Snowshoe Equipment Selection

Snowshoe EquipmentSnowshoeing has been around for thousands of years.  The original snowshoes had a wooden frame with rawhide lacing.  Today, the whole story has changed.  Snowshoe equipment made today has an aluminum frame with synthetic decks.  Some snowshoes are made of plastic while others have composite materials.  They have a multitude of binding options.

The Sport: (what’s it good for?)

In recent years, snowshoeing has become more and more popular.  This could be because of the advances in snowshoe materials and design, it’s easy to learn or because this sport can be rather inexpensive when compared to other winter sports.  There are people that go on day hikes just for the scenery and exercise.  Some people travel deep into the backcountry, while others race in their snowshoes.  There is variation for almost any winter enthusiast.

Snowshoeing can be a great form of exercise.  Studies by the Snowsports Industries America have shown that Snowshoeing at a set speed burns more calories than walking or running.  In fact, snowshoeing can burn 600 calories an hour.

The Styles:

Snowshoe Equipment is divided into three types:

  • Fitness – These are ruggedly designed and are used by runners and cross-trainers.  They are made to take the punishment of running.  Their profile is a bit narrower, allowing a closer stance when in use.
  • Recreational – These are best for beginners.  They are designed for more groomed and flatter trails.
  • Hiking/Backpacking – Designed for heavier loads (not because of bigger people, but because of the backpack weight).  These work very well in powder snow conditions.  They also are good for steeper terrain.  Their bindings have a lot of adjustments and can support a wide variety of boots.  For the experienced that blazes their own trail, these are the ones to get.

The Types:

Manufacturers have come up with two types of designs:

  • Aluminum Frame with a synthetic deck.  The decks are made so that they are responsive while hiking.
  • Another style features a frame with an integrated deck.  This deck is made of a hard material.  For added float ability, a tail extension can be added.

Both styles work well under varying conditions.

The Parts:


Bindings are what hold the snowshoe onto your boot.  They are normally straps with a base.    Bindings on snowshoe equipment come in two flavors:

    • Rotating: These are connected to the snowshoe with a point that will rotate.  These snowshoes rotate as you raise your foot.  The “tail” of the snowshoe falls to the ground as the toe flips up.  These are great for hiking on steep terrain.  They kick off snow between each step, preventing fatigue.
    • Fixed: These bindings are connected to the frame with bands of neoprene or rubber.  Their stiff design does not allow much rotation (if any).  This can be great if having to step over logs.  One problem with these is that they can toss up snow onto the backs of your legs.

Crampons (grips or cleats):

Crampons are located on the bottom of the snowshoe.  Even though you are putting a lot of weight on the snowshoes, without some type of gripping device, they would slide on top of the snow.  Crampons fix the sliding problem.  They are prongs that stick out on the bottom of the snowshoe in multiple locations: front (under the toe of your boot), rear and side.  The plastic models have braking bars to keep you from sliding backwards.

The Sizes:

Snowshoes are designed to spread your weight over the snow, so you don’t sink into it.   They come in three basic lengths: 25”, 30” and 36”.  If you are looking for a composite (frame and deck) type snowshoes, these come in one length, 22”, and have optional tails in case you are hiking in deep powder.

They do come in styles for women, men and children.

The Selection:

When selecting your snowshoes, consider what type of snow you will be hiking on: wet, packed, dry powder.  Also, if you are going to hike in wooded, close spaces, a smaller snowshoe will be more maneuverable.


  • Your boots should be waterproof.  Insulated is great as well.
  • Gaiters would be a great addition to keep your legs warmer and keep the snow out of your boots.
  • Trekking Poles can help create an all over body workout and increase stability.  (Remember to use the large baskets)
  • Some stores have special  snowshoe equipment “starter packages” which include: snowshoes, a protective bag and poles.  These can be good deals.
Be Sociable, Share!

One Response to “Snowshoe Equipment Selection”

  1. The information provided it excellent! Can certainly be extremely helpful for anybody looking to get into snowshoeing! It’s a great way to get some fresh air and exercise during the long winter months. Also can be a an inexpensive way to spend some good ‘ol quality time with the family. Thanks for posting and if you interested in looking at the different brands available check out the link below.