Snowshoeing is an easy, inexpensive way for anyone to get outside and explore in a winter wonderland. It requires very little fancy equipment and can be enjoyed by people of all ages. In addition to being fun and inexpensive, it is also a great form of exercise. My parents had me in a pair of snowshoes the winter after I learned to walk, and the habit stuck.
First Timers Idea
If it’s your first time snowshoeing with your kids, or you just aren’t ready to commit to purchasing a pair, you may want to consider renting. Many resorts, cross-country ski centers, and outdoor gear stores rent snowshoes. Some will let you rent them for a whole season, while other will rent them out for the day.
Once you’ve tried a few different pairs and have decided that it is time to commit to a junior sized pair of snowshoes, there are a few things that should be considered.
- For children weighing less than 50 pounds, a 16-inch snowshoe is generally fine.
- For children weighing between 50 and 90 pounds, try a 17 to 19-inch snowshoe.
- For children weighing over 90 pounds consider purchasing a women’s snowshoe. Women’s snowshoes have the advantage of being narrower and shorter than unisex snowshoes. This means less material is being used, resulting in a lighter snowshoe. Women’s snowshoes tend to be between 20 and 22 inches long. The trade off in a slightly higher initial cost will be offset by ease of use, with a more natural stride.
Fortunately, kid’s snowshoe bindings tend to be one-size-fits-all, which is great when they are growing like weeds.
The second factor to consider, when purchasing a child’s snowshoes, is the types of terrain on which they will be using them. Generally, snowshoeing terrains are grouped into three types.
- Trails: Trails are usually easy to walk on, are well packed, and are easy to navigate. If you and your child are planning on sticking to trails, or are just starting out, medium quality, entry level snowshoes will work just fine. Look for snowshoes that are the average size, based on your child’s weight. You will want easy-to-adjust bindings, which maximize simplicity.
- Rolling Terrain: Rolling terrain is generally defined as anything from small hills to small mountains. It includes most terrain that is neither flat and easy, nor steep and icy. When picking snowshoes for these types of conditions, you should consider shoes that have more aggressive crampons, to help grip on steep surfaces. You may also want to consider sturdier bindings that will withstand a bit rougher use. It is important to have a snug, well-designed binding, when climbing steeper slopes.
- Mountain Terrain: Mountain terrain refers to trails that are steep, icy, and rugged. If you and your kids are planning to embark on a true, trail-blazing, backcountry adventure, these are the conditions you will be facing. Look for snowshoes that have climbing-style crampons and heavy-duty bindings.
Types of Snow
The final thing to think about, when choosing snowshoes, is the type of snow on which you will be traveling. Different styles of shoes are more effective on certain types of snow. Understanding the relationship between shoe design and snow type is essential to picking out the right type of snowshoe.
- Deep powder: Deep powder is made up of light, dry snow that builds up quickly but compacts easily when weight is applied. If you are planning to snowshoe in deep powder, you will require a wider and longer shoe. Wider and longer shoes provide more flotation, by distributing weight more evenly, to keep you from sinking too far into the powder.
- Wet Snow: Wet snow, like the snow that falls in the Great Northwest, is much denser and tends to pack down naturally as it falls. People who snowshoe in this heavier snow can usually use a somewhat smaller shoe.
- Packed Trails and Icy Layers: For New Englanders, shallow icy snow and trails that are blazed through the woods are what winter is all about. In these conditions, small, light shoes with crampons are much more helpful than the cumbersome larger models, especially for young kids who may want to take the less traveled path.
If you have considered these three variables and still aren’t sure which snowshoes to buy, it is best to err on the side of small. Small snowshoes mean less fatigue on the trail, because they are lighter and easier to maneuver. They also have the added benefit of being slightly less expensive.