Home / SectionHiker.com’s Gear Guide / 10 Best Snowshoes for Winter Hiking

10 Best Snowshoes for Winter Hiking

10 Best Snowshoes for Winter Hiking

For serious winter snowshoeing over 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 steep terrain and mountains, these are the 10 best snowshoes we recommend. For more information, see our buying advice below.

Make / ModelHeel BarBindingWeight (25")Price
Atlas SerrateYesStrap4 lbs$290
MSR Revo Explore YesRachet Strap4 lbs 2 oz$220
Crescent Moon Gold 10YesRachet Strap4 lbs 10.1 oz$219
Louis Garneau PremiereYesBoa5 lbs 6.4 oz$235
Louis Garneau VersantYesBoa4 lbs 11 oz$250
MSR Lightning AscentYesMesh Net4 lbs 3 oz$319
MSR Evo AscentYesStrap4 lbs 1 oz$200
TSL Symbioz EliteYesBoa4 lbs 5 oz$280
Tubbs Flex ALPYesBoa4 lbs 8 oz$240
Tubbs MountaineersYesRachet Strap4 lbs 14.4 oz$270

1. MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes

MSR Lightning Ascent Paragon Binding

The MSR Lightning Ascents revolutionized snowshoeing when they were first introduced and MSR has continued to refine them since. They feature a unique 360 degree toothed crampon that’s built into the frame for traction when you’re walking uphill, downhill or side-hilling across a slope. A flip-up heel bar makes it easier to climb hills, while the four strap binding lays flat, and makes them easy to pack or strap to a backpack.  A women’s model is available.  MSR introduced a new Paragon binding this year which is simpler to use. If you prefer the old style ski-strap binding, we also recommend the MSR EVO Ascent Snowshoes (listed below). which are just as hardcore.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | MSR | Amazon

2. Atlas Serrate Snowshoes

Atlas Serrate Snowshoes
The Atlas Serrate is a tear-drop shaped snowshoe that has a wrap-around binding, aggressive traction, and a heel bar that makes it easier to climb hills. The binding sandwiches the front of your winter boots and locks in place with a rear strap. A spring-loaded suspension system lets your foot rotate naturally with slope changes for maximum efficiency. An aggressive toe crampon and dual side crampon bars provide excellent traction on snow and ice. A women’s Electra Serrate is also available. Read our Atlas Serrate Review.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw | Amazon

3. Tubbs Flex ALP Snowshoes

Tubbs Flex ALP Snowshoe

The Tubbs Flex ALP has a simplified binding that is easy to use, comfortable, and compatible with all styles of boots but is on the bulky side to strap onto a backpack. The Flex has carbon steel toe crampons that maximize traction while long, toothed side rails (similar to the MSR Evo Ascent and Atlas Serrate) provide enhanced grip on hard snow and icy conditions. The plastic decking provides good flotation and has some flex to it which helps with balance when hiking across mixed surfaces and side-hilling. A heel bar is included. A women’s Flex ALP is also available.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw | Amazon

4. TSL Symbioz Elite Snowshoes

TSL Symbioz Elite Snowshoes

The TSL Symbioz Elite is a favorite with mountain hikers because it has a flexible plastic footbed that adapts to varied terrain and a comfortable ratchet-style binding that remembers your boot size for easy on and off. They have a large horizontal front crampon, good for digging into slopes, with eight very aggressive stainless-steel cleats, diagonally oriented down the sides to prevent side slipping. Their floatation is good but not best-in-class. A heel bar is included. Unisex. Read our Symbioz Elite Review. 

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Campsaver

5. Louis Garneau Premiere Snowshoes

Louis Garneau Premiere Snowshoes
The Louis Garneau Premiere Snowshoes are high flotation backcountry snowshoe available in 25″ and 30″ sizes. It has a carbon steel toe and heel crampons that provides maximum traction for uphill, traverse, and downhill snowshoeing, with a unique shock absorption system that pivots the crampon for maximum grip. The Premiere has a Boa rachet lace binding system and rear strap to lock in your boots, with an aggressive foot crampon, and crampons along the side rails. A heel bar is included. Unisex.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Garneau

6. MSR Evo Ascent Snowshoes

MSR Evo Ascent Snowshoes

MSR’s Evo Ascent Snowshoes are made with a hard plastic frame instead of the flexible decking used by many snowshoes. This makes them extra tough and durable, and ideal for off-trail backcountry use. They use a strap-based, lay-flat binding that makes them easy to strap to the outside of a backpack and won’t freeze up. There are two long crampon rails along the sides of the Evo Ascent that provide excellent traction, in addition to a steel crampon under your foot, and rear braking bars. A heel bar is also included for hill climbing. Unisex. Read our Evo Ascent Review.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw | Amazon

7. Tubbs Mountaineer Snowshoes

Tubbs Mountaineer Snowshoes have a teardrop design that provides excellent flotation, along with an aggressive front crampon, and specially designed heel crampons that are angled to help with braking down steep slopes.  They have a ratchet-strap controlled step-in binding system w/ a rear heel strap to hold your boots in place. The Mountaineers are also available in a very large 36″ size, suitable for larger individuals, or if you need to carry heavy loads and need more floatation in deep powder. A heel bar is included. A women’s model is available. 

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Amazon

8. Crescent Moon Gold 10

Crescent Moon Gold 10 Snowshoe
Crescent Moon’s Gold 10 Snowshoes also have a high flotation teardrop design. Loaded with traction, the Gold 10 has four crampons under the toe, forefoot, and heel, as well as side crampons for traversing sloped terrain. They have a step-in binding system tightened on top with a single strap w/ a ratchet-style rear strap to lock your boot in place. Sizing runs large, fitting men’s boot sizes 10-15, including large-volume boots like snowboard or hardshell tele boots. For smaller sizes, see the Crescent Moon Gold 9 Snowshoes.  A heel bar is included. Unisex.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw 

9 Louis Garneau Versant Snowshoes

Louis Garneau Versant Snowshoes
The Garneau Versant is a tear-shaped crampon with a step-in Boa closure binding. It has a unique shock-absorbing front crampon which rotates freely giving you better bite in hard and icy snow. Rear V-shaped crampons under the heel provide additional traction and braking on descents.  A heel bar is included. Unisex.

Check for the latest price at:
Moosejaw | Amazon

10 MSR Revo Explore Snowshoes

MSR Revo Explore Snowshoes
The MSR Revo Explore Snowshoe has a ratchet-strap style binding system that makes them easy to use with all types of footwear (contact MSR for longer replacement front straps to accommodate very large boots). They have an aggressive toe crampon, a toothed crossbar member, and a serrated frame that provides excellent traction on snow and ice. Plastic decking keeps them lightweight, while a heel bar is also included to reduce calf fatigue when climbing slopes. A women’s model is available. Read our Revo Explore Review.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw | Amazon

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.

Snowshoes are bulky and can be difficult to pack
Snowshoes are bulky and can be difficult to pack

If you’re trying to choose between different snowshoes, there are four key properties that should guide your decision-making:

  1. Packability
  2. Weight
  3. Bindings
  4. Sizing

Packability

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 which 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

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.

Bindings

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 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.

Sizing

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’ 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 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 gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.

Most Popular Searches

  • snowshoe reviews 2019
  • best snowshoes for mountain hiking
  • best snowshoes 2019

18 comments

  1. TSL 438 UP & DOWN GRIP is also a good choice. Excellent in descents since the rear part of the fixation passes under the racket.

  2. What about the Tubbs VRT which are more expensive than the Tubbs Flex Alp. I’ve loved my Tubbs Flex Alp but the VRT has the boa binding. The Flex Alps I’m seeing for sale now still seem to have the strap binding (which have always worked very well for me but I am considering trying the VRT model for the ease of the boa…)

    • I think it’s a matter of binding preference; they’re otherwise identical to the Flex Alps. Personally, I prefer the Alps over the VRTs in terms of comfort and think they’re more durable. The Boa can also freeze shut if it gets wet. I used the VRTs for a big chunk of last winter and decided that I like the Alps better.

    • I got a pair of VRT’s last year. Not a fan. My wide toed boots (Salomon Toundra) won’t go all the way to the front of the women’s binding so the crampon is in front of my foot rather than under it. I also had trouble with the heel strap coming undone multiple times on a hike and my gaiters were chewing up the foam on the underside of the binding.

  3. I’m curious why none of the Northern Lites models made the list? They do offer an HD lineup with steel crampon that is still lighter than anything on this list. Have you had issues with Northern Lites in the past or just no experience with them?

    • They’re awful for climbing in steep terrain. I’ve owned several pairs. Read the first paragraph “If you’re interested in getting off the grid and snowshoeing through steep terrain and mountains”

      • Thanks. I live and snowshoe in Minnesota so i don’t know what steep is. That’s also why the northern lites are great for me.

  4. I bought the Tubbs Mountaineer last winter and love them. The ratchet-strap binding is what sold me. At 6′ 2″ and 210 pounds I went with the 36″.
    I know this article is geared towards steep terrain/mountain hiking, where you’d be wearing a technical winter boot, but I thought I should mention this. If you also plan on using the Tubbs Mountaineer around the neighborhood parks/woods with the family, boot type/size matters, especially if you take a size 12 boot like I do. A PAC boot, like Sorel, are not going to fit into the Tubbs Mountaineer bindings properly, if at all. For those times, I wear my 80+ year old wooden snowshoes with leather “H” bindings, handed down to me from my dad. Just what you need for that causal Sunday hikes out to Sawyer or Greeley Ponds Sometimes, it’s enjoyable going “Old School”.

  5. Is there really a difference between men and women’s snowshoes of the same length?

  6. I’ve had MSR Lightning Ascent ‘shoes since they first came out. I bought them after sliding on steep crusty snow and hitting my shoulder hard on a treeing the process. The snowshoes were Atlas tubular frame style from the ’90s.

    With the Lightnng Ascents I’ve never had that problem.

  7. Hey Philip,

    I read this article and you also commented on my post in a Facebook 4,000 footer club earlier regarding snowshoes..

    Lots of good options here, I don’t really want to sink $319 into Snowshoes such as the MSR Lightning Ascents as this will be my first foray into winter hiking . I live in CT so they will be mainly used around here but I want something that will be good to use when I start doing the occasional day hike or overnight backpack in the Whites of NH. I don’t want to have to buy another pair next year or the year after..

    You mentioned getting something with Televators my post. Which 2-3 snowshoes on this list would be suitable. Also do I get 22 inch or 25 inch models. I’m 6’3 215, size 11 boot..

    Thanks Philip

      • I weigh 215-220..

      • I did a little more research of your articles and think I answered my own questions. Despite my weight, I think a 22 inch size will be fine as I plan on doing most snowshoe hiking in packed powder or partially broken out trails, not really deep powder.. I think MSR is the best option but for hiking in the Whites do I need the Lightning model, will any of the lower priced MSR’s serve me just as well??

      • Given your weight, I think you need at least a 25″ and maybe even higher. I was going to suggest that you rent snowshoes at REI first before you dial in a size. You’ll be at 250 lbs with gear. You don’t need the lightnings. A Revo Ascent or Evo Ascent should also work fine.

  8. I called my local REI, they are one of the few REI’s that don’t do rentals of any kind, go figure.. I will definitely look at the 25’s and the Revo’s or Evo’s though. Thanks for your help.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    (function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){(i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o),m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m)})(window,document,'script','//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js','ga');     ga('create', 'UA-2879223-2', 'auto');     ga('send', 'pageview');