Step Up: The 6 Best Snowshoes

Aug 10, 2015

Category: Gear

Snowshoes have come a long way since the tennis rackets that trappers used to use. Now they are streamlined and smooth, employing the latest technology to make them more comfortable and more effective so that alpine explorers of every shape and size can head into the wilderness and tread on the drifting white without fear of disappearing forever. Believe it or not, it is possible to find a pair that minimize the effort needed to use them and look good while doing it.

The key to modern snowshoes is in pliability. You need a pair that isn’t too rigid or stiff. This can be accomplished in a number of ways. The bindings can offer mobility so you aren’t strapped and trapped to the deck. The frame itself can bend and put a spring in your step while not forcing you to slog along. Whatever method you choose, make sure to find the right mixture – whether you plan on walking along powder, ice, or slushier mixes where sinking is inevitable. When you’re ready to go walking in a winter wonderland, try one of our picks for the 6 best snowshoes.

MSR Evo Ascent

MSR Evo Ascent

Pro: Works with any boots or shoes
Con: Limited foot security when going down

Adapt and Survive: MSR makes everything you need for survival in the wilderness – from camping stoves to tents – but their snowshoes are truly a marvel. The Ascent model is built to handle most conditions so that even if the powder your were treading hardens or suddenly turns to muck you’ll be able to keep on. If you do run into a place that the shoes can’t handle, the quick release pull tabs let you snap them off even while wearing your thickest winter gloves. The construction of the Ascent will give you improved traction while operating on an incline which helps prevent backsliding, slipping, and falling. The bindings work with nearly any footwear equally well while the ability to add 6 inch tails gives you improved flotation if you’re headed out during the coldest parts of the season. The lack of a toe bail is the only real flaw since your foot isn’t as secure during descents as it is when climbing. [Purchase: $200]

Atlas 1025

Atlas 1025

Pro: Lightweight
Con: Straps tend to snag

Go Deeper: Taking on snow can turn the simplest hike into a fight for survival. The tapered tail on the 1025s coupled with the aluminum frame help shed any material that wants to try to hitch a ride on your heels. Beginners will find the maneuverability simple and smooth while the lighter body lets them walk tall without fatigue. The crampons are steel and work passably well during climbs, though the overall sense is that these were made for flatter surfaces and deeper drifts, rather than tough climbs. The deck is nytex that is more comfortable for longer hikes but not sufficiently aggressive for anyone looking to be king of the hill. The straps do have a tendency to get caught on branches and bushes since they aren’t as stiff as they could be. [Purchase: $199]

Tubbs Xpedition

Tubbs Xpedition

Pro: Carbon steel crampons
Con: Limited life span

Off the Path: Everything about the Xpedition is meant to make your walk as comfortable as possible for those times when you’re planning on going cross country and hitting every rough and rugged contour you can see. The aluminum body is aircraft grade which makes it a tough customer, but the mesh doesn’t bounce or jostle. The crampons are carbon steel with deep, jagged teeth that bite hard and stick well, though not sufficiently for challenging ascents on icy surfaces. The soft, supple body isn’t too springy to be comfortable but does have a tendency to break down quickly. They also have trouble handling heavier walkers, so big guys might need something a little bit less delicate while smaller buyers will enjoy the lack of additional weight. [Purchase: $240]

Atlas Run

Atlas Run

Pro: Allows for fast movement
Con: Limited traction for climbing

Speed Freak: Forget clomping around like bigfoot, it’s time for a shoe that lets you move with grace, ease, and quickness. The suspension on the Runs is spring loaded so your foot doesn’t sink, it bounces back ready for more action as soon as you plant it. The flexible crossed bindings give you maximum articulation so that when you’re moving at speed you’ll never be tripped up by too many parts. The crampons are good for giving you traction, but aren’t as deep or as heavy as some which means you can find yourself sliding if you aren’t sure what you’re doing. Certainly not for beginners since only the experienced will be able to get the most out of them. The bindings work better with shoes so leave your winter boots at home lest you find them cramping your style, and your calves. If you want something a little heavier without sacrificing swiftness, you can try the Fitness from Atlas. [Purchase: $219]

TSL Symbioz Elite

TSL Symbioz Elite

Pro: Extremely adjustable
Con: Complicated

High Tech: Don’t let the weird scooped body turn you off. The Elites are the best technical offering on the market. That strange design gives them superior ability to cope with changing terrain while also working with your natural stride to give you a better rhythm and limiting exhaustion. The more experience you have the easier you will find any of the Symbioz line to use. The multiple traction points let you climb with ease though they require some patience and practice to get used to. There are 8 interchangeable crampons so you can customize your experience depending on the kind of snow you expect to encounter. The release system is easy to use, though it too will take a little while before it becomes second nature. The deck size is a little restricted which can cause you to sink, so coupling them with a good set of trekking poles would be a good bet. [Purchase: $289]

Louis Garneau Yeti 825

Louis Garneau Yeti 825

Pro: Easy to use
Con: Smaller crampons

All Conditions: The Yeti 825 aren’t the prettiest part of the pack, but they are one of the best for people who don’t know where they’re going to end up next. From the slick, sliding snows of the pacific northwest to the hard, icy pack of Canada, the 825s are up for any challenge. The bindings are easy to use so that beginners could strap in and stride away while allowing the experienced to do a little more adjusting. The shoes almost never drug or picked up unwanted snow so even casual walkers and hikers won’t have any difficulty moving around. A little pricey since they are built with beginners in mind, but a worthy investment if snowshoeing is something you plan on growing into. The light aluminum frame floated perfectly over fresh snow. If you can’t wait to get out there, these are a perfect purchase. [Purchase: $250]

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