Just Go Snowshoe


How to Choose a Snowshoe

By Sharon Page October 24, 2006

Snowshoeing is a great way to exercise during the winter and is easy to do. Buying snowshoes is also a lot easier than buying a pair of skiis or a snowboard. There are quite a few snowshoe models on the market all with different bells and whistles but with the same basic principle that snowshoes are made to float on the snow rather than sink. When choosing a snowshoe the most important thing to decide for yourself is what you want to do and what type of terrain you plan on snowshoeing on. For example are you going to stay on trails, snowshoe in the park or heading off trail with long accents and descents.

Helping select the right snowshoe

Flotation

Snowshoes come in different sizes that are based on your weight so that you can find the perfect balance of flotation and maneuverability. Also besides your weight if you plan to carry a backpack that is also considered part of the weight you carry on the snowshoes. The heavier a person is the bigger the snowshoe needs to be so that the snowshoes have a wider surface to float on the surface of the snow.

If you find that you are between sizes because you are carrying a backpack then on some snowshoes you can add a flotation tail so that you get the surface area needed without going up an extra size.

Materials

Most snowshoes have a aluminum frame with a waterproof decking. There are a couple of snowshoe manufactures that use plastic as the overall material of the snowshoe. A aluminum frame with a waterproof decking is lighter weight than plastic and generally get a wider surface area for flotation. Plastic snowshoes last longer and have a less chance of breaking on the trail.

Binding

The binding on a snowshoe is important for toe to heel support so that you get a combination of comfort and control. If you plan on staying on the trails you will find with most snowshoes intended for trail use that it will be a fixed binding with an easy adjust to get in and out of the binding. For off trail use the binding generally will be a binding that rotates with your boot so that you get the control descending steep terrain and save energy. Off trail bindings will also have a heel lift to reduce fatigue on long ascents and makes climbing easier and more efficient.

Crampons

Traction is really important on any snowshoe, especially when you are on steep ascents. Most snowshoes have some sort of crampon for extra traction and support on steep and icy conditions. With on trail snowshoes the crampons are generally fixed and placed under the foot for maximum grip throughout the stride. With off trail snowshoes the crampons will pivot with your foot and dig into the snow or ice as you descent or ascent.

Your Activity

Trail Adventure

Primarily packed snow, gently rolling terrain. This is the snowshoer who wants to go on local trails or the park. The snowshoes are made for packed trails and all round trail use.

Day Hiking

Packed and powder snow conditions with moderate to steep terrain. The snowshoes are designed with a more beefy binding and crampons than can be handle both on and off the trail terrain.

Backcountry

These snowshoes are designed for deep powder, untracked snow and steep terrain. The materials are made to take the conditions they are going into and will have more micro adjustments for more control on steep terrain.

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