If you’ve ever been snowshoeing without poles, you likely found areas that were difficult to navigate. Snowshoe poles can make it easier to get through challenging winter terrain, preventing you from needing to turn back prematurely.
Shopping for snowshoe poles for the first time can be a little tricky since you’re going to find all kinds of different poles designed for hiking or trekking. How do you know which ones are the best for snowshoeing? We’ll decipher all that in this post.
Keep reading to learn why you need snowshoe poles and which ones you should buy this winter! At the end, we’ll also answer some frequently asked questions.
Why Buy Snowshoe Poles
If you’re on a slippery slope that poses a high fall potential, the best way to save yourself is with a snowshoe pole. Snowshoe poles help you stay balanced, preventing you from starting to fall in the first place.
Snowshoe poles also take some of the load off your knees and give you the extra push you need for every step you take. This reduces fatigue and allows you to cover larger ground. Snowshoe poles are especially helpful when hiking uphill.
Snowshoe Poles Considerations
Trekking Poles vs. Snowshoe Poles vs. Ski Poles
Snowshoes are commonly referred to as trekking poles, and most snowshoers and manufacturers use these terms interchangeably.
The important takeaway is that some trekking poles are not designed to be used in the snow, so you need to pay attention to the trekking pole’s intended use before purchasing.
What sets snowshoeing poles apart from other types of trekking poles is that they should have a small basket an inch or two above the tip. These baskets are called snow baskets.
Other types of trekking poles do not come with snowshoe baskets, but most trekking poles have the option to change out the trekking basket for a snow basket.
Ski poles, on the other hand, are not flexible like trekking or snowshoeing poles. They have a firm grip for shock absorption and are made in one-piece or two-piece shafts instead of three-piece shafts. They are also longer than snowshoeing poles.
Folding vs. Fixed-Length vs. Telescoping Poles
Fixed-length snowshoeing poles are only one length and can’t be adjusted. They are durable and add strength to your pole, making them excellent choices for snowshoers. However, they lack the adjustability most trekkers and snowshoers prefer.
Three-sectioned telescope poles are the most popular snowshoe poles on the market, and they’re relatively inexpensive. They can usually be adjusted between 12 and 16 inches. These are also the strongest and most durable type of snowshoeing pole.
The biggest issue with telescoping poles is they are not as compact as folding poles. The minimum packed size is longer than any other section of the pole, meaning it’s not easy to pack them in a backpack.
Folding trekking poles are new to the market. They are lightweight and compact, but they lack durability, which can be a real problem for snowshoers. These trekking poles are best for climbers and hikers wearing light backpacks in mild conditions.
Many folding-style poles also feature one section of telescoping pole, so you can adjust the pole length but not as well as a three-section telescoping pole. These can usually be adjusted between six and eight inches.
Although many snowshoeing poles are adjustable, they come in different length ranges. You want your snowshoeing pole to have a 90-degree bend at your elbow when the pole’s tips are on the ground.
Follow this chart as a general guideline for selecting the best snowshoeing pole based on your height:
|60 inches or less||39 inches|
|61 to 67 inches||43 inches|
|68 to 71 inches||47 inches|
|72 inches+||51 inches|
Fixed-length snowshoeing poles tend to be lighter than adjustable ones since they are working with fewer parts. If you’re the only person using your snowshoeing poles and know you won’t need to adjust them any time soon, choosing a fixed length can be a great option if you need to travel ultralightweight.
On average, snowshoeing poles weigh between 15 and 20 ounces.
As mentioned above, the biggest piece of a snowshoeing pole setting it apart from other trekking poles is its basket. A snowshoeing basket should be at least two inches in diameter. These snowshoeing baskets are designed to work with most trekking poles.
Another term you will see when shopping for snowshoe poles is tips. Tips go on the end of your snowshoe pole and impact how your poles work on different terrain types. These are a few types of tips you should know about:
These are the tips you see most frequently. Rubber tips are versatile and offer extra stability and grip on slippery terrain. Rubber tips absorb shock better than metal tips, and they’re quiet.
Carbide tips are incredibly durable and provide excellent grip when hiking through ice, rocks, and dirt. The caveat is they can poke holes easily in material, so you need to exercise caution when storing them.
These are also known as fitness trekking pole tips, which are frequently used by Nordic walkers. They’re made from premium rubber, which is soft and durable for use on sidewalks, roads, and pavement.
Rubber feet are useful on hard surfaces such as paved roads and rocky terrain. They’re designed to improve your stability while moving at a faster pace.
The grips are what you hold onto when using snowshoe poles. You want your hands to be comfortable, so pay attention to the materials and shape of the grips.
Snowshoe pole grips are made from cork, rubber, or foam. Cork is the most comfortable because it’s moisture-wicking. It molds to the hand over time and is a superb shock absorber.
Foam is also comfortable and offers a good amount of shock absorption. However, foam absorbs sweat, and it’s not as durable as cork.
Rubber is found most frequently in budget trekking pole models. This material is also very useful for snowshoeing poles because rubber provides more stability on wet terrains. However, rubber grips chafe your hands when you’re not wearing gloves.
Snowshoe pole grips also come in different shapes, which can alter your pole’s comfort or performance. Some poles have a 15-degree tilt where the natural resting place of the hand fits—this is considered an ergonomic shape.
Other grips are designed to match the hand’s outline, whereas other grips are smooth. Grip shape doesn’t necessarily impact performance, but it can impact comfort. The most comfortable grip boils down to personal preference.
Carbon fiber and aluminum are the two main snowshoeing pole materials. Aluminum poles tend to be heavier and studier, while carbon fiber is lighter. Carbon fiber poles have a tendency to crack more easily, so we recommend aluminum poles for snowshoeing.
The MSR DynaLock Explore poles are versatile snowshoeing poles, equipped with a smooth foam grip. They have a mid grip that is well positioned for when a hill’s traverse direction changes.
These poles come with winter and summer baskets, so they can be used for summer mountaineering as well. Their total weight is 19.52 ounces, which is on the higher end of the average weight for these types of poles. The extra weight adds to their durability, and they are designed to go the distance.
Length: 39.5 to 55 inches
- DynaLock mechanisms offer a full range of length adjustment
- No tools needed to adjust
- Aluminum material
- Some may think they’re too heavy
The Cascade Mountain Tech snowshoe poles are easy on the budget and come with an ergonomic cork grip. The poles weigh only 10 ounces without the tips installed, so these are also an excellent lightweight choice for the weight-conscious snowshoer.
These snowshoe poles are also versatile and come with both mud and snow baskets. They also come with rubber and boot tips, so you’re really getting an excellent value with these snowshoe poles!
Length: 26 to 54 inches
- Six color schemes to choose from
- Wide adjustment range—even kids could use these!
- Three lock options to choose from
- Buyers have complained the clamps feel cheap and loose
- Some buyers report they are noisy and rattle
- Collapse easily, which is concerning when you’re relying on them for stability
Best Snowshoe/Snow Poles Bundle
If you’re also in the market for new snowshoes, we recommend bundling your snowshoe and snow pole purchase together. The Odoland 4-in-1 Snowshoes and Snowpoles come in sizes designed for men, women, and children, so you can buy them for the whole family.
The poles are lightweight and only weigh 11 ounces each. This bundle also comes with multiple rubber tips and baskets. This combo will make steep ascents much easier!
Length: 26 to 53 inches
- Poles are designed from sturdy aircraft-grade aluminum
- The polyester strap can secure to the end of your boots
- Include an upgraded wrist strap for easy adjustment
- Some buyers have reported the adjustable poles don’t always stay in place
- There are higher quality snowshoes you can buy—these are best for casual use
Snowshoe Poles Frequently Asked Questions
How do I maintain my snowshoe poles?
Maintain your snowshoe poles by cleaning out all mud and dirt after each snowshoeing trip with a moist towel. Let it dry out and apply lubricant, like grease or oil, on the screws of the pole.
You should never leave your adjustable snowshoe poles extended. When not in use, fold it up or adjust it to the smallest setting. You should also always remove baskets and tips.
Never use your snowshoeing poles to dig holes or hit snow. It is not a toy, and using it like one will cause it to scratch, bend, or break.
Can you use ski poles as snowshoe poles?
Technically, you can. If you are going to, you’re going to want to use traverse ski poles like the Black Diamond Traverse 3 because they are easier to adjust for uphill and downhill adventures.
Remember, the biggest difference between snowshoeing and ski poles is that snowshoe poles are designed to go uphill and ski poles are designed to go downhill.
Don’t Forget Your Snowshoe Poles
Snowshoeing poles are necessary for staying safe and well-balanced while out on slippery trails. Don’t get caught on an icy hill without them!
If you’re looking for a durable set that will last you for winters to come, the MSR DynaLock Explore is what you want. The other two picks are great choices if you need to save money or also need snowshoes.
Do you want to see other terrific snowshoe-buying options to go with your snowshoe poles? Check out the 9 Best Snowshoes for Winter.
- About the Author
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Nicole Kinkade grew up in campgrounds in the Midwest with her family in their RV and has many fond memories around the campfire. She and her husband took many tent camping trips at the beginning of their relationship, and she looks forward to sharing the outdoors with her young son as he gets older.
She loves discovering new camping techniques and sharing them with the world. With a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Media Communication, she is a passionate writer who loves sharing her knowledge online.
Nicole can be reached at email@example.com