Friday, February 6, 2009

Tips for Buying Snowshoes

Let me start by saying I'm not the person to be giving advice on buying snowshoes--that's why this post is titled "tips" and not "how to." If you need help buying, you can research online or find a knowledgable salesperson, which is what we did. All I'm offering here is a little bit about our experience buying his and hers snowshoes last weekend.
There are a couple of basic things we learned. One, not all shoes are suitable for all types of snow and terrain. So first decide what type of snowshoeing you'll be doing. That could be on level, well-packed trails (that's us); or it might be blazing through deeper snow or climbing up mountains.

Second, snowshoes are sold in three or four basic sizes, based on your weight fully bundled up. One clever manufacturer has a scale near the snowshoe display. The idea is to step on the scale--which fortunately doesn't show your weight--but instead indicates your snowshoe size. The most common sizes are 21, 25, and 30, which equate to small, medium, and large. There are variations on all of this, depending on brand. But we learned not to be taken in by the scale. Scales can lie.

The helpful salesperson at Kittery Trading Post (yes, in Maine!) said the weight charts were more reliable. By the scale, Doug should have bought a 30, which is a longer, wider snowshoe. It just didn't fit his medium build and our salesperson concurred that he should stick with a 25, which is what I also bought. While there's a 40-pound weight difference between Doug and I, we ended up with the same size, but not the same style.
I bought a woman's style (shown above), which is tapered in back, making it lighter and requiring less of a wide stance.

A Note on Bindings: What we were most concerned with here is how easy they were to operate. We bought the Timberline snowshoe sold by Tubbs (on sale for about $130). This particular shoe has a single cinch pull binding. Once you put your foot in the shoe, you pull up on one strap and then secure the heel strap in back. That's it. Seems important to have an easy binding when you're outdoors bundled up in a ski parka, with gloves on, and the wind is whipping around you.

One last tip: some snowshoe designs are more apt to kick snow up your pant leg as you walk-- a problem that can be remedied by wearing ski pants. I'm not sure if this has to do with the pivot of the shoe or the curve of the platform. I mention it here so you can be sure to ask your salesperson about it or research before you buy, if like me, you'd prefer not to add a layer of clothing. Happy snowshoeing!


Tracey said...

Great article!

MHoffmanPhoto said...

Great article! I know I'm late to the party here, but I wanted to let you know that there is still plenty of snow up in the White Mtns for snowshoeing. I was on the Avalon Trail near the AMC headquarters on Monday. That area got about 4" of new snow on Sunday night. There is still a lot of old, frozen snow underneath. Snowshoes (or crampons) are essential for good traction. Have fun out there!

JayDPiii said...

After some research, and going to the "Winter Trails" days a few years back (held the first Satrurday in January each year) and trying the brand and model I had researched on paper, we purchased an MSR snowshoe, mens style for myself and women's style for my wife.