Snowshoeing is probably the best adventure sport in winter.
Over the last few decades, it has gained tremendous popularity as one of the best methods of winter hiking.
Snowshoes provide “floatation” by allowing your weight to be evenly distributed over a flat and large surface.
You can climb, hike or even run on a snowy surface, thanks to this floatation.
To choose the best snowshoes for winter hiking, you need to know about various features of snowshoes.
Given below are some of these features to help you make an informed decision.
Earlier, frames of the snowshoes were like a large oval shaped platform made up of wood.
These days, various metals like carbon fiber, aluminum, steel or even composite plastic are used to manufacture the frame.
The size and shape of the snowshoes can vary considerably, depending on who the end-user is.
Ovular, teardrop, lenticular (shaped like lens) and rectangular are some of the common shapes that you will find in the market.
Frames specifically crafted for women and for racing purposes usually have a narrowed shape towards the end.
The sizes and shapes may vary depending upon the manufacturer too, though the two common types made available are tapered and symmetrical.
Tail is the rear end of the snowshoe where the taper or oval comes to a close, just behind your heels.
A tapered tail is ideal for running, fast movements, racing and aerobic activities.
For a deep snowy surface or for beginners, an oval frame or a broader tail is preferable as it encourages better stability and floatation.
Decking refers to the material that fills the frame’s inner space.
In old times, rawhide panels or rawhide webbing straps were used to manufacture the decking.
These days, the materials used are plastic, urethane-impregnated nylon, compound components with PVC covered polyester, synthetic leather, thermoplastic urethane or synthetic rubber.
These are long lasting and need less maintenance compared to rawhide.
Use of these cold resistant components has enhanced the flexibility and durability of modern day snowshoes.
Synthetic materials are used to make the frame of the best snowshoes for winter hiking sturdy to withstand impact and puncture.
Some recent models comprise of a sturdy, large plastic piece where decking and frame form a single element.
Crampons and Traction Systems
Traction systems are used to keep the hiker stable and let him/her move forward.
Crampons can be made of aluminum, plastic or steel.
It’s necessary for the crampons to have an aggressive design where they are intended to be used in a steep terrain with icy conditions.
It is important to take a close look at the angled direction of the row of cleats while choosing the best snowshoes for winter hiking.
This is because they could be angled to aid in downhill traction or help avoid downhill slipping while you are moving uphill, or at times, do both.
Bindings are responsible for securing your feet in the snowshoes.
All types of boots like winter boots, hiking boots and mountaineering boots are compatible with snowshoe bindings, but not all bindings are compatible with all types of boots.
For example, snowboard boots may be too big to go well with small binding systems while roomy bindings may make hiking boots give a feel as if they aren’t securely fastened in.
Thus, it becomes important to check the compatibility of the footwear and bindings before you buy.
Most bindings are made of hard plastic, while a handful may consist of nylon straps accompanied with buckles or band-like straps made of rubber.
Snowshoe bindings have two basic styles namely full rotation and fixed rotation.
Apart from the aforesaid features, there are various other things like add-on flotation tails, heel lift, sizing, the type of models (men vs. women or unisex), the right fit etc that should be considered while choosing the best snowshoes for winter hiking.