When spending time out on the trails or in the mountains, snowshoes are a key piece of gear for winter adventures. They make moving through heavy, deep snow much easier distributing a person's body weight over a large surface area and preventing them from sinking into the snow. When investing in a quality pair of snowshoes, there are a few key factors to keep in mind before making your final purchase.
Snowshoeing can mean all sorts of different things to different people. Maybe you're heading out in untracked powder deep in the mountains or hitting your local rail trail in town. Either way, snowshoes are designed each to perform in a wide variety of terrain, based on how and where you plan to use them this winter. Choose larger snowshoes for light, powdery snow, as they will help keep you afloat.
Snowshoes come in different sizes to provide the right amount of flotation for each person’s weight. In general, the widths are similar, but they get longer to provide more flotation.
Snowshoe brands publish recommended weights for each snowshoe size. This weight isn’t just how much you weigh. It’s the total weight of you, plus your winter clothes, plus the weight of your backpack. Add up these numbers to get your total loaded weight. Heavier people or hikers with lots of gear will need bigger snowshoes.
Women’s snowshoes have a narrower profile and are more tapered. This accommodates the average woman’s stride, which isn’t as wide-set as the average man’s.
If your region is known for fluffy powder, go up a size for more floatation. If you live in an area with heavy, wet snow or usually snowshoe on hard-packed trails, you can use smaller snowshoes.