Choosing the Perfect Pair of Snowshoes
Having a pair of the best snowshoes on the market makes it a cinch to enjoy hiking through the snow right after it falls. If you’ve never experienced this in the past, the good news is that snowshoeing is fairly inexpensive and simple to do. Snowshoes let people make it across the ground covered in the snow without struggling or sinking. This is easier than going through the snow in other shoes.
Snowshoes take your weight and spread it out over a larger and flatter surface than normal. This is what lets you walk, hike, run, or climb in the snow without trouble. Keep in mind that most snowshoe surface area is required for those who are heavier or when the snow is drier and lighter.
Reasons to Use Snowshoes
When you have to travel in the snow, there are two main options. You can snowshoe or you can ski. Skiing works well for flat, downhill sections and skis can float well on deep or soft snow. Snowshoes, on the other hand, make it easier to travel uphill and can easily go over ice.
Without snowshoes of skis, walking through the snow in boots is the main option left to you. This can be frustrating and lead to wet pants and sore legs. However, snowshoes are best in situations where the snow is at least knee-deep. Ankle deep snow travel over a short distance can easily be done with boots.
Different Types of Snowshoes
There are three basic types of snowshoes to choose from, which are built for mountain terrain, flat terrain, and rolling terrain. There are also a few models that are designed for use when climbing, exercising, or trail running.
Flat Terrain Snowshoes
The best snowshoes for beginners are often flat terrain snowshoes. These snowshoes have a design that makes it simple to walk on flat and rolling terrain. Casual snowshoers and families will often find this is the ideal choice. Flat terrain snowshoes feature traction systems that are less aggressive and have bindings that are simple to adjust. Most entry-level snowshoes are this type and they tend to be quite inexpensive.
Rolling Terrain Snowshoes
Rolling terrain snowshoes are most often used by backpackers and hikers. These shoes have a design that allows for hiking on steep and rolling terrain like you might find when off the beaten track. These shoes can be used for everything but very icy or steep environments. The bindings for these shoes are sturdier, which makes this a shoe for a more serious snowshoer than the flat terrain.
Mountain Terrain Snowshoes
These snowshoes are for the most advanced individuals and often used by mountaineers, advanced hikers, and snowboarders in the backcountry. These are designed specifically for seep and icy terrain and targeted to those who want to be able to go anywhere and do anything. These have the most rugged bindings and aggressive traction systems. They are made to handle harsh terrain and conditions.
How to Size Snowshoes
One of the most important things to know is how to size the best snowshoes for women or men. Having the right amount of flotation ensures you can easily walk over the snow without a problem. Heavier people will need a larger surface area than those who weigh less.
Snowshoes with an aluminum frame are often going to come in several sizes, such as 8” x 22”, 9” x 25”, or 10” x 30”. However, composite snowshoes come in a single size. Some of them will also have the option of adding tails to help you stay on top of the snow.
Sizing by Age and Gender
In most cases, men’s snowshoes are designed to accommodate heavier individuals and larger boots. On the other hand, snowshoes for women have a frame that is more contoured and may come in smaller sizes. The bindings are sized differently to fit women’s shoes and boots.
When choosing snowshoes for children, the choice should take into account the age of the child. Smaller sizes are typically designed for casually playing in the snow, while the larger ones may have many of the same features as adult snowshoes.
Sizing Based on Load
When someone refers to the recommended load or carrying capacity, that means the weight of the person on the snowshoe along with all of their equipment. Taking into account the load is important to choose the right pair and will have an effect on the size that is right for you.
While there are exceptions, heavier people or those who carry large packs will want to choose a larger snowshoe. Those who are carrying very little gear or who are smaller can choose a smaller pair.
Sizing Based on Conditions and Terrain
A recommended load is based on dry, light snow conditions. However, when on powder snow, bigger snowshoes are needed to keep you on top of the snow when compared to wet and compact snow. Smaller shoes work best for brush, forest, and packed trail, as this makes it easier to maneuver in tight areas.
When on icy or steep terrain, women’s and men’s snowshoes do best when smaller. However, areas with deep drifts in open areas necessitate larger snowshoes. The best plan is to choose the smallest size that will handle the conditions and terrain you plan to spend time in as well as your weight. Smaller snowshoes tend to be the simplest to use.
What to Know About Snowshoe Decking and Frames
Most of the best snowshoes on the market are going to offer a synthetic decking and an aluminum frame. The deckings typically feature Hypalon rubber of nylon as it is responsive while remaining lightweight.
Another choice of snowshoe is one with a hard decking material that is integrated into a composite frame. These snowshoes can have a six-inch tail attached to add flotation potential when walking in deep powder snow.
Choosing the Perfect Snowshoe Bindings
Bindings are what attach the snowshoes onto your boots and typically are made of some sort of platform along with nylon straps that go around the heel and over the foot. There are two types of bindings that are commonly used:
Rotating bindings attach to the decking and pivot at that same point under the balls of your feet. This makes it easy to climb hills and walk in a natural manner. However, bindings have a different level of pivot depending on the model. Some of them attach to a metal rod and can pivot up to 90 degrees or more. This means the end of the snowshoe, or the tail, falls away when you step which gets rid of snow and helps with fatigue.
This rotation also makes it possible to easier steer through deep snow. Unfortunately, these bindings can also be awkward when backing up or climbing over logs.
The other type of binding is a fixed binding that is connected with neoprene or rubber bands and has less potential to pivot. These bindings bring the tails up each time you step for a comfortable walk. This also means the bindings are easier to use when backing up or stepping over things. The main problem with this sort of binding is that they may kick snow up onto your legs.
All About Snowshoe Traction Devices
Your own weight causes some traction when your snowshoes push into the snow, but the top men’s and women’s snowshoes also have crampons or cleats that add additional grip. Most snowshoes created for flat terrain have a moderate amount of traction. Snowshoes made for mountains are going to have more traction to handle icy terrain and steep conditions.
Heel crampons are attached to the decking undersides of the snowshoes. Most of the time, these are in a V formation. This fills up with snow and helps you slow down while descending.
Traction bars or side rails go on the decking undersides to offer lateral stability. These bars also lad to less side-slipping when crossing slopes.
A braking bar is integrated into the underside of a plastic decking snowshoe in order to prevent backsliding and offer better forward traction.
Heel lifts, also referred to as climbing bars or Televators, are wire bails that can be flipped under your heels to reduce calf strain when climbing steep uphill terrain and assist with saving energy on long ascents. This makes it feel as if you are walking up stairs and prevent Achilles strain and calf strain.
Most of the snowshoe bindings on the market are created to work with all sorts of different footwear from snowboard boots to hiking boots. For snowshoes that are designed for mountaineering or running, the bindings will be made to work well with those specific activities.
As long as you have a pair of warm boots with enough stiffness to offer great ankle support, you can use most snowshoes without a problem.
Getting Started with Snowshoeing
Now that you have an idea of the best snowshoes for women, men, and children from our reviews, you should be able to choose a pair to get you through the winter. The information above will explain what you need to know to ensure the pair you purchase is right for your needs.
Whether you choose one of the snowshoes mentioned or select one based on other factors, there’s nothing quite like enjoying winter with a pair of snowshoes strapped on. Enjoy yourself out there with your new snowshoes!