When it comes to experiencing the wonderful winter wonderland of fresh snow, cold days, and plenty of hiking opportunities, needing a snowshoe that is efficient and fits well is a must. Snowshoeing is an inexpensive way to get out and enjoy the hills or flat terrain around you without falling through, meaning there is no struggling, no sinking and no time wasted. There are three categories of snowshoes which consist of: flat terrain, rolling terrain and mountain terrain. There are other brands of snowshoes that focus on just fitness and climbing or trail-running, but they will still fall into one of the above categories. When it comes to getting into snowshoe shopping, you’re going to want to know which brand is best for you, which are within your budget range and what type of snowshoe you should be looking at.
Types of Snowshoes
Before getting into the brand comparison portion and figuring out which brand you like best, you need to identify what type of snowshoe you are going to want. These will be different based on whether you are a hiker, a beginner, a back-country snowboarder, or even a mountain climber, as this determines what your skill level is.
When it comes to beginners, you are going to want flat terrain snowshoes which are designed for walking on terrain that is mostly flat. Although you can use them on terrain which does roll, but keep in mind that they do have less aggressive traction systems. What makes these great is they can be easily adjusted to fit and are perfect for family walks (including walks in which you take the dog!).
Rolling terrain snowshoes are great for those who like to hike. They have aggressive crampons which allow you to take part in snowshoeing expeditions on rolling hills that are steep. They are great for steep conditions (but not too steep!), and have bigger bindings for a heavier fit into the shoe. These do well for those who like to backpack as well since backpacking and hiking are of similar natures.
Mountain terrain snowshoes are of course for those who are extremely experienced. They are for advanced hikers, mountain climbers and those who like to hit the country hills. If you are planning on going out without any trails, then you’re going to want these as they are used for extremely icy and steep terrain.
A Brand Comparison – Which One is Right For Me?
Now there are thousands of brands out there, so narrowing down which one best suits you may feel like a difficult task. In this comparison list, the top brands will be broken down by what type of snowshoe it is (terrain wise), and price range will be in order from lowest to highest. The comparison will cross reference the brands within their own categories, as it would be unfair to compare across categories; which are: flat terrain (recreational), rolling terrain (hiking), mountain terrain (Back-country).
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Flat Terrain Brand Snowshoes
L.L. Bean Men’s Winter Walker | $60 -189 |
These range from youth to adult, but are highly touted by both age ranges for their quality and ease of use. They come with three adjustment settings, have built in crampons for icy situations, and are easy to put on. They are perfect for those who are just getting into snowshoeing as an entry level shoe as they have the right mixture of price range, binding quality and features for those who want to take winter walks on flat terrain. These may not feel as lightweight as the MSR Shift, due to the built in crampons.
MSR Shift | $67-89 |
Is a smaller snowshoe which is recommended for those under 125lb and are sold as youth snowshoes. Although they are recommended for youth, adults find that they are quite comfortable and work very well as a lightweight snowshoe. Size wise, feet over size 10 may find it difficult to get them strapped in. They are recommended for use during early spring time when there is snow still around, and offer a good floatation in firm snow. If you are planning on snowshoeing in powder snow and weigh over 125lbs than they will not work, which is one of their downfalls.
MSR EVO | $119 –139 |
These are one of the most durable snowshoes you will find out there because of its bomb-proof, injection molded plastic. These snowshoes can take a beating, and even though they are designed for flat terrain they have stood up to icy trails and no trail hills (although not recommended). One downside, due to the durability of the shoe, they are not as lightweight as the MSR Shift or the L.L. Bean’s as they weigh over 3.5lbs. They can also be a little but loud, but they are easy to get on and off and are extremely sturdy. Learning to walk in them is a bit of a learning curve.
Redfeather Hike | $100+ |
Although these are not an entry level snowshoe, beginners find them very easy to walk in as they are intuitive and only take a few minutes to get used to. They out perform any rental, and are extremely comfortable to wear on long walks. They don’t get a build up of snow underneath the shoe and have an amazing price range for the quality that you receive. They are rather lightweight to use, and are for those who have smaller feet.
Rolling Terrain Brand Snowshoes
MSR EVO Ascent | $200 |
Are perfectly designed for those who want to do nothing but climb as the durability of these are through the roof. They are made out of bomb-proof plastic, have heel lifters and provide great traction, so going up icy ills is not a problem. What makes these a great buy for those wanting to climb, is that they have tails that you can add on, making it easier to manoeuvre through powdery snow without catching drags. They are strong but lightweight, which makes them not good for deep powder when you are running a heavy pack. Beware of this one downside.
Redfeather Alpine Series | $250- |
Although a bit funny in the patterned look, they are superior to other brands in the fact that they have ultra bindings which hold your feet incredibly tight. You can adjust them regardless of how thick your mitts are which is perfect in higher altitude cold weather, plus you get great floatation even in deep snow. They have a narrow profile, and can be used for general leisure as well, so coming down from that climb is just as easy as the climb itself.
Atlas 12 Series | $290- |
Are fabulous snowshoes that are lightweight, but are incredibly durable. They can be used over rocks, logs, gravel roads, and ice with only cosmetic nicks and wears here and there. They are extremely stable, sport a lot of bottom rows of teeth and can take anyone up and down a large hill. Although some may be turned off by the rubber strap bindings, they work quite well and keep the foot tight. They also have heel lifters which helps with calf fatigue and can perform in light powdery snow as well.
Mountain Terrain Brand Snowshoes
Atlas Elektra 10 Series | $165-199 |
Are specifically designed for those who are back-country snowshoers who want a comfortable shoe that has a suspension system for rough terrain. What makes these shoes stand out is the fact that they can be used to cross frozen bays, scale woodlands, explore rivers and all the while keep up through their durability. The only downside to these is that for people who are lightweight, they can fling snow up their back, which can be a huge nuisance to some. For heavier weighted people, this doesn’t happen and actually helps them walk better through the terrain.
Tubbs Flex ALP | $240 |
If you’re planning on taking on tricky terrain such as extended climbs through mushy, powdery, icy or hard packed snow, then these are for you. They are light in nature, has a flex binding system that works for all sizes of feet, and has a heel lift for steep inclines. When strapping in, it’s easy, requires no learning curve and makes your foot snug so that there is no lateral wiggle. The only downside is that the heel lift will click every once in awhile when traversing through harder packed terrains, but is nothing more than a slight annoyance; it does not impact use at all.
MSR Lightning Ascent | $246 -299 |
These are one of the most popular mountain terrain snowshoes on the market because of the traction they provide across all angles. They are built with a two tow crampon, as well as three lateral toothed braking bars which are located under the deck. Plus the entire frame of the deck also has teeth, so the grip is incredibly amazing. It doesn’t matter whether you are on ice, going through mushy snow, on powdery snow or travelling across hard packed snow, they will stick. In addition to this, they can fit almost any style of boot because of the unique bindings that they have. Only downside that they have, is if you attach tails on, the front of the shoe will point downwards into the snow more than the back.
One last tip, many of these snowshoes come in multiple sizes. Larger snowshoes support more weight. You don’t want snowshoes that are too big, and give you excess weight to drag around on your feet. But make sure that the ones you buy are big enough to carry you, the bulky winter clothing you are wearing, and any backpack or other items you would normally carry.
Although you don’t need special footwear to have fun in the snow, having a set of snowshoes allows you to expand your horizons and find some pretty spectacular views! It is best that when you go to try some of these shoes out, that you take tight fitting boots with you, to see how they feel in the bindings!