For winter snowshoeing on hiking trails and in the backcountry, you want a winter hiking snowshoe that is durable, with aggressive crampons for traction and a secure binding system that locks your boots to the snowshoes. If you’re interested in getting off the grid and snowshoeing through backcountry terrain, these are the 10 best snowshoes we recommend. For more information, see our buying advice below.
|Make / Model||Heel Bar||Binding||Weight (25")||Price|
|MSR Lightning Ascent||Yes||Mesh Net||4 lbs 3 oz||$320|
|Atlas Helium Trail||Yes||Webbing||3 lbs 7 oz||$140|
|Tubbs Flex ALP||Yes||Boa||4 lbs 8 oz||$240|
|TSL Symbioz Elite||Yes||Boa||4 lbs 5 oz||$280|
|MSR Evo Ascent||Yes||Strap||4 lbs 1 oz||$200|
|Tubbs Mountaineers||Yes||Rachet Strap||4 lbs 14.4 oz||$270|
|Northern Lites Backcountry||No||Plastic Straps||2 lbs 11 oz||$235|
|Crescent Moon Gold 10||Yes||Rachet Strap||4 lbs 10.1 oz||$219|
|Louis Garneau Versant||Yes||Boa||4 lbs 11 oz||$235|
|MSR Revo Explore||Yes||Rachet Strap||4 lbs 2 oz||$220|
1. MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes
2. Atlas Helium Trail Snowshoes
3. Tubbs Flex ALP Snowshoes
4. TSL Symbioz Elite Snowshoes
5. MSR Evo Ascent Snowshoes
6. Tubbs Mountaineer Snowshoes
7. Northern Lites Backcountry Snowshoes
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8. Crescent Moon Gold 10
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9. Louis Garneau Versant Snowshoes
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10. MSR Revo Explore Snowshoes
How to Buy Winter Snowshoes
Winter hiking snowshoes serve two key functions: they provide traction on icy trails and when climbing steep terrain, and they provide flotation over snow, so you don’t sink or posthole, which can be quite exhausting. While all of the winter hiking snowshoes listed above satisfy both of these requirements, some excel in the traction department, like the MSR Lightning Ascents, MSR Evo Ascents, Tubbs Flex VRTs, and TSL Symbioz Elites, while others emphasize flotation, like the Tubbs Mountaineers, Atlas Spindrifts, and the Crescent Moon Gold 10s. As a rule of thumb, tear-drop shaped snowshoes with synthetic riveted decks tend to emphasize flotation, while rectangular-shaped snowshoes are more traction-focused. If you’re going to be climbing ice-covered mountains predominantly, you’ll probably want a snowshoe that emphasizes traction, while snowshoes that focus on flotation, will be a better fit for areas where deep, powdery snow is the norm.
If you’re trying to choose between different snowshoes, there are four key properties that should guide your decision-making:
Most winter hikers carry multiple traction devices and switch between them during the day. If you’re hiking a packed trail, you might start out in bare boots, relying on your boot treads for traction because the less weight you have on your feet, the slower you’ll fatigue. If you encounter slick or icy terrain you might switch to microspikes, and then snowshoes, if you encounter fresh snow that hasn’t been packed down or is mixed up with slush.
In order to have these traction aids when you need them, you need to carry them. While microspikes are pretty easy to pack, snowshoes aren’t because they’re big and bulky. The bulk comes from their length, width, and thickness, which is primarily a function of the style of binding they use. Lay flat bindings like the simple straps on the MSR Lightning Ascent and the MSR Evo Ascent are the easiest snowshoes to attach or carry in a backpack, while snowshoes with Boa binding systems tend to be the bulkiest and most difficult to pack.
Weight is also a key factor when choosing which snowshoe to buy. Most snowshoes weigh four to five pounds, and they’re probably going to be the heaviest thing in your backpack, after water. That weight adds up during the course of a day, regardless of whether it’s in your backpack or on your feet.
We’ve already considered the packability of snowshoe bindings, but there are other factors you should consider when making a selection, such as comfort, security, ease of use while wearing gloves, whether the binding can freeze and become inoperative, and how easy it is to repair if it does break. For example, some people worry that Boa closure systems can freeze up if they get wet and will cease to operate until they can be defrosted. It’s a valid concern. One of their advantages, however, is that they are easy to use while wearing gloves and provide a secure grip that’s unlikely to come undone once set. Contrast that to the flat straps used on MSR snowshoes. They’ll never freeze up, they’re easy to replace if torn or lost, but they can be hard to attach when wearing gloves, and they tend to pop open once or twice during a hike.
Snowshoes come in a wide variety of sizes. These are determined by the total weight you want to carry (bodyweight + pack weight) and the amount of flotation you require. Men’s sizes are usually larger than women’s sizes, because men are taller and heavier, while women’s snowshoes tend to be narrower than men’s because their gait isn’t as wide.
If you’re buying a snowshoe that’s more traction oriented, you can sometimes drop a size below the manufacturer’s recommended sizing, especially if you’re hiking in an area that doesn’t get a lot of snow or you’re hiking on trails that have been broken out by other hikers. Sizing is directly correlated to gear weight and this is a tactic you can use to lighten your load. If flotation is a priority, you can sometimes buy tails, which are add-on snowshoe extensions that make them longer and increase their surface area. This is another way to cut down on the weight of a snowshoe because you can bring your tails when you need more flotation, but carry a lighter weight snowshoe in less challenging conditions.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the affiliate links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.
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