So, you love hiking and running trails during the summer, but then winter comes along and puts a damper on your favorite pastime. Well instead of sitting inside all winter waiting for the snow to melt, why don’t you look at getting a pair of snowshoes so you can continue to enjoy your favorite hiking trails even in the winter. Snowshoes provide you with solid traction to ensure you can enjoy your favorite hikes even when there are a couple feet of snow on the ground. So for your next winter adventure, get some snowshoes and start exploring!
Now when looking at snowshoes there is so many on the market, it can be overwhelming looking for the perfect pair that will fit your needs and be suitable for the terrain you will find yourself exploring. Not to mention that winter can bring some unexpected weather, so it is good to have a pair of snowshoes that will provide you with the traction you will need to overcome any obstacle. We have saved you some time and listed the top ten snowshoes of 2018, and why they made our list. We have also listed some criteria to keep in mind to assist you in finding your perfect pair.
- Tubbs Flex VRT
- Good range of motion
- MSR Lightning Ascent
- Great traction
- Atlas Montane
- Great crampon tech
10 Best Snowshoes
Tubbs Flex VRT
The Tubbs Flex VRT Snowshoes are made to be comfortable, and these snowshoes cinch very evenly on your foot, so you won’t have any problems with feeling uncomfortable pressure points as you move. While these snowshoes do run a bit short at only twenty-four inches, they do give you a lot of mobility when you move.
Made for backcountry adventures, you’ll get a lot of performance on different types of terrain, and a lot of versatility with these snowshoes. Designed with Flex Tail technology, these snowshoes also do a great job of absorbing impact so that your body won’t feel fatigue or too much impact as you move.
The Tubbs Flex VRT Snowshoes are also made to be very lightweight, which helps cut back on your fatigue level and also makes it easy to wear them on longer adventures. Plus, they are easy-to-adjust and come with a great fit, which will boost your performance no matter where you decide to go.
- Good range of motion
- Good fit
- Not great at floating
- Can feel narrow
MSR Lightning Ascent
MSR’s Lightning Ascent Snowshoes are built to handle ice well, but also can grab onto snow when it’s powdery, handling a variety of terrain and different weather conditions with ease. Designed with a light nylon decking, the weight of these snowshoes tips the scales about four pounds, making this a very lightweight option.
The lightweight design of these snowshoes will help keep your fatigue level down if you have to travel far, and the straps on these snowshoes are also made to keep your feet comfortable. Designed to ensure an accurate fit on your fit, you’ll feel like you can go anywhere with these snowshoes on.
MSR’s Lightning Ascent Snowshoes are made with a 360-degree traction frame so that you get an excellent grip and a balancing affect from these shoes. Also, the AT bindings are made to be secure and won’t ever freeze while you wear them.
- Great traction.
- Can feel narrow in deep powder.
- Could have a better binding system.
Designed with a traditional teardrop shape, Atlas’s Montane Snowshoes come with a Spring-Loaded Suspension which helps boost both your stability and your ability to move while out on the snow. These snowshoes also have simple, easy-to-use bindings that are easily tightened over your feet, so the snowshoe design offers several quality features.
Atlas also designed their Montane Snowshoes with a crampon that has one large claw and traction bars on both sides, meaning these snowshoes are great in icy conditions, especially for their price. If you plan on handling powdery snow, you can buy the Montane in longer versions.
Atlas’s Montane Snowshoes are also made with Nytex Decking and feature a Wrapp Swift Binding for added durability. With enough versatility to get you everywhere you’ll need to go, these snowshoes give you a lot of great features for their price.
- Spring-Loaded Suspension
- Great crampon technology
- Can be too much on easy trails
- Can feel heavy
MSR Evo 22
MSR’s Evo Snowshoes are made with solid toe crampons and side rails of steel, so they are strong and durable, even though they don’t cost too much. They do run a bit short, meaning they don’t perform as well in powder as some other options, but you can purchase optional six-inch tails to help improve this feature if you want.
Designed to be lightweight with weather-resistant features and excellent traction, you’ll get the grip you need while still getting the stability and control you’ll need to perform well as you hike. Also, these snowshoes are made with a DuoFit binding that helps handle rolling terrain well.
With brake bard and steel traction rails both molded right into the snowshoe decks, you’ll get a great fit and a lot of comfort with these snowshoes. Plus, the Modular Flotation technology built into these snowshoes gives you a snowshoe you can maneuver easily.
- Good performance
- Nice traction
- Binding system could be more comfortable
- Snowshoes could be more durable
Crescent Moon Gold 10
Crescent Moon’s Gold 10 Snowshoes are some of the best and highest quality snowshoes available on the market today. These snowshoes have five additional inches on them when compared to the popular Gold 9 version, and also include an extra set of claws on them.
These snowshoes are able to handle a bevy of terrain and weather conditions, from trails to hills in either the ice or powdery snow. Also, these snowshoes are made with a nice shape that feels athletic and flexible, helping you stay comfortable as you move.
Made with SPL bindings, these snowshoes will help keep your weight distributed equally over your feet as you move. Also, the TGS decking material built into these shoes keeps them stable and strong, and also helps to extend their lifetime so you’ll get a lot of use out of these snowshoes.
- Great binding comfort
- Handles a variety of conditions
- Traction could be better
- Could be more grippy on some types of terrain
Crescent Moon Gold 13 for Women
They are built to be light weight and responsive to your movement, so that trekking in the snow doesn't feel heavy or burdensome. Along with this, the binding system is a Single Pull Loop that has been toted as one of the best in the industry. The binds are made of a polymer that is flexible and wraps around your feet. This system ensures that your feet are firmly in place, and you can tighten or loosen it to fit your needs with only one hand.
The traction system of these snow shoes is also excellent and reviewers agree. With the aggressive crampon stainless steel traction, you will feel able to maneuver over the snow confidently.
Overall, these Crescent Moon Gold Snow Shoes are an optimal choice for women based on their unique design, shape, and maneuverability.
- Uniquely designed for women
- Made in Colorado
- A smaller model might be more suitable for groomed trails
Atlas Aspect Snowshoes
The Spring Loaded Suspension, or SLS, is a patented design suspends the Aspect shoes so they are close under foot, and this makes them responsive and offers freedom of movement for a more natural stride.
Overall, these snowshoes are designed to optimize surface coverage, durable, and responsive, and the unique shape created by Atlas means that less snow will be pulled in to slow you down.
These are a solid option for any mountaineer, but it should be kept in mind that they have been created with the intention of fitting bigger boots.
- Well made
- Great traction
- Comes with a strap for packing
- Some found the design of the crampons to be frustrating and not back country suitable
TSL Symbioz Elite Snowshoe
These TSL's feature a Hyper Flex technology that allows the frame to properly conform to almost any terrain while offering substantial grip. Along with this, the memory toe binding system allows you to customize the length you desire in just a matter of seconds. And the TSL Symbioz Elite has a ratcheting strap that you use to customize a secure and comfortable fit.
Overall, the TSL Symbioz Elite Snowshoe is definitely a step in the right direction for a cutting edge, quality product that boasts comfort, quality, traction, and stability.
- Great traction
- They may not be suited for soft snow because of narrow profile
Louis Garneau Blizzard II
One large pro of these particular snowshoes is that they are versatile in that they fit all sizes of boots needed for different weather conditions, whether it be a less intense boot for milder weather or a sturdy boot for deep winter.
As far as control goes, these snowshoes should remain sturdy on your feet and won't feel loose or unresponsive on a longer trip outdoors. This secure fit provides you with a more responsive and controlled snowshoe.
As far as the BOA closure, it is speedy, easily adjustable, and usable with gloves, too.
Testers have said that the crampons do a good job of punching through snow, and that these snowshoes provide excellent traction for various terrains, such as compact or icy conditions.
One hallmark of these snowshoes is their floatability. They should keep you from sinking in most cases; however, if you are a larger person who weighs a bit more, some sinking is to be expected. Because of their design, the company has toted these particular shoes as having good floatability, and have the capability to be used in deeper snow.
- Great mobility
- Inconsistent reviews and feedback on traction performance
Chinook designed their Trekker Snowshoes to be basic and simple, so they are easy-to-use and great for newbies using snowshoes. They are excellent for those who want to try snowshoes for the first time, and come with enough features to keep you having fun all day long.
Designed to be lightweight so you won’t feel fatigue as you move, these snowshoes also feature a strong aluminum frame that is also made to be comfortable for easy walks. They also feature UV resistant polyethylene decking, and the dual ratchet bindings and heel straps on these snowshoes are very easy to use and adjust, giving you great comfort and boosting your performance.
Chinook’s Trekker Snowshoes also come with a carry bag with backpack straps, side handles, mesh ventilation, and Velcro pole carriers. They perform well in the snow, and offer you just want you need to start out in the sport.
- Good starter shoe
- Could be built better
- Bindings and crampons could be more durable.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
There are a few different criteria points you’ll want to take a look at when selecting the best snow shoes to meet your needs. We’ll cover these points in a bit more detail below so you understand exactly what you’ll need to consider before purchasing snow shoes.
Snowshoe Terrain and Weather Factors
When trying to select what the best snow shoes will be for your needs, you want to consider what types of places you’ll be going when you have your snow shoes on, and what the terrain and weather conditions will be like. So, first evaluate whether or not you plan to hit the trails only, backcountry only, or a combination of both.
Shoes designed for regular hiking trails tend to be designed for more mobility, meaning they run shorter and don’t float as well. So, you’ll get the traction and support you need for trails, but not if you know you’ll be handling powdery snow conditions.
If you plan on hitting the backcountry in your snow shoes, you’ll probably need to consider snow shoes that are longer in length. Snow shoes that are longer tend to offer less mobility but perform better in backcountry conditions and can float well in powdery snow, so there is a tradeoff here.
Some snow shoes are designed to handle both conditions, but can cost you more for their versatility. So, if you know you’ll only be hitting the trails, you can save a bit of money by purchasing snow shoes that are designed to handle trails only.
Some snow shoes are designed specifically for either trail or backcountry trips only. A good backcountry snowshoe, like the Crescent Moon Gold 10 mentioned on our list above, comes with a longer length to help you float better in powder, and also come with a lightweight design to prevent fatigue when you’re tackling the major terrain. Backcountry snow shoes also focus on giving you great traction and offer other benefits like heel lifts for taking on a deep terrain.
Other shoes come designed for runners and racers, and are made to be very lightweight and help you run or trail job during the wintertime. Most snow shoes developed for running and racing conditions are made to be comfortable with traction that will help keep you going all day long.
If you get snow shoes that are more specialized for the backcountry or running, they can cost you a bit more, so make sure you need that level of snow shoes before you invest in your purchase. If you don’t need specialty snow shoes, you’ll be able to save a little more money on your purchase.
Snowshoes for Your Weight
After you understand what types of snow shoes you need (trail, backcountry, or otherwise), the next step is to figure out what length you’ll need in your snow shoes. Depending on what snow conditions you will encounter, you need to think about whether or not you need something longer to float over the powdery snow if you are likely to run into that type of snow where you plan on adventuring.
In our snowshoe list above, we’ve got a wide range of length options made by various manufacturers. Some run as short as twenty-two inches, while some are as long as thirty-six inches. Shorter snow shoes work best when you’re on the trail, and your longer snow shoes will help you tackle backcountry snow. However, you also need to factor in your weight when you’re trying to figure out the length, since most snowshoes come with a recommended weight range, called the “recommended load” which factors in body weight and carry weight, and lets you know where your weight range will fall. If you are a heavier person, you’ll need longer snow shoes to keep you floating on the powdery snow, and remember to also factor in the weight that you’ll be carrying. A few snowshoe designs feature optional tails you can purchase, which can help add length to your snow shoes when you need it.
The last thing you need to be careful of is factoring in snowshoe length only based on weight, and without thinking about the snow conditions you’ll discover when you are out and about. Depending on where you live, you’ll encounter different types of snow conditions. In the Mid-West and Pacific Northwest, you’ll get a mix of hard and powdery snow, while some areas in the East are harder, and areas in the West typically get more powdery snow. The type of snow you usually find where you’ll be adventuring is an important factor, and if you know you live in an area that usually has more powdery snow, then you’ll want to make sure you also consider the length you’ll need to float as well as your weight. On the other hand, if you know you’ll be on hardpack snow only, you won’t need to worry so much about flotation in your snowshoes.
Snowshoe bindings are another important feature to consider because they will dictate both your level of comfort and stability, depending on the quality of the bindings. Bindings that are higher-quality will keep your feet in place with a lot of comfort for many hours on the trail without you needing to adjust their fit. So, the better the bindings, the better your snowshoes will feel, and the less frustration you will experience.
Different manufacturers use a variety of binding methods on their different snowshoe styles, and you’ll find a lot of differentiation between brands when looking at bindings. However, typically, the easier the bindings are to adjust and the more comfortable they are, they more expensive they cost.
If you are shopping on a budget, bindings are still something you want to consider when you make your decision. If you know you won’t be out on the snow for long periods of time, then you may not need something that supports you as well as somebody who plans to be out on the trails for many hours. Depending on your style on the trails, you’ll need to consider exactly what you need with this feature.
Snowshoe Straps and Single Pull-Ons
Your typical, standard binding style usually features a plastic wraparound feature that is set in place with webbing or straps placed over the foot and around the heel to keep your foot in place. Different designers use different types of straps and bindings, although many do follow the more traditional method. MSR’s snow shoes usually features strap systems, while Crescent Moon’s snow shoes, on the other hand, has a single pull loop system.
The bindings you find on your snow shoes will also affect your comfort level when you are out in the snow or ice, and how good the bindings are will affect your performance overall. However, bindings themselves aren’t always equal to the quality of the snowshoe. For example, MSR makes great snow shoes, but their binding systems aren’t typically as stellar as those offered by some other brands.
With MSR, you get bindings that lay flat and the idea is it’s easier to carry items on your back this way, but the way the system is designed affects comfort and stability overall. So, different brands do develop their bindings with different trail and backcountry methods in mind, and it’s important to factor that into your decision.
Depending on how you feel about the comfort level and the adjustability of your straps, bindings and their usefulness can vary based on personal preference. It would be a good idea to figure out what types of snow shoes you are interested in and try them on to check out the bindings.
Some snow shoes are designed with the boa system to help the shoes fit better, and to also adjust more easily. Boa systems are made to function in the classic wrapped style, and traditional webbing replaced with wiring that can easily be tightened simply by turning a dial. Once you turn that dial, the system will cinch down and you’ll feel your snow shoes even out while also experiencing a boost in comfort. Boa systems originally came from designers like Tubbs and Louis Garneau, and are becoming a popular feature to have in snow shoes that’s available on the market today.
The boa system on a snowshoe will make it very easy to get the shoes on and off, even with your gloves on, so they are a useful item to have. It can be difficult sometimes to make the boa sit right on your feet since you can’t make minor adjustments to it, but this doesn’t seem to be a major turn-off to the way snowshoe boas are designed. Most people prefer to have them if they are available in the snowshoe desired, but they do tend to make the snow shoes cost a bit more. So, deciding on a snowshoe boa can depend on your budget, and whether or not you feel you really need it.
Traction is another important feature you’ll want to consider before you purchase your snow shoes. No matter where you plan to hike, you want to ensure you’re getting a pair of snowshoes that give you plenty of traction so you have the grip and stability you need when you’re out on the snow or ice.
Depending on the brand and style of snowshoe you decide to buy, the type of traction you’ll get can really vary. Price can also affect the level of traction you get, since models that cost less are designed with a small steel crampon on your toe and some cleats on your foot, but not much else in the way of traction.
If you do need snow shoes with a lot of traction because you’ll be out in adverse conditions, you’ll want to make sure you get the level or traction you really need so you have the comfort and support you want. Less traction can be fine for flatter trail type hiking, but if you’re out when it’s very snowy, you’ll need more traction in your snow shoes.
Some backcountry snow shoes are designed with frame rails that have rails length-wise on the sides of the snow shoes, which helps give you a lot of stability and support on steep hills. Having better traction is really necessary if you know you’ll be going up and down steep hills. Most backcountry snow shoes are made with frame rails to help increase your support, and these frame rails work well not only in powdery snow, but in thick, hard-packed snow or icy conditions as well.
Also, when looking into snowshoe traction, you’ll want to also look at materials used to create the grip. Some brands use lower-quality aluminum teeth, and these types of teeth won’t be strong enough to give you the traction you need if you will be on steep hills, in powdery snow, or going up and down steep hills. The best types of snowshoes come with stainless steel bindings to increase traction, and while this can cost more, you won’t want to skimp out on the price for this if you need to hit harder climates and terrains.
Q: What do I need to know about Snowshoe frames and decking?
As far as snowshoe frame and decking is concerned, you’ll be dealing with two categories. Either your snowshoes will provide you with an aluminum outer frame made with flexible nylon decking, or you’ll get a frameless solid deck that’s comprised of plastic or other composite materials. Some brands have created hybrid versions that combine features of both, usually utilizing an aluminum frame and a plastic tail.
- Aluminum is the more classic style of frame that most people already recognize and know when they purchase their snow shoes. Aluminum-framed snow shoes give a lot of efficiency in their design, and can keep you safe from obstacles and hazards while still keeping your feet comfortable for many hours on the snow. However, these types of snow shoes typically don’t offer a great level of traction unless you’re willing to pay more and buy a better model. When compared to plastic, the weight and traction you’ll get with aluminum will feel lacking. Also, materials used on aluminum-framed snow shoes are also not as durable and can tear or malfunction more easily. However, if you do buy a pair from a quality brand like the ones we have discussed on your list, you’ll probably get more out of your snow shoes.
- Plastic or composite. Plastic and composite decking usually costs less than good aluminum frames, and also allow you to add more traction to them if you need them. Plastic is not as strong as aluminum, however, and can break or malfunction more easily. Also, plastic frames can sound noisier in the snow—which is something you’ll need to decide if you can deal with, since plastic has a louder heel impact, especially if you are walking on snow that is hard packed. So, with plastic, you get something that’s cheap and easy to add traction to, but has less durability than aluminum.
In the end, the type of snowshoe frames and decking you pick will depend on where you plan to be, how often you’ll use your snow shoes, and the level of durability you really need. You’ll be able to figure out if you want extra durability or traction, and then you can factor in where you’ll be when on the trails. With that in mind, you should be able to make an easier decision about what snow shoes to purchase.
Q: How do heel lifts and climb bars on snowshoes help?
Heel lifts are generally found on higher-end recreational snowshoes, as well as pretty much all backcountry snowshoe you’ll find on the market. Heel lifts are the metal bar you’ll find underneath the heel area, and you can raise them up and lock them in place when you climb. If you know you’ll be hiking on some steep terrain, heel lifts can really help when you are going uphill on a steep mountain.
The raised bar on snow shoes with heel lifts will help keep your heel from falling or dropping as you climb up, and help you scale steep uphill climbs more easily while preventing your legs from experiencing fatigue. Still, many people wonder if they are worth the money, although the demand for them has increased in popularity recently.
If you know you’ll be doing a lot of hardcore uphill climbing, then a heel lift can be a very beneficial feature, especially if you like adventuring and hiking for long periods of time. Many people that use heel lifts on their snow shoes find that they do assist with uphill climbs. However, if you are shopping on a budget, and know you won’t be doing a lot of hardcore uphill climbing, you can probably live without this feature.
So, when determining whether or not you’ll need a heel lift, consider the types of things you’ll be doing when you’re outdoors, and the types of terrain you’ll encounter. Once you know that, it should be easy for you to make your decision.
When you’re trying to decide on the best snowshoes for your outdoor winter adventures, you’ll need to think about what you’ll be doing, your style, the terrain you’ll encounter, and the types of snow and ice conditions found in your local area. Once you know exactly what you plan to be doing, you can start making decisions about the types of features you need, how much traction you want, how long your snowshoes should be, and what you’ll really need to enjoy all of your outdoor outings.
After you know your style and what you’ll be up against, finding the perfect snowshoe should be quite easy, although, we do recommend trying some on before you finalize your purchase decision. You’ll know which ones are perfect for you when you try them on, and you’ll get hours of fun in the outdoors once you get the best snowshoes for your needs.