If you’re looking for a great winter activity to help keep you fit and active, why not add snowshoeing to your outdoor repertoire? Not only is it good aerobic exercise, it’s the perfect excuse to explore your favorite trails once the snow starts to fall. By distributing weight over a larger area, snowshoes allow wearers to hike more efficiently than just wearing winter boots alone. As a result, you can trek through deep powder without sinking up to your knees.
When choosing a new pair of snowshoes, it’s important to consider a few different factors, most notably size and the terrain you’ll be hiking on. Generally speaking, the taller and heavier you are, the larger the snowshoes need to be to prevent you from sinking into the snow. Additionally, snowshoe designs incorporate different types of traction systems for users who are hiking on flat terrain, hilly trails, or in the mountains, though there are models adept at hiking in a variety of conditions. To help make your decision easier, here are the best snowshoes currently available.
The best overall — MSR Lightning Ascent ($300)
Lightweight, fast, and durable, MSR’s Lightning Ascent snowshoes are versatile enough to be used on just about any type of terrain. The company’s PosiLock bindings firmly attach to most kinds of boots without restricting motion in any way. This is crucial for maintaining traction, particularly when moving up and down steep slopes. The Lightning Ascent’s easy to use features make them beginner friendly, yet they offer enough stability and support to please veteran snowshoers, too. Built to handle deep snow but just as agile in icy conditions, this is the absolute best snowshoe available at the moment.
For those who need even more support in particularly snowy environments, MSR also offers modular flotation tails that can be added to the back of this model. These provide a bit more surface area for especially demanding hikes and also makes the snowshoes an excellent choice for winter backcountry adventures that take you well off the beaten path.
The best for use on trails — TSL Symbioz Elite ($299)
Built for going fast on well-groomed or frequently traveled trails, the TSL Symbioz Elite snowshoe is a good option for winter hikers who don’t venture far into the backcountry. This snowshoe is smaller and lighter than most the competition, meaning it doesn’t offer as much support in deep powder. But, this also means it’s a great choice for trail runners and fast-hikers who are looking to quickly cover ground.
Surprisingly compact and flexible, the Symbioz Elite offers excellent shock absorption, which is not a feature you find in other models. On top of that, this shoe features a plate underfoot that provides excellent stability and movement, making it an even better option for those fast winter workouts.
The best for use off-trail — Louis Garneau Blizzard II ($200)
Want to get off the well-worn routes and blaze your own trail? The Blizzard II from Louis Garneau is the perfect snowshoe for doing just that. Made from lightweight, yet durable, aluminum, these shoes are built for deep snow and rugged backcountry terrain. Traction is improved thanks to a built-in multidirectional carbon steel crampon, which works surprisingly well both when climbing and descending. Additionally, these snowshoes come with an integrated heel riser that helps reduce leg fatigue when plowing through thick powder or moving uphill, while the Blizzard II’s decking is designed to shed excess snow to help keep weight to a minimum too.
To ensure a secure and comfortable fit, Louis Garneau has incorporated the Boa lacing system into it’s design. This set-it and forget-it closure system allows users to dial in the exact fit they need, lock it into place, and never have to worry about it again until they’re ready to take the Blizzard II snowshoes off their feet. It is a simple, but highly effective option that works very well, even in the ice and snow.
The best for rugged terrain — Tubbs Wilderness ($200)
For anyone who finds themselves hiking on rolling hills or steeper slopes, the Tubbs Wilderness snowshoe is a comfortable, versatile, and affordable option. It offers excellent traction both on and off the trail but the Wilderness especially excels at providing a solid grip when climbing and descending rugged, changing terrain. A rotating toe cord on the front, along with a crampon on the ball of the foot, help keep hikers stable and in control, even when transitioning from snow to ice to rock, and back again.
As with the Tubbs Mountaineer, the Wilderness runs a bit on the heavy side which makes for improved durability, though it can slow hikers down and cause fatigue. Still, for backcountry adventures with a lot of climbing, these are a great option.
The best speedy snowshoeing — Dion Model 120 Laser ($145)
If your goal is to go as fast as possible on the snow then you’ll definitely want the Dion Model 120 Laser on your feet. These custom made, handcrafted snowshoes are meant for racing and as such they are lighter and more agile than just about any other shoe on the market. In fact, a pair of Model 120 Laser snowshoes weighs in at a mere 1 pound, 9 ounces, which is significantly lighter than almost anything else on the market. That makes these snowshoes perfect for trail runners who want to continue their workouts during the winter months or competitive snowshoers who are looking for an edge over the competition.
Dion can craft these snowshoes to meet an individual athlete’s needs, providing a selection of bindings and cleats to choose from. This allows customers to not only get a set of snowshoes that are surprisingly nimble, but have them built to their specifications. The result is a model that is incredibly quick both on and off the trail.
The best budget snowshoes – MSR Evo Snowshoe Kit ($200)
Getting started with snowshoeing can be expensive for newcomers who not only have to shell out for the shoes themselves, but a set of trekking poles and other gear as well. With the introduction of the Evo Snowshoe Kit, MSR has helped lower the barrier to entry however. This kit comes with a set of the company’s Evo Trail shoes and a pair of Dynalock Trail poles, as well as a handy carrying case for keeping everything organized and easy to transport. Essentially, this is everything you need to hit the trail, all in one affordable package.
In terms of performance, the Evo Trail snowshoes are lightweight, durable, and provide excellent traction on a wide variety of terrain. They come equipped with MSR’s DuoFit bindings, which are not only easy to use while wearing gloves, but resist snow and ice too. Despite their budget price, MSR didn’t skimp on quality when creating the Evo Trail either, creating a snowshoe that is rugged enough to survive the harshest conditions found in the backcountry.