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 hike 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. Generally speaking, the taller and heavier you are, the larger the snowshoes need to be to prevent 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 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 — Tubbs Mountaineer ($270)
For hikers looking to break new trails, the Tubbs Mountaineer is the best choice. This snowshoe features a built-in carbon-steel crampon on its toe and heel, allowing for sure footing on ice and snow. The Mountaineer’s gender-specific binding feels comfortable and responsive on your foot, which also adds stability and agility. These snowshoes run a bit longer than others, helping to provide better float in deep snow. This makes it a particularly good choice for those who want to leave the well-worn trail behind and explore the backcountry on their own.
The extra length does add additional weight, which, combined with deep snow, leads to tired and sore legs. These snowshoes are definitely not made for those who like to travel fast and light but instead, are built for the intrepid explorer who likes to blaze their own trail. For those individuals, there are few other snowshoes capable of matching the performance of the Mountaineer.
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 — Crescent Moon EVA All-Foam ($160)
For those who want an experience closer to trail running, the new Crescent Moon EVA All-Foam snowshoes are an intriguing option. Made from two bonded layers of EVA foam and featuring a simple but effective binding system, these snowshoes are extremely lightweight. They also offer a high level of flex, a rocker-shaped design, and an unprecedented level of comfort. This allows them to perform more like a running shoe rather than a traditional snowshoe. Not only does this equate to a beginner-friendly design but they boast an affordable price tag, as well.
Because Crescent Moon used a completely new, and relatively untested, design when creating the EVA, durability remains a bit of a question. The lightweight foam used in the snowshoe’s construction may break down with extended use, meaning only time will tell if they’re capable of holding up to the demands of outdoor athletes — however, they are extremely fun to use and hold a lot of promise.