This is a gear review about the best snowshoes for winter hiking and backpacking 2023.
If you like being out in the backcountry all year round and can’t stand being inside all the time then it is time to ‘gear up’ and get take your winter hiking to the next level with winter snowshoes.
I’ve spent many long days out in the backcountry hiking and camping with snowshoes. For this winter gear review, I’ve been checking out some of the best snowshoes for winter hiking. Just add a pair of Winter Hiking Boots and off you go.
Then we’re going to top that off with a section where we answer some of your most frequently asked questions on the subject.
Best Snowshoes For Winter Hiking 2023
The Best Snowshoes For Winter Hiking in 2023 are:
Best Snowshoes 2023 – Overall
> Ultralight at just 4.33 pounds
> 25 inches in length
> Durable steel DTX crampons
> Good Value
> This is such a popular snowshoe that even the big online retailers sometimes run out of stock
The MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes are ultralight snowshoes that weigh a mere 4.33 pounds, and once you get going, you’ll forget you’re wearing them.
The MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes are quite long at 25 inches, making them easier for hiking through deep powder snow.
They offer great traction on technical terrain, thanks to the durable steel DTX crampons, which provide serious bite. And thanks to the 360-degree traction aluminum frame. With this in place, you get an edge-to-edge grip, which is exactly what you need on traverses.
There’s a special Ergo Televator heel lift bar, which really helps with those uphill ascents, increasing your efficiency and at the same time reducing fatigue.
The binding system feel secure and effectively eliminate rigid pressure points for better, more aligned foot control.
It’s designed to fit around men’s shoe sizes from 4.5 up to 15. And it has a maximum recommended load of 220 pounds (more on that in our buying guide later).
And it’s made in the USA.
Overall, the MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes are the best snowshoes for backpacking in winter.
Best Budget Snowshoes 2023
> Dependable and durable
> Not too long or too short
> Has carbon steel crampons
> Good Value for money
> No heel lift
> Not designed for heavy hikers or people carrying heavy loads
Here’s another great pair of snowshoes from MSR! The MSR EVO Trail Snowshoes dependable, durable, cheap, and great in all kinds of snowy conditions.
The MSR EVO Trail Hiking Snowshoes are quite long at 22 inches, which means they’re great for easy hiking through deep powder snow. But they’re not too long, making going downhill that bit easier.
The MSR EVO Trail Snowshoes feature carbon steel crampons, so you can be sure you get a good, secure grip, no matter how tricky the conditions.
And that’s not all, there are also brake bars and steel traction rails molded into the snowshoe decking to give you better grip all around.
It also features adjustable DuoFit bindings which can be secured in no time and can be secured over a range of footwear types, even when you’re wearing gloves to secure them. And I can confirm that these bindings are freeze-proof.
They have a max load of 180 pounds. So that means, if you’re carrying a 20-pound backpack, you have to weigh no more than 160 pounds to safely use these snowshoes.
The MSR EVO Trail Hiking Snowshoes are designed to fit men’s shoe sizes from 4.5 up to 15 and there is a Women’s Snowshoe version too. And they’re made right here in the USA, which is good to know.
Best Snowshoes For Deep Snow 2023
> Aggressive traction at toe and heel
> Comfy, secure ActiveFit 2.0 binding system
> 19-degree lift at the heel for ascents
> Premium product at a premium price (and I’m not kidding, click the check price buttons below!)
Upgraded for 2023, the Tubbs Mountaineer Backcountry Snowshoe has a tubular frame snowshoe is ready for anything!
It features aggressive traction at the toe, thanks to the eight-teeth Anaconda toe crampon, which is further backed up with enhanced downhill braking thanks to the Python crampon at the heel.
It also features ActiveFit 2.0 snowshoe bindings, which are a breeze to secure in place, ensuring both security and comfort as you hike. There’s a TPU cinch strap which reduces ice build-up and friction. And for added security, there’s also an EZ heel buckle to go around the back of your footwear.
I also love how it features its ActiveLift heel lift, which provides a 19-degree lift at the heel. This helps reduce both tendon strain and calf fatigue when climbing those steep ascents.
One of the great things about these snowshoes is that they’re available in a range of different sizes. These are 25 inches, 30 inches, and a very long 36-inches long. If going into the backcountry with heavy loads pick the large 36-inch model. Overall, the sizes are very long, which makes them perfect for hikes in deep powder snow.
They’re all designed to fit US shoe sizes from size 8 through to size 13.
Now, there’s no getting away from it – these beauties are way more expensive than most regular snowshoes. So, unless you have a budget of between $350 and $500 per pair, then these are not the snowshoes for you.
But judging from the customer ratings (which were coming in at a full 5 stars out of 5 on Amazon when this article was written), many customers are more than happy to pay this kind of price.
Overall, these are the best snowshoes for deep snow and the best snowshoes for soft powder snow.
Best Snowshoes for Day Hiking 2023
> Comes with bag and poles
> Available in a choice of sizes
> Features Helium Trail crampon
> No heel crampon
Now, the Atlas Helium Snowshoes aren’t just a pair of snowshoes, but an entire snow hiking kit. In addition to a great pair of snowshoes, you also get 2 trail walking poles, and a matching tote back to keep the snowshoes in (when you’re not wearing them).
The snowshoes themselves are available in two different sizes which have been upgraded for 2023. You can either have them 23 inches long or 26 inches long. The longer size is slightly better for moving through the powdery snow, while the shorter size is slightly easier for hiking on steep terrain.
You get great traction with these snowshoes. It features the Helium Trail crampon at the toe, which has tempered steel tangs for stability, and there are also teeth along the sides of the snowshoe as well, which really helps with traverses.
There’s also ribbing on the crampon, which helps it to shed snow better. And speaking of shedding snow, the Helium deck does this too.
There’s a heel lift in place, which makes it easier to climb steep ascents, and reduces fatigue when climbing.
The bindings are comfortable and secure, composed of forefoot webbing straps and a TPU heel strap.
It’s quite a lightweight snowshoe, at 4.95 pounds, that’s not too heavy to wear and hike in.
It’s a unisex design, suitable for both men and women. And it comes backed by a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty.
Overall, the Atlas Helium complete snowshoe kit is the best snowshoe for day hiking and if getting the larger-sized model they make a great snowshoe for overnight backpacking trips.
Best Racing Snowshoes 2023
> Incredibly lightweight at 1.3 lbs
> Hyper flexible deck for racing
> Adjustable crampons at rear
> Great for groomed trails
> It’s smaller than most other snow shows
> Not really suitable for soft snow or heavy loads
Now, if you like to race through the snow, the TSL Symbios Racing are the snowshoes for you! First off, they’re incredibly lightweight, coming in at a mere 1.3 pounds. So the weight of the shoe certainly won’t slow you down, if anything it will speed you up.
And the snowshoe is hyper flexible, designed to bend with your foot, whereas stiffer snowshoes would definitely slow you down.
It’s also a nice size for racing in since it’s a mere 21.5 inches long, which makes racing downhill even more rapid.
They offer plenty of traction, with adjustable crampons positioned at the heel.
There’s adjustable binding that not only comes over the foot but also behind the heel to ensure that the snowshoe remains secure around your footwear.
The front of the deck rises slightly at the front to prevent snow from getting on your footwear.
It also comes complete with its own carry case.
Overall, the TSL Symbios Racing is the best racing snowshoe and the best ultralight snowshoe for groomed trails.
> Good Traction
> Good grip when going uphill
> No so good at floarting across soft powder snow
The Tubbs Flex VRT is a good option if you are primarily going to be on hard packed steep snow. When climbing these snowshoes do a great job due to the aggressive traction provided by the attached crampons.
They have a good harness system that is easy to adjust via the Boa closure system.
Overall, the Tubbs Flex VRT is a good snowshoe for the mountain as long as the snow is not soft powder.
> Option to use flotation tails if using in soft snow
> Good price
> Not so good in soft snow due to the smaller size
The MSR Revo Explore is like a budget option if the better MSR Snowshoes. They do everything well at a budget price.
The MSR Revo has a decent harness system that is comfortable and performs well in the mountains, rolling terrain and on hard-packed snow. In soft snow, they really need the addition of the flotation tails to add that extra surface area to stop you from sinking into the snow too much.
Overall, the MSR Revo Explore is a good Budget Snowshoe and the addition of the flotation tails will improve the performance in soft snow.
> Good traction on snow and ice
> Great for climbing
> Not so good on the soft powder snow
Updated for 2023, the Atlas Montane is a good overall option for almost all conditions except the softest of powder snow.
They have a comfortable harness that is easy to adjust and the base provides good traction on steep ascents. But it does not provide the same kind of flotation on soft snow as some of the other snowshoes in this review. They come in a Men’s Snowshoe version and a Women’s Snowshoe version.
Overall, the Atlas Montane is a good general option for almost all conditions
This top-of-the-range shoe provides the perfect combination of performance and comfort. The TSL Symbioz Hyperflex is flexible and light and benefits from Hyperflex technology which allows the foot to move naturally.
In addition, it provides carbon supports and crampons to give control and foot grip in different levels of snow. Energy is stored through the flex and is released at the end of the bending phase, which increases power in the stride.
The shoe also offers boa fit system binding, which is a wheel system that distributes binding in an accurate and clear way that helps reduce any pressure that is exerted on the front of the foot.
The Snowshoes offer fantastic traction in all weather due to their blades, crampons, and grip which provide support up and downhill as well as strong drift control.
Furthermore, the frame is flexible which offers stability and safety, avoiding the danger of sliding in the snow. It also has an ascent lift, easily accessed by pushing with the trekking pole.
The Snowshoes are easily adjustable and the crampons can be changed depending on snow conditions.
Other Snowshoes to consider
Here are some other winter snowshoes you might consider:
- Crescent Moon EVA: The Crescent Moon EVA is a lightweight option for nothing more than groomed trails.
- Tubbs Xplore: The Tubbs Xplore is a nother good option for winter trails.
As promised, here’s your buying guide. It makes for a handy checklist to run through before you buy.
Snowshoes for hiking
Hiking snowshoes have specific features and are used for walking over different terrains. They will usually include a traction system and bindings that use a web system. Hiking Snowshoes can also be used on flat surfaces or on slight inclines.
When going backpacking you will use snowshoes that have better grip for inclines and are usually larger to deal with softer powder snow. Refer to information on technical snowshoes a little further along.
These snowshoes are designed to support a fitness regime on the snow. Running Snowshoes are designed for packed snow and smooth terrains.
The fitness shoes are shorter and narrower and used for extra speed in the snow and increased movement. The fact they are shorter helps when running.
If you intend to use your snowshoes for racing, you need entirely different gear to regular shoes. You will need snowshoes that are mostly foam and rubber for flex.
But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Check out, the TSL Symbioz Racing Snowshoe with Hyperflex.
These types of snowshoes have been built to navigate terrain that is unpredictable and offer many features not available with the other shoes.
They offer immense durability and will contain words such as “mountain”, “incline”, “ascent” and such. They are designed for hikers to walk through ice and deep snow relatively easily.
Furthermore, they offer good-sized bindings that enable ease of wear. In addition, they contain crampons, which are used for traction and attached to footwear for increased control on the ice.
There are usually several crampons placed under the heel and toe of the snowshoe, providing advanced grip on the frame.
Still, confused about what ones to choose? What terrain will you be most frequently hiking in?
If you will primarily be hiking in deep snow, it’s best to avoid snowshoes with a smaller surface, and they won’t perform well, especially on snow that is dry and light. You will need to purchase wide-surfaced shoes.
A longer length can also help, so wide and long is the best way forward. The word backcountry on the product description will generally refer to areas of deep snow, so look out for this if it is your requirement.
As well as more modern style snowshoes, traditional wooden shoes are also very effective if the snow is deep. Be sure to take good care of wooden shoes, or they will wear out quickly.
It’s likely if you live in an area of high humidity that snow will be wet. Wet snow tends to sink less than dry snow, but you still need good flotation.
With wet snow, it’s easy for it to pile on top of the snowshoe and stick underneath, so it’s wise to apply some spray or wax to the crampons.
You can find different frames depending on the shoe. Tubular frames are ideal if you hike on smooth surfaces. Be careful that snow doesn’t build on the frame.
Serrated frames are good for extra traction, so ideal for the ice. They can be heavy but most offer extra grip which is useful for mountaineering.
Pointed tails or V-tails have a tubular frame at the toe and tail that is pointed at the back. They tend to help movement in deep snow.
Plastic frames are quite common and are good if you prefer a lightweight shoe. They offer a good grip but aren’t always the most comfortable. They also don’t offer the best grip, so not great for ice hiking.
Maximum Recommended Load
One of the key specs of a snowshoe is the maximum recommended load.
Your snowshoe needs to be able to take both your body weight and the weight of whatever you have to be carrying. And that could be an extra 20 to 60 pounds (depending on whether it’s a day trip or a weekender).
You may have noticed that snowshoes tend to be quite long. This is because the longer it is, the easier it is to travel through powdery snow.
On the flip side, however, longer snowshoes are more difficult to hike in when you’re on steep terrain (whether you’re going uphill or downhill).
Very small and very light snowshoes are only used for groomed trails or for racing. These ultralight racing snowshoes are not suitable for backcountry hiking trips.
Bindings are the part of the snowshoe that locks your foot in place. It’s the most important part of a snowshoe, and there are several materials used.
Nylon is the most common used on cheaper snowshoes and usually have adjustable straps that allow you to wear different footwear.
Rubber is the most common strap on all snowshoes and is more durable than nylon under weather pressure.
A BOA closure has a wire that you can tighten and is an easy binding to use. It works well when wearing gloves.
Some bindings have foot closures or boxes that secure the feet. The most important part of a binding is that it supports your foot correctly and is so comfortable when tightened.
For larger feet 2 or 3 strap nylon straps are best, and bigger feet benefit from toe boxes or enclosures.
On the one hand, you certainly need your snowshoes to provide a snug and secure fit. But on the other hand, you also need them to be easy to get in and out of.
And, ideally, you should look for bindings that can be fastened up even when you’re wearing gloves.
The best bindings will not only go over the foot, but also wrap around the heel of your footwear to properly secure the snowshoe in place.
Traction describes the grip of your snowshoes on the ground. And good traction is crucial when you’re in icy conditions or on an incline.
Good traction will take the form of sharp-looking teeth on what’s called a crampon, under the snowshoe. Most snowshoes will have crampons under the toe and heel. But when traversing, it can be especially helpful to have side traction along the frame of the snowshoe, too.
Good traction is crucial for safety, so you must consider the crampons and serrated edges. It will depend on what type of hiking you’re doing and the type of shoe you buy as to what the crampons are made of.
Some are steel or aluminum. Most shoes have a couple of crampons per toe. They can also be situated under the foot to assist when descending.
Some crampons are provided with a coating to help prevent snow from building up underneath.
Heel Risers / Heel Lifts
The heel riser in a snowshoe is designed to prevent any calf fatigue that you would undoubtedly get if you were hiking uphill without them.
Boots for Snowshoes
You need to wear a good pair of waterproof hiking boots inside your snowshoe. It has to fit perfectly in order to avoid any accidents, it has to be well insulated, to help keep you warm, and waterproof, and it has to be at least calf high for decent ankle support.
When hiking in snow, snow will get kicked up onto your boots, so it’s important to bear that in mind. This is why the water resistance of your hiking boots is so important. A good set of gaiters is a good idea to prevent snow from getting inside the boots.
Value For Money
In our view, “cheaper” does not necessarily mean better value for money.
If you do have a budget you need to stick to, be sure to check prices as you go along.
The cheapest snowshoes cost at least $60-$70, but you can expect to pay more than that for a quality pair.
Here are the best snowshoes for 2023:
Frequently Asked Questions
When hiking in urban areas, regular snow boots will suffice. However, when you are hiking in the great outdoors and going uphill, snowshoes are an essential piece of equipment.
Unlike snow or hiking boots, snowshoes have incredible traction, made possible by their crampons which will dig into the ground underneath to give your feet a much better grip on both powdery and packed snow. They are also better for traction on icy ground, too.
You can often pick up a good pair of snowshoes for less than $100. So it’s an affordable investment for most hikers. And you can simply wear them over your favorite winter hiking boots.
Different snow conditions call for different lengths of snowshoe…
Powdery snow is best faced with longer snowshoes that will help you to stay afloat. But wet or compact snow can be tackled with shorter-length snowshoes.
Shorter snowshoes are also better for traveling through narrow trails.
The length of the snowshoe also affects its price, with longer snowshoes generally costing a little more money than their shorter counterparts.
So, there’s no short answer to this question. If in any doubt, simply go for a mid-length snowshoe of about 25 inches in length.
Women’s shoes are lighter than men’s. They are also narrower, as women tend to have a smaller gait. Some model are unisex and depends on the design.
Heel lift helps alleviate any calf pain and muscle strain on steep inclines. Usually you just simply pull up a rubber tab and click into place. The foot can rest as the heel lifts.
This depends on the type of hiking. They can be very useful on rugged terrain and will provide more stability. Poles also help reduce pressure on the joints and increase upper body fitness.
Most snowshoes will accommodate any footwear but if out hiking in snow it’s best to use dry and insulated shoes as well as good quality and stable especially if hiking on rugged terrain.
This will depend on what type of terrain you’ll be hiking in but as a general rule of thumb:
– Young people 20-100 lbs 7×16
– Women 100lbs-160lbs 8×2, 160lns-200lbs 8 x25
– Men 100lbs-150lbs 8×2, 151lbs-200lbs 8x 25, over 200lbs 9×30 or 10×36
BikeHikeSafari Gear Review Process
The author, Brad McCartney from BikeHikeSafari is a small independent adventurer and outdoor gear tester who owns and runs BikeHikeSafari.com.
BikeHikeSafari is not part of a large blog network and is proudly independent. All reviews on this site are independent and honest gear reviews of outdoor products by the author.
The author, Brad McCartney is a very experienced triple crown thru-hiker, adventurer, and bike tourer having spent 1000s of nights sleeping in a tent and sleeping bag (Read more). He was a manager of an outdoor retail store and is very experienced in what is important when using and testing gear for reviews like this.
BikeHikeSafari will never receive any money for reviews and they do not accept sponsored reviews on this website. All the comments about the gear reviews are from the author based on his years of experience. Hope this independent review was helpful for you.