Post Updated October 2018
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.
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.
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.
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.
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″)
- Mountain Pro (10″ x 36″)
- Mountain Expert (10″ x 36″)
- Mountain Master (10″ x 36″)
- Mountain Quest (10″ x 36″ and 11″ x 40″)
- 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″)
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.