The 9 Best Snowshoes for Winter Hiking in 2020

Couple Snowshoeing in Mountains

Kick your next winter hiking adventure up a notch with a new pair of snowshoes.

Don’t struggle through the snow any longer. Snowshoes enable you to “float” on top of deep snow not to mention groomed trails. Better yet, snowshoes are relatively inexpensive compared to other winter sports. They’re even great for all ages and skill levels.

We’ve rounded up the best snowshoes of 2020 to help you find the perfect pair. We prioritized comfort, durability, flotation, traction, and ease of use in our reviews.

Here are the best snowshoes for winter hiking in 2020.

Top Snowshoes Comparison Chart

Product Image Overall Rating Cost
MSR Lightning Ascent
★★★★★$319.95
MSR Evo
★★★★$139.95
Atlas Montane
★★★★$199.95
Tubbs Mountaineer
★★★★★$269.95
Crescent Moon Gold 9
★★★★$199.00
Louis Garneau Blizzard II
★★★★★$199.95
Atlas Run
★★★★★$249.95
Tubbs Xplore
★★★$129.95
Chinook Trekker
★★★$70.50

Best Snowshoes Reviews

Here are our picks for the top 9 best snowshoes for 2020:

1.     MSR Lightning Ascent

MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes

The MSR Lightning Ascent is our top choice for the best snowshoes for winter hiking through mountainous terrain. 

Not only are these snowshoes excellent for users of all skill levels, but they provide reliable traction on even the slipperiest and steepest terrain with enough float to power through deep snow. 

The Lightning Ascent snowshoes are available in both men’s and women’s profiles. The women’s model is slightly narrower. Select from a variety of lengths to tailor your new snowshoes to your intended activities. 

What We Like:

These versatile MSR snowshoes offer a great mix of flotation and traction. Well-placed steel crampons and heel lifts make hiking uphill easy. Your feet lock in securely to the bindings for the utmost in comfort. These snowshoes are durable enough for years of regular use.

What We Don’t Like:

Although they’re very comfortable and secure, the bindings on these MSR snowshoes aren’t exactly easy to use. They are short and can be difficult to tighten, especially when wearing gloves (which is usually a given while snowshoeing!).  

2.     MSR Evo

MSR Evo Snowshoes

Snowshoers looking for a model slightly more beginner friendly and affordable than the Lightning Ascent should give the MSR Evo a good hard look.

Another top-quality pair of MSR snowshoes, the Evo is designed specifically with beginner users in mind. Not only are they very user friendly, but they perform extremely well on flat or rolling terrain, especially on groomed trails.

Although the MSR Evo is one of the most affordable options on this list, they boast the same durability that all MSR products are known for. Simply put, these snowshoes will last you for years on end. 

What We Like:

In addition to their affordable price and superior durability, the MSR Evo Snowshoes are notable for their intuitive bindings, great traction in snow and ice thanks to powder-coated steel crampons, and their overall comfort, even on long snowshoe hikes.

What We Don’t Like:

These MSR snowshoes are only available in shorter lengths. This makes them a little less effective in deep snow. They also don’t have heel lifts which restricts these to flat and rolling terrain. They aren’t ideal for steep hills. 

3.     Atlas Montane

Atlas Montane Snowshoes

The Atlas Montane is another affordable snowshoe that boasts a traditional design that gets the job done.

Like the MSR Evo, the Montane is perfect for beginners, but is also advanced enough for intermediate users. It excels on flat and hilly terrain alike. It glides across groomed trails but also stays on top of deep backcountry powder.

Unlike many other mid-range snowshoes in its price class, the Atlas Montane has more than just a few small crampon spikes. Instead, it boasts serious claws under the feet and down the sides for top-notch performance in all conditions, even on steep, icy terrain.

What We Like:

The Atlas Montane brings solid performance to the table in a classic package. Best of all, these snowshoes are affordable. They have excellent traction. They’re comfortable. And they are easy to use.

What We Don’t Like:

These Atlas snowshoes can feel a little outdated compared to other models. Although their traditional design gets the job done, you might miss some of the more modern features that the other best snowshoes bring to the table.

4.     Tubbs Mountaineer

Tubbs Mountaineer Snowshoes

Deep snow is no more than a minor inconvenience when you have the Tubbs Mountaineer strapped to your feet.

These backcountry snowshoes are designed from the ground up with backcountry hiking in mind. You’ll blast across deep powder just as easily as you’ll climb up icy hills.

The Tubbs Mountaineer is available in several sizes (25 inch, 30 inch, and 36 inch), although we recommend the longest size (36 inch) for the ultimate in backcountry snowshoeing.  

What We Like:

Backcountry performance is through the roof with these Tubbs snowshoes. They provide incredible float on deep powder but still provide plenty of traction on slick terrain thanks to their deep crampons. Not to mention they’re comfortable and easy to use.  

What We Don’t Like:

The sole downside of the Tubbs Mountaineer is their weight. Although they’re not exactly heavy (4 lbs 11 oz for the 25-inch model), you’ll definitely start to notice your legs getting tired on long excursions. Despite how well they perform in the backcountry, you might prefer something lighter if multi-night winter backpacking is your forte.

5.     Crescent Moon Gold 9

Crescent Moon Gold 9 Snowshoes

The Crescent Moon Gold 9 is a versatile snowshoe that’s built like a rock.

Part of what makes it stand out from the pack is the company itself. Not only does Crescent Moon specialize in manufacturing snowshoes, but all of their products are assembled in the United States. Plus, all Crescent Moon snowshoes come with excellent repair and warranty policies.

As for the Gold 9 itself, these snowshoes perform well in nearly all conditions. They’re fantastic for both groomed trail and backcountry use. They provide plenty of grip on hard surfaces with enough float for fresh snow. They’re comfortable to wear, even for long winter hikes, and are relatively affordable to boot.

What We Like:

Versatility is the name of the game with the Crescent Moon Gold 9. These snowshoes are incredibly well-rounded for almost all conditions. They excel on maintained trails, float over soft snow, and dig deep into hardpack. You can feel confident these snowshoes will get you through almost any winter terrain that comes your way.

What We Don’t Like:

As one of the best snowshoes for winter hiking, you’d expect the Gold 9 to come with heel lifts – but they don’t. Crescent Moon does sell them separately for $25 extra.

6.     Louis Garneau Blizzard II

Louis Garneau Blizzard II Snowshoes

The Louis Garneau Blizzard II is arguably the best snowshoe for trekking through deep snow.

Thanks to their large size, they provide excellent flotation. They’ll keep you on top of deep snow without sinking on backcountry excursions. Despite their large size, they actually aren’t very heavy at all.

What really sets the Blizzard II apart, however, is its unique design. Case in point: the hybrid hinged deck/binding interface has great shock absorption and works well for all boots. Plus, it’s easy to use and ensures these snowshoes are very comfortable to wear, even for the longest winter hikes.

What We Like:

For off-trail snowshoeing in deep snow, the Blizzard II provides more flotation than almost any other model. The snowshoes are also comfortable and easy to use. Plus, they’re relatively inexpensive for their high level of backcountry performance.  

What We Don’t Like:

These Louis Garneau snowshoes work well in most conditions – but they have one big drawback: a relative lack of traction. Minimal traction spikes on the crampons mean that these snowshoes are a little less grippy in icy or otherwise slick conditions than other top models.

7.     Atlas Run

Atlas Run Snowshoes

Most of the best snowshoes on this list are created for hiking on groomed trails or in the backcountry. The Atlas Run, however, is specifically made for snowshoe running.

That said, these running snowshoes are much different than most others on this list. For one thing, they’re relatively small and lightweight. For another, the binding enables your heel to lift with each stride.

These Atlas snowshoes are most notable for their streamlined design. They’re minimalistic in every sense of the word to shed weight. They’re also extremely comfortable and easy to use. For a trail running snowshoe, they provide a surprising amount of traction thanks to their strong stainless-steel crampons.  

What We Like:

The Atlas Run is perfect for snowshoe running. They are lightweight and nimble. They are comfortable and fit well around waterproof running shoes.

What We Don’t Like:

These snowshoes are not versatile. Their small size makes them struggle in deep snow, in ice, and on hills. They are for running on groomed trails only. They’re definitely not a true all-around snowshoe.

8.     Tubbs Xplore

Tubbs Xplore Snowshoes

The Tubbs Xplore is perfect for those that want something simple, straightforward, and inexpensive.

You get few, if any, bells and whistles with these snowshoes. It does away with the advanced features, like fancy bindings, that many of the best snowshoes have in favor of a classic approach.

The Tubbs Xplore is easy-to-use, lightweight, and comfortable. They’re perfect for exploring groomed trails and other areas without deep snow. Best of all, their low price makes them a good option for those that only go snowshoeing a few times per winter.

What We Like:

These Tubbs snowshoes hover around $130. They’re easy to use, durable, and comfortable. They certainly aren’t fancy but they get the job done for short winter walks.

What We Don’t Like:

Your hiking options are limited with the Xplore snowshoes. They don’t offer much flotation for deep snow. Likewise, traction is limited for icy terrain and hills. As mentioned above, they’re best for flat, groomed terrain.

9.     Chinook Trekker

Chinook Trekker Snowshoes

Another low-cost option, the Chinook Trekker takes our top spot for the best snowshoes on a budget.

At under $100 all together, the Trekker is perfect for those just getting into snowshoeing for the first time. The snowshoes are beginner friendly and are very easy to use.

For their price, these Chinook snowshoes boast decent performance. They offer good traction and flotation on groomed trails with light snow. Of course, due to their budget design, they don’t work well for long hikes, in icy conditions, or on hilly terrain.  

What We Like:

The low price is the main selling point of the Chinook Trekker. They’ll only set you back around $75. They offer a decent introduction to this popular winter activity.

What We Don’t Like:

Durability is suspect for the Chinook Trekker. Thanks to their low cost, everything is built with lower quality components. The crampons, in particular, are prone to warping and breakage. They’re built from aluminum rather than steel. Pretty much every aspect of the snowshoe reflects this same quality.


Snowshoes Buyer’s Guide

Snowshoes in WInter

Before you pull the trigger on any of the best snowshoes listed above, it’s important to understand the basics of what makes a good snowshoe a good snowshoe. Here are the most important factors to consider:

Type

You have three main types of snowshoes to choose from. The activities you plan to do and the terrain you expect to encounter influence which type is best for you.

  • Recreational – Suitable for flat and rolling terrain. Not made for steep or otherwise technical terrain. Perfect for hiking on groomed snowshoeing trails.
  • Backcountry – Created for deep snow, steep terrain, and icy conditions. Also work well on flat and rolling terrain. They are longer and wider than recreational models with advanced features and aggressive crampons. Perfect for winter backpacking, mountaineering, and more.
  • Running – Made specifically with running, rather than hiking, in mind. They are much smaller and lighter than recreational or backcountry models. They’re typically only suitable for mostly flat, groomed terrain. Advanced racing models are also available.

Remember that these are just the three main types of snowshoes. There are many sub-types such as racing snowshoes, mountaineering snowshoes, and more. However, the vast majority of snowshoers will be fine with a recreational, backcountry, or running model.

Your Skill Level

Just as important to consider as type of snowshoe is your skill level. Some snowshoes are designed for beginners while others are designed with experts in mind.

  • Beginner – Look for a model designed for mostly flat terrain. Beginner snowshoes often have easy-to-use bindings and are slightly wider for increased stability.
  • Intermediate – A model made for rolling terrain is best. You might prefer an all-around snowshoe that works well in deep powder, groomed trails, and on icy snow. More aggressive crampons (than beginner models) are also common.
  • Advanced – Special features make these specialized snowshoes. Beefy bindings, climbing-style crampons, and heel lifts make these ideal for backpacking and mountaineering no steep, icy, and difficult terrain.

Notice that your skill level influences which type of terrain you can navigate. Beginners should stick with a pair of snowshoes best for flat terrain while experts might prefer a pair of snowshoes capable of traversing steep, ungroomed backcountry terrain.

Sizing & Fit

Next up for how to choose snowshoes is ensuring proper sizing and fit.

  • Snowshoe Size – Most of the best snowshoe models above come in several different sizes. The size directly influences a variety of factors, most notably flotation on deep snow.
  • Recommended Load – The recommended carrying weight for the snowshoe model. It takes user weight as well as packed weight (gear, backpack, etc) into consideration.
  • Expected Conditions – Deep powder requires larger snowshoes for increased flotation while packed trails are best navigated with smaller, more nimble snowshoes.
  • Gender & Age – Many manufacturers make men’s, women’s, and children’s models of the same snowshoes. Women’s models are typically slightly narrower while children’s models are smaller all-around.
  • Fit – Most snowshoes fit almost any sized foot, regardless of footwear. However, if you have very large or very small feet, it’s important to look for a snowshoe with bindings that can accommodate this.

Although snowshoes are typically easier than, say, winter hiking boots to buy online without trying on first, it’s always better to try them on in person to ensure they’re exactly what you’re looking for. 

Frames & Decking

The frames and decking are two of the most important parts of the anatomy of a snowshoe.

Most of the best snowshoes reviewed above have aluminum frames and synthetic decking. Not only is this the most common construction, but it’s typically the highest performing at a reasonably affordable price.

That said, some manufacturers now use a composite frame with composite decking as an alternative to the traditional construction.

Bindings

Snowshoe bindings are what connect the snowshoes to your footwear. Most are constructed from a platform that your foot rests on with nylon straps that secure the front of your foot and the heel to the snowshoe. The two main types of snowshoe bindings are:

  • Rotating Bindings – Pivot under balls of feet. Best for navigation in deep snow. Also known as floating bindings.
  • Fixed Bindings – Minimal movement during use. No pivot. Usually made from heavy-duty rubber to lock your boots into place.

Your bindings somewhat influence the type of footwear that is compatible with your snowshoes, although most bindings accept hiking boots, mountaineering boots, snowboard boots, and more.

Traction Systems & Crampons

Your snowshoe’s traction system is what gives it traction on snow and ice.

Most traction systems consist of cleats or crampons. Snowshoes designed for flat terrain typically have cleats while snowshoes made for mountaineering have crampons that mimic those of actual mountaineering crampons.

Snowshoe crampons, cleats, and other traction devices are made from a range of different materials, including aluminum, plastic, and steel.

Additional Features

Some of the most important additional features to consider while choosing the best snowshoes include:

  • Heel Lifts – Sometimes called climbing bars, these small bars are flipped between your heel and the snowshoe while climbing up steep hills to limit leg strain and to help you conserve energy.
  • Flotation Tails – Some models are compatible with aftermarket flotation tails. These pieces add extra length to your snowshoes for use in deep powder. This enables you to use the same pair of snowshoes for groomed trails as well as backcountry exploration.
  • Braking Bars – Often integrated into the underside of snowshoes. They help provide additional traction while climbing up steep hills.

The majority of the best snowshoes include these features but it’s important to look at how their design influences the device’s overall performance.


Recommended Snowshoes Accessories

Couple Snowshoeing in Mountains

Don’t hit the trails on your new snowshoes without the right accessories. The most important snowshoe accessories to add to your gear set-up include:

Proper Footwear

The vast majority of snowshoes accept pretty much any footwear. For beginners, plain old hiking boots (or, better yet, winter hiking boots for added insulation and waterproofing) work best. Mountaineering boots and even snowboarding boots will also work with most models.

Trekking Poles or Ski Poles

Snowshoeing changes the way that you walk. Your natural gait is interrupted and most people will find themselves off balance, especially beginners. Ski poles or trekking poles are all but essential to help you maintain your balance. They are also extremely beneficial for winter backpacking when you want to take some of your packed weight off your back, legs, and the rest of your body.

Winter Clothing

It’s a no-brainer but proper winter hiking gear, especially warm winter clothing, is of utmost importance for snowshoeing in winter weather. Layering for winter is a great method for staying warm yet still being able to shed layers as you work up a sweat throughout the day.


Alternatives to Snowshoes

Cross-Country Skiing

Snowshoes aren’t always the right choice for hiking in the winter. Sometimes a pair of hiking or winter boots will do the job. Other times, cross-country skis are a better fit. Here’s a little more info on the top alternatives to snowshoes:

Hiking Boots

Hiking in the winter doesn’t always require snowshoes. If you’re hiking on well-maintained, well-groomed trails, you might be fine setting out in plain old hiking boots. Do know that normal hiking boots typically don’t have enough traction to handle deep snow or ice. They’re best for early or late winter hiking where just a light layer of snow is covering the ground.

Winter Hiking Boots

For deeper snow, winter hiking boots are essential. They work best on groomed trails but can also handle deep snow as well. Most models aren’t equipped to hike on ice, especially if the terrain is steep. The benefit of winter hiking boots over normal hiking boots is not only the added traction, but also the extra insulation and waterproofing as well.

Cross-Country Skis

Cross-country skis are another alternative to snowshoes. They offer much of the same flotation on top of deep snow but in a very different way. Cross-country skis definitely let you travel at a much quicker pace than leisurely snowshoes but are much more expensive and have a relatively steep learning curve. Traction on cross-country skis is limited so traveling over hills and up inclines is difficult for beginners – although skiing down the hills is a blast! 


Snowshoes FAQ

Backpacker in Tent with Snowshoes

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions (with answers) about snowshoes:

Q: What shoes to wear while snowshoeing?

A: You can wear pretty much any shoes while snowshoeing. But, because you’re traveling in snow, it’s best to opt for a pair that’s warm and waterproof. Winter hiking boots offer a great mixture of support, warmth, and waterproofing for snowshoeing.

Q: How much snow is required for snowshoeing?

A: You can snowshoe on pretty much any amount of snow. That said, you won’t really notice the benefits of snowshoes until the snow is around 6 inches deep. This is roughly the minimum depth needed for you to notice the flotation that snowshoes provide (rather than simply hiking through the snow with your winter boots).

Q: Is snowshoeing difficult?

A: Snowshoeing is the perfect winter activity for beginners. It’s suitable for people of all age levels and has a very small learning curve. Anyone can snow shoe. However, beginners should stick to relatively flat terrain. Snowshoeing on hills and steeper terrain requires a little experience (not to mention more strength and endurance!). 


Final Thoughts

Snowshoes for Winter Hiking

You now have all the tools to buy the best snowshoes for your needs.

Remember that even the best snowshoes won’t get the job done if they aren’t properly sized to your weight, intended use, and expected terrain/conditions.

If you have any more questions about how to buy the best snowshoes, please let us know in the comments below!

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