Smallfoot inflatable snowshoes

Discussion in 'Clothing & Footwear' started by tom, Apr 5, 2019.

  1. tom

    tom Thru Hiker

    The smallfoot snowshoes come in 3 versions, a basic one for level walking, an advanced alpine version "Revolution II" for steep terrain with front and rear crampons, and the "Alpine" version with no crampons, designed for climbers who carry their crampons anyway, which can be used with any 10 point crampons. I bought the 2017/18 version of the "Alpine" model but with the front and rear crampons from the Revolution II as well (a long and complicated story).
    IMG_20190405_134606~01.jpg
    The snowshoes are made of a heavy cordura outer shell with an inner tube. Mine weigh 900gr for the pair plus the pump and bits for deflation etc, just under 1kg without crampons all in all. The crampons themselves are 236gr on my scale but look a good substitute for 10point crampons so I decided to use that configuration for my first test hike.

    The early morning snow was still hard but grippy at lower altitude and neither crampons nor snowshoes needed. Above 2000m, the snow got softer with wind drift powder and no longer any snow free patches. It was time to test the snowshoes. First thing I learned, its easier to attach the crampons before inflating them. But I quickly got the hang of getting set up and that was it.
    IMG_20190405_123113~01.jpg
    IMG_20190405_124402~01.jpg
    I didn't take them off again for the next almost 3 hours until a late lunch and brew break. I didn't see any human tracks all day and only saw trail markings occasionally. With trails buried I went cross country and oriented with GPS which took me through all sorts of snow and occasionally broken terrain, including climbing or descending through rocks sticking out which would have required removing rigid snowshoes whereas the flexibility of inflatable ones let me to just carry on.

    In summary, they are exactly what I hoped for. With about 4 hours hiking use so far, I've not discovered any flaws or problems. They are easy to walk in both up and down as well as traversing slopes and the crampons stopped any slipping and sliding effectively but there was nothing real steep where I hiked to test the limits.

    Surprisingly, my feet stayed pretty dry in just Brooks Cascadias. I carried a pair of sealskinz cycling overshoes as well as dexshell socks as backup but I set out in just the cascadias with merino socks to check how this would work but my feet stayed warm and comfy fir the entire time on the mountain with just a little dampness.

    Once inflated, they are small enough to strap to a pack, like the 25/38lt Nero I used today.
    IMG_20190405_141426~01.jpg
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2019
    Max, Arne L., Gadget and 9 others like this.
  2. Balagan

    Balagan Thru Hiker

    :thumbsup:
    tom likes this.
  3. Chiseller

    Chiseller Thru Hiker

    Very nice :thumbsup:
    tom likes this.
  4. Robin

    Robin Moderator Staff Member

    Very clever.
    tom likes this.
  5. edh

    edh Thru Hiker

    Interesting....
    How long to inflate? Doable with gloves?
    So you imply good on mixed ground..?
    Is it just one air chamber or multiple?
    tom likes this.
  6. Gadget

    Gadget Thru Hiker

    Just one chamber, but you get a bike repair kit with it, deflate fully, unzip the outer shell pull out the bladder and patch the hole (like a bike tyre really).
    The outer shell is pretty bomber.
    tom likes this.
  7. Gadget

    Gadget Thru Hiker

    tom and fluffkitten like this.
  8. Gadget

    Gadget Thru Hiker

    tom likes this.
  9. tom

    tom Thru Hiker

    @edh as Gadget says, 1 chamber yes - they are quite small.
    The pump is just a small cycle pump but it didn't take long to pump up. I kept them inflated since. Faster pump = a little extra weight...
    Gloves: I wouldn't do the valve cap with gloves. They are a weak point - drop one in powder snow and its gone... I could thread something through the deflation cap but not the actual caps. Orange plastic caps might be good....
    But I've taken the snowshoes on and off in fleece inner gloves.
    Further to the promo vids, they don't feel delicate at all, I stepped on conifers and dead tree branch "spikes" hidden beneath the snow surface and gone up and down rocky ravines like this one
    IMG_20190405_131253_1.jpg
    without any extra care and there's not a single mark visible. Quite a few reviews online but nobody reported problems.

    But its a maze of models and versions and weights and the manufactures didn't reply to my email queries. The current Revolution II model doesn't look like to take 10 point crampons. But you can fit a set of smallfoot crampons (can be ordered seperately) to the current Alpine model with a minor mod to compensate for the narrower sole straps (to stop the crampons moving back and forth) which I did with a small strip of 8mm CF foam and some Tyvek tape (works perfectly). There is more balling than with my Ruta Locura instep crampons which doesn't seem to effect performance but I'd clear that before using on ice...

    P.S. One Austrian reviewer thought they make decent emergency crampons...
    SmallFoot crampon.jpg
    SmallFoot_crampon.jpg
    Chiseller, WilliamC and edh like this.
  10. tom

    tom Thru Hiker

    P.S. 4 inches new snow last night in the village (1750m) and probably more higher up. They did.just as well in fresh powder as yesterday...
    Chiseller, WilliamC and edh like this.
  11. tom

    tom Thru Hiker

    One more one the first of the above vids - I'd swap the shoes to have the valves on the outside as an accident precaution ... :D
    Chiseller likes this.
  12. Svinetun

    Svinetun Trekker

    Hi guys, I came upon this thread while googling, and I'd like to compare notes with other SmallFooters (@tom, @Gadget and maybe others?) so I just signed up at the forum.

    I got Universal 2 because their fronts point upwards which I expected would suit me best. I have used mine only 5 times for short whiles so far, but I think I'm falling in love with them, even if it's heavier hiking with them than I thought it would be. I also sink lower in the snow than I had expected, so I thought I'd find out if I maybe haven't inflated them enough. I have size medium, and including the backpack I weigh about 74kg. How do you know when you have inflated them enough (and not too much)?

    Anyway, I have never snowshoed before, so I don't have anything to compare to, and it might be that I don't sink lower than what's normal. Also, my pair is faulty (a new pair is on its way to me now) - the straps between the crampon-straps are too short, so the crampons are positioned all wrong. I should post pics, but I guess I need to post a bit more at the forum before I get that privilege?

    One thing I love about these snowshoes is that I can go backwards with them with ease. Does that work with Revolution too? Maybe only when you fix the heel?
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  13. tom

    tom Thru Hiker

    I used mine some more in the Spanish Sierra Nevada in May and in the Graian Alps (Monte Viso) in June with various snow conditions and some steep climbs and descends.

    The pressure shouldn't matter as long as they are pumped up enough to turn rigid. How much I sink in depends on how powdery the snow is. With my 'alpine' model, the soles of my shoes are a good inch below the snowshoes themselves which really helps to bite into steep terrain but can feel a bit deep in level snow (I think the model after mine has adjustable depth both front and back). I don't have much experience with other snowshoes but the smallfoot are a bit wider than the typical modern plastic ones. On steeper terrain, that means I need to step a little wider, otherwise I just step in front of each snowshoe. But I'd say that the smallfoot are more suited to steeper terrain than any conventional shoeshoe I've seen. With my 'alpine' model and full 10 point crampons, I went up and down any slope that felt stable enough and comfortable with 10 point crampons. The 'alpine' model sort of molds itself to any terrain I went on, including traversing slopes horizontal and diagonal, rocks or wood obstacles, or debries.

    Most snow conditions make for harder work / more effort (unless covering up loose rock slopes etc) compared to no snow hiking or skiing. I don't think the smallfoot add any disadvantage over conventional ones - apart from the (very) occasional "pfffft..." wisecracks maybe... :rolleyes:
    WilliamC likes this.
  14. Svinetun

    Svinetun Trekker

    So the snowshoes in your pics are actually of the Alpine model? Are you sure? They look like Revolution to me. Alpine doesn't have straps underneath, at least the pics I have seen.

    I asked a guy at Small Foot about how much I should inflate, and he said it depends on how hard the snow is, and that I will feel it when I use them. But the snow conditions differ very much where I hike, and I often sink quite low, so I think I should just pump them as much as I can, but I'm afraid of inflating them too much. It says on the homepage that they shouldn't be inflated over 0.4 atm (=5.878 psi). I don't have a measuring device, so I don't know how hard they would feel at that measure. One "measure" I have though, is that they are hard to step into when very inflated, so I keep it low enough to make sure it doesn't take forever to put them on. I actually count pumps and have landed on 160 in each for now.

    I'm 100% sure Small Foot snowshoes is the right choice for me since I have to carry them for an hour through forest and stuff before using them, and it would really suck ducking under low branches with 75cm of aluminum and plastic on my back. I almost bought Tubbs Panoramic, but I felt a bit uneasy about using snowshoes that made me think of this "woman" all the time: [​IMG] https://www.nme.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/LeagueofGentlemen.png (Sorry, it looks like the IMG-function doesn't work for me, since I'm new at the forum or something)
    In case you don't know "her", "her" name is Tubbs.
    Hehe...
  15. Svinetun

    Svinetun Trekker

    [​IMG]
    I can post images now that I've made more than 5 posts, so here she is. Tubbs!
  16. tom

    tom Thru Hiker

    @Svinetun - Mine are definitely an older 'alpine' model with narrow cross straps designed for use with normal 10 point crampons (needs MYOG adaptation to work with the smallfoot mini crampons). At the time of purchase, the then current 'alpine' model came in 2 sizes with confusing info about weights and details. Smallfoot didn't reply to my queries. Then I found an old stock single size 'alpine' online, clear info on weight, and at a very good price - bingo...!

    For me, its less the "carry in" issue, but the weight and bulk in general on top of overnight gear. Also, half the time, I carried them in anticipation of varying local snow conditions which is common in alpine terrain. Some hikes, I didn't need them at all, on other days, just for a hour or 2 out of 7 - 10 hours hike. The option to use with 10 point crampons (i.e. not carrying spiked snowshoes and 10 point crampons in addition)also worked very well for me too so far.

    About air pressure and fitting shoes in between, thats not been an issue with my trailrunners, but perhaps more with chunky boots...? I just pump up until rigid and thats it...
  17. Svinetun

    Svinetun Trekker

    OK, I see. Alpine it is! It looks like the Small Foot snowshoes are constantly evolving. I got a faulty pair at first, and the replacement has a different color on one of the straps, and the heelstraps stay MUCH better on. Maybe one day they'll come with BOA bindings?!!?! The guy I dealt with at Small Foot was very helpful and even replied to mails during the weekend! Next I'm gonna ask if they could add spare deflation caps to their store. I don't dare to bring it with me, cause I always lose things, so I should have at least 10 spares.

    There were other things than the carrying issue that made me choose the inflatable ones. The extra weight on the feet is of course an issue, and I had read that normal snowshoes can be straining on the ankles and that it's hard to traverse without poles, and when I walked about looking at the places I wanted to snowshoe, I just started doubting that the classic ones would work well for me, and without poles. Some places I zigzag up narrow rock formations, and I think turning like that would be hard with longer snowshoes. Being able to walk backwards is a plus too.

    In pics it looks like there's relatively more space for wide shoes in the size L snowshoes than in my size M. It's quite easy stepping into them with 3-seasons shoes, quite difficult with big winter boots and a bit hard with smaller winter boots. The good thing is that the snowshoes don't come off even if the heel strap has fallen down!
    Trailrunners in the snowy mountains... Isn't that rather cold...???
  18. Svinetun

    Svinetun Trekker

    So, I asked Small Foot if I could buy spare deflation caps, and I could, but the shipping would be too expensive, so I dropped it. Anyway, it turned out I can use the extension hose of my bike pump. When it's not screwed all the way in, it lets out air (a bit slower than the deflation cap). I can't upload my own images, but it's pretty much identical to this:
    [​IMG]
    I'll just bring this pump with me instead of the deflation cap and mini pump that came with the snowshoes. I know I won't lose that one, and I can easily find spare hoses. Cool!

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