Best Snowshoes: Backcountry Gear for Any Level

A good pair of snowshoes will get you through a steep alpine hike or a snowy family outing.
A good pair of snowshoes will get you through a steep alpine hike or a snowy family outing. (Pcdazero / Pixabay/)

If you can walk, you can snowshoe. That’s how the saying goes. So it’s possible that finding the best snowshoes for you might actually be more daunting than the powdery terrain you plan to traverse. Sure, if you’re in survival mode out in the woods, you could fashion yourself a nifty pair of emergency shoes for snow and stomp your way to safety. After all, versions of wooden snowshoes have been around for thousands of years for the simple purpose of helping humans displace their weight when traveling through deep snow. But today, no matter if you want family fun or alpine adventure, you need not settle for snowshoes made of sticks or leaves. Whether you’re looking for the best snowshoes for beginners or top backcountry snowshoes, whether kids’ snowshoes or a pair of running snowshoes, we’ve done the legwork for you. Here’s all you need to know when shopping for the best snowshoes, so you can save your energy for your next climb.

Best Snowshoes for Men (Family Outings): Tubbs Flex VRT Snowshoes

Best Snowshoes for Women (Family Outings): MSR Lightning Ascent

Best Kids’ Snowshoes: Tubbs Kids’ Snowflake Snowshoe

Best Snowshoes for Beginners: MSR Revo Trail Hiking Snowshoes

Best Lightweight Snowshoes: Northern Lites Backcountry Snowshoe

Best Snowshoes With Grip: Tubbs Mountaineer Backcountry Snowshoes

Best Running Snowshoes: Atlas Race

Best Cheap Snowshoes: Chinook 80002 Trekker Snowshoes

Things To Consider And Tips To Find the Best Snowshoes

Finding the best snowshoes comes down to understanding yourself. If you’re planning to chase snowshoe hares in the northern woods, you’ll want different snow gear than if you’re ascending 4,000 feet up a mountain. Knowing the type of terrain you want to tackle, as well as the kind of snow that typically layers that terrain, can help determine the right snowshoeing equipment for you. Do you need a heel lift and a complex binding system? Or do you prefer the simplicity of cheap snowshoes? Frames can be made of aluminum, plastic, or foam. Supportive decking can either be attached to the outer frame or built into the structure of the frame. Bindings can be fixed or rotating. And the underside can have crampons, brakes, rails, or ice spikes made of sturdy steel or cheaper aluminum. Having the best snowshoes for your ability and ambition leads to happier trails.

Conquer the Backcountry as a Family with a Set of Snowshoes

Snowshoes are as diverse as the members of your family. The best snowshoes to help the little ones develop their snow legs might be a pair of colorful kids’ snowshoes with an easy 2-step binding system. But as the kids get older, they’ll need a more customized pair—just like Mom and Dad. Snowshoes for women are typically narrower than snowshoes for men, but aside from size availability, there isn’t a huge leap between the features that can be found on men’s and women’s options.

It’s all about where you want to go. If you’re envisioning family winter camping trips, with every member loaded up with gear, consider wider models that provide more float on powdery snow—generally, the heavier the person (camping pack included), the wider the snowshoe should be. And snowshoes with heel lifts make the climb to that alpine lake a little easier. For families who plan to stay on packed trails, smaller, less-expensive snowshoes with basic traction features and no heel lift should suffice.

Ultimately, versatility is likely the smartest feature when it comes to the best snowshoes for family outings. After all, anyone with kids knows that moods and desires can, and do, change by the minute.

Best Snowshoes for Men (Family Outings): Tubbs Flex VRT Snowshoes

These snowshoes have an ergonomic design, are simple to use, and are equipped for technical climbs. Tubbs
These snowshoes have an ergonomic design, are simple to use, and are equipped for technical climbs. Tubbs (Tubbs/)

Easily adjustable Boa Closure Fit System bindings made with comfortable EVA foam, and an aluminum frame with a flexible tail help displace weight and ease the stress on joints—making these the best snowshoes for men who will be snowshoeing with their families and can probably use a little relief after chasing the kids around. Curved traction rails and carbon steel toe crampons dig in for a secure grip on even the steepest slopes. However, the moderate frame size limits the float capability over the softest snow.

Best Snowshoes for Women (Family Outings): MSR Lightning Ascent

Built for big climbs, these MSRs are also perfect for moms who don’t want to lose a step on leisurely outings with the kids.
Built for big climbs, these MSRs are also perfect for moms who don’t want to lose a step on leisurely outings with the kids. (MSR/)

These ultralight plastic MSRs are the best snowshoes for women with a family because they have 360-degree traction frames and durable DTX crampons to bite into the fiercest alpine steep. Still, their light weight allows them to practically glide through the flats. The Paragon bindings can be difficult to manipulate in thick gloves, but the one-piece contouring strap fits like a glove around your boots, reducing pressure points and increasing foot control.

Best Kids’ Snowshoes: Tubbs Kids’ Snowflake Snowshoe

If you want to get your youngster excited about winter adventure, these colorful Tubbs are outstanding.
If you want to get your youngster excited about winter adventure, these colorful Tubbs are outstanding. (Tubbs/)

With easy-to-use 2-step, hook-and-loop bindings, these are simply the best kids’ snowshoes. The only thing your son or daughter may enjoy more than walking on these is decorating the frames with the included sticker pack. The plastic snowshoes will work for any kid who weighs less than 50 pounds.

Are You Just Starting Out On Snowshoes?

You’re motivated. You know snowshoeing is an inexpensive and relatively intuitive way to get outdoors in the winter. Now you just need the right snowshoeing equipment. The best snowshoes for beginners are recreational hiking sets. If you’re just starting out on snowshoes, these will work well on trails with average snow depth, and they tend to be less expensive than more advanced models—plus the more basic features make them easier to use, so you can focus on all that natural splendor.

Recreational snowshoes are likely to include toe crampons, side rails and even a braking bar under the deck to give you all the control you want. And the common bindings systems are usually fixed, with rubber/polyurethane straps that tighten much like a belt and buckle.

Best Snowshoes for Beginners: MSR Revo Trail Hiking Snowshoes

Rugged, durable and with just enough bite, these MSRs will give you confidence as you start your snowshoeing adventures.
Rugged, durable and with just enough bite, these MSRs will give you confidence as you start your snowshoeing adventures. (MSR/)

The perimeter teeth and Pivot crampons provide all the stability you need, whether you want to stick to the flats or stride up the steeps. Add an ExoTract plastic deck for durability and control, and DuoFit bindings that work with most boots and be easily adjusted without taking off your gloves, and you’ve got the best snowshoes for beginners.

Looking For an Ultralight Pair of Snowshoes for Backcountry Powder?

Some of the best snowshoes don’t weigh much more than a loaf of bread tied to each boot. Ultralight snowshoes trade traction and climbing bars for superior float. So if wooded flats are how you roll, and rolling terrain floats your boat, consider a pair of lightweight backcountry snowshoes.

Aluminum and EVA Foam frames are the clear choice for this sector. And binding systems scale simpler to save on weight—think fixed rubber buckles or strings that cinch.

Whether you are an adventurer who carries your snowshoes on your back as often as you wear them on your feet, or just a casual winter hiker who prefers the fluffy stuff to the jagged peaks, an ultralight pair of snowshoes for backcountry powder could be the best thing since, well, sliced bread.

Best Lightweight Snowshoes: Northern Lites Backcountry Snowshoe

At less than 3 pounds a pair, these Northern Lites can carry up to 250 pounds, while still floating above the powder.
At less than 3 pounds a pair, these Northern Lites can carry up to 250 pounds, while still floating above the powder. (Northern Lites/)

Weighing just 46 ounces, this aluminum-frame pair of Northern Lites stays on top of the snow and sits on top of the list of best lightweight snowshoes. No heel lift limits their ability to ascend, but on flat terrain you’ll be able to fly. Choose a traditional rubber strap binding system, or drop an ounce by opting for the surprisingly reliable Speed Bindings, which tighten by pulling a string.

Do You Need Snowshoes With Grip for Alpine Ascents?

Let’s face it, some of us dream only about the glory of standing at the top of the mountain, and we aren’t going to let a little snow get in our way. Winter explorers who like to keep their heads in the clouds need snowshoes with grip for alpine ascents.

Crampons are critical, and the best alpine snowshoes not only feature side rails and impressive steel teeth under the toe, but more spikes under the heel so you can really dig in. Also under your heel, you’ll need a climbing bar that can be raised to change your calf angle and support your legs when you’re on your way up. Securing your boots, expect sophisticated bindings that can rotate or be easily adjusted to match the varying snowshoe weather you’re likely to encounter when changing elevations. All of these features can add up to a heftier price tag, but isn’t it worth it for a shot at the top?

Best Snowshoes With Grip: Tubbs Mountaineer Backcountry Snowshoes

Aggressive traction features give you all the bite you need for steep climbs.
Aggressive traction features give you all the bite you need for steep climbs. (Tubbs/)

Mountaineer: It’s in the name. For winter hikers who need the best snowshoes with grip to take on the tallest snowy peaks, this is your pair. The eight teeth of the Anaconda toe crampons are assisted by the Python heel crampons for downhill braking. The 19-degree ActiveLift climbing bar eases muscle strain when going uphill, and the ActiveFit 2.0 bindings feature an easy-to-use cinch strap that can be adjusted with one hand.

A Racing Snowshoe is Really Just for That—Racing and Running

“Can lightning run on ice?” That question from the ’90s film Cool Runnings about the Jamaican Olympic bobsled team can now finally be answered. With a racing snowshoe, you can, in fact, run on snow and ice.

The best running snowshoes are uniquely designed with sleeker shapes and narrower frames, so athletes can race across the snow without losing a step. Suspension systems put a spring in your step, and toe crampons offer ample traction on hard-packed trails.

The streamlined shape means running snowshoes sacrifice much of their function on slower powder days, but if your top priority is expanding your jogging season, a set of racers could definitely be the right course.

Best Running Snowshoes: Atlas Race

The sleek shape and spring-loaded suspension in these Atlas snowshoes provide everything you need to sprint on snow.
The sleek shape and spring-loaded suspension in these Atlas snowshoes provide everything you need to sprint on snow. (Atlas/)

These aluminum-framed running snowshoes are incredibly light—just 2 pounds, 14 ounces. Yet they have all the stability you expect for that winter jog, making them the best running snowshoe. The V-frame allows for a natural gait, and the suspension keeps the snowshoe so close underfoot you might forget all about the tubes and decking strapped to your feet. The Z-shaped binding is easily adjustable and secures nicely to your entire foot. And while the Z-Trac Crampon and unique frame shape mean these snowshoes aren’t really made for walking, they’ll strut their stuff once you pick up the pace.

Need Snowshoes On a Budget?

Part of the appeal of snowshoeing is that it’s not as expensive as other winter sports. No lift tickets or grooming fees required. That cost savings extends to snowshoeing equipment, as well.

Sure, some of the highest-end backcountry snowshoes can rival the price of skis, but you can easily find solid pairs of snowshoes on a budget. If you have little use for a climbing bar, rotating bindings, ultralight frames and decking, or the sharpest crampons ever made, you’ll have no problem tracking down a set of cheap snowshoes.

Best Cheap Snowshoes: Chinook 80002 Trekker Snowshoes

If all you need is a set for short walks a few weekends a year, at less than $100, these are the best cheap snowshoes out there.
If all you need is a set for short walks a few weekends a year, at less than $100, these are the best cheap snowshoes out there. ( Trekker/)

Sturdy, yet lightweight, the aluminum frames and polyethylene decking make for easy walking, and the dual ratchet bindings and heel straps with quick release buckles make for simple adjusting. While the aluminum traction teeth are likely to slip out on steeper grades, these Trekkers are perfectly suitable for rolling terrain. Put your new pair in the included carry bag with backpack straps and take to the trails with the best cheap snowshoes.

Best Snowshoes FAQ: people also ask

What is the best snowshoe brand?

While it’s hard to find a one-size-fits-all answer, the best snowshoe brand is arguably MSR. The company offers options up and down the range—whether you plan to ascend steep peaks or stick to low-grade paths. Its Trail series includes adequately equipped affordable sets that are built to last, and its Ascent series can compete with the best snowshoes out there.

Are snowshoes one size fits all?

No, snowshoes are not one size fits all. Though not quite as unique as snowflakes, snowshoes are—and should be customizable. As a general rule, the heavier the person, the bigger the snowshoe should be. But the right size also depends on the kind of snow you plan to cross, and how quickly you intend to cross it. Wider frames float better on deeper, fluffier powder, while narrower, streamlined frames give you a more natural gait on compact snow.

How do I choose the right snowshoes?

Choosing the right snowshoes comes down to knowing your path. If you’re a fan of flats, you can skip the heel bar and aggressive traction rails and crampons, and likely save a few bucks. If you live to climb, sharp teeth and adjustable bindings will prepare you for all kinds of terrain. If ease-of-use matters most, look for ratchet or buckle bindings that can be tightened while wearing thick gloves. Mountaineers, meanwhile, might prize ultralight snowshoes that won’t weigh them down when strapped to the pack instead of the boots.

What Else You Need to Know Before Buying the Best Snowshoes

Slope. Snow. Size. Those are the three most important things to know before buying the best snowshoes. Climbers need heel bars and traction underfoot, while revelers of rolling hills can opt for cheap snowshoes with simpler bindings and less extensive traction features. Powder hounds will want wider frames to stay afloat, while adventurers destined for steep, icy ascents need crampons and rails for extra grip, and bindings that can accommodate burlier boots. Lastly, your size does matter. Longer and wider snowshoes help keep the big and tall among us stay afloat, and that, after all, is what snowshoeing is all about.

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