The Best Snowshoes

 

Since 1995, I’ve been using and reviewing snowshoes throughout the western states. In that time, I created the first snowshoe hiking guidebook for The Mountaineers Books, with my inaugural work covering Washington state. That book has spawned dozens of others in the series, covering most of the northern and western states – and I’ve been working on new editions and new regions ever since. During years of research for those guidebooks, I’ve tested hundreds of snowshoes, and continue to field test the latest offerings from most brands sold in North America.

For this test, we examined no less than 10 models and selected the five listed above because they proved to be the best in terms of new innovations, general performance, price and availability. I recruited six fellow snowshoe enthusiasts to assist in the process, and together we logged hundreds of hours, tromping over snow routes in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado.

Review Year
Best in Class
Overall Rating
Price
Name Overall Rating Ratings The Good The Bad Price
MSR Lightning Ascent
96
Best in Class
2017
Ease of Use 9
Binding Support 10
Traction 10
Natural Stride 10
Powder Flotation 7

Versatile

Great Traction

Comfortable, supportive binding

Made in the USA

Limited sizes in women’s-specific design

A tad heavy

More expensive than others

Not the best for powder conditions

MSRP
$300.00
BEST DEAL
$239.93
MSR Revo Explore
92
Best in Class
2014
Ease of Use 7
Binding Support / Ef... 9
Traversing, Ice, Tec... 10
Natural Stride (walk... 8
Powder 9
Value 9

Hyperlink binding

Lightweight

Incredible traction

Multiple sizes available

Noisy on crusty snow/ice

Not perfectly compatible with all boots, especially lightweight boots.

MSRP
$200.00
BEST DEAL
$159.93
Atlas Aspect
91
Ease of Use 8
Binding Support / Ef... 8
Traversing, Ice, Tec... 9
Natural Stride (walk... 9
Powder 8
Value 9

Walking felt natural with good fore and aft foot motion at the front of the binding.

Tail drop was minimal, reducing most drag in the snow for more maneuverability.

Traction.

Heel lift bar was a bonus for steep ascents.

3 strap design on binding held well laterally and stayed snug.

Deep powder ascents resulted in trapped snow on the decking with each step increasing snow weight on the surface.

Heel lift bar required more effort to rise, especially without poles.

Slightly heavier than others in the test group.

MSRP
$269.95
BEST DEAL
$249.95
Tubbs Flex Alp
90
Ease of Use 10
Binding Support / Ef... 5
Traversing, Ice, Tec... 9
Natural Stride (walk... 7
Powder 10

The Flex Tail made powder running extra fun and seemed to add some spring to each step.

Fully free floating binding kept the tips up with each step.

Open channels on the tail completely shed snow from decking in deep powder.

Easiest and fastest binding to attach in the test group.

Lateral support of binding was among the best tested in the group.

Crampon created stellar grip on moderate pitch angles.

Heel strap loosened up with larger boots and in some cases completely dislodged at the back.

Longer profile kept the heels dragging in flat terrain.

Less nimble in sharp transitions due to long and wide tail.

Some pressure noted against the toes on descents.

MSRP
$220.00
BEST DEAL
$239.95
Tubbs Mountaineer
90
Ease of Use 8
Binding Support 8
Traction 7
Natural Stride 8
Powder Flotation 9

Versatile

Great flotation

Easy to use binding

Women’s-specific sizes

Heavy

Binding limited in boot sizes

Not ideal for traversing

Binding straps ice-up in wet snow

MSRP
$270.00
BEST DEAL
$189.95
Crescent Moon EVA All-Foam
88
Ease of Use 8
Binding Support 6
Traction 7
Natural Stride 10
Powder Flotation 7

Lightweight

Allows natural stride

Very affordable

Good flotation

Poor traction on ice and hard snow

Durability is a concern

Bindings less secure with larger boots

MSRP
$160.00
BEST DEAL
$158.95
Crescent Moon Gold 9
85
Ease of Use 7
Binding Support / Ef... 9
Traversing, Ice, Tec... 5
Natural Stride (walk... 7
Powder 9
Value 8

The gradual tapered shape.

Being able to maintain a natural gait.

Simple binding systems with one pull strap and a rear ratchet.

Bindings are glove friendly.

Float with 2 inches of extra length.

Heel stayed close to the binding while walking for a natural feel on the snow.

Lateral support on the binding for steep traverses or very technical conditions.

Extra attention had to be paid to centering the foot on the binding.

Binding did not accommodate snowboard boots (You can upgrade to the larger 32” Gold 10 which fits both).

No heel lift for climbing (coming in 2012-2013 models).

MSRP
$259.00
BEST DEAL
$215.16
Atlas Spindrift
85
Ease of Use 7
Binding Support 6
Traction 7
Natural Stride 10
Powder Flotation 5

Lightweight

Allows natural stride

Affordable

Good traction on hard snow and ice

Modest flotation

Foot can slip in binding

Binding can be difficult to tighten

Durability is a concern

MSRP
$250.00
BEST DEAL
$199.96
L.L. Bean Winter Walkers
85
Ease of Use 6
Binding Support 6
Traction 8
Natural Stride 8
Powder Flotation 7

Inexpensive

Good selection of sizes

Binding fits wide range of shoe sizes

Flotation is moderate

Heavy

Bindings can be difficult to adjust

MSRP
$129.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Atlas Endeavor
84
Ease of Use 8
Binding Support / Ef... 8
Traversing, Ice, Tec... 7
Natural Stride (walk... 7
Powder 7
Value 7

Good traction

Excellent flotation

Lighter weight than many others

Supportive binding

Multiple sizes available

Slight tendency for snowballing on toe crampons

Heel elevator somewhat difficult to lift

Noisy on crusty snow

MSRP
$220.00
BEST DEAL
$159.95
Redfeather Alpine 25 Epic
83
Ease of Use 5
Binding Support / Ef... 10
Traversing, Ice, Tec... 7
Natural Stride (walk... 6
Powder 7
Value 8

Virtually no heel drag.

Stayed tight to the foot when running or in confined space maneuvers.

Simple pull Z straps over the foot, while a quick ratchet in the rear allows fast deployments.

Interchangeable bindings.

Shed snow well in deep powder with very narrow tail design.

Confident in walking or running on packed trails.

Large amount of kicked up snow over the head from the rear platform, especially when running in powder.

The ratchet style Epic binding needed adjustments between using snowboard style boots and smaller profile footwear where the Ultra Binding accommodated both nicely.

Z straps could develop snow and ice build-up in more humid environments or with sharp temperature drops.

Difficult to “snug” with gloved hands.

Deep powder might have your tips dragging in the snow as opposed to “Tip up” designs that reduced drag.

MSRP
$245.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Tubbs Flex RDG
83
Ease of Use 4
Binding Support / Ef... 8
Traversing, Ice, Tec... 7
Natural Stride (walk... 7
Powder 9
Value 8

Boa binding

Lightweight

Mens and Women’s versions available

Inexpensive

Noisy on crusty snow and ice

One size only

Potential icing of Boa reel

MSRP
$190.00
BEST DEAL
$168.80
Louis Garneau Black Everest
82
Ease of Use 7
Binding Support / Ef... 7
Traversing, Ice, Tec... 6
Natural Stride (walk... 9
Powder 7
Value 6

Boa binding system

Modest Price

Multiple sizes available

Noisy on crusty snow and ice

Heavy for its size

Potential icing of Boa reel in some conditions

MSRP
N/A
BEST DEAL
$158.90
MSR Lightning Ascent

The MSR Lightning Ascent excels as an all-mountain snowshoe, providing incredible traction and ease-of-use. The shoe’s aggressive traction – running tip-to-tail – makes it ideal for steep slopes and icy conditions. The simple but effective four-strap binding secures easily to an assortment of footwear, and can be minutely adjusted in each strap location for a perfectly secure but comfortable fit. The only knock our testers could come up with was a slight dip in performance in deep powder – other 25-inch models in the test had a bit more flotation in true powder conditions. Still, our test team unanimously dubbed the MSR Lightning Ascent this season’s Best in Class snowshoe.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at REI.com

L.L. Bean Winter Walkers

The L.L. Bean Winter Walker snowshoes provided good performance for novice snowshoers during a family outing in Washington State’s snow mecca – the Methow Valley in the North Cascades. The flotation of the shoes was adequate in all but the driest powder, and traction was good for the rolling terrain. Though not as easy to use as some higher-end offerings, the Winter Walker’s binding system employs simple webbing straps and buckles that held firmly and comfortably once locked in place. These snowshoes offer decent performance at a great price, making them our pick for Best Value.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at

Tubbs Mountaineer

The Tubbs Mountaineers earned our respect as powerful workhorses in varied snow conditions. The wide decking underfoot – with a modest taper at the heel – provided exceptional flotation, even when carrying a heavy pack or pulling a loaded sled. And the steel heel cleats and forefoot crampons bit firmly into crusty snow and ice, yet resisted snowballing (i.e. clumping underfoot) in wet, sticky snow. The Mountaineers binding did allow a bit of heel slippage on steep traverses, making them a little less surefooted on steep terrain than others in the class. But they earned our best marks in flotation, making them great options for general recreational outings.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Sunny Sports

Atlas Spindrift

Designed for speed, the Atlas Spindrift offers great traction at minimal weight. Atlas used semi-rigid molded polymer for the narrow-tapered decking to keep weight down, while aggressive crampons and heel cleats lock onto slopes and icy surfaces. The Spindrift 25s kept a 200-pound tester atop the snow during a long fast trek to the summit of Mount St Helens, providing a great combination of modest flotation and traction on the climb.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Outdoorplay

Crescent Moon EVA All-Foam

The Crescent Moon EVA All-Foam worked well when trekking up the Muir Snowfield on the flanks of Mount Rainier, even when worn by a 200-pound hiker. The simple hook-and-loop strap bindings locked on securely enough, though care had to be taken to keep them free of snow if they were undone mid-hike. The contoured bottoms of the shoes provided decent traction, though not enough for serious alpine climbs. The lightweight EVA All-Foams proved ideally suited for casual hikes on rolling to flat terrain.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Moosejaw

MSR Revo Explore

The MSR Revo Explore upholds MSR’s reputation for offering the best shoes for climbing (and descending) steep and deep slopes. The Revo’s aggressive toe-to-tail traction and gentle taper makes it ideal for trudging through tricky snow conditions and tight trails. The simple but effective two-strap Hyperlink binding secures easily to an assortment of footwear, though we did have some trouble getting a totally secure fit on light hiking boots. All in all, every one of our test team members dubbed the Revo Explore this season’s Best in Class snowshoe.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at REI.com

MSR Lightning Ascent

The Lightning Ascents are some of the most impressive snowshoes we've seen, capable of handling rough backcountry climbs, especially in deep powder or sidehilling across slick hardpack. The MSR The traction is best in class, the weight is very low, and the versatility is exceptional—the Ascents work effortlessly with virtually any size boot or shoe.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Sunny Sports

See All Snowshoes Reviews

Snowshoe Review Results

by: Last Updated:

Ease of Use 

The first criterion in selecting snowshoes is determining whether you can use them in the rugged, winter conditions for which they are made. Will you be able to affix the bindings to your boots when it’s windy, snowing, and frigidly cold? Do you need to strip off your gloves, or can you stay safe and warm as you do-up the bindings? If you remove the bindings mid-outings, will you be able to step back into them in a deep field of powder?

The MSR Lightning Ascents proved to be masters of ease, both in the operation of the bindings in all possible conditions and the performance of secondary features like the heel lift bar for climbing assistance. The MSR bindings could be worked comfortably while wearing gloves, and the straps were immune to snow and ice accumulation.

Tubbs nearly equaled MSR’s ease of use performance – the bindings on the Mountaineers proved equally easy to use while wearing gloves, though the straps did at times accumulate small clumps of ice that slightly hindered operation in extreme conditions.

Crescent Moon also came close to the Lightning Ascent’s performance here, with the hook-and-loop closures on the binding straps being the easiest system to operate in clean, dry conditions. But snow and ice did build up at times, preventing those straps from locking in securely along their entire length.

Binding Support/Effectiveness 

Ease of operation doesn’t also lead to peak performance, but in the case of MSR’s binding system, the two went hand-in-hand. The MSR Lightning Ascent bindings earned top marks for ease of use, as well as pure performance. The four-strap binding locked down securely, without pinching or constricting our feet. And regardless of the terrain we crossed –straight up steep wind-crusted slopes, straight down powder-covered fields, or across icy hillsides –the Lightning Ascents held our feet in perfect alignment on the snowshoes. No slipping and no discomfort. And that was true whether they were fitted to women’s size 8 dayhiking shoes or men’s size 13 snowboarding boots.

The Tubbs Mountaineers placed second in this category. Like the MSRs, the Tubbs system held our feet securely in steep climbs and descents. It was only on the steepest traverses that any of our testers felt a bit of heel slippage, and then it was only the heaviest hikers with the biggest boots.

The rest of the field was essentially tied. All performed well above average in terms of binding performance, but none came close to matching the performance of the top two in this class.

Traversing, Ice, Technical Conditions 

After evaluating binding design and performance, we look closely at the performance of the snowshoes on a variety of terrain. Virtually every modern snowshoe functions adequately on flat, contourless ground, so we put them all to the test on mountain slopes. We ran them up and down slopes, and most importantly, we hiked across a variety of hillsides, from gradual slopes, to steep mountain flanks. We sought out crusty snow and icy conditions to really test the snowshoes’ traction devices.

MSR’s Lightning Ascents earned a perfect 10 in this category – with some testers trying to push that to 11 or 12! The Lightning Ascents boast the most aggressive traction system of any snowshoe we’ve seen and the snow-gripping hardware runs from tip to tail. In essence, the entire frame, and much of the bottom of the decking, is a traction device. Uphill, downhill, across near-cliff faces, the MSR snowshoe did not slip.

The L.L. Bean Winter Walkers –at less than half the price of the MSR shoes –came in a distant second in terms of traction and technical performance. The Winter Walkers sport a design that’s a bit dated but proven. The combination of modest cleats and crampons with an effective binding that held feet firmly in position on the shoes, had the Winter Walkers outscoring more technologically advanced shoes like the Tubbs, Crescent Moon and Atlas models. Those all scored about the same – well above average but just below the L.L. Beans (and far below the MSRs).

Natural Stride

The Crescent Moon EVA All-Foams shared top billing in striding comfort with the MSR Lightning Ascents and Atlas Spindrifts. All three brands allowed smooth, comfortable gaits that mimic the natural stride of an unencumbered hiker. Narrow decks and tapered tails help achieve this performance win for MSR and Atlas, while Crescent Moon couples those design elements with a deeply curved rocker shape to the snowshoe decks. This rocker actually helps lead the foot through a natural stride, almost forcing hikers to stay in normal step.

The Tubbs Mountaineer – behind the broadest of the snowshoes in the class – forced the widest stride, yet even that gait wasn’t uncomfortable. The L.L. Bean Winter Walker offered a comfortable middle ground in the walking motion review.

Powder Flotation

Finally, we examine the underlying rationale for wearing snowshoes in the first place: flotation on soft snow. All the shoes in this class provide flotation that’s more than adequate in all snow conditions, but when it comes to the dry, fluffy powder, the question comes down to not if you’ll sink, but by how much.

The Tubbs Mountaineers excelled at keeping us nearly the top of the powdery snowpack. The broad decks, and generously shaped frames maximized surface area to keep us high and dry on the snow. MSR, Atlas, and Crescent Moon provided better than average powder performance – only the fast-and-light Atlas Spindrifts sunk enough in powder to earn a mere average grade.

Review Conclusion

The snowshoes in this class represent the best of those offered for the 2017-2018 winter, and we worked them hard in testing to find where each excelled and where they came up a little short. Our pick for Best in Class was a hands-down favorite across the board for our test team: The MSR Lightning Ascents are all-mountain workhorses and performed as good, or better, than the rest of the competition in virtually every category.

That said, any of the shoes in this class are up to performing the tasks for which they were designed. Some, like the Atlas Spindrift, are best suited for fast-and-light adventures in the snow, while others, like the Crescent Moon EVA All-Foams, are design-made for novices and general recreational use.

To best use our findings, you should first identify your own needs. Decide where and when you’ll use them. That includes considering what type of snow you’ll trek on. Will you tromp through open meadows and generally flat, gentle terrain with the family? Do you plan to be more adventurous and trek up some mountain trails? Are overnight trips in the backcountry among your plans? The answers to these questions will help narrow your choices as you read through our reviews.

Test Methods

When evaluating performance of snowshoes, my team and I use our review models in a variety of snow and terrain conditions. We trek up and down steep trails and trudge across sharply angled slopes. We charge through deep powder (when we can find it!) and mince across icy fields. During the tests, we consider how the ‘shoes perform in each of these conditions and where they really excel so you can better match the snowshoes to your needs.

For this test, I performed much of the snowshoe testing work while researching routes for an update to my best-selling “Snowshoe Routes: Washington” guidebook (the inaugural work in the national series). I had the assistance of a team of snowshoeing enthusiasts, backcountry snowboarders, and wilderness rangers who joined me in testing these products. We trekked throughout the Cascade and  Olympic Mountains of Washington, explored the steep peaks of the Teton Range in both Idaho and Wyoming, and rambled through the snow-laden highland steppes of central Washington and Oregon.

What Are Snowshoes?

Snowshoes are the earliest known means of making travel on snow easier. The best archeological evidence suggests these early “foot extenders” originated in central Asia about 4000 bc. Further evidence shows that without this mode of winter transportation, aboriginal people would not have been able to journey to what is now North America via the Bering Strait. Snowshoes are a natural for modern-day winter trekking, as more and more people are coming to realize. With a little planning and preparation, you can embrace the beauties of the backcountry year-round.

Hikers can enjoy great benefits when they supplement their warm-weather hiking with snowshoeing come winter. Snowshoes have been used by various cultures for eons, but only in the last 30 years have we seen modern innovations to ancient designs. The class wood and rawhide snowshoes have given way to advanced technologies. In evaluating snowshoes, we consider the three core components of modern snowshoes: the bindings, the decking and frame, and the traction devices. Our testing focuses on how these components best support the needs of the average winter enthusiast looking for a hiking-style adventure.

Identifying your needs

The first step in snowshoe selection requires some thought about where and when you’ll be using them. That includes considering what type of snow you’ll be trekking through. Will you be tromping through open meadows and generally flat, gentle terrain with the family? Do you plan to be more adventurous and trek up some mountain trails? Are overnight trips in the backcountry in your plans? The answers to these questions will help narrow your choices when it comes time to buy.

The size of your snowshoes depends on your weight—or rather, the combined weight of you and any pack you’ll be carrying—and the type of snow you’ll be cruising through. Generally, the heavier you are, the bigger your ‘shoes need to be. But, snowshoers in heavy, dense snow (such as what we usually find in the Cascades) need less flotation than snowshoes in light, fluffy Rocky Mountain powder. With that in mind, while snowshoe makers may recommend you use, say, a 30-inch snowshoe (refers to the length of the snowshoe), if you are only going to hitting the trails in the Cascades, you may be able to get by with a 24-inch snowshoe. On the other hand, if you plan to venture into other parts of the country where powder is common, if you plan to take an occasional over-night trip with a heavy pack, or if you will be out snowshoeing frequently, you might opt for the bigger ‘shoe. Again, the decision comes down to the answers to those opening questions: where, and how, will you be snowshoeing?

The answer to “where?” also needs to consider the specific terrain on which you’ll use your snowshoes. For steep mountaineering use, smaller snowshoes will give you traction and flotation without the burden of heavy, large shoes that can tire you on climbs.

On the other hand, long trails along flat terrain are best enjoyed when maximizing flotation. On flat trails, a larger — even though slightly heavier— snowshoe that stays atop the snow works best.

Understanding your snowshoes

After evaluating your planned uses and adventure locations, the next step is considering the snowshoes themselves. Modern snowshoes have three core design elements that define their performance in various snow and terrain conditions: frame and decking; bindings and traction devices. Before selecting new snowshoes, it’s important to understand the different characteristics of various bindings, decking styles, and traction systems. How these three components function in conjunction with each other will help determine the snowshoe’s suitability for your needs.

Frames & Decking

As you start sorting through the shelves of ‘shoes, the first consideration is the frame and decking. These comprise the bulk of the snowshoe. Frame and decking create the flotation that keeps you on (or near) the top of the snow. Traditionally, snowshoes featured wooden frames with rawhide woven decks. In the mid 1970s, a couple of brothers working at a Boeing decided to use their experience working with aircraft aluminum to create a better snowshoe for themselves and their friends. They launched Sherpa Snowshoes out of their Yakima, Washington, home with their innovative design: A tubular-aluminum snowshoe frame with a synthetic rubberized deck.

Today, tubular aluminum frames are the mainstay of snowshoe design but decking materials have continually evolved. Plastics, rubbers, and various synthetic fabrics have been used successfully. In the early 1990s, MSR introduced a radical design — their Denali Llama snowshoe was frameless model made from injection-molded plastic. In essence, the decking material was also the frame since it was rigid plastic.

Since that original Denali Llama design, MSR and other brands have refined the injection molding process, and found ways to vary the density of the plastic and even vinyl being molded to streamline weights and enhance performance.

An array of decking materials and designs exist today, but they all perform the same basic task: Providing flotation on snow. The differences will be in their weight, their effectiveness in providing flotation, and their durability and strength.

Some other factors that come into play on selecting frame and decking designs include the ability of the products to shed snow — if snow gathers on the decks and sticks to the frames, that increases the weight of each step you take. Noise is another potential consideration. Walking in a snow-laden landscape is generally a quiet activity, but some of the more rigid, plastic decks create a lot of noise as the bump and slide over crusty snow.

Bindings

The system of straps and buckles that affix the snowshoe to your foot is known as the binding. These vary widely in design and performance, as well as in fit. When heading out to buy snowshoes, you should take with you the boots, and socks, you will be wearing when snowshoeing. Generally, a good pair of mid- to high-top waterproof hiking boots is adequate for snowshoeing, though most seasoned snowshoers prefer an insulated winter hiking boots. As you try on test models, plan on taking your time—don’t schedule anything for at least a couple hours so you’ll have time to try on various snowshoes with your boots and see how they feel. This step in the process is vital since not every binding will work with every boot — large, heavily insulated boots and smaller shoes tend to have the biggest issues.

Binding designs vary greatly: Some use the Boa cable-and-spool tightening system — this essentially uses a ratcheting reel to pull a steel cable through a lace system, tightening the binding straps uniformly around your boot. Other systems utilize plastic or nylon straps and ratcheting buckles. Others sport simple but effective elastic bands that buckle in place.

Traction

After looking over the bindings on the top of the shoes, flip the snowshoes over and examine the bottom of the shoe. While the decking keeps you afloat in the snow, the cleats and traction bars on the bottom of the shoe keep you from slipping and sliding on ice and steep slopes. At a bare minimum, snowshoes should have a set of crampon teeth under your forefoot. Ideally, you’ll want at a row of ‘teeth jutting forward and another pointing backward. A set of cleats under the heel area is also vital.  Sometime entry level snowshoes have only forefoot cleats. These work fine on golf courses and gentle slopes, but when you need to traverse or descend a steep slope, your find your heel slipping and sliding uncontrollably.

Many of the snowshoes featuring injection molded decks, or deck components, have multiple sets of cleats, while others have replaced the classic tubular aluminum frames with blade-style frames that provide 360º traction.

Bottom line, in snowshoes, slippage is a bad thing, so more traction is better.

Focus on Comfort

Like any footwear, one of—if not the—most important consideration is fit and comfort. The best shoe, boot, or snowshoe does you no good if it causes so much discomfort that you can’t wear it.

Fit and feel

As discussed above, bindings come in a variety of configurations and cinching devices. But regardless of the style, bindings have to do two basic things: keep your foot comfortably attached to your snowshoe and keep it pointed straight forward on the snowshoe. The first requirement seems simple enough, but the operative word is comfortably. The last you want to do on a frigid winter walk is to cut off the circulation into your foot. That means if the straps of the bindings can’t be cinched too tight of you’ll cut off blood flow into your foot. The bindings have to be designed to work when snug, but no more. This leads to the second imperative: keeping your foot pointing forward.

This is most important traversing a hillside. If you snowshoe is pointing forward across the hill, and your foot slips so your heel is pointing downhill, you are going to be out of balance and on unstable footing. You need your toes pointed toward the front of the snowshoe at all times.  How do you figure out if a binding does thing? Try it out. When you go to buy, strap on the ‘shoes and stand sidewise on an incline board (the store should have one in the boot department, if not in the snowshoe department).

Ease of Use

Most binding systems today are designed to allow fast and easy adjustment. But a system that’s easy to adjust in a warm, dry store can be a bear to work with in the snow. When test fitting your bindings, you’ll want to try to fasten the bindings while wearing gloves—remember, you are going to be in cold, snowy conditions when you are using these things, so you should be able to adjust the bindings without exposing your fingers to the frigid air. Also, give some thought to how the bindings might be affected by snow and ice. Area there narrow metal buckles that could ice up? Levers or toggles that could be clogged by balls of snow? We look for those things during testing, and you should consider them as well when you are looking to buy.

Make sure the performance matches your needs

When evaluating performance of snowshoes, our lead tester and his team use them in a variety of snow and terrain conditions. We get out and trek up and down steep trails and trudge across sharply angled slopes. We charge through deep powder (when we can find it!) and mince across icy fields.

During the tests, we consider how the ‘shoes perform in each of these conditions and where they really excel so you can better match the snowshoes to your needs.

Price

While there is a good variety of prices in the snowshoe market, the different from most to least expensive isn’t as great as you’ll find in many gear categories. That helps make it easier to focus on the performance and technical aspects and less on price. That said, a difference of a $100 or more is significant, after all your other evaluations are tabulated, it does make sense to let price be a deciding factor in your selection among finalist.