Using snowshoes for winter hiking

Who should buy snowshoes?

If you want to enjoy back-country alpine environments, snowshoes enable you to do it with no specialist motion based skills. Cross-country skiing demands skills (particularly for multi-day touring). Snowshoes, on the other hand, don’t demand a specific skill set – beyond the ability to walk. Of course, you can try hiking in the snow wearing regular hiking boots. However, you’ll soon find that with every step, you’re sinking into the snow making progress tiring and tedious.

Snowshoe Types

There’s a variety of snowshoe types available. Principally, the differences between models are based on the terrain they’re designed for.

Snowshoe types can be divided broadly into three main categories:

  1. For flat ground or gentle slopes only.
  2. For steeper ground and more challenging terrain.
  3. For very technical terrain – that is, terrain that’s close to warranting crampons in certain sections.

Bear in mind: a snowshoe designed for very technical terrain can also be used for flat ground. However, snowshoes designed for gentle terrain won’t perform on more technical terrain.

Snowshoe Design Features

The Underside

  • Snowshoes designed for more technical terrain have more aggressive and developed spikes and ridges in order to grip more types of terrain.

Heel Lifter

  • Snowshoes either have them or they don’t. Basically, it’s a little contraption that clicks into position to reduce calf strain on steep slopes.


  • More expensive models achieve performance at a low weight.


Most snowshoe models are one-size-fits-most.

Generally, in Australia you can ignore ‘length’ and ‘floatation’ specifications. That’s because in Australia, snow tends to be hard-packed, rather than deep and soft. Therefore, you need less floatation than you do in more powdery snow that you’re more likely to encounter overseas.

When length and floatation specifications matter is when you intend to use your snowshoes overseas. Or, if you’re a heavier person likely to be carrying a heavy pack. (Note: For these situations, you can also get floatation tails.)

When to use Snowshoes

Basically, once you reach the snow line, you can put your snowshoes on. (Using them below the snow line damages the underside, so it’s not recommended.)

You can switch to crampons for icy ground at ski resorts, or hikes where you might encounter ice and snow.

Other Gear You’ll Need with Snowshoes

Snowshoes are used with hiking boots. No special boots are required – your normal hiking boots are what they’re designed for. You can also wear snowboarding boots; but, for that, you’ll need special straps or bindings.

Snowshoes need to be used with poles. That is, trekking poles with snow baskets or adjustable ski poles. Poles make snowshoes easier to use and improve your balance, too.

Beyond that, all you’ll need is basic winter hiking gear.

Snowshoe Maintenance

Snowshoes don’t require any particular maintenance. (Unlike skis, you don’t need to wax them, or anything like that.) Over time, straps may need to be replaced.


The beauty of snowshoes is that you don’t need skis. That means, if you want to stand on the summit of Mt Feathertop in winter, you don’t need hard-core skills and thousands of dollars’ worth of ski gear. What’s more, with snowshoes you won’t need to learn a new sport to reach these breathtaking snowy landscapes.

Recommended Snowshoe Models

Because Bogong Equipment is a back-country store, all our snowshoes are intended for use in challenging terrain. Still, here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Good all-rounder: MSR Evo
  • Deluxe model: MSR Revo Ascent (Note: MSR snowshoes with ‘Ascent’ in the name have a heel lift.)

Contributed by Bogong Equipment.

Leave a comment