Women's gear, up first
I'm shopping for a snowshoe that will work on uphill ascents and long trail hikes, as well as on packed and soft snow. What snowshoe is best to get between the Crescent Moon Gold 13 and the MSR Lightning Ascent? I'm 5'6" and 125 pounds. Outdoor Girl New York, New York
I'm so sure that you'll like this shoe that I'm only going to recommend one pair: The Tubbs Couloir.
Every winter I spend a few weeks tramping around the frozen tundra of northern Minnesota and it's usually so cold that I strap my snowshoes on in the cabin before I go outside. But the Couloir binding system, which fits a woman's foot up to size 11, is so easy to adjust that I did it on the fly while wearing bulky mittens. Generally, however, once you fit this binding to your boot, you rarely have to readjust it.
Here's what else is so cool about the Couloir: The 21-inch frame (which is recommended for women up to 150 pounds, but also comes in 25 and 30 inches for larger/taller women) is tapered and has a flat nose so it won't catch on a drift and send you face-first into a snow bank. And the substantial, stainless steel crampons provide plenty of grip but aren't so beefy that they turn into a lethal ankle-shredding weapon if you break into a run. Plus, the articulated pivot system and easy-to-lift heel makes climbing in the Couloir relatively effortless.
Bottom line: These snowshoes saved my life. The crampon clawed through a surprising and scary stretch of slush that I unexpectedly ran into while crossing the lake at sunset en route back to my cabin. A lesser snowshoe may have frozen into the slush, but the Couloir's flex prevailed. $250; tubbsnowshoes.com