Snow Gear

10 Best Snowshoes for Beginners

Why is snowshoeing fun and easy?

Let’s get down to the basics, if you can walk, then you can snowshoe.

It’s a great way to get you and the kids out the house and it’s relatively cheap compared to all the other winter sports.

For instance, when you’re skiing you have to buy skis, poles, shoes, proper pants and jacket, goggles, helmets, and gloves; however, when it comes to snowshoeing, you just need your snowshoes and some basic clothing to protect you against the elements.

Snowshoeing has been around for about 4,000 – 6,000 years and most likely originated in Central Asia.

Nowadays, depending on where you live, it can either be looked at as a recreational hobby or it could be a part of your everyday life.

How do snowshoes work?

Snowshoes were created to make it easier to walk in deep snow, thus drastically improving the time to get from Point A to Point B.

Traditional snowshoes were constructed using a hardwood frame and rawhide lacings. Today’s snowshoes are designed relatively the same way but with more durable materials.

No matter what snowshoes you buy, they all do the same thing; give you better traction and maneuverability in snow.

Wearing snowshoes will give you a wider base when walking on the snow, thus distributing your weight across a broader surface.

This allows you to “float” rather than “sink” when walking on snow.

Of course, the larger the snowshoe base, the more likely you’ll stay on top of the snow, but keep in mind, a larger snowshoe could affect your maneuverability.

10 BEST SNOWSHOES FOR BEGINNERS

Things to consider

Weight

Your weight plays a huge factor as to what snowshoe you need to buy.

Typically, the more you weigh, the larger the snowshoe. Plenty of snowshoe companies label their products with corresponding weight restrictions, so it’s important to look for those before making your purchase.

Also, if you’re going on a multi-day backpacking trip, you’re probably carrying a lot of weight on your backpack, so keep that in mind. Extra weight could affect the type of snowshoe you buy.

Terrain

Besides weight, terrain is probably the most important thing to consider.

Are you going to walk on a trail where the snow is already packed down from human traffic and vehicles, or are you going to snowshoe at a location where you’re going to walk on fresh snow?

The reason why this question is important is because you need to know the kind of traction you’ll need.

Less traction and surface area is needed for packed snow; however, more traction is needed if you’re going to be on fresh, unpacked snow or even ice.

The level of traction you get is dependent upon crampons or cleats; we’ll discuss more of that later.

Other Gear

You can buy the best snowshoes in the market, but it’s not going to do you any good if you don’t wear the proper attire for the weather.

The best thing you can do for yourself is buy waterproof hiking boots.

If don’t already have a pair, check out my buddy’s article on “10 Best Waterproof Hiking Boots under $100.”

Trust me on this, you’ll have a miserable time snowshoeing if snow gets into your shoe and wet your socks and feet. Not only is a good pair of waterproof hiking boots important but also the socks you wear. Your feet are going to do a lot more work while snowshoeing compared to a regular walk.

If you need any recommendations, check out our article on “10 Best Winter Hiking Socks.

Another piece of equipment that you should consider are gaiters. These are essentially a protective cover for your shoes and pants. They typically strap on to your shoes and run up your shines. The idea of gaiters is to protect your shoes and pants from snow. It’s basically an added layer on your legs to keep the snow out.

The final piece of gear that you should consider, especially if you’re going to snowshoe on more treacherous conditions, is a pair of trekking poles. These provide extra stability and balance and can do you wonders on the backcountry. If you don’t want to spend the money on trekking poles, you can always use your ski poles instead.

Gender

I hate to separate men and women but some snowshoes are made better for men, than they are for women and vice versa.

Men snowshoes are usually wider, while females are narrower and can accommodate a smaller shoe size.

Also, in most cases, men walk with their feet pointed out, while females walk with their feet pointed inwards and snowshoes accommodate for that.

By the way, there is absolutely nothing wrong with buying unisex snowshoes, especially if you consider yourself a “normal size” person.

I’m not going to go into what a “normal size” person is but gentlemen, if you’re 6’7” and weight 250lbs, it’s probably best you buy a male specific snowshoe.

And ladies, if you’re 5’0” and 95lbs, there’s a women’s snowshoe out there designed just for you.

Features:

There are 3 main components to a snowshoe; frame, bindings, and traction.

The Frame

The frame should be the first feature you consider when purchasing snowshoes.

As stated earlier, there are so many factors that contribute to the size of your frame such as weight and terrain.

Remember, the larger you are or the harsher the snow conditions, the bigger your frames need to be.

One thing I have yet to mention is that some people wear snowshoes in order to run in the wintertime.

There are snowshoes made specifically for running and these are normally narrower and made from lighter materials.

Bindings

Bindings come with many different designs but they all do the same thing; they have straps to keep your feet connected to the snowshoe.

You want the front straps to be tight but not too tight that it cuts off your circulation.

If you cut off circulation, your feet will get cold quick.

The back heel straps can be adjusted much tighter than the front since there’s no threat of getting your circulation cut off from the back.

It’s definitely wise when buying your snowshoe to bring your waterproof hiking boots with you to ensure a proper fit.

Traction

The amount of traction you’ll need really depends on the terrain you’ll be on.

The crampons or cleats that comes on your snowshoes basically define the amount of traction.

Rule of thumb: IT’S NEVER A BAD THING TO HAVE TOO MUCH TRACTION.

At the end of the day, the whole reason you’re buying snowshoes is for the traction, but of course, the more traction a snowshoe has, the more it’s going to cost.

My snowshoes have a lot of traction because I snowshoe on all types of terrain and I always like to be prepared.

Just remember, less traction is needed if you’re doing a casual walk through the park where there’s packed snow and more traction is needed if you’re going to be on looser snow or ice.

Extra feature – Heel lifts

Heel lifts are not standard but make a dramatic difference if you’re going uphill.

It makes your ascent feel more like a natural stride.

It works by distributing your weight more evenly throughout the deck as you walk uphill.

The best part about heel lifts is that they help reduce fatigue on your calves during those upward ascents.

Now that you have a good idea of how snowshoes operate, let’s take a look at the 10 best snowshoes for beginners.

Keep in mind, this article is for beginners, so affordability and reliability were the two key factors when I created this list.

10 BEST SNOWSHOES FOR BEGINNERS

#1 Chinook Trekker

Chinook Technical Outdoor is a Canadian based company who specializes in developing products for mountaineering and family camping. They’ve been producing these products for over 20 years; in other words, they know what they’re doing, especially when it comes to snowshoeing.

The Chinook Trekker is my ideal snowshoe because it’s lightweight and made with a strong aluminum frame. The frame is designed to make your walks more comfortable and easier. The deck is made from a UV resistant polyethylene and the dual ratchet bindings make it easy to secure your feet to the snowshoe. Most bindings are made from an elastic strap but these ratchet system will give you a more secure fit. If you’ve ever snowboarded before, it’s the same technology that keeps your boots to your snowboard. The best thing about these bindings is that they’re flexible up to – 40°F. The aluminum crampons rotate freely to give you the best-case scenario when seeking traction on snow. It also comes with heel crampons to help you get down mild slopes. This snowshoe is perfect for packed snow and moderate terrains.

Features I like:

  • Affordability
  • Light weight but strong aluminum frame
  • UV resistant polyethylene deck
  • Freeze resistant, dual ratchet bindings
  • Freely rotating crampons

 

#2 Atlas Montane

Atlas is a company who ONLY MAKES SNOWSHOES. They started in 1990 and since then, created some of the most innovative snowshoes on the market. Their shoes have patent suspension technology making your walk easier on technical terrain, a V-frame that pulls less snow as you step forward, and gender specific design. With 19 patents and counting, Atlas should be the first company you look at when buying snowshoes.

I chose the Atlas Montane out of all their snowshoes because it was the most affordable and yet, still has all the innovative features Atlas is known for. It comes with their V-frame, spring-loaded suspension, and even a heel lift bar. This shoe is intended for variable mountainous terrain. It is going to cost you a little more than the rest of the snowshoes on this list but I’m confident, these will be the only pair you’ll ever need.

Features I like:

  • Spring-loaded suspension
  • Patented V-frame for less snow drag
  • Aggressive crampons for added traction
  • Innovative snowshoe company
  • Heel lift bar

 

#3 Tubbs Frontier

Tubbs Snowshoes was founded in 1906 in Maine and is now based out of Seattle, Washington. Just like Atlas, this company only focuses on snowshoes. Tubbs is a pioneer in the snowshoe industry by becoming the first company to produce women’s specific snowshoes in 1998. Not only are they pioneers in the industry, but they are devoted to growth of the snowshoe community by creating programs such as Tubbs Romp to Stomp Out Breast Cancer Snowshoes Series, the Get Outdoors Program and acquiring a large amount of Tubbs Ambassadors. I personally like their ambassadors because these are just everyday people like you and I who love snowshoeing. Tubbs is also part of the K2 Sports family who specializes in winter sports gear.

The Tubbs Frontier is lightweight and strong with aluminum frames and a streamlined shape to make it easier to walk in. This snowshoe is ideal for trail walking and comes in both male and female designs. One thing Tubbs likes to talk about is their Fit-step frame design, which upturns the tail to help reduce strain on your joints and provides a more natural heel-to-toe transition.

Features I like:

  • Streamlined shape of frame
  • Fit-step frame
  • PVC-coated polyester deck
  • Company is a pioneer in the industry

 

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#4 MSR Evo 22

Mountain Safety Research (MSR) was founded in 1969 with one belief: The idea that better, safer, more reliable equipment is the key to unlocking greater adventures. I like this company and what they stand for. Their founder, Larry Penberthy has a lot of respect for the outdoors so he builds his gear to last as long as possible, so he doesn’t use more resources to replace it. MSR mainly makes camping gear but their snowshoes are definitely worth talking about.

There are a lot of interesting features on the MSR Evo 22 that sets it apart from the rest of the snowshoes on this list. For one, they use a UniBody deck, which means the frame and deck are all one piece. This UniBody design also comes with extra grips that work along side the crampons. Next, their DuoFit bindings are freeze-resistant and glove friendly and securely hold your feet to the snowshoes. Finally, perhaps the most interesting feature on this snowshoe is their Modular Floatation Tail. So the snowshoe itself can hold up to 180lbs, but if you add on the tail, it increases the weight capacity to 250lbs, thus dramatically increasing it’s versatility. If you’re going to carry heavier loads or encounter an area with looser snow, adding the tails will make things a lot easier.

Features I like:

  • Modular Floatation Tail
  • Unibody Design
  • DuoFit Bindings
  • Aggressive crampons

 

#5 ALPS All Terrain

These ALPS snowshoes are a great option for beginners, mainly because it also comes with a pair of adjustable, anti-shock trekking poles and carrying tote bag. The frames are made of lightweight Easton aluminum tubing, while the deck is made from a durable Nytex material. The bindings are also a ratchet system but what’s different is that they are molded around the boot to support and pad the arch and ball of the foot, so there are no pressure points. My only issue with these snowshoes is that they only come in 3 sizes, so the weight range is rather large. However, the good news is that if you buy these for your kids, they can definitely grow with the shoes, since the first size ranges from 80-160lbs.

Features I like:

  • Affordability
  • Comes with trekking poles and carrying bag
  • Bindings are design to reduce pressure points
  • Ratchet system for bindings

 

#6 Lucky Bums

Lucky Bums is a family oriented company that makes products for skiing and camping. When they make a product, they always keep the family in mind, especially the little ones. Although they make plenty of products for adults, they really concentrate on kids.

The Lucky Bums Youth and Adult snowshoes are good snowshoes to have. I wouldn’t put them on the top of my list since their largest snowshoe only accommodates people up to 175lbs; but, if you’re buying them for your children, these are amazing. Simple, lightweight and virtually indestructible aluminum frame makes the base of the shoe, while the crampons on the toes and heel provide just enough traction to get through the day. The bindings are a little simpler than the others. It only comes with one ratchet binding for the front that sets across the top of the foot, while a strap is used as a stopper from keeping your foot from slipping forward. Like most Lucky Bums products, it comes with a limited lifetime warranty against defects in materials or workmanship.

Features I like:

  • Virtually indestructible aluminum frame
  • Simple binding system
  • Perfect for kids

 

#7 Winterial Back Trail

Winterial is a relatively new company that started in 2014 in Chico, CA. They make outdoor gear ranging from snowshoes to sleeping bags and hammocks. Their snowshoes are a simple, yet durable product, designed to get you through a good day of hiking.

The Winterial Back Trail Snowshoes are lightweight and durable. These are made with a strong aluminum frame and come with a heel lift to make those uphill ascents easier on your calf muscles. These shoes are mainly for recreational use, which is perfect for beginners and comes with 2 anti-shock poles and a carry bag.

Features I like:

  • Lightweight aluminum frame
  • Heel lift
  • Comes with poles and carry bag

 

#8 Pansel Performance Light Weight

Pansel Outdoors is under the Ningbo Liming Metal Products Co. Ltd, which is in China but Pansel Outdoors itself, is located in Canada. They pretty much make only 2 things, snowshoes and hiking poles, so they obviously know what they’re doing.

The Pansel Performance Light Weight has aluminum T6061 outer tube, while the deck is made of a durable, lightweight material. The bindings are mad from a freeze resistant ratchet system, making it easy to adjust your bindings with or without gloves. Crampons are located on the toe and heel making it perfect for recreational snowshoeing.

Features I like:

  • Ratchet system bindings
  • Lightweight aluminum frame
  • Company only makes snowshoes and hiking poles

 

#9 Enkeeo All Terrain

Enkeeo is an interesting company with a broad spectrum of products ranging from bike pumps to fishing nets to snorkeling gear. They only make one snowshoe and for a beginner, it’s worth taking a look at because if it’s affordability.

The Enkeeo All Terrain snowshoes are designed with you in mind. The tail end of the frame rounds out and becomes slimmer in the back to help reduce snow drag when walking. It comes with a double ratcheting system to ensure a secure fit and this snowshoe is made to last. The frame is made of aluminum alloy and the deck is made of high quality PE.

Features I like:

  • Affordability
  • Double ratcheting system on bindings
  • Streamline design on the frame

 

#10 Flashtek

The Flashtek snowshoes have an ergonomic design, which curves at the tail end to help reduce the dragging effect when walking. The frame is made of aluminum tubing and is protected by a powder coating finish. It has a HDPE decking made of copolymer, which is durable, even in extreme low temperatures. The bindings are made of a double ratchet system to ensure a confident fit.

Features I like:

  • Ergonomic design on the frame
  • HDPE decking – stronger than conventional soft decking
  • Double ratchet system on bindings

 

No matter which snowshoe you decide to purchase, it is an upgrade from your boots. Just because there’s snow out there, doesn’t mean you have to be stuck inside by the fireplace all day. Grab your friends, family, kids and enjoy what mother nature has given you. Just remember to wear proper clothing while outside! Have fun!

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