Wednesday, April 19, 2023

TSL Highlander Instinct Snowshoe Review

Article by Jeff Valliere

TSL Highlander Instinct Snowshoe

2lb/2oz / 959 grams (half pair)

Sizes S, M, L 

$300 (now on sale $209.93) at our partner REI HERE

Introduction: Have you ever heard of TSL?  Somehow, I had not until recently.  Based in the French Alps and founded in 1981, TSL has been an innovator creating snowshoes, poles, packs, sleds, gaiters and other accessories.  

I have been testing an increasing number of shoes and ski boots this year featuring the BOA Fit System and after a number of mountain outings using my older snowshoes, I determined that they are A). too heavy and B). too difficult and time consuming to put on/take off.  Not that it is really THAT difficult, but it takes enough time and involves me taking off my mittens, so I either find myself postholing or walking my snowshoes across bare ground not wanting to mess with the process and/or get cold hands.  

Enter the TSL Highlander Instinct.  At a very reasonable 34 oz / 959g per shoe in a size medium and featuring the BOA Fit System, they appeared to be a great solution to my problems.



“A sharp, multi-tooth grip for maximal traction on steep inclines. Made from stainless steel, it is sure to stand the test of time.”  

The front teeth are sharp and aggressive and provide a deep bite into the snow or any other frozen surface. I felt confident on steep climbs and descents.


“The interchangeable grips located around the edges of the frame provide excellent grip on all types of snow. The 3D design and hourglass shape help prevent you from slipping while going up, while providing enhanced grip for downhill sections.” 

Along either side of the snowshoe is a sharp row of teeth that dig into snow and ice, aiding the front teeth and crampons and also help a lot when sidehilling.  If they get worn or bent, they can easily be replaced with an allen key (see 2nd photo below).


“Whether on flat or inclined surfaces, initial contact with the snow is made using these 2 two-way, stainless steel crampons positioned beneath the base of the foot.”  The crampons under the base of the foot give that additional bite for confidence inspiring grip on steep terrain.


“The purpose of the rocker is to cushion your step, helping to guide the foot through the walking process, whether on flat surfaces or inclines.”  The rockered shape feels in line with most snowshoes I have used, and does aid in efficiency and an easy gait.


“The structured frame and the crossbars help guarantee control and traction on soft and compact snow.” This allows for a very good blend of structure and rigidity, with a little bit of flex and contouring.


A patented feature the composite teeth beneath the rear rocker of the snowshoe cut and expel snow, ensuring enhanced grip for downhill sections..

– Hourglass shape : allows for easier stride when walking

The binding here is amazing, easily adjustable to fit a wide range of shoe/boot sizes by expanding or contracting the heel plate to accommodate by just popping up a small plastic lever.

At the back of the heel is an easy to use heel riser for steep uphills.  

As amazing as the TSL Highlander Snowshoe is, the true star of the show and the key feature for me is the BOA Fit System binding.  

The binding is so well designed with the adjustable plate, secure heel cup/straps and of course the BOA dial and cables, making putting these snowshoes on and taking them off a real breeze that can be done in a matter of seconds.  

Once you have the sliding heel plate adjusted for your shoe (which can EASILY be done in the field, though I prefer to set this up ahead of time at home), you simply step into the binding toe first, drop you heel into the heel cup and tighten the BOA dial and your foot is secure.  This process is super fast, easy and can be done wearing thick gloves or mittens which for me is key.  Taking them off is even easier, as you just pop the BOA dial and off they come.  I did notice that when wearing a winter trail running shoe (such as the Scarpa Ribelle Run Kalibra G (also with BOA and pictured above), I had to be careful how much I tightened  the BOA, as it can feel uncomfortable on the top of the foot, especially on the downhill.  While wearing a more thick, sturdy winter like boot though, I did not feel this pressure.


I opted for the Medium size, trying to strike a balance between size/weight and what type of terrain I prefer.  

The sizing is based on user weight and not shoe size and I fall into the S/M range.  I am 5’9” / 145 lbs and find the medium to be a good size since most of the time I am on packed trails and it is less often  when I am breaking trail and wallowing in fresh powder.  A small might be too small for fresh powder and a large too big and heavier than I want for packed trails, so I split the difference with the medium.  


The TSL Highlander Instinct is a high quality, rugged, durable snowshoe suitable for mountain use.  They have remarkable grip given their aggressive crampons and toothy ridged lateral grip lining the perimeter of the snowshoe.  Most of all though, I LOVE the conveniently easy and secure BOA binding so I can get them on/off easily and also do it with my mittens on and not have to freeze my fingers, especially at windy, treeline transitions.

$300 and now on sale $209.93 at our partner REI HERE

The samples were provided at no charge for review purposes.RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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