Today’s recreational snowshoes are smaller, lighter, stronger, and more maneuverable than the traditional wood frame and rawhide models. They are made of high-quality, light, durable, aluminum or carbon fiber with a durable synthetic decking. Quality snowshoes cost $200-300, although you can usually find a sale- especially off-season and they will likely last for decades of use.

Snowshoe Terminology

Bindings – attach the snowshoe to your boot. The best bindings have a system which is easy to get in and out of with gloves and/or cold hands.

Frame – is the structural foundation of the “shoe” which defines its shape and size.

Decking – is the material within the frame which enables the “shoe” to “float” on the snow. It can be of either the lace or solid material variety. A common decking material is Hypalon.

Flotation – Staying on top of the snow.

Traction – Many snowshoes come equipped with both toe and heel crampon-type claws for better traction on icy surfaces, slopes and hard packed snow.

What Size Snowshoe Should I Get?

Sizing of snow shoes is relative to three primary factors.

  1. The total weight being supported (your weight plus the weight of your backpack). The more you weigh, the bigger the shoe must be in order to keep you afloat. Usually there is a sizing chart to provide some guidance in this matter.
  2. The type of snow you’re traveling on. Light, puffy, dry powder requires a bigger snowshoe whereas smaller snowshoes are suitable for wetter snow and traveling packed trails.
  3. The terrain you will be encountering. Steep, rocky, wooded terrain with twisty trails are more suitable for smaller snowshoes whereas flat open country facilitates larger, longer snowshoes.

How To Snowshoe

If you can walk, then you can snowshoe. It’s that simple. The beauty of shoeing is its simplicity. You don’t need much equipment.

  1. Just strap a pair of modern snowshoes onto your favorite hiking boots. You shouldn’t need special footwear as you will be exercising hard enough to maintain good circulation to your feet.
  2. Gaiters will keep the snow out of your footwear and protect your ankles.
  3. Wear a layered clothing system that you can vary according to the weather and your level of exertion.
  4. Ski poles or trekking poles are optional. If you are traversing rugged terrain, carrying a heavy pack or concerned about your balance they can be helpful. If there are slopes involved I take trekking poles. They can easily be lashed to the outside of the backpack during flatland strolls.

Snowshoeing Technique

There’s not much technique to snowshoeing. In fact, if you know how to walk, you know how to snowshoe. Nevertheless, here are a few useful tips:

  • To climb a steep slope kick the front of your snowshoe into the snow and press down on the ball of your foot engaging the crampon. Make sure that each new step is sufficiently above the last one to avoid collapse.
  • To descend a steep slope keep your knees slightly bent, lean back, and keep your weight on your heel crampons to maintain control.
  • To traverse a slope, kick the side of the snowshoe into the hillside, engaging the crampons. Swing your heel hard towards the uphill slope, then stomp down, securing the snowshoe edge and crampons in the slope. Trekking or ski poles are helpful for balance and support.
  • When snowshoeing in a group, walk in a single line behind the leader who is breaking the trail. When it’s your turn to lead, take consistent, even steps that are easy for others to follow.

Follow our occasional Tweets @WinterCampers and visit us on Facebook.


1 comment to Snowshoes

  • Check out the new Airlite Inflatable Snowshoes. With over 550 square inches of flotation surface each. These inflatable snowshoes pack easily folded up, rolled up, laid out flat, or wadded up and stuffed where ever.

    The material is NOT a plastic or vinyl. It is 30 mil Deerfield urethane that maintains it toughness and flexability even at sub zero temps. I have personaly tested them to 29.6 deg. below zero and the manufacturer of the material has tested it down to 40 below.

    These snowshoes were originally designed with a protective outer layer, however, the outer protective layer has been omitted. Due to the extream toughness of the material we decided that all the outer layer did was add weight and bulk. When showing these snowshoes to prospective retailers and end users, I get asked how tough they are or what if they get a hole in them. That is when I hand them a peice of the material and a 16d nail and tell them to go ahead and atempt to puncture it. It can be done but it is very very hard to do.

    Check out the Airlite Snowshoe website for more info.