The 10 Best Snowshoes
This wiki has been updated 17 times since it was first published in February of 2018. Winter won't stop you from hitting your favorite trails when your gear includes a pair of snowshoes. Whether you're looking for a simple afternoon workout or are exploring some serious backcountry terrain, our selections will get you where you want to go. Considering traction, flotation, durability, ease of use, and price, we've found something for everyone, from novices to experts. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
October 19, 2020:
For this update, we've added another budget-friendly pair for beginners, the Alps All-Terrain, which come with a set of poles and bag. While they may not have the durability of the more expensive models, they are ideal for people who want to try the sport but don't want to spend too much. We also added the Atlas Elektra Women's, which gets high marks for its narrower design. They are particularly suited to females who are short or petite.
We've removed the Louis Garneau Blizzard III; although it's still a good set, it doesn't quite have the stellar reviews needed to justify its higher price. You'd be better off with the MSR Revo Explore or the Tubbs Flex VRT Backcountry. We also removed the Atlas Boa Run due to availability issues.
December 23, 2019:
During this most recent update, we decided to remove the Yukon Charlie's Sherpas, which we felt most users would find too heavy to wear comfortably for a long period of time, and the Winterial Back Trails, which have problematic heel straps. Taking the place of these two affordable models are the budget-friendly Chinook 80006 Trekker, which are not only less expensive than the other two, but provide better flotation and have rotating crampons for traction in all directions.
We also replaced a few models with their newest iteration, specifically the MSR Lightning Ascent Ultralights 2018 and Louis Garneau 825 Blizzard II. You'll now find the MSR Lightning Ascent Ultralights 2019 and the Louis Garneau Blizzard III on our list.
The MSR Evo 22s probably represent the best value of any model we recommend when considering their price to performance. Their plastic decks can handle very hard impacts without cracking, even in frigid conditions, and they provide quite impressive flotation for their size.
Two of the most innovative options on our list are the Atlas Boa Run and Crescent Moon Eva. The former, with their spring-loaded suspension system, are specifically designed for runners. This smart feature adds some rebound to your step, making it easier to jog for extended periods of time. The latter, as the name suggests, have decks fully comprised of EVA foam. This makes them one of the most flexible models around, extremely durable, and very lightweight. Plus, they have an ergonomic curved shape that promotes a natural gait.
What Makes Snowshoeing A Superior Winter Sport
You don't need to spend time and money on expensive lessons before you get to enjoy the activity, like most have to do with skiing or snowboarding.
If you've never showshoed before, but you've seen people trekking along the roads with a pair of these wide contraptions strapped to their shoes, you may have wondered why people choose this over skiing or snowboarding. One reason is that some individuals simply don't feel comfortable with fast, downhill sports. Skiing and snowboarding pose certain risks that snowshoeing simply doesn't. You'll never have to worry about coming to a sudden stop or otherwise slamming into a hard object potentially causing an injury, because on snowshoes you're moving at a slow pace the entire time. Compared to snowboarding and skiing, snowshoeing is also quite affordable. In fact, beyond the gear, it's essentially free. You don't need to purchase an expensive lift ticket or pay for costly ski resort parking. All you need is a pretty, public space and you can strap on your snowshoes and start trekking.
Snowshoeing can also be quite social. It's hard to talk to your companions when you're racing down a hill at high speeds on skis or a snowboard. If you've ever been on the slopes and heard skiing companions yelling just to convey one message to each other, you know how solitary the activity typically is. But you can carry on a conversation while snowshoeing with little effort. Another perk of moving slowly is that you can take in the beautiful nature sights or stop to take a photo with your phone or camera. You can't do that if you're racing down a black diamond, unless of course you have an action cam strapped to your body.
Nearly anyone can pick up snowshoeing quickly, too. You don't need to spend time and money on expensive lessons before you get to enjoy the activity, like most have to do with skiing or snowboarding. So long as you can walk, you can snowshoe. That also makes it a great family activity, since it's essentially a beginner-level sport in which both children and adults can participate with little difficulty. Also, snowshoeing lets you enjoy your usual hiking trails when they are covered with powder. Once you get the hang of it, you don't need to mope when you find your favorite paths are snowed-over. Just strap on your snowshoes, and cover that ground with ease.
What To Bring On Your First (And Every) Showshoe Outing
When snowshoeing, as with most activities, it's important to bring the proper gear, or your day in the powder can go from magical to miserable. A good set of poles will be essential to maintaining balance, reducing impact on your knees, and feeling out potential hazards beneath the snow. If you already have regular hiking or skiing poles, you can use those if they allow you to change out the baskets for larger ones. If you don't yet have any set of poles, you can purchase a set specifically for snowshoeing. Consider a pair that is made of strong materials that can support a lot weight, that are height-adjustable, and are capable of folding up for storage.
Even if you only plan on trekking during daylight hours, you never know when you could get lost, and find yourself still snowshoeing after sunset.
You'll also need a quality set of boots. Although the word "shoe" is in snowshoe, they are not actually footwear, but rather the gear you'll attach to your footwear. Make sure your boots are well-insulated to prevent the possibility of frostbite — something to which feet are particularly susceptible and that can lead to loss of appendages. Your boots should be made from water-resistant or waterproof material, too, so no moisture gets inside. If you're planning a particularly long trek, keeping your feet warm is essential. On that note, add thick socks — wool is best — and pack an extra pair just in case your original ones get wet.
Even if you only plan on trekking during daylight hours, you never know when you could get lost, and find yourself still snowshoeing after sunset. Plus, remember that the sun sets earlier during the winter and nightfall can catch you by surprise. This is why it's very important to pack either a flashlight or a head lamp — the latter is ideal, as it leaves your hands free to hold your poles and navigate the terrain. Some other things you'll want with you, whether you plan your outing to run long or not, are snacks. Snowshoeing burns a lot of fuel, so it's important to have sustenance to keep you going.
Staying Safe While Snowshoeing
While snowshoeing is a rather easy activity, it does come with some minimal hazards. You will be out in nature, and that alone poses some risks. Before heading out for the day, always make sure to check the weather conditions. You don't want to find yourself stuck in a blizzard, unable to see your path — especially when you're on backcountry trails void of snow patrol or many other people. You should take notice of avalanche hazard zones. If you see a sign warning of an avalanche zone up ahead, do not follow that path. That being said, each member of your party should still carry an avalanche transceiver, a shovel, and a probe, just in case you unknowingly wander into an unmarked avalanche zone.
Make sure to pack plenty of water and stay hydrated. We don't typically associate dehydration with cold weather, but that's precisely what puts us at a heightened risk of it. Since most people don't feel as thirsty when it's cold out as when its hot, we don't drink as much water and can quickly become dehydrated without realizing it. This can cause you to feel faint and weak, which are two things you don't want to experience when you're trekking out in the wilderness.
If you hope to go far off the beaten path, it's important that you don't get lost. It may seem unlikely, but if you do get lost in the snow, the danger rises quickly, as you could get stuck out there overnight. Do not go on your adventure without a GPS, a topographic map of the region, and a compass to help you find your way back.