Rated 4 out of 5 by ACB85 Rugged and Durable - With A Little TLC
I've owned multiple pairs of traditional snowshoes over the years. I stick with the Algonquin/Huron style shoe over anything else though I have tried other designs. The larger 13x46s to 16x50 + shoes are what I need being 6'1" 230 lbs. Most of the shoes I've owned were made by craftsmen in local shops and one pair I bought in Canada. I take care of my snowshoes with regular cleanings during the season and multiple coatings of marine spar varnish throughout the year. I am rough on them, however. As a trapper I put tons of miles on my shoes throughout the season. I got this pair from LL Bean as a Christmas gift and I have to admit that I was skeptical at first. Upon receiving the shoes they looked a little "messy." There were chunks and drips of varnish that made them look like they were pushed out quickly. The main cross bar was a little messy looking, too, where it was inserted into the frame. Other than that, the decking and rivets were sturdy, the frame appeared in good condition and I liked the leather bindings (except the plastic clips used to hold the rear binding straps in place). That evening I logged onto the LL Bean website to check the reviews and see what others have said. With only three reviews posted I decided I'd provide an honest review after giving these shoes an true test run.
Usually I give a new pair of trad shoes a few coats of varnish before first use but I decided it'd be better to review them "as offered" by LL Bean. My experience with LL Bean in the past has been good. I have a pair of their waterfowling waders and a couple jackets and they've held up to the rigors of the seasons. So the bar was set high for the snowshoes.
We finally saw some significant snow in New England in early January. Enough to break out the shoes for the first time. Since then we've been pounded with snow storm after snow storm. In one month of use these shoes saw what most people probably see in an entire season or two, if ever. With these shoes, in that one month, I put on 78.2 miles on my pedometer. Here are my thoughts:
Definitely sand down the original varnish imperfections and then treat your new LL Bean trad shoes with four coats of marine spar varnish, at minimum, before first use. There is no way they are putting more than two coats of varnish on before sending them out for sale. The varnish wear and tear is pretty significant in the usual spots - The main pivot bar at the bottom of the toe box has worn through. The top of the decking where the boot makes contact is well worn. The sides of the frame at the pressure points of each step and the bottom and sides of the tail are showing bare wood.
That said, everything else has held up strong to the constant abuse. The babiche on the decking has stayed tight and true - no sagging - and absolutely no loosening. The rivets have held in place. The shoes even handled a couple incidental bridges over felled trees. One of those times I thought I cracked the frame. But all is good to go.
The one issue I do have is the leather bindings are fraying quickly. They're still operational, however. A simple coating of a leather treatment product will surely help. I plan to use these shoes for the rest of the winter with a simple lampwick hitch and a small piece of leather tied onto the decking.
Bottom line. The shoes are rugged and are able to withstand some serious abuse. Take care of them, as you would any other pair of traditional shoes, and they'll last for a good long time. I'm no snowshoe expert ... I simply know what I like and what I don't like after experiencing things and putting them to the test.I still like giving local businesses and shop owners the business (apparently these shoes are made in Michigan?) and my next trad shoe purchase likely will not be from a major store like LL Bean. But, if you find yourself with a pair of these traditional Algonquin style "100th Anniversary" snowshoes, feel comfortable adding them to your usable gear list.
February 13, 2015
Rated 5 out of 5 by Backfortyboy perfect
I just received the snowshoes so I haven't had a chance to try them out, but are just as advertised and made with the same great quality as I expected. Can't wait to use them in the deep snow here as I head out to tap maples.
March 5, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Ralphdo snowshoes
Unbelievable quality and workmanship!! Just what you'd expect from L.L.Bean
February 20, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by NHHikerBrian Great looking yet functional snowshoes!
After admiring the craftsmanship of these snowshoes up in Freeport I received a pair as a Christmas gift from my wife. They are well built for real use but are also great looking as well. I'm an avid backpacker and love that I now have a set of traditional shoes I can use if the snow ever gets really deep (nothing beats traditional snowshoes for real deep fluffy snow)...and when the snow isn't deep I've got some great wall decor- a double win. Between these for the deep snow and my MSR Lightning Ascents for rough terrain/less snow...I'm unstoppable.
January 6, 2013