and should be able to walk, run, and play with normal freedom.

Disclaimer: We were given a pair of MSR Shift Snowshoes to review by All Out Kids Gear. I am extremely picky when it comes to snowshoes though and would never recommend a pair unless I truly liked them. I was not paid to write this story and it was not sponsored by MSR or by All Out Kids Gear.

Youth snowshoes that perform like adult snowshoes


Additional Reading Suggestions:

Kids Snowshoes 101 - How to Snowshoe with Kids  - All Out Kids Gear Blog

Family Snowshoeing Super Guide - Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies

A Beginner's Guide to Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies (Book Review) 

7 Reasons your Family Will Love Snowshoeing - Traveling Mom

Blaze your own trail!