Snowshoeing is a great way to stay active all winter long. Once the snowfalls, you can trek basically anywhere with snowshoes (and perhaps some trekking poles too). When investing in snowshoes, there are different features to consider. In this blog, we’ll cover common snowshoe features to help you choose.
Why wear snowshoes?
Snowshoes allow you to ‘float’ on the snow making exploring in the snow easier and less taxing. They are also a key tool in helping maintain trails throughout the winter. Without snowshoes, our footsteps can sink in too deep and cause ruts in the trail. This is particularly troubling if freezing happens soon after. With snowshoes, they help maintain a smooth trail surface for all users to enjoy.
We cover this, and more, in '3 Simple Rules to Winter Hiking Etiquette'.
Where to begin
The first thing to consider when purchasing snowshoes is where you plan to snowshoe most often.
- Somewhere with plenty of powder?
- Flat, groomed trails?
- Possibly icy conditions?
- Steep hills?
This information will help you decide which category of snowshoe you are seeking. Common types of snowshoes are: Flat Terrain, Rolling Terrain and Mountain Terrain. Let’s chat about them.
These are all-purpose, recreational snowshoes. They will often be lower in price, have a basic binding system and a few modest features including small crampons under the foot for traction. The Rendezvous Snowshoe from Atlas is a great snowshoe for casual use.
Still considered “all-purpose” but these are the next step up from Flat Terrain. They perform well on flat or moderate slopes. They are often more durable with a sturdy binding and they have an improved traction system underfoot. They may include a heel lift as well, which aids in walking uphill. The Access Snowshoe is an excellent example of a Rolling Terrain snowshoe.
Snowshoes that fall under the Flat or Rolling Terrain category are awesome for hiking.
As the title described, snowshoes built for mountainous terrains are ideal for steep treks and icy conditions. They have aggressive traction, can accommodate bigger shoes and typically have a heel lift. Their price reflects the added features and durability. An example of a Mountain Terrain snowshoe is the Range-Mtn.
There are niche snowshoe categories such as Running. Running Snowshoes are typically smaller, lightweight and allow for faster movement. It is assumed you’re running on packed down snow or groomed trails and therefore, less floatation is required. Atlas makes the Snow Run Boa for those looking to run in all wintery conditions.
Next up: The Size
When selecting a size, you should consider your weight plus your gear. Snowshoes typically have a chart associated with them to help you choose the right length based on your overall weight. Generally, the larger a person - the bigger, or longer, a snowshoe will be.
Some snowshoes, such as the Montane, come in more than one size. If you’re in between, or close, to either size recommendations; reflect on the snow conditions you will most likely encounter. A larger snowshoe will perform best in soft, fluffy snow while smaller sizes are great for wet snow or more difficult conditions.
Something else to consider:
Many snowshoes are made to be Unisex but there are also Women specific snowshoes, as well as Kids snowshoes (like the Mini or Spark from Atlas). Women’s snowshoes are typically more narrow and accommodate smaller shoe sizes.
Oh, and what about footwear? We recommend snowshoeing with Waterproof Hiking Boots with ankle support (preferably a Winter Hiking boot with insulation).