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Phil S.

Phil S.

Jackman, ME

Phil S.'s Passions

Hiking & Camping
Snowshoeing

Phil S.'s Bio

50 year old mechanic, love the outdoors but wasn’t getting out often enough. That changed when I moved to the mountains of NW Maine last fall! Winter is my favorite season for the outdoors, mainly because once it gets much over 70F I start being uncomfortable. I'll take 0F over 90F any day of the week!

Phil S.

Phil S.wrote a review of on July 21, 2019

Excellent 3-season tent
4 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

Main point: I really like this tent! It’s nice and light, sets up easily, the included stakes are actually useful, and it’s very weather-resistant when fully guyed out. I stayed completely dry during heavy rain and 30-40mph gusts in a fully-exposed spot atop western Maine’s 3717’™ Boundary Bald Mountain. The stakes went into the loose rocky soil very easily and held very well, after the rainstorm I only had to move 1 stake a few inches and tighten 3 guy lines to get everything taut again.

There’s a fair amount of storage inside the tent, 2 pockets at the bottom side corners near the door and a smaller one directly overhead near the apex. There are loops for a gear loft but this would take up headroom that the tent really doesn’t have. All I do is sleep in this tent, I only need a place to put my phone & glasses and somewhere to hang my socks to air them out (the apex pocket.) The day's clothes are put over the foot of the sleeping bag to air/dry if necessary, everything else goes back in the pack or is left in the vestibule for easy access on the way out.

The vestibule has room for a pair of boots and a 36l day pack, but the pack has to lean against the fly and door. For me it’s a tight squeeze getting out, someone who’™s not 5’11” & 250lb and about 60” around the shoulders will have an easier time.

The only thing I’d change would be putting more Velcro straps on the fly to hold it to the pole. Strong wind can push on the fly hard enough to shift the pole on either side of the single Velcro strap, causing the tent to sag with the wind. Once it’s 4-season tent time here (in a couple months) I’ll send it out to have more Velcro sewn on.

Rain will get in the tent during entry and exit because there’s no overhang over the door, I just push my sleeping bag toward the foot to keep it dry. Adding an overhang would have added weight.

All in all I really like the tent and find it almost perfect for my needs, and recommend it for anyone who wants a lightweight, weatherproof tent.

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Phil S.

Phil S.wrote a review of on November 13, 2017

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times
Fit: True to size
Height: 5' 11"
Weight: 260 lbs
Size Purchased: 11 wide

I’m on my second pair of these, I had to exchange the first when they started leaking after maybe 40 trail miles. I did next to no break-in on them, bought them on a Sunday and wore them on 2 short hikes totaling maybe 4 miles then wore them up Mt Monroe NH that Saturday. Absolutely no problems whatsoever, they stuck to rock like Velcro on the way up and even in the rain on the descent they had better traction than I expected. When I got the second pair I wore them casually to work twice then on Friday wore them up Mt Chocorua NH (a longer, more rocky hike than Monroe, with more elevation gain.) They gripped the rocks very securely in 20F temps, even when there was loose granular snow on them. The ankle support is outstanding, they fit my feet like they were custom-made to fit, cradling them evenly all around. I use them with Sole medium thickness cork footbeds and they don’t lift my heels out of the pockets. The only caution I have about them is the ball bearing lower eyelets are easy to overtighten, so take it easy at first.

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Phil S.

Phil S.wrote a review of on August 4, 2017

4 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions
Fit: True to size

I bought these to use under heavyweight wool socks with my new Asolo Alta Via GV, and after a few shorter breaking-in hikes I find them to be amazingly comfortable. They don't pull down and bunch up, either. I'll definitely be ordering more, along with some wool ones for colder temperatures.

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Phil S.

Phil S.wrote a review of on July 15, 2016

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I bought my Blizzard II 1036 snowshoes in January 2016 even though we didn't have any snow on the ground. We eventually got enough that I was able to use them, and all I can say is these are some GREAT snowshoes.
The bindings are super comfortable, super secure, and super easy to get into and out of. They fit all sizes of boots, from my Keen Koven Polar boots I use for treks in milder weather to my huge Sorel Conquests for subzero temps and deep snow. The control is excellent, with the snowshoes tracking well and not feeling loose on the feet. I'm very impressed with the BOA closure for its speed, adjustability, and compatibility with gloves.
Traction is excellent on loose and compacted powder, and the crampons punch through icy crust as well. On ascents, descents, and traverses, footing is very secure and extra care doesn't have to be given to foot placement. Flotation is about what I'd expect given that my weight is near the upper limit for the size - I sink, but not excessively so, thanks to the large surface area.
I found the snowshoes to be very rugged; thanks to a very light snowfall this year there were a lot of fallen branches, rocks, and roots to step on and trip over, yet the decking is intact and the frame is straight and remarkably scratch-free. The black, grey, and lime green colors are very attractive without being gaudy. I like the striped, graphic-free deck.
I like these Blizzard II snowshoes better than the Tubbs Mountaineer 36s I've used for the previous 3 or 4 winters, and have absolutely nothing bad to say about them. Louis Garneau has a very impressive product here, and I recommend the Blizzard II snowshoes with absolutely no reservations.

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Phil S.

Phil S.wrote a review of on April 3, 2015

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

Those of you who are familiar with MSR snowshoes know exactly what to expect from the Lightning Trails, while snowshoers new to the brand will be amazed at just where you can go with these. The 360 Degree Traction frame, transverse traction bars, and toe crampons let you climb, descend, and traverse with barely a second thought for your footing, and their light weight means all-day treks are less tiring.

The bindings are comfortable & secure, easy to tighten or loosen while wearing gloves or mittens thanks to the large tabs on the ends of the rubber straps, and the straps won't freeze. The deck is very resistant to punctures from sticks or rocks, and snow doesn't ball up on the toe crampons or traction bars.

It's a joy to strap these on and go for hours, thanks to the light weight. At 3lb 6oz for the 25" model these are very noticeably lighter than my 4lb 9oz 30" Lightning Ascents, especially when I'm wearing my Asolo Fugitive GTX instead of my Sorel Conquests. I got these too late in the season to use them more than twice - unless we get a nice late-season dumping! :D - but next year they're going to be the snowshoes I grab for my almost daily after-work hikes.

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Phil S.

Phil S.wrote a review of on April 2, 2015

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I bought my Lightning Ascents a year ago for steep terrain and packed snow in which my Tubbs Mountaineers weren't quite as good as I'd hoped. They were everything I'd hoped for and then some. Thanks to the 360 Degree Traction frame, 3 traction bars, and large toe crampons, the traction you get with these things is incredible - steep ascents and descents, side slopes, even greasy mashed potatoes, these snowshoes grab hold and don't let go.

Due to a knee injury last year that caused a lot of pain when I'd kneel to attach the Tubbs Mountaineer 36s I'd been using in powder, I began using the Lightning Ascents instead this season and found that I like them better in the soft stuff, too. I sink a little deeper because of the smaller surface area, but that also means I have less snowshoe to lift out of the snow. So they've now become my go-to snowshoes for all terrain and types of snow. Their narrow width and shorter length makes them ideal for narrow trails and dense woods, and the Ergo Televator and 3 traction bars under the deck allow you to go straight up and down the steepest hills with little more than a kick step or firmly stomping your feet on ascents. I haven't found a descent yet that's too steep for me to just walk down.

The 4-strap bindings are super secure, and allow you to customize the fit for whatever kind of boot you're wearing. My Sorel Conquests fit just as well as my Asolo Fugitive GTX, and there's plenty of strap left for bigger boots. They're super easy to attach and detach while wearing gloves, and even if the straps come out of the retaining clips or the clips break the straps won't loosen up.

I've stepped on a lot of rocks and sticks and haven't had any puncture the decking. Certain boots, such as my Sorels, can cause the foremost buckle to nick the decking, MSR says the nicks will only go so far and then stop but I trimmed mine with a razor blade and sealed the edges with a lighter. No more nicks. It was never a problem with my uninsulated GTX hikers.

These are the ultimate severe service, all terrain snowshoes, and I can't see myself going back to tube framed models for anything but trail walking - and I just recently bought a pair of Lightning Trails for that. MSR snowshoes rock!

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Phil S.

Phil S.wrote a review of on April 2, 2015

4 5

Familiarity: I gave it as a gift but have feedback to share

I bought a pair of these (22" size) to keep on hand for female friends who don't have their own snowshoes to borrow. So far 2 have used it, one new to snowshoeing and one who's been doing it for over 3 years, and while they both liked the simple and quick-to-secure bindings they both also said the front strap had to be tightened nearly to the point of discomfort. Maybe this is because they were wearing lighter-duty boots, but I think a wider strap or a 2" wide foam-backed plastic backing would allow the pressure to be spread out. The straps ARE pretty narrow.

With that being said, there were no complaints about the snowshoes' performance. My experienced friend wanted to try them after having to listen to me rave about my MSRs all season, and said they have slightly better flotation than her Tubbs Mountaineer 21s, slightly less traction on ascents, but better traction on descents thanks to the 1 steel and 2 molded plastic braking/traction bars. She also really likes the steel traction rails for side-stepping or cutting switchbacks on steep slopes. They're also 1/2lb lighter than the Tubbs. What she didn't like was banging the 'shoes together a lot more than with the Tubbs. She's only 5 feet tall and maybe 95lb, and even though the Revo Explores and Mountaineers are both 8" wide the Revos bang together a lot more. She thinks it's due to the less-secure binding on the Revos allowing the snowshoes to move on her feet. All in all, though, she likes them but is more comfortable in her Mountaineers.

My new-to-snowshoeing friend also liked them a lot, mainly for the simple bindings. We only went on a mild established trail, with very little off-trail travel, but she was impressed with their flotation once she realized that there's always going to be SOME sinking. The tightness of the front straps bothered her more so we used the micro-adjust feature to alleviate the pressure without making the 'shoes TOO loose. They were looser than she liked, though. Part of the problem may have been due to her boots, which were lightweight insulated winter boots (I didn't catch the brand.) I still overtighten my MSR Lightning Ascents from time to time, so I'm not going to lay it all on the Hyperlink binding. I still think wider straps with 2" wide plastic backings attached to the bindings, which would slide over each other and spread out the contact, would be a good idea. And perhaps making the women's models slightly narrower than the men's, like is done with the Lightning series snowshoes, would help alleviate 'shoe banging for users with shorter or narrower gaits.

Update - 03/28/15

Today I took a friend's 16 y/o grandson and his friend snowshoeing at a local ski area (Pat's Peak in Henniker NH.) The friend had never snowshoed before, and he used the Revo Explores. We started at the bottom of the hill and snowshoed up the mountain via the longest trail, actually going around the back of the summit to the bottom of their reverse slope chair, then up the steep climb to the summit. Trails worn smooth by a morning's worth of skiers & riders, a narrow goat trail through the woods taken as a result of my misreading the trail map, and a crazy cross-country climb up another steep wooded slope full of rocks, stumps, and downed trees - the Revo Explores were just superb on them all. We headed upslope at an angle of about 60 degrees from the perpendicular, which meant traversing the whole way, and you could see from the tracks that the molded-in braking bars were really digging in and holding. And I don't think there's any question to the effectiveness of the side traction rails in rough terrain. He had no complaints about the binding straps having to be tightened to the point of discomfort, but he was wearing leather work boots that looked a lot more sturdy than what my female friends were wearing when I wrote the original review.

So the Revo Explores definitely earned a 4th star from what I saw today. I just may pick myself up a pair during the off season to complement my MSR Lightning Ascents and Lightning Trails.

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Phil S.

Phil S.wrote a review of on March 22, 2015

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I bought my Mountaineer 36 snowshoes last winter to replace a broken pair of Tubbs Wilderness 36s, and noticed an increase in traction on hills right away. The toe crampons are much more aggressive and really give a lot of bite on ascents. On descents, however, the lack of a really aggressive heel crampon or braking bars can lead to a bit of unplanned skiing if you put too much weight on the back of the 'shoes. I've found the best method for descending steep slopes is to keep your weight over the toe crampons as much as possible and put a lot of weight on your poles. Like Charles H. said in his review, if a lot of climbing is in order I use my MSR Lightning Ascents, they have far more traction on both ascents and descents. Plus you can sidehill like a champ with them, which is something no tube-framed snowshoe is good at.

Anyway, I'm giving these a 4-star rating because while I'm not really sure they quite live up to the "Mountain" part of their name, they're perfect for anyone who finds that day-hiking snowshoes aren't quite aggressive enough for the terrain they travel. The bindings are very comfortable and very secure, giving you plenty of control to maneuver even 36" 'shoes through the woods, and as long as you make sure to tighten the 2 forward toe straps by pulling on the rearward ones (it'll be obvious once you see the bindings) you'll never have to worry about the bindings loosening up on you. Two people wearing these snowshoes can break a really nice, wide trail, and when I wear these on outings with friends that's exactly what I always seem to find myself doing!

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Phil S.

Phil S.wrote a review of on March 21, 2014

Comfortable as hell, but very delicate!
5 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions
Fit: True to size

I picked up a hyper blue El Moro on S&C mainly for snowshoeing. Wearing just the shirt with a pair of uninsulated waterproof/breathable rain pants in temps around 40 and with a steady, stiff breeze I was just right - not chilly from the breeze, not hot from the exertion of snowshoeing through mashed potatoes. You don't even notice the shirt is there, it fits so well. I'm overweight at 5'11" & 275 and an XXL fit perfectly without stretching too far or binding. The color is great, too.

My only complaint, and it's a minor one, is that the hook portion of Velcro fasteners really tears the fabric up. I already have quite a few pulls in mine from where the Velcro strap keepers on my Camelbak snagged the fabric while donning the pack. In all likelihood this is just something one has to deal with with technical fabrics, it's not like the shirt no longer works or that I'll be wearing it out on the town. I'm curious to see how it handles pack straps in the long term, though. For now it's going to replace my Stoic merino wool shirt in milder temps, that one is better suited to <30F.

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Phil S.

Phil S.wrote a review of on December 17, 2011

4 5

I'm 5'11", have a 35" sleeve, and the sleeves on this shirt reach almost to my pinky fingernails with my arms hanging at my side. It's a little loose in the torso, even around my abdomen which is larger than I'd like. I probably should have gone with an XL, but according to the size chart XXL was what I needed. It fits better when worn over a silkweight polypro top, and is very comfortable. I haven't had a chance to use it in temps much below 30F, but with just this shirt and a hardshell I've been warm and dry. I'll give it a good workout as soon as we get enough snow for snowshoeing.

01-01-12 - Wore this shirt alone while out hiking today. Temp was low 40s, it was breezy and damp from melting snow, and we were hiking near a river and cedar bog. While hiking I didn't once feel hot or overheated, and never felt any sweat on myself either. When stopped I had just the slightest chill, almost unnoticeable, which is the way I like it anyway. So this shirt performs just as advertised, keeping me warm and dry in temps that I'm guessing were lower than Stoic envisioned it being worn as the only layer. The sleeves are still too long and loose, but I can deal with it. I'll be buying more of these, both as gifts and to upgrade my gear from the old military polypro I've been using for the past 15 years or so. Gonna have moms make thumbholes for it, too.

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Phil S.

Phil S.wrote a review of on February 9, 2011

4 5

I like this jacket a lot - the colors, the nice smooth zipper, the big handwarmer pockets, and especially the nice SAC price. Going by the size chart I ordered a 2XL (I'm 5'11" & 260lb, with a 51" chest & 40" waist), and I can gather in about 3" of material without it being skintight. I briefly considered returning it and picking up an XL instead but wasn't sure that an XL would allow for my typical layering underneath. That's what happens when you're on the border between 2 sizes, I guess.

The slightly below the waist length is nice because it doesn't stick out from under my usual shell or ride halfway up my back when I bend over. The arms are big enough to wear a sweater or heavier base & 2nd layers underneath without inhibiting movement or being confining. The zipper is great, nice and smooth and you don't have to pull straight along the line or risk a snag. I'm not sure whether I'd like to see wrist gaiters w/thumbholes or just thumb loops to keep the cuffs where they belong when donning a shell over the Octans. That's the closest thing to a "con" I can think of, once I'm able to get out and use it in the woods I'm sure my initial favorable opinion will only become more favorable.

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