Ideal for everyone from snowboarders to expedition winter hikers, the Atlas Helium-BCs are super light and highly functional, with a decent heel lift to ease the strain on your calves.
Large and light
Oversized deck cutout for toe pivot
Straps are fiddly at first
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Atlas Helium-BC: first impressions
When Atlas launched its Helium series, the goal was to create snowshoes with lightweight traction and serious grip for big terrain and extreme conditions. The Atlas Helium-BC is the lightest snowshoe of the Helium series, and it achieves traction in innovative ways, including through louvers shaped into its flexible, durable plastic decking.
• List price: $210 (US) / £195 (UK)
• Dimensions: 58.4cm-91.4cm x 20.3cm x 20.3cm / 23in-26in x 8in x 8in
• Weight: 1.4kg / 3lb 2oz
• Frame Material: Aluminum
• Deck Material: Nytex
• Traction: Tempered steel crampon, aluminum traction bars
The cutouts grip in soft snow, while toothy aluminum rails along the underside of the deck and a tempered steel claw with side tangs bite into ice and hardpack.
Some snowshoe bindings and crampons are hard to pack because they don’t nest well. Because these snowshoes have bindings that lay flat when not in use, these were the easiest of all the snowshoes I tested to strap to a hiking backpack when they’re not needed, making them a great choice for snowboarders.
Because the binding toe cutout has an exaggerated opening, the Helium-BC is also ideal for expeditions requiring mountaineering boots. The Voile-style urethane strap bindings are infinitely adjustable and field-replaceable. And, because Atlas designed these for big adventures, they have a 19° heel lift to reduce the toll on your calves on steep ups.
Atlas Helium-BC: in the snow
For big winter backpacking adventures, including winter camping in New York’s Adirondacks, I want a shoe with a lot of float and a lot of traction. But walking trails to get to the snowline can sometimes be a mission of its own. So I appreciate a snowshoe that’s easy to carry, too.
Atlas’ Helium-BC checks all the boxes. These snowshoes bit into all types of snow, from packed to fluffy, thanks to cutouts in the deck, aluminum rails and underfoot claws. They also flexed appropriately to help me navigate the terrain with stability and a fluid stride.
The heel lifter was easy to operate with and without gloves. I liked that it has a flat bar where my heel hits it, not a round one. It’s a small detail that made these shoes extra comfortable. So was the hard plastic underfoot plate that gave my boot extra stability and support. The flexible binding wrapped my foot well. It has enough stiffness to be supportive, and enough pliability that it conformed to my foot regardless of the boots I was wearing.
This is a snowshoe I reach for when wearing big boots. The binding’s pull-to-tighten compression straps work best when snug. With a soft mukluk on, the straps feel tight on my foot. I love the simplicity of the two strap bindings: one that wraps around the heel from the midfoot, and one that zigzags from the toe to the midfoot.
An open buckle on one side of the midfoot makes them super-quick to remove. But it sometimes took me a minute of wrangling straps to get them to lay flat and to slip into the strap end holders so they didn’t slap around.
Once they were on, these snowshoes were great. But don’t overload them. They can support loads up to 160lb / 72.5kg (small) and 220lb / 100kg (large). If you weigh more than that with your gear, opt for a different model.
Vermont-based writer, photographer and adventurer, Berne reports on hiking, biking, skiing, overlanding, travel, climbing and kayaking for category-leading publications in the U.S., Europe and beyond. In the field, she’s been asked to deliver a herd of llamas to a Bolivian mountaintop corral, had first fat-biking descents in Alaska, helped establish East Greenland’s first sport climbing and biked the length of Jordan. She’s worked to help brands clean up their materials and manufacturing, and has had guns pulled on her in at least three continents.
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