Disclaimer: I’ve never snowshoed before, and have no experience, other than selling them when I worked at an outfitter a very long time ago.
Before I begin, kudos to LL Bean – for the 10% off online shopping, the free shipping, and the 2-day delivery even though they had said 7 days.
I bought the Explore vs. the Trail shoes because the Explore ones seemed a little more heavy duty. I’ve never seen the Trail ones, so I can’t compare.
Took them out of the box, they seemed light. The ‘toothed’ aluminum frame isn’t nearly as sharp as I feared or that you might think. I didn’t bother with the instructions and went outside.
I couldn’t tell if there’s supposed to be a right and left. There’s a ratcheting mechanism which can be used easily with gloves to snug the two attachment points, one across the toes, and one around the heel. They say not to adjust the heel once once you’ve dialed it in, but in the few times I’ve used this, it’s been tricky to get OUT of the shoes, so I ended up loosening both the toe and heel straps. Loosening them is easy. My only worry is that the material is plastic, and plastic+cold usually equals fail. Time will tell.
I tried these on rolling terrain with about 2.5-3′ of virgin powdery snow. These will not make you walk across the snow like Legloas in the Lord of the Rings, but they DO keep you from postholing. I’d say the worst I sank in was about 8-10 inches. Doing about 1/4″ mile walk was fun, not tiring; previous treks on just boots in the same area left me gasping for breath. The 25″ shoes are supposedly good for weight up to 220lb, I’m a good chunk below that, and in this snow, I’m glad I’m not heavier. The shoes do have optional 5 inch “tails” which add more area if you’re heavily loaded, or the snow is very light.
Conclusion: Snowshoes are awesome. Could you buy cheaper ones or a knock-off brand? Sure. The fit and build quality on these seem good, the traction is excellent, and I trust both MSR and LLBean. Well worth it.