Four Kinds of Snowshoes for Big People and Heavy Loads

Post Updated October 2019

Snowshoes for Carrying Heavy Body Weight, Packs, and Pulks

Anytime you’re using snowshoes to put more than 200lbs/90kg atop unpacked snow—be it powder, wet, or crusted—you’re going to want to spread it out across as much space as is practical. My informed opinion is that you should go with no smaller than a 10″ x 36″ or 12″ x 30″ pair of raquettes for the task. There are four types of snowshoes that come in those dimensions, each of which is described below.

Option 1: Traditional wood frame and babiche webbing snowshoes

Traditional snowshoes come in a variety of conventional shapes and designs, each specialized for a particular environmental niche. My impression is that traditional snowshoes provide more floatation per square inch than metal and synthetic models, but that is admittedly up for debate.

A large dimension pair of traditional snowshoes like these Hurons helps keep you from floundering in the powder with a big pack on your back.

Two things are beyond debate when comparing traditional and metal and synthetic models, however. First, traditionals are quieter. Apart from the aesthetic experience, this makes them an excellent choice for hunters and wildlife photographers. Second, you can’t just ride them hard and put them up wet. You can ride ’em hard, but you need to put ’em up dry and airy to ensure long life.

If you look in the right places and ask the right people you might be able to find wood frame snowshoes laced with neoprene or monofilament (heavy fishing line) webbing. The “why” is to reduce maintenance requirements and, especially with the monofilament webbing, to minimize moisture retention and extra weight in lake slush and/or over the course of multi-day treks. I have never used a pair of neoprene or monoline webbing snowshoes myself, but I have been told that when well-crafted they can be an excellent choice.

Option 2: Wood frame and synthetic decking snowshoes

Faber offers two models of snowshoes (Winter Guide and Winter Rover) that combine a wood frame with synthetic decking (made of copolymer, which is more rigid than Hypalon). I have put some miles in with the Winter Guide model and think highly of them. The components function well when the temperature is right at the freezing mark, as slushy snow neither “balls” on the wood frame nor soaks the synthetic decking, the hinged binding is more efficient than a traditional lashed on binding, and the traction is more than sufficient for the icy spots you will inevitably encounter.

The Faber Winter Guide model is currently manufactured in 10″ x 36″ (shown here), 11″ x 40″, and 14″ x 30″ versions.

Option 3: Magnesium frame and stainless steel webbing snowshoes

Magnesium frame, stainless steel webbing military surplus snowshoes are widely available both online and in Army Navy stores. These Magline manufactured snowshoes combine the dimensions of a traditional Huron snowshoe with the durability of metal components. They also take advantage of the switch from wood to magnesium to add some frame-based traction in the form of some small teeth to provide a little grip for icy patches and light climbing.

Arnprior Army surplus magnesium frame snowhoes.

Arnprior, ON Army surplus magnesium frame snowshoes

I have yet to have the opportunity to try a pair of these out, but they have a generally good reputation, with the exception of two caveats:
1) This model has a reputation for very poor performance in wet snow. I imagine that globs of snow clump atop the decking, and that both the frame and the webbing are subject to the “balling” problem that the Faber Winter Guides evade.
2) If you purchase a pair of these they may come with a set of nylon military issue bindings thrown in at no additional charge. These I have used, and there is a reason they would be thrown in for free: they are absolute garbage. Do yourself the favor of purchasing a set of COTS bindings designed for traditional snowshoes sooner rather than later.

Option 4: Aluminum frame and synthetic decking snowshoes

Wide models: I am a big fan of wide snowshoes for flat and rolling terrain. Only two companies, as far as I know, manufacture metal frame/synthetic decking models in widths of 12″ or greater. The Faber Mountain Quest comes in a 13″ x 30″ version and the GV Wide Trail comes in 12″ x 33″ and 12″ x 42″ versions.

The author breaking trail with 10″ x 36″ Faber Mountain Master snowshoes. Lenticular (teardrop shaped) snowshoes are less awkward in steep terrain and preferred by many for general use.

Lenticular models: I have found Green Mountain Bear Paw shaped snowshoes tend to be a better choice for steep terrain, and many people prefer them for all around use. The following options for 10″ x 36″ or larger snowshoes are available as of the 2018/19 season:

  • Crescent Moon
    • Silver 17 (10″ x 37″)
    • Gold 17 (10″ x 37″)
  • Faber
    • Mountain Pro (10″ x 36″)
    • Mountain Expert (10″ x 36″)
    • Mountain Master (10″ x 36″)
    • Mountain Quest (10″ x 36″ and 11″ x 40″)
  • GV
    • Mountain Trail Alligator (10″ x 36″)
    • Mountain Trail Spin (10″ x 36″)
    • Snow Aerolite (10″ x 36″)
    • Snow Aerolite Spin (10″ x 36″)
    • Snow Aerolite Alligator (10″ x 36″)
    • Wide Trail (11″ x 28″, 11″ x 38″, 12″ x 33″, 12″ x 38″)
  • Louis Garneau 
    • Appalaches 2 (10 x 36)
    • Blizzard III (10 x 36)
    • Massif (10 x 36)
  • Tubbs
    • Mountaineer (10″ x 36″)
    • Men’s Panoramic (10″ x 36″)
    • Men’s Wilderness (10″ x 36″)
    • Men’s Wayfinder (10″ x 36″)
    • Men’s Frontier (10″ x 36″)
  • Yukon Charlie’s
    • Advanced Series (10″ x 36″)
    • Advanced Spin Series (10″ x 36″)
    • Sherpa Series (10″ x 36″)
  • L.L. Bean
    • Men’s Winter Walker (10″ x 36″)

If we have missed any snowshoe options from this list that come in 10″ x 36″ or greater, please let us know by commenting below or by contacting us at admin@snowshoemag.com.

About the author

Matthew Timothy Bradley

About the author

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Matthew Timothy Bradley

Born and bred in Southern Appalachia; currently residing in lovely Southern New England. Follow @MateoTimateo and my blog The Human Family; circle +MatthewTimothyBradley.

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12 Comments

  • Thank you for the article! Looking to get my brother into snowshoeing to get him off the couch. He’s 6’3 about 380lbs. Matthew any suggestions for a Mens size 15/16 shoe? Would also appreciate a recommendation for myself 5’2 about 210lbs. (I’m a skier downhill and xc but haven’t snowshoed in a few years). Thanks in advance for any assistance!

    • Hi Jan, Thanks for reaching out! Your best bet for a binding that will fit a size 15/16 men’s shoe/boot are snowshoes that have simple strap bindings, such as the Posilock or DuoFit bindings from MSR (here’s a helpful article for MSR about these bindings). You’ll want to ideally avoid bindings that have a box for your toes since those can be more difficult to fit larger boot sizes. If the simple strap bindings are still too small, many companies will sell extra-long strap bindings. For example, MSR sells 18-inch binding straps for larger boot sizes.

      As far as specific snowshoe sizes, it really depends on the type of snow on your snowshoe outings. The weight recommendations listed for snowshoes are typically weight recommendations if you’re snowshoeing on powder (you’ll have to check the manufacturer guidelines). The recommendations are given to limit your sinking in the snow. If though, you are snowshoeing on wet snow or shallow snow where you’re less likely to post-hole (sink), then there is more flexibility in these weight recommendations and you most likely can use the snowshoe even if over the weight guidelines. Faber and GV Snowshoes, both Canadian snowshoe manufacturers, make some of the largest snowshoe sizes and could be a great place to start for your brother. The Mountain Quest is offered in size 11 x 40, which has a recommendation of 350 lbs.

      When choosing your snowshoes, though, it can be easy to focus on weight recommendations, but you’ll also want to pay attention to the fit on your foot. Sometimes folks will choose snowshoes that are way too long because they’re looking solely at weight recommendations. MSR makes snowshoe tails for their snowshoes, which can be attached to the end of your snowshoe. So for your own snowshoes (again it depends on the snow conditions), but if snowshoeing on wet snow, the Revo snowshoe line by MSR could be an option. Then, you could always add on the tails if you need more support and flotation in light powder.

      I hope this is a helpful starting point! If you have any other questions, you can always email me anytime at susan[at]snowshoemag.com. 🙂 – Susan, Snowshoe Mag Editor

    • Thanks for reaching out! The largest size I’ve seen is for M 15. However, snowshoes with simple strap bindings that allow for more maneuverability will be the best bet to accommodate larger boot sizes. These types of bindings, such as the Duofit and Posilock bindings from MSR, can accommodate snowboard boots quite well. I would recommend avoiding bindings with limitations (such as a toe box) since these can be more difficult to fit larger boots. Many manufacturers will list the shoe sizes for their bindings, and some companies (such as MSR) sell extra-long straps for larger boot sizes. I hope this helps! If you have any other questions, please feel free to email me anytime at susan[at]snowshoemag.com.

  • Louis Garneau makes several models in 10×36 size, for everything from trail walking to backcountry exploring. I have a pair of their Blizzard II backcountry ‘shoes and can’t say enough good stuff about them. They’re just excellent, excellent snowshoes, and I find they have better flotation than 10×36 Tubbs because they have a less tapered, more rounded frame.

    • Thanks, Phil! I’ve added Louis Garneau to the snowshoes we have listed here. It looks like they don’t have the Blizzard II in 10×36 anymore (at least on their site), but they do have the Blizzard III. I haven’t tried any Louis Garneau shoes before, but I think I need to add them to my list 🙂

  • I want to get my boyfriend a pair of snowshoes so he can join me on my weekend outings. He’s 6’7″ and a little over 400lbs. His sport is powerlifting…

    We live in Portland so snow can be wet. In my research, it looks like the military issue shoes are the best bet, but do you have any other relatively affordable suggestions for that giant of a load?

  • I have a new pair of the military surplus magnesium snowshoes. I have never snowshoed before but I am enrolled in a beginners course to happen soon. I cannot find COT bindings using google – can you provide information / link? Thanks. Earl

    • Earl,

      Thanks for the question. Giving it some quick thought, I realize that maybe I should do an entire post on the topic! But I can give you a quick answer so long as you don’t mind that it will be less than comprehensive!

      Would you say that the terrain you are planning to snowshoe across is more flat to rolling, or does it start to get a little more hilly to steep? And are you planning to go off trail and into the bush very much?