Snowshoe Departments:

How To Buy Snowshoes Guide

If you can walk, you have what it takes to go snowshoeing. The greatest leveler of the winter sport category, snowshoeing is an activity we can all pursue. And we should. Winter is a wonderful time to be outside and snowshoeing is good for the soul, good for the lungs, and good for the gluts. Adults, youths and children step right up!

To get familiar with the gear and what is required for choosing the right snowshoes for your needs, keep reading. Remember, buying snowshoes will cost you, so lets make sure you do it right.

The main considerations for buying snowshoes:

  1. Snowshoe type: which is appropriate for your activity level?
  2. Size: your height and weight, and the conditions of use dictate size.
  3. Snow Conditions: it’s all good but Wisconsin is different than Colorado!
  4. Accessories: the right gear will keep you on the good foot.
  5. Gear Vocabulary: make sense of the lexicon.

Choosing the right type of Snowshoe:

Snowshoes are generally broken down into three categories and at Altrec we follow suit:

Recreational : these are the standard shoes that most of us will use. Recreational snowshoes are built for all around use. Durable, easy to use and adjustable for varying boot sizes and styles, recreational snowshoe are appropriate for packed or groomed snow, fresh powder and the myriad conditions between the two.

Manufacturers: Atlas snowshoes, Crescent Moon snowshoes & MSR (Little Bear Snowshoes for kids).

Backcountry : a bit burlier, a bit more expensive and built to last. Backcountry snowshoes offer more traction by way of an aggressive cleat, have a refined binding system, and can stand up to more use and abuse. Icy and steep terrain demands traction, durability and maneuverability. Backcountry shoes arm you with all three.

Manufacturers: Atlas snowshoes, Crescent Moon snowshoes, Redfeather & MSR.

Running/Sport : light and lean, running snowshoes are generally asymmetrical and perform best on packed or firm snow. Many athletes use these for off–season training and even racing. The fleet of foot will appreciate the low profile and reduced weight.

Manufacturers: Crescent Moon snowshoes & Atlas snowshoes.

Keep in mind that the rules of categorization are not hard and fast. In general, the design and materials overlap from one to the next and many snowshoes can be used in many conditions by many people.

Choosing Size:

Size does matter: in this case it matters to you and will have a profound impact on your experience. Too big, you wreak your gate and carry unnecessary weight, too small and you can’t get out of the two holes your snowshoes just created. All manufacturers will have their own size charts, however, below is a rough guide that will get you on your way.

75–150 lbs: 8 x 21
100–175 lbs: 8 x 25
175–225 lbs: 9 x 30
225 & up: 10 x 36

Keep in mind that weight recommendations are for you and your gear. Adjust accordingly.

Considering Snow Conditions:

Water content in a snowflake will play a role in how you size your snowshoes. We will save the lesson in snow morphology for a later date and simply outline a few rules that will help you decide how the snow in your neighborhood will impact your purchase.

Wet snow (think quality snowballs here) is dense and heavy and will support more weight. Folks snowshoeing in coastal areas such as British Columbia, Washington and California will generally size down. You need less surface area to support your weight.

Dry snow, typical of the Rocky Mountains, requires large snowshoes. The snow is not dense and therefore will not compact like its wetter cousin. Simply put, you need greater surface area to stay afloat. The snow is lighter, easier to move in and more desirable.

Groomed or Packed snow is just that, and therefore requires a smaller snowshoe. If you are destined for groomed trails, feel free to go as small as you wish.

Accessories :

The gear that compliments your new snowshoes can be just as important as the shoes themselves. Below is an outline of the gear and clothing that will ensure a positive snowshoeing experience:

Ski/Adjustable Poles:
Snowshoe Poles are not requisite gear, however, you will be glad they’re a part of your kit. Trekking poles will increase stability, reduce pressure on your knees and incorporate the rest of your body into the workout. They help enormously. Leki makes adjustable poles that will help optimize pole length for various slope angles.

Cold piggies will ruin a trip really quick. While any shoe will fit the binding, we suggest a warm, waterproof snow boot such as The North Face Chilkats. A boot that fits properly will give your feet support while keeping them warm and dry.

Ski/Snowboard Pants:
Avoid denim… and that’s not a mandate from the fashion police – anything made of cotton can stay in the closet. Ski/snowboard pants are windproof, water resistant and warm. A pair of Arcteryx, Burton or The North Face pants will keep you dry the entire day. And you will be thankful.

For deep snow pursuits, a pair of gaiters will keep snow from inundating your boots. All the gaiters we carry will fit the bill. Outdoor Research and Mountain Hardwear make gaiters that are adjustable and will fit well with most boots.

Staying hydrated is essential for any athletic, outdoor or backcountry venture. Drinking water will keep you energized, warm (seriously) and most importantly conscious! Camelback Hydration Packs are of choice and they make a bevy of hydration packs that have comprehensive harness systems and allow for gear storage. If you already have a backpack you are sympathetic to, simply buy the Camelback bladder and drop into your existing pack. Advice: hot water freezes faster than cool water.

Eye protection is much like hydration. A little diligence here and there will go a long way. When the wind wipes, goggles are critical and when the sun shines, sunglasses you shouldn’t do without out! Julbo sunglasses (among other brands) and Oakley goggles should make it into your backpack before you set out.

Vocabulary :

Frame: Most frames are made of heavy–duty aluminum, metal or plastic. They are extremely durable.

Deck: Made of rubber or plastic, the deck provides the surface area that prevents you from sinking.

Cleats/Crampon: Made of metal or aluminum, the cleat looks like a claw and is what gives the snowshoe traction. Snowshoes that are intended for step or icy terrain will have an aggressive cleat.

Binding: Simple: it is the entity that affixes your foot to the snowshoe.

At, select from the top shelf of snowshoes in the industry. We only carry the best –every snowshoe we carry we guarantee. Not for 30 days, not for a year, for life. The Altrec community writes detailed gear reviews on most of our products. When selecting men’s, women’s, children’s or kids snow shoes, be sure to read a review or two to find the best match for your needs.

Visit the Snowshoe Shop on to find the best snowshoes for sale. For gear at discount, pick through our Outlet Shop. You can always shop with confidence: FREE Standard Shipping available on most orders shipped within the lower 48 U.S. and our 30-day guarantee.

Interested in making your own shoes? Handmade snow shoes can be a fun family project or a great holiday gift. At Altrec, we do not carry “Snowshoe Kits,“ however, our friends over at do, so pay them a quick visit to check out their inventory.

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