How To Buy Snowshoes
Snowshoes come in a variety of shapes, sizes and weights, and have a number of different strap features and functions, but for the most part, they are all mostly similar. The purpose of snowshoes is to keep you from sinking into deep snow and to make it easier to walk in snow conditions.
Floatation: the main thing to take into account when buying snowshoes is your size and weight. A smaller person can get away with a smaller, lighter pair of snowshoes, but a bigger person should always opt for a pair with more floatation (ie bigger) so they can stay atop the snow. Smaller snowshoes are best for lightweight people and kids, or someone who is looking to cut down on weight and expects to carry the snowshoes a portion of the hike. If you plan to backpack in the snow, add the weight of your winter pack to your own weight when deciding how much floatation you need. Additionally, look at the material the snowshoe is made from. Hypalon or other waterproof, sturdy materials will make the best base, rather than a nylon or webbing bottom.
Strap systems: This is where inexpensive and expensive snowshoes mostly differ. The strap systems are what keep the snowshoes attached to your shoes (and therefore attached to you). And strap systems are not all created equally. Some strap systems are one long strap that zigzags back and forth. Some are made of nylon, while others use plastic. The best advice is to try on a cheap pair and try on a fancy expensive pair with the shoes you plan to hike in, and walk around. See which pair holds your feet in place. If one of them feels sloppy, definitely avoid that pair. If you are buying snowshoes for short hikes and to get around in the snow, it is less important how they stay on than if you are planning to use them for longer hikes carrying a heavy pack. It’s also really nice to have the buckles be on the outside of your feet so that you don’t hit them while you’re walking.
Traction: Almost all (good) snowshoes come with teeth on the bottom that help give you traction in the snow or on icy surfaces. If a pair of snowshoes you are eyeing doesn’t come with some metal teeth on the bottom, look elsewhere. It’s a necessary feature even on ungroomed surfaces since there will likely be icy spots.
Manufacturers: While there are many snowshoe manufacturers, most of them make inexpensive as well as pricier snowshoes, so it is better to consider a specific model and compare it with an equally priced model and see which one will work better for you.
A few well-known companies are MSR, Atlas, Tubbs, and RedFeather,