If you enjoy 3-season hiking and miss it during the winter, you might want to consider investing in a pair of snowshoes and giving the great sport of snowshoeing a try. With a wide variety of styles, sizes and features available, you are sure to find a pair that fits your needs, whether you enjoy strolls through a local park after a fresh snowfall, or a hike up a steep mountain trail covered in packed snow and ice.
The purpose of a snowshoe is to make traveling over deep snow easier. They work by distributing your body weight over a larger surface area, so your feet don’t sink all the way down into soft snow. This is called flotation. Snowshoes are generally raised at the toe for increased maneuverability. There are several designs of snowshoes which have historically been used for different types of snow and terrain. Modern snowshoes utilize lightweight aluminum and high-impact plastic, which are very durable for rocks and uneven terrain encountered on trails. Most modern snowshoes are based on a Green Mountain and bear paw designs giving good floatation and maneuverability.
These snowshoes come with bindings that lock the foot into a forward track preventing side movement, which greatly reduces wasted energy of the foot twisting to the side when taking a step. All bindings are designed to get in and out of while wearing gloves and mitts. The bindings differ in how they stay on the foot. Some are permanently set to the size of the boot like the MSR SpeedLock binding with its gait adjustment for toe out or toe in gait. The SpeedLock utilizes a set-it-and-forget-it adjustment so you have a custom fit to the boots you use for snowshoeing.
The sport of snowshoe running is gaining popularity in snow country. A running snowshoe has a live action tail which means the tail follows the foot up as you run. This is different from backcountry snowshoes that have fully rotating toe cords that allow the tail to stay in contact with the snow as you step. If running is your sport you may want to look into a local snowshoe race to enter. Take a look at the Atlas Fitness Snowshoe or the Louis Garneau Course Running Snowshoe for a proper piece of equipment designated for snowshoe running.
Snowshoes for Men and Women
A good option for men’s snowshoes is the Red Feather Hike Series Snowshoe, which is an excellent value for trail walking and exploring on flat to rolling winter terrain. The shoes are very easy to strap in to and also provide great stability and flotation. This snowshoe is extremely light in weight. It is known for its secure bindings that feature a solid attachment for any hiking or light winter boots.
For women’s snowshoes, there is the Tubbs Wilderness Snowshoe, which is designed for long excursions in the backcountry, steep, icy ascents and descents, and most other winter elements. These snowshoes have great traction and allow you to hike for greater distances at a time. The best feature of these snowshoes is their ability to get you through steep situations. These shoes are available with custom fitting 180⁰ bindings as well as an active lift heel that reduces calf fatigue and tendon strain during uphill climbs.
Tubbs uses the 180° binding that has a one hand adjustment. Step in, insert the wing strap to the cleat, and pull tight.
Another important aspect of your snowshoeing experience is snowshoe poles. The Atlas Adjustable Snowshoe Poles help maintain stability, balance your load and set the pace of your hike on rolling terrain. The poles are very light in weight and made of aluminum. These adjustable poles come with removable snow baskets to keep on top of the snow, with a steel pole tip and an ergonomic hand grip to go along with an included breakaway wrist strap. A good set of snowshoe poles can help you keep your balance and traction even in soft snow, and provide the support your knees and ankles need to move downhill.
Next snow day, instead of staying inside and playing Xbox, get the kids outside exploring using some kids snowshoes. Kids snowshoes come in sizes for all ages. Red Feather, Tubbs, MSR and Atlas have kids’ choices for children of all sizes and adventure types.
There are many options out there for the avid snowshoeing enthusiast. Please let us know what equipment you like to use when you hit the trails within the comments below.