Take up snowshoeing this winter.
By Trent Jonas
As snow begins to fall across the northern latitudes and at higher elevations, folks start itching to strap on their snowshoes and hit the trails. However, if you’re new to the sport or if you need an equipment upgrade, you may be looking for a place to start your snowshoe search. Here are a handful of suggestions for great brands to try this season when you head out snowshoeing.
A consistently top-rated snowshoe, the Lighting Ascent from MSR is close to reaching legendary status on the trails. Although the design is largely unchanged from its introduction—simple, sturdy, efficient—MSR has by no means been resting on its laurels. With each new iteration, they make tweaks improvements to the shoes, most recently to the design of the binding. Whether on a groomed path or breaking new trail, you’ll be more than happy with Lightning Ascent’s traction, security and comfort. The one drawback is that they come in a higher price point than most other snowshoes on the market.
Northern Lites’ Honey Badger snowshoes are ideal for those who tend toward more technical snowshoeing in icy or rocky conditions. The Honey Badgers are fitted with a stainless steel cleat system—larger cleats than found on Northern Lites’ other models—that resemble ice climbing crampons. These cleats, however, work in symbiosis with the flotation of the Honey Badger’s snowshoe deck. The Honey Badger is also fitted with a sturdy reliable binding system that won’t let go of your feet, even in the most challenging conditions. In spite of all its sturdiness, the Honey Badger still manages to weigh less than similar snowshoes.
Designed specifically for on-trail use, the Atlas Apex Trail snowshoe is designed with the hiker in mind. The Apex Trail is built with a flexible composite frame, with an elliptically-formed nose, and the company’s proprietary Reactiv-Trac construction. Combined with the Twin-Trac tor crampon, this makes Apex Trail both lightweight and rugged—and able to handle just about any winter adventure you can throw their way. The shoe’s Infinity Decking, meanwhile, offers superior flotation and will keep your feet on top of the snow. To help with traction and comfort, Atlas has added a heel lift to the Apex Trail, which is a feature they don’t typically include on their other models. The bindings are designed for easy donning and doffing of the snowshoes.
Crescent Moon offers an alternative to traditional framed snowshoes with its all-foam Eva model. The rockered foam construction is lighter and more comfortable on one’s feet than a typical snowshoe. The bottom is studded with ice spikes for improved traction. The Eva floats extremely well on top of snow, but it may not perform as well in technical conditions as other snowshoes. When they reach the end of their useful life, Eva snowshoes can be recycled through any athletic shoe recycling program.
The Symbioz Hyperflex Elite, from French manufacturer TSL, is a compact, ultra-ergonomic snowshoe. It’s small footprint and excellent stride feel make it an excellent shoe for hikers who are typically out on firm snow or hardpacked trails. The downside of such a small footprint, of course, is that the Hyperflex Elite will not perform as well in soft or loose snow due to lack of flotation, which is created by surface area. But if you don’t intend to break new trail, you will certainly appreciate the easy feel of the Symbioz Hyperflex Elites on your feet.