Choosing the right Snowshoes

Our friends at put together some great tips on how to find the right snowshoes for your winter adventures. Check it out below!

–Romp Team

When getting your driver’s license or talking to a friend, a little white lie about your weight is no big deal. When purchasing a pair of snowshoes however, honesty is the golden rule. Snowshoes are built and designed to provide flotation and traction when walking on snow or ice. The length and width of the snowshoe and its proportion to your body weight will determine the level of performance. Don’t forget to consider how much gear you plan to carry along with you. Add that to your current body weight and choose a snowshoe that fits accordingly. If you are right at the cusp of sizes, you have a few options. A smaller snowshoe will offer greater maneuverability while a larger one will help you float higher and above deep snow.

Not sure what style of snowshoe is best for you?

Recreational/Trekking Snowshoes:
If you are a beginner, recreational snowshoes are generally the way to go. Ideal for gentle to moderate terrain, this type of snowshoe offers a forgiving shape. Recreational snowshoes are favorable for hiking on groomed trails and have a less aggressive crampon.

Backcountry Snowshoes:
Backcountry snowshoes are designed for more advanced terrain and more extreme conditions. Made from lightweight and extremely durable frame and decking materials, these snowshoes are designed to be effective in anything from deep powder to steep icy slopes. Typically equipped with easy to adjust bindings, backcountry snowshoes often come with a “heel lift bar” that can be clipped in the “up” position when traveling up a long steep incline to reduce calf fatigue. More aggressive and durable crampon designs and materials provide stable traction on the most treacherous terrain. These snowshoes know no bounds when it comes to hardcore backcountry terrain.

Women Specific Snowshoes:
Many women wonder if they HAVE to get snowshoes that are specifically designed for them. The answer is no, but female specific snowshoes have additional features that many women find helpful. Women and men differ in their body shape and in their stride. Women tend to have a narrower stride, and find that the men’s snowshoes annoyingly clank together mid-step. Made with a more tapered cut, female specific snowshoes are usually narrower and have slightly different bindings to accommodate a womanly stride.

Race Snowshoes:
Race snowshoes fall in a class all their own. Usually ultra light, these snowshoes have a tapered tail to accommodate speed and agility in the snow. When aiming for speed and maneuverability on a trail or in a race, you’ll likely find less of a need for floatability making race snowshoes your best option.

Some accessories you might find handy!

Poles are the number one snowshoe accessory, and for good reason. Not only are they helpful on the ascent, but they provide stability and balance when descending as well as when walking on flat ground. Using poles also helps you get a full-body workout; it’s like having 4-wheel-drive. Many poles come with removable baskets, so you can use a powder basket in the winter and a trekking basket in the summer to get year-round use out of your new poles.

No one wants to be three miles out and feel their toes start to get wet, whether from leakage or sweaty feet. Recreational snowshoers who hike primarily on groomed trails can wear just about any type of shoe that is appropriate for the temperature. Snowshoe bindings are made to accommodate anything from a tennis shoe to a snowboard boot. Snowshoers who prefer to get off the groomed trail and blaze their own will benefit from a good pair of waterproof and breathable shoes or boots. Synthetic socks that are quick-drying and breathable will help your feet stay dry during long strenuous hikes. A pair of gaiters is an essential component of any snowshoe system. Gaiters keep the snow out of your shoes and/or boots and also keep the bottom of your pants dry and protected from getting snagged on branches.

When traveling outside in the winter, it’s better to be a little on the warm side than to be cold. Be sure to pack enough layers to keep you warm and comfortable throughout the entire day. Heat and moisture management are important parts of staying warm, dry, and comfortable. In the mountains we have a saying, “cotton kills.” This comes from the fact that cotton does not dry quickly nor does it retain insulation properties when it becomes wet. A waterproof and breathable shell combined with synthetic quick-dry and breathable clothing will allow heat and moisture to transfer away from your body through your clothing and jacket to the outside where it can evaporate. Hats and gloves are also very important, as 90% of your body heat escapes through your head. A good layering system allows you to add or remove clothing so that you remain at a comfortable temperature despite changing weather conditions.

Some friendly reminders:

  • Be prepared. Know where you are going and take what you need.
  • Practice “Leave No Trace” travel principles. Take only pictures and leave only footprints (big ones).
  • Stay away from thin ice. Do not walk over any bodies of water unless you are 110% certain it will hold your weight.
  • Keep in mind that there are things below the snow that you can’t see. Hidden hazards like barbed wire can cause a serious accident.
  • If you head off trail, be sure you know where you are, and your fastest way back. Avalanches are real hazards when traveling in the backcountry. Seek out professional training; carry and know how to use avalanche response equipment if you will be traveling in avalanche terrain. Finally, never travel in avalanche terrain alone.
  • Tell someone where you are going, who you will be with, and when you plan to return. Having a buddy that is not on the trail with you can be an invaluable resource if you get lost or have an accident.

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