Outdoor sports has become more popular than ever this year. Whether you are a runner, hiker, walker, biker, skier, snowboarder, or snowshoer I'm sure you've seen a lot more people out, enjoying what nature has to offer. Just like bikes, snowshoes has recently seen a huge increase in demand. Getting outside is important, but it is also key to have the right gear. It is important to know a couple things when you are selecting snowshoes. I am going to walk through what to be on the lookout for and how a snowshoe will best suit your needs.
Like snowshoes, online shopping has seen a huge increase for good reason. Even though online shopping is convenient and allows you to shop for snowshoes from your living room in your comfy clothes, it is equally important to purchase from a knowledgeable, reputable outdoor shop. For example, snowshoes are all based on user weight and intended use. The internet can't tell someone, who is between 2 sizes (which happens often) to size up because it will allow them to float on the snow much better. With this additional information from the user, we can better determine the best snowshoe for you.
What Is A Snowshoe?
A snowshoe is a device that attaches to your foot to ensure easier walking or running on/in snow. It provides essential traction under foot for a multitude of different things. There are some that work well for going out your back door and exploring, some that are great for hard packed trails, icy conditions, backcountry mountain climbing, or running. All snowshoes will have different features to enhance the experience best suited for your needs. Some snowshoes will vary in binding composition, frame, grip, and underfoot suspension.
1. Decking/Material - Where Will You Be Going or Doing?
The next thing that is important is knowing where you will be going or where you might go. Having the right snowshoe for the job will make the world of a difference. There are a couple different categories that I like to pinpoint snowshoes according to use.
1a. Out Your Back Door on a Snow Day:
For casual walking in deep powder or ungroomed trails it’s best to have a shoe with great flotation. Generally a snowshoe with a steel/aluminum frame and polymer decking work very well for this. Also, a snowshoe that is wider will stay afloat better.
STAFF PICK: Louis Garneau Appalaches
1b. Snowshoe Center with Groomed Trails:
When walking on groomed trails or hard packed surfaces, there are a few routes you could take. If you see yourself hitting packed trails and deep snow, go with a shoe that has a polymer/nylon decking. This will work well for the areas you need to cover.
1c. Off Trail with Variable Conditions:
If you will be on packed trails, icy conditions and maybe hitting some backcountry/mountain climbing, a plastic decking can work very well. It molds to the ground quite easily and adapts its shape to adjust to the surface you are walking on.
1d. Backcountry and Hiking up a Mountain:
Snowshoeing in the mountains/backcountry will require a bit more substance to it. Having a jagged toothed frame will support medially and laterally and will hold onto snow/ice very well. These snowshoes will also have sharper crampons under foot as well as a climbing bar (described more below). If you see yourself mountain climbing, hitting packed trails, and going in ungroomed territory, a backcountry model will cover all of these categories.
STAFF PICK: Louis Garneau Blizzard
A running snowshoe is a lot lighter than the average snowshoe. It will sometimes have a tapered shape or “V” shape. This is to promote speed, rocker, and to prevent clunkiness and frame clipping. They are typically smaller in size as well. This is to reduce weight and have a much more form fit snowshoe.
2. Binding Structure
2a. “Snowboard” like strap system:
Equipped with two ratchets over the top of your foot, just like a snowboard binding.
2b. Velcro Strap:
Ice/snow repellent velcro strap is also very easy to use.
2c. A BOA Fit system:
A BOA binding is a dial that pops in and out, push it in and spin it to tighten, pull it out to loosen. This is by far the most user friendly binding.
Similar to a Chaco sandal, lacing/webbing allows you to pull the strap to tighten it - it's as easy as that. To release it, there will be a release button attached to the lacing/webbing.
3. Climbing Bar
Another added feature that can factor into a great experience is having a climbing bar or not. This is user requested and depends on whether you truly would need it or not. Generally more backcountry oriented snowshoes will offer a climbing bar. This is because, well, you will be climbing! A lot! A climbing bar is a device that lifts your heel up when ascending hills or mountains. It relaxes your achilles so it isn’t at a constant stretch.
4. Kids' Snowshoes
Kids want to get out too! There are a couple different options for kids' snowshoes. Most of them come with a plastic decking to avoid sharp metal objects. There are some however that do offer underfoot metal crampons.
A great entry level snowshoe and alternative to awkward-clunky-traditional snowshoes. Fits shoe sizes 6Y - 12M.
perfect to instill a love of winter from an early age. The easy-to-use Grom Binding delivers a comfortable, secure fit and the heel strap design means parents spend less time kneeling in the snow. Recommended for the weight of 30-80 lbs.
A step up from the Atlas Mini snowshoe. Designed for day hiking, exploring the backcountry or neighboring trails. Recommended for the weight of 30-80 lbs.
4d. TSL 302 Freeze:
Similar to the traditional adult styles with plastic decking and underfoot metal crampons. Recommended for a weight of 40-110lbs.
5. Clothing and Accessories
Another very important piece to snowshoeing is having the right clothing and accessories. The goal is to stay comfortable, warm (but not too warm) and dry so you can stay outside longer. Here are some suggestions.
Dressing in layers with a moisture-wicking and non-cotton baselayer is key to keeping you warm and dry, especially after sweating. A waterproof or resistant outer layer is highly recommended and will depend on some key factors: weather, activity and the user. Cross country ski specific clothing is a great category to check out for all your snowshoe needs. Cross country ski clothing is lighter and more breathable - perfect for aerobic activity.
Here is a list of what you may need:
Gaiters go over where the top of your boots and bottom of your pants connect, offering further protection from the snow and keeping you dry.
Make sure your footwear is waterproof otherwise your feet will not be happy! Insulation is also quite nice when your feet are covered in snow.
Poles are nice to have when snowshoeing through uneven terrain or when you want to incorporate your arms more into the workout. Poles help with balance and recommended if you are a beginner.
STAFF PICK: Atlas Elektra 2-Part Poles
Whether you are looking to shop online or in store we are happy to help and can answer your questions. Hopefully this guide will help give you more knowledge about the snowshoes you may already have or can serve as a reference for when you want to shop for snowshoes.
We aim to provide quality products and give the best shopping experience so that you, in turn, can get outside and enjoy the moment.
- Clarke Shedd,
Skirack Run Specialist
Click here to learn more about Clarke.