Four Types of Snowshoes for Big People and Heavy Loads

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. The greater the snowshoe’s surface area, the more evenly it can distribute weight and limit post-holing, especially in deep snow. Thus, snowshoes that tend to have a greater surface area tend to be best for carrying big people and heavy loads.

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. However, you’ll also want to consider your foot size. Buying a pair of snowshoes that is too large for your foot could lead to other complications, including altercations to your natural stride. Thus, when choosing your snowshoe, it’s important to look at whether the binding will fit your shoe size. This guide is broken up into the following categories to help you find what ‘shoe is best for you.

Traditional Wood Frame Snowshoes
Wood Frame/Synthetic Decking Snowshoes
Modern Snowshoes
Magnesium Military Snowshoes
Bindings for Large Boot Sizes

You’ll notice that each snowshoe comes with a recommended weight range, which typically relates to the snowshoe’s ability to help you “float” on the snow. In many cases, you can use the snowshoe above the recommended weight range. However, the floatation will decrease, meaning you will sink further in the snow.

If your goal is to travel in deep snow, it’s best to choose a snowshoe that has a max weight range above the weight you’ll be carrying if possible. For packed conditions, the weight ranges tend to be more flexible. Thus, you may be able to get away with choosing a ‘shoe with a lower weight recommendation. But, always check the manufacturer’s recommendations since the weight ranges for floatation/packed snow can vary.

snowshoes for big people and heavy loads: man stands on wooden snowshoes with a backpack in front of fence

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. Photo: Matthew Timothy Bradley

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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. They are great snowshoes for big people and heavy loads because they tend to have a larger surface area. My impression is that traditional snowshoes provide more floatation per square inch than metal and synthetic models, but that is admittedly up for debate.

However, two things are beyond debate when comparing traditional and metal and synthetic models.

  1. Traditional snowshoes are quieter. So, apart from the aesthetic experience, this makes them an excellent choice for hunters and wildlife photographers.
  2. 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 (for example, Lure of the North), 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 they can be an excellent choice when well-crafted.

Here are a few examples of traditional snowshoes to consider.

Faber
Bearpaw 14 x 30 and 16 x 30 (up to 250 lbs/113 kg and 350 lbs/159 kg)
Ojibwa 11 x 48 and 12 x 60 (up to 200 lbs/90kg and 300 lbs/136 kg)

GV
Huron 14 x 48
Bearpaw 14 x 32 and 16 x 32 (up to 200 lbs/90kg and over 200 lbs/90kg)

Country Ways
Alaskan 10 x 56 and 12 x 60 (up to 260 lbs/118 kg and up to 300 lbs/136 kg)
Huron 12 x 42 (up to 220 lbs/100 kg)
Objiwa 11 x 54 and 12 x 60 (up to 240 lbs/ 109 kg and over 210 lbs/95 kg)

Maine Guide Snowshoes
Alaskan 12 x 60 (up to 300+ lbs/136+ kg)
Sportsman 11 x 42 (up to 250 lbs/113 kg)

Iverson
Ojibwa 11 x 56
Michigan 12 x 46

Read More:
The Future of Traditional Snowshoes: We Value Our 6,000 Year Tradition
Traditional Wooden Snowshoes: Shapes, Designs, and Names

Option 2: Wood frame and synthetic decking snowshoes

Faber offers a model that combines a wood frame with synthetic decking, made of copolymer, which is more rigid than Hypalon. The Winter Rover is available in 8 x 28 (up to 200 lbs), 9 x 30 (up to 250 lbs), and 10 x 36 (up to 300 lbs). In the past, Faber also offered their Winter Guide model, which I have put some miles on and think highly of them.

The components of the hybrid models 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. Moreover, the hinged binding is more efficient than a traditional lashed-on binding, and the traction is sufficient for the icy spots you will inevitably encounter.

Read More: How to Choose the Best Trail: Tips for Learning When You Need Snowshoes

The Faber Winter Guide model was one of Faber’s past hybrid models. Photo: Matthew Timothy Bradley

Option 3: Aluminum frame and synthetic decking snowshoes

In addition to traditional wooden models, you can also use modern snowshoes made of aluminum or other materials for carrying heavy loads. Wide models greater than 12″ and lenticular (lens-shaped) or teardrop-shaped models of modern snowshoes tend to have the widest surface area and thus, have the greatest chance of supporting heavy loads.

I am a big fan of wide snowshoes for flat and rolling terrain. But, as far as I know, only two companies manufacture metal frame/synthetic decking models in widths of 12″ or greater, Faber and GV. Regarding lenticular snowshoes, I have found these tend to be a better choice for steep terrain, and many people prefer them for all-around use.

Here are a few examples of some modern snowshoes to consider:

Faber
Mountain Quest backcountry 9 x 30, 10 x 36, 13 x 30, 11 x 40 (supporting 250 lbs/113 kg to 350 lbs/159 kg)
Mountain Pro recreational 8 x 28, 9 x 30, 10 x 36 (supporting 200/90kg to 300 lbs/136 kg)
North Hiker recreational 9 x 29, 10 x 34 (supporting 225 lbs/102 kg to 275 lbs/125 kg)
North Lander recreational 9 x 29, 10 x 34 (supporting 225/102 kg to 275 lbs/125 kg)
Mountain Expert technical 8 x 28, 9 x 30, 10 x 36 (supporting 200/90kg to 300 lbs/136 kg)
Mountain Master technical 8 x 28, 9 x 30, 10 x 36 (supporting 200/90kg to 300 lbs/136 kg)

GV
Wide Trail 11 x 28, 11 x 38, 12 x 33, 12 x 42 (supporting 200/90kg to 280 lbs/127 kg)

LL Bean
Winter Walker recreational 26, 30, 36 (supporting 200/90kg to 280 lbs/127 kg)

Louis Garneau
Appalaches II recreational 8 x 25, 9 x 30, 10x 36 (supporting 220 lbs/100 kg to 300 lbs/136 kg)
Massif recreational 8 x 25, 9 x 30, 10x 36 (supporting 220 lbs/100 kg to 300 lbs/136 kg)
Blizzard III technical 8 x 25, 9 x 30, 10x 36 (supporting 220 lbs/100 kg to 300 lbs/136 kg)

MSR
Lightning Ascent technical 8 x 25, 8 x 30 (supporting 220 lbs/100 kg to 280 lbs/127 kg)
Lightning Explore technical 8 x 25, 8 x 30 (supporting 220 lbs/100 kg to 280 lbs/127 kg)

As a note, MSR snowshoes also have a tail extender option, which attaches to the snowshoe to provide extra length for better floatation in deep snow. The tail extenders can bring the weight support up to 280-300 lbs.

Northern Lites
Quicksilver 30 9 x 30 (supporting up to 250 lbs/113 kg)
Tundra 9.5 x 32 (supporting more than 250 lbs/113 kg)
Backcountry 9 x 30 (supporting up to 250 lbs/113 kg)

Redfeather
Hike recreational 30, 36 (up to 220 lbs/100 kg and over 225 lbs/102 kg)
Alpine technical 30, 35 (up to 220 lbs/100 kg and over 220lbs/100 kg)

Tubbs
Wilderness recreational 25, 30, 36 (supporting 200/90kg to 300 lbs/136 kg)
Panoramic recreational 25, 30, 36 (supporting 200/90kg to 300 lbs/136 kg)
Mountaineer technical 25, 30, 36 (supporting 200/90kg to 300 lbs/136 kg)

Read More: Definitive Guide: How to Choose the Perfect Snowshoes for Your Needs

The author breaking trail with 10″ x 36″ Faber Mountain Master snowshoes. Lenticular snowshoes are less awkward in steep terrain and preferred by many for general use. Photo: Matthew Timothy Bradley

Option 4: Magnesium frame and stainless steel webbing snowshoes

As an alternative to traditional and modern models, military snowshoes are another option for big people and heavy loads. Magnesium frame, stainless steel webbing military surplus snowshoes, are widely available 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, except for 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 hybrid models 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. Thus, do yourself the favor of purchasing a set of COTS bindings designed for traditional snowshoes sooner rather than later.

Arnprior Army surplus magnesium frame snowhoes.

Arnprior, ON Army surplus magnesium frame snowshoes. Photo: Matthew Timothy Bradley

Bindings for Large Boot Sizes

With so many binding variations, it can be tough to know which one to choose for large boot sizes. For an easy fit, simple 2 or 3 strap bindings or a simple lacing mechanism are the best bet. Also, you’ll want to avoid bindings that have toe boxes or other mechanisms that will impede the foot.

Some manufacturers, such as MSR and Tubbs, will include shoe size recommendations in their snowshoe specs. Most simple strap bindings, including the A and H strap bindings on many traditional snowshoes, can fit a men’s 13-14 size shoe. However, some manufacturers offer longer strap options. For example, I’ve read that straps on most Northern Lites snowshoes can fit up to a 16 size boot, and MSR offers 18-inch straps that you can purchase for your snowshoes. But, if there is any concern on whether the boot will fit, I would recommend contacting the manufacturer to check the binding strap length.

What other recommendations do you have? Also, are there snowshoes that you regularly use to carry heavy loads? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

This article was originally published on Dec 8, 2014, and Susan Wowk updated it to include additional information on March 18, 2021. 

Read Next:
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Snowshoes Designed for Everyone: Find Your Match with Redfeather
Snowshoeing for Beginners: The First-Timer’s Guide

Matthew Timothy Bradley

About the author

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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16 Comments

  • In relation to your snowshoe sizes i have a vintage pair of huron type that are 12″×60″ and have it stamped in black ink on the rail of one shoe only..i am in australia and have no info on them other than they were from canada. There is the remnant of a makers name on one that has ED and the back piece of a larger letter is visible. Any idea of the value pf these shoes..

    • Hi Steve, Thanks for your inquiry! Is the rail that has the black lettering on the toe bar? The toe bar is the piece that spans horizontally across the snowshoe near the top where your toes would lay. Browning snowshoes, which were located in Canada and who created snowshoes from the 40s- 60s, made several 12″x 60″ models and usually have the words “Made in Canada” on the toe bar. From what I’ve read, models that were made before the 50s tend to have more substantial increases in value. Depending on the specifics of your model, I’ve read of the values being anywhere between $200-$700. It may be worth taking the snowshoes to an antique dealer in your area to examine your snowshoe for other insights and see what they could be worth. I’d love to hear any other info that you find! -Susan, SSM Editor

    • Hi susan thanks for your reply..the 12× 60 is on the rhs rail right next to the toe bar and the remnants of a makers name are on the toe bar that was a black oval shape sticker with a thin gold outer line around it with smaller gold lettering starting with ED and curving across the top of the sticker..and what looks like he beginnings of an H in larger font in orange..maybe for HURON..sticker was 2 .1/4″ across and about 1″ high…

      • Hi Steve, I apologize for the delay in my reply! I have been doing some additional research, but most of the companies I’m familiar with have the maker listed on the toe bar. I do know Torpedo snowshoes were also manufactured in eastern Canada and typically list the snowshoe size/type in black lettering on the ‘shoe. The ‘ed’ struck me there, but you mentioned that it’s at the beginning of the word and on the right-hand rail, so it might not be a match. In addition to the large corporations, many individuals made their own snowshoes and branded them around that time. It could be possible that it’s an independent snowshoe manufacturer without much history. Any luck on having an antique dealer looking more closely at the snowshoe? I’ll keep looking for info, and I wish I had more information for you! -Susan, SSM Editor

  • 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?