As I mentioned in one of the last posts, we've been doing a lot of snowshoeing recently. And as discussed, I have found modern style snowshoes to be pretty ineffective for actually moving through deep snow. I've pondered for several years if I needed a new-to-me pair of snowshoes and if so, what would best fit my needs. I have found over time, this is a good process to work through to be sure I am going to acquire an item I actually need or want and know I will use for sure. I don't have time or space in my life for things that don't fit that description, so I don't want to waste any money or energy on any of the trillions of items in the world that I do not need or want and know I will use for sure.
So, when I'm thinking through something I might want, unless it's something I already had that is totally worn out, broken, and unrepairable, and needs replacing with the same item, this is what I usually do. Think about, do I need this? Almost always the answer is
"no" unless it's food, firewood, water, vehicle repair or gas, or a handful of particular clothing items.
The next question would be, "do I want this?" You might think that's obvious. If I'm thinking about getting an item, I must want it, right? Well not always. Because, just like any choice in life, when I choose one thing, I'm choosing to not a whole bunch of other things. If I want this item, I'm choosing to not have the space free that it is now going to occupy. Or to not have something else I get rid of to create space. To not have the money I spend on it. To not have the time free that I previously did not spend caring for, maintaining, or using that item. And so on. I make a physical list of things I am thinking about acquiring, look at it for a few months at least, since things that are not a need are obviously no emergency, and decide if everything on that list is actually important for me to have. And if so, what is most important so I can save up for and then buy the most important thing first. While I'm pondering that list, having decided that an item is actually something I want to add to my life, then I have to decide which particular item, like a snowshoe, do I want?
For a few years now I've been pondering snowshoes. I had a pair, pictured above. If I remember correctly, I picked them up many years ago at a garage sale for $10. They are a pretty standard modern aluminum framed model. I've used them a handful of times over the years but never really liked them. This is what happens when I buy something because it's there in front of me, a pretty good deal, and I think I might eventually want it sometime. Without thinking through the process I'm describing here.
They are ok if you want to travel down a fairly packed trail of somewhat dense snow. Part of the reason I've not used them much is that under those conditions, I can almost always move just as fast in my boots. Because any extra bit of lift provided by the snowshoes is countered by the extra effort required to move a larger and heavier object attached to my feet. Making wearing them or not in those conditions kind of a wash. And if you try to travel through actual deep powdery untracked snow, they sink badly and you have to pull them up out of the snow to your knee height or more with each step. Which, if you've ever tried it, is pretty exhausting after only a few steps. :)
So I've pondered getting a nicer, newer pair similar my current ones but slightly larger. As they are only make slightly larger than the 8 x 25 inch ones I already have. The max seems to be something like 10 x 34 inches in any modern brand I could find. But that never seemed like it would be enough of an improvement to be worth purchasing something new, so I never went further with that.
Then I had an opportunity to borrow a friend's sixty something year old snowshoes. 54 x 10 inches of surface area of old wood and rawhide. And you can actually float on these things! They were such a huge change, it was hard to believe. The difference made me wander if anyone who's manufacturing snowshoes these days has ever encountered off trail travel through deep snow? You know, kind of the thing snowshoes were invented to do? Anyway, after a couple days of walks on these, I knew what I wanted for sure! They were such a pleasure to travel on.
I looked first for any company still manufacturing this kind of snowshoe. It seems https://iversonssnowshoes.com is the main one. They do beautiful work, and are highly reviewed, but were more than I really had to spend. So I started searching for an old pair that were still in good condition. I prefer to use things already created but no longer wanted whenever possible anyway. Older ones seem to all be marketed as "beautiful for decorating your hunting lodge," "will look great above the mantel in your winter chalet," or something similar. So I must be one of the very few folks left who wants to use these for what they were made for. Oh well, that's not an unusual position to find myself in. :) After a bit of looking, I found this pair that were in excellent shape and are 12 x 60 inches of flotation beauty. They appeared to never have had bindings, so I found a set of those second hand as well, though they happened to be new in their package.
That's 720 square inches of surface area to float on versus the 200 I had before. Check out the difference! And considering the massive size difference, the weight is not as different as you might think. Just over 5 pounds for the small ones and just shy of 7 pounds for the much larger ones. Now weight on your feet is always a big deal when you're walking for miles, but the hugely different flotation makes that trade off well worth it in effort saved. And if I wanted to purchase lighter bindings, I could make that weight even more similar.
Just a note, a lot of snowshoes are sold with a rating for how many pounds of person they will carry, but I find this not to be very helpful. Your weight does make a little difference. But what makes much more of a difference is the condition of the snow. How soft, dry, deep, wet, chunky, etc it might be that day. So that is something to keep in mind. While I found a review from a fellow who said he'd used my exact model and size of aluminum framed snowshoes for more than 15 years to carry his 200 pound (more than I weigh) frame around, loved them, and highly recommended them, he mentioned nothing about where he lived or the kind of snow he was using them to walk on. I think you'll find the kind of snow common in your area to be far more important to consider than a body weight rating when looking for a snowshoe.
The company that made these, like most others, is no longer operational and they appear to have been made sometime in the 1970's. The bindings are actually from the above mentioned Iverson company, but an older model.
After reading the instructions a few times and starting to lace them up wrong once, I had both attached firmly to the snowshoes. It's actually quite simple if you're paying attention and look at their helpful diagram. :) They are easy to fit to pretty much any boot, hold your foot snuggly, and are quick to get on and off.
Looking at where the bindings attach to the snowshoe, you'll also notice the lack of any kind of crampon or teeth that grip ice. This is totally fine for my area where I am walking on 100-600 inches of powdery snowfall. If you have ice or very packed snow you'll be traveling across, that is something you might want to consider though.
A note on the lacing. The main ways snowshoes like these are laced are with either rawhide or neoprene. Both materials have pros and cons. Rawhide is currently more expensive, a little heavier, and requires occasional varnish coats to preserve it. Also it softens and can wear much more rapidly if you walk through wet conditions like crossing a creek or lake surface. And mice and other small rodents enjoy chewing on it given the chance. Neoprene is a little lighter, wet snow doesn't adhere to the lacing quite as much, rodents seem less attracted to it (though I'd never count on a rodent not to chew on anything) but if kept dry, rawhide will last longer. I wasn't sure which I wanted, but having found a reasonable deal on this particular pair, I went with it. And it's currently laced with neoprene laces.
And then my new-to-me fiftyish year old snowshoes were ready to go!
And they are a dream to travel on! That post I'm holding, when dropped lightly, sank into the snow up to where my thumb is. If I wouldn't have become nearly impossibly stuck, I would have tried to get a photo of me sunk into the snow in just my boots. And you can see how my new snowshoes are only sinking an inch or two into that fluff.
If you topple over in the deep snow however (and this would be true with any size snowshoe), like because you are trying to back up quickly from your camera to pose for a photo with your dog for instance, it's a good idea to land on top of your snowshoes like I happened to here. Burley always wants to "help" which is no help at all when trying to extricate yourself from this situation. I don't have a photo, but I had a much more comical situation when I was looking at my camera and caught my toe on a partially buried branch tripping myself and burying myself up to my neck in soft powder. That took a while to work my way out of.
We have now gone on several long walks with them. And they are just exactly what I wanted! I think I have already traveled as many miles on these in the past week as the first pair I'd had for more than a decade. And I fully anticipate many many more miles on them for the rest of my life. Well maintained, these should last me pretty much forever and I am totally happy with them.
This I have found more than once to be the result of working through the process to be sure something is exactly what I want or need. Avoiding wasting my money, space, and time to deal with something I don't really use or that doesn't fit my needs. Which also helps keep whatever tiny fraction of things I can influence on this planet from including any more waste than I can help. And I really like to have a useful item I can expect to benefit from for a lifetime without replacement!
Whatever your favorite winter activity is, I hope you're outside getting fresh air, exercise, and enjoying the winter like we are!