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Gear Guy

Are racing snowshoes a marketing gimmick?

What's the difference between Atlas Dual Trac snowshoes (they appear to cater to racing) and the all-purpose 10 Series that is designed for hiking? Can you use dual track shoes for hiking, or are they simply a high-performance marketing gimmick? Stephen Seattle, Washington

A: The difference is weight, mainly. The Dual Trac "racing" snowshoe ($230) comes in at just under three pounds per pair. The 10 Series Model 1033 ($230)—probably the best bet for most snowy conditions—weighs in at five pounds, four ounces. That's quite a difference. Most of the weight loss in the Dual Trac comes from making them smaller. Their footprint is about 175 square inches. For the 10 Series, it measures 270 square inches. That, of course, makes a huge difference in the "float" of each snowshoe. It also affects the strength and weakness of each model.

That said, of course you can use the Dual Tracs for hiking. They aren't a gimmick—they're perfectly bona fide, light snowshoes designed for the popular winter snow-racing circuit. In fact, they might work pretty well in snow typically found in the Washington Cascades—"Cascades Concrete." But if you hit any soft stuff, you'd better be packing a periscope and snorkel as you're going to need both. That's double true if you want to do any winter camping, considering you'll be weighed down with an extra 40 to 50 pounds on your back. For their flotation and extra stability, I'd recommend you carry only one of the 10 Series snowshoes. It's a tradeoff—more float or less weight.

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