Tubbs is the proverbial 500-pound gorilla in the world of snowshoes, a company that’s as well-regarded among regular snowshoers as it is among casual adventurers. As I’m just venturing back outdoors, I certainly consider myself in the latter category. That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the Tubbs Boundary Peak snowshoes, a model that launched this winter. Both the men’s and women’s Boundary Peaks look nigh-historical in design, but the men’s snowshoes I tested were quite modern in function.
The Tubbs Boundary Peak snowshoes are the first limited-edition snowshoe in the company’s 1906 Series. As you might imagine with a name like “1906,” the series’ hallmark is to look retro and seem to be made simply. But looks can be deceiving. The underlying technology makes the Boundary Peak perform like the modern product they are.
While the aluminum frame is a retro-looking dark brown and the decking looks like something straight out of the early-20th century Forest Service, the antiquity is strictly aesthetic. The REACT LTD bindings are incredibly easy to tighten and loosen, getting your foot locked and unlocked quickly. The only thing that seemed lacking was the binding’s heel-strap lock, which uses an enclosed clamping mechanism that obscures your ability to see whether the pin is actually going into the hole. As a result, there can be a bit of wiggling and repeat clamping before the lock fully closes, because it’s hard to tell whether the rubber is just compressing onto itself or is actually creating a lock/seal.
One of the best features about the binding is the leather release pull above the toes. I’ve only used a few snowshoes that use this type of quick-release strap, but I’d love to see every snowshoe incorporate it from here on out. Currently the leather-release pull is exclusive to the 1906 Series, but I hope Tubbs makes it standard. When you’re outdoors trying to stay warm with thick gloves on, it can be hard to navigate intricate release straps. The leather pull used in the Tubbs Boundary Peak snowshoes makes it super simple to release the snowshoes with gloves on, a fact that my often-cold hands really appreciated because they could stay covered up.
Unlike many other snowshoes, even some in Tubbs’ own lineup, the Boundary Peak use a nice metal axle for articulation underneath the foot. This feels more stable than the flat plastic strap that many snowshoes use, and it keeps your foot rotating really smoothly as you walk through the backcountry.
One feature that I found less than smooth, unfortunately, was getting my feet into the bindings. Even with the straps loosened all the way, their curvature seemed too tight and forced me to do some wiggling and scuffling/kicking every time I tried to put on the snowshoes. This didn’t affect the snowshoes’ performance once I was strolling around lakes and exploring groomed trails, but it’s a minor nuisance to take those few extra moments when all I really wanted to do was get out there in the snow.
To be fair, some of that may have been because my review period only lasted three weeks. Had Tubbs not needed the snowshoes back, I might have noticed some easing of the binding’s rigidity after a bit more use, kind of like breaking in hiking boots. Unfortunately, I didn’t test them quite long enough to see whether that happened, which would’ve made it easier to slip the snowshoes onto my feet before hitting the trails.
I did, however, test them in enough different conditions in the Mt. Hood area that I could get a feel for where the Tubbs Boundary Peak perform best. The snowshoes aren’t built for racing or extreme terrain, so I didn’t venture too high on the mountain or try to do any power walking. There are other shoes with different features that work best for that sort of activity. The Boundary Peak do offer a heel bar that can be quickly raised if you encounter a brief hill and need extra leverage in your step. But where they perform best is on mostly level terrain like groomed trails and even backcountry explores that don’t have much altitude variation. These snowshoes float on powder like clouds in the sky, and in spite of the 30’s size, they’re light enough (2.25 pounds per shoe) that they didn’t interfere with my gait. Their performance drops a bit as you encounter re-frozen snow and slush, as their crampons tended to slip a bit on some of the thicker ice around the more well-traveled areas. But they’re called “snowshoes,” not “ice shoes,” and there are other products designed for those conditions. Use the Boundary Peaks as they’re intended, and you’ll be pleased.
Ultimately, the fact that I was bummed to return the Tubbs Boundary Peak snowshoes says just about all you need to know. Minor issues aside, I really enjoyed using the Boundary Peaks throughout Mt. Hood National Forest, and the included canvas storage bag made transporting them to and from the mountain a breeze. I can only hope that Tubbs’ limited-edition Mount Mansfield snowshoes coming next winter perform just as well – and that I have an opportunity to test those too. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a new pair of snowshoes to see you through the last few weeks of winter 2016, you should seriously consider the Tubbs Boundary Peak snowshoes. And do it soon. They’re a limited edition in the 1906 Series, so they won’t be around much longer.
The Tubbs Boundary Peak snowshoes were provided for review. All opinions and words are my own and honest, and the article contains no affiliate links.