When you’re slogging away in deep powder without snowshoes and your foot disappears a foot or more below the surface, that’s called ‘post holing’. If you add a heavy pack full of winter camping gear or a bloated daypack on your shoulders, you’ve got even more grief on your hands.
Snowshoes lessen that sinking feeling by spreading your weight over a greater area with flotation. Instead of ‘post holing’ in the deep white fluff, they help you move more freely over the snow. Wearing them gives you access to what might otherwise be a no go zone in winter.
THE LATEST TECHNOLOGY – WHAT TO KNOW
If your last snowshoeing experience involved walking around with what felt like two giant tennis racquets strapped to your feet then you’re in for a surprise. The new models are radically different from those wooden snowshoes that look so good over a fireplace. The classic wooden snowshoes have large surface areas that give solid flotation in the deep white stuff. Hunters also like them because they make natural sounds in the bush which is less likely to scare off game. Nonetheless, today’s designs are lighter, less awkward and give you greater traction on hills and icy surfaces.
Sizing snowshoes is based on your body weight. The more weight they have to carry, the more surface area you’re going to need for the best possible flotation. Also consider whatever weight you’ll be carrying and the type of terrain you expect to be in most of the time.
If packed trails are where you’re headed, you can afford to size on the short side. You’ll have better maneuverability and less weight on your feet which will quicken your pace.
If exploring off trail is your pleasure, stick to brand suggestions in terms of size and remember to factor in pack weight and snow depth. A longer shoe will certainly give you the best possible flotation, but with some of the mammoth sized models available it may seem like walking around with two planks strapped to your feet. Try and find the happy medium.
USEFUL TIPS YOU MAY NOT HAVE CONSIDERED
For better climbing, most brands offer models that use a heel lift. When it’s engaged your heel rests on top of a bar across the rear of the snowshoe. On steep ascents, it prevents overextending the back of your calves which means less strain, especially on sustained climbs. They also keep the tails down and weight on the teeth of the rear crampons giving them more of a bite. The benefit is solid traction even in icy conditions.
Where the brands differ is the types of bindings used. Some have ratchet style systems similar to a snowboard while others use designs based on nylon webbing and plastic cradles. If you plan on climbing a lot look for a binding that holds your boots securely so you can trust your footing. You don’t want to be walking like a drunken toddler on steep ascents or tricky traverses. Otherwise, choose a binding that you’re comfortable using and fits your boots properly.Best snowshoes Accessories for snowshoes
HELPFUL ACCESSORIES FOR SNOWSHOEING
- A snowshoe bag
- Trekking poles
While you’re snowshoeing trekking poles can give you greater balance and stability. They also give your upper body a bit of a work out.
In terms of mastering the basic skills of snowshoeing, there’s not much more to learn than putting one foot in front of the other. For runners, there are even snowshoes designed to keep you running even in the snow. It’s the kind of sport that can be as relaxing or intense as you like. The best part is it gets you outside in the colder months and you can do it anywhere.