At the beginning of 2017, we spent two weeks on Kungsleden in Swedish Lapland. In total, we covered a distance of 105 km – on snowshoes. And that’s exactly what this Article is all about! Because snowshoes are not all alike. What are the differences you should pay attention when buying (or borrowing), you will find out here.
- What material?
Snowshoes are either made of plastic or aluminum (i.e., an aluminum frame with a coating made of a strong material). Plastic models are usually cheaper and more robust, but slightly heavier. Snowshoes made of plastic are more suitable for solid, pressed snow, while the lighter aluminum models provide buoyancy even in fresh snow because the flexible cover makes it possible to distribute the weight better over the entire surface. Due to their price and longevity, plastic is usually the first choice for beginners.
- How big should the snowshoes be?
This point is not about the shoe size (this is easily adjustable on the snowshoes), but the size of the contact surface. This, in turn, is closely related to snow conditions. In principle, the more powdery the snow is, the larger the snowshoes should be. Unfortunately, bigger does not automatically mean better: narrower snowshoes enable a more natural and therefore more comfortable walking style. In addition to the condition of the snow, you should also think about the terrain in which you (mostly) want to be. If you are planning trips with a lot of slopes, you should ensure you that the snowshoes have good crampons and traction rails to ensure enough grip Another important factor is the weight the snowshoe has to deal with – This means your body weight plus clothes and luggage. Snowshoes are explicitly advertised for certain weight ranges. That means they differ just in size. Its a good starting point for finding the right Snowshoe for you.
- What is important of a snowshoe binding?
The binding ensures that the foot is firmly enclosed and the snowshoe does not slide. For that reason, the instep and heel should be tight. It is advisable to use a flexible binding that is easy to adjust. So the snowshoe fits every type of shoe. Different snowshoe models sometimes have different closure systems. In our experience, a quick release is easier to handle than eyelets or buckles. On long tours, it is also more pleasant if the binding allows a lateral tilting movement. Because so the ankles are less strained.
- Do I need a heel lift?
In our opinion: yes! A heel lift is a small footbridge on the snowshoe (below the heel), which can be folded up as desired. On the slope or rise, the heel lift is folded up. Thus, you can put much more pressure on the heel much earlier. This saves power and allows for a faster and more pleasant ascent. In flat terrain, the heel lift is folded down and does not continue to affect walking.
- Why are there special models for women?
Snowshoes for women differ not only in their color but also in design. As a rule, they are slightly narrower, as women (also because of their anatomy) walk less stubby than men. Of course, the smaller surface also affects buoyancy, that means Snowshoes for women are designed for less weight. In principle, we would like to point out that you as a woman does not necessarily have to buy a women’s snowshoe! Also, there may be a good choice for lighter men. In any case, the gender should not be the decision maker alone when buying shoes!
- Do I have to wear special shoes?
No. Due to the flexible adjustable binding, the snowshoe can be adapted to almost any shoe. Nonetheless, the shoe should be stable, warm and waterproof for a comfortable ride in the snow. To prevent snow from entering the shoe through the shaft, we also recommend wearing gaiters.
- Do I need special poles?
No. Normal hiking or trekking poles fulfill the same purpose. However, you should attach larger plates, so-called snow plates. They make walking a lot easier, as the pole will find a faster grip in the snow and the walking movement will be supported more effectively. Handles made of cork are also considered to be pleasant because they do not get as cold as other materials.
- A little tip at the end.
In many outdoor shops and tourist information, you can (usually) rent snowshoes very cheap – perfect to try and get the first feel.