How to Attach Snowshoes to a Backpack

How to Attach Snowshoes to a Backpack

There are many ways to attach snowshoes to a backpack, although some of them are more energy-efficient and comfortable than others. How you go about doing this depends on the characteristics of your backpack and the places where you can attach or carry snowshoes. For example, it is easier to carry snowshoes on backpacks that have two side compression straps, so you can slip your snowshoes underneath them when you don’t need them. If you’re shopping for a new winter backpack (see our recommended winter backpacks), it’s important to choose one that will let you carry the extra bulky winter gear you expect to need like snowshoes, crampons, skis, ice axes, or an avalanche shovel.

Let’s take a look at some examples to illustrate how you can carry snowshoes on a backpack.

Side Carry

A side carry helps keep the weight balanced on your hips
A side carry helps keep the weight balanced on your hips

I like to strap my snowshoes under my backpacks side compression straps because it keeps the weight on my hips and is less likely to get caught on vegetation along a trail. You really need snowshoes that have a binding system that folds flat, like the ones on MSR’s Lightning Ascent or Evo Ascent Snowshoes, so you can keep the snowshoe crampons pointing out and so they don’t cut into your backpack.

Bulky snowshoe bindings are easily caught on vegetation if pointing outwards.
Bulky snowshoe bindings are easily caught on vegetation if pointing outwards.

If your snowshoes have bulky bindings, which is frequently the case with snowshoes with boa binding closures, you can still attach them to the sides of your pack with the bindings facing out, but there’s a much greater risk that they’ll get snagged on vegetation. You also have to be careful with the snowshoe crampons if you use a backpack made with thinner materials, so it doesn’t slice into them.

Front Carry

There are a number of ways that you can carry snowshoes on the front of a backpack. I don’t personally like this method because the weight of the snowshoes (they usually weigh 4 to 5 pounds per pair) can pull you backward and off-balance. But it still works if that’s the only way you can attach them to your pack.

If your backpack has a front pocket, you can slip your snowshoes into it.
If your backpack has a front pocket, you can slip your snowshoes into it.

If your backpack has an open front pocket, you can slip the bottom of your snowshoes into it. You’ll still want to secure the tops of the snowshoes so they don’t fall out or sway back and forth as you walk. This method can be problematic because it can snag and rip the mesh if it comes into contact with your snowshoe’s crampons. The crampons can also punch through the body of your backpack, especially if you slip and fall onto your pack.

Some backpacks have compression straps that connect across the front of the pack
Some backpacks have side compression straps that can be joined across the front of the pack.

Some backpacks have compression straps that can connect to one another the front of a backpack, not just its sides. Granite Gear’s Crown 2 60, Crown 2 38, and Blaze 60, all have this property and it makes it very convenient to attach snowshoes to the front of your pack. Deuter makes some backpacks that have this capability and many winter/mountaineering style backpacks do as well. It’s definitely something to look out for because it can be used to connect bulky gear, including snowshoes to the front of the pack.

If your pack has webbing loops or daisy chains on the front, you can tie cords to them that you can use to hold snowshoes. Shown here - a Gossamer Gear Gorilla.
If your pack has webbing loops or daisy chains on the front, you can tie elastic or static tie cords to them that you can use to hold snowshoes. Shown here – a Gossamer Gear Gorilla.

If your backpack doesn’t have compression straps on the side or ones that run around the front of the pack, you can usually connect elastic cord to the front of your pack to hold snowshoes. For example, many ultralight backpacks have tiny webbing loops surrounding a front mesh pocket that you can tie elastic or static cord to. I do this with backpacks from Gossamer Gear, for example. If you use static cord, you can add a cord lock to tension it.

Top Carry

If your backpack has a top lid pocket, you can usually secure your snowshoes underneath it. This can make your pack a bit top-heavy and it may make your snowshoes more susceptible to getting snagged on vegetation, but it works.

If your pack has a top lid pocket, you can secure your snowshoes underneath it
If your pack has a top lid pocket, you can secure your snowshoes underneath it

The same holds if you have a roll-top backpack, like the one in the top photo of this article. Most roll tops have a Y-strap that runs over the top and you can secure your snowshoes under it.

Winter hikers on Mt Jefferson in NH’s Presidential Range
Winter hikers on Mt Jefferson in NH’s Presidential Range

Conclusion

I’ve demonstrated three different ways that people attach snowshoes to their packs on winter hikes using a side carry, a front carry, and a top carry. While all of these are popular, which one you use really depends on the characteristics of your backpack (ie. compression straps, top lid, Y-strap, etc) and your snowshoes (lay-flat binding or bulking binding, sharp crampons or not). That said, winter hikers and backpackers can be quite ingenious in how they attach snowshoes to a pack. There are probably a million ways to accomplish it, so don’t feel you have to conform to the norm.

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More Winter Hiking Frequently Asked Questions

About the author

Philip Werner has hiked and backpacked over 7500 miles in the United States and the UK and written over 2500 articles as the founder of SectionHiker.com, noted for its detailed gear reviews and educational content. A devotee of New Hampshire and Maine hiking and backpacking, Philip is the 36th person to hike all 650 of the hiking trails in the White Mountain Guide. He is also the author of Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers, a free online guidebook of the best backpacking trips in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Maine. In addition, Philip volunteers as a 4 season backpacking leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club, a Long Trail Mentor for Vermont's Green Mountain Club, and a Leave No Trace Master Educator. He lives in New Hampshire.

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7 comments

  1. Oh how I wish we needed snow shoes in Alabama!

  2. I love when tall people carry them on top and clear out all the snow on the trees!

    • That’s been me over the years, but not because I’m tall. I ski or walk under a tree, and it dumps its snow load on me. There can be others in front of and behind me that won’t get dumped on. The Hubs thought I was kidding until we the wind kicked up and blew drifting snow all over me but bypassed him

      It’s enough to give a person a complex!

  3. One recommendation I don’t think Philip spelled out here is this: make sure your snowshoes (and any other gear you lash onto your pack) are secured with a rope, biner, or strap that goes THROUGH the snowshoes/item somehow so that if your lashing fails the item will dangle from your pack and you won’t lose the item somewhere on the trail without noticing it fell off. I have a friend who lost his snowshoes somewhere on the way down from Mt. Washington when he was off-trail and didn’t notice they got knocked off his pack. Another friend lost someone else’s entire tent this way.

    One more recommendation: if you are looking for a decent pair of snowshoes that have been out in the elements for a few years and want to go on a fun scavenger hunt, I know of a pair of snowshoes located somewhere on the west side of Mt. Washington.

    • In the summer following a particularly heavy snow year, I hiked up ski runs & skied down. One day, I found enough money to pay for my gas, a rental ski, several ski poles, two sets of car keys, and a granola bar.

      I didn’t eat the granola bar. I was an impoverished college student, but even I had some limits.

    • Definitely. I side carry on Granite Gear Crown 2 60. I stick the tails in the side pockets and use the compression straps to hold them on. Per your advice, I put the top strap through the shoe and over the edge closest to my back. This also keeps the shoe from digging into my shoulders.

  4. I put them on the front of my backpack, held in place with a PackNet.

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