Reviews You Can Rely On

The 5 Best Snowshoes of 2024

We put snowshoes to the test from brands like MSR, Tubbs, TSL, and Atlas to find the best for your winter treks
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Best Snowshoes Review (Our contenders.)
Our contenders.
Credit: Ian McEleney
Thursday April 25, 2024

Looking for a new pair of snowshoes to level up your winter hiking? Over the last decade, we have tested dozens of models, with the best 14 in our current lineup. Our testers have spent hours and miles breaking trails through deep powder in Alaska, strolling groomed paths in Colorado, and approaching alpine objectives in California's Sierra Nevada. Regardless of conditions, we put these snowshoes through the wringer to bring you an honest assessment of their performance in real life.

Men's and women's versions of the same products can perform differently, which is why we have a dedicated review for the best women's snowshoes, too. If you're a winter sports lover in general, check out our other snow sports reviews, including our favorite ski gear and our recommendations on essentials for staying warm and dry, like the best long underwear, best winter gloves and best ski pants.

Editor's Note: On April 25, 2024, we added new models from Tubbs, as well as retested our entire lineup.

Related: Best Women's Snowshoes

Top 14 Product Ratings

Displaying 11 - 14 of 14
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Awards  Best Buy Award   
Price $115.30 at Amazon$80 List
$84.99 at Amazon
$87.96 at Backcountry$116 List
$112.88 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
50
47
47
42
Star Rating
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Pros Affordable, easy to use, decent flotationGood binding, solid flotation, inexpensive, comes with polesSimple bindings, lightweight, inexpensiveGood flotation, inexpensive
Cons Mediocre traction, bindings don't work well with big bootsPoor traction on ice or side hillsLow flotation, mediocre tractionLess reliable binding technology, poor traction
Bottom Line These snowshoes perform well on simple terrain and shorter tripsThese budget snowshoes offer a lot of performance for the moneyThese basic snowshoes aren't fancy but are a great priceIf you're not getting out much or going far, these budget snowshoes could be right for you
Rating Categories Tubbs Xplore G2 Ratchet Binding Tubbs Flex STP Chinook Trekker
Flotation (30%)
6.0
8.0
4.0
7.0
Traction (30%)
4.0
2.0
5.0
2.0
Walkability (20%)
5.0
3.5
5.0
3.5
Bindings (20%)
5.0
5.0
5.0
4.0
Specs Tubbs Xplore G2 Ratchet Binding Tubbs Flex STP Chinook Trekker
Measured Weight (per pair) 3.6 lbs 4.5 lbs 3.5 lbs 4.2 lbs
Sizes Available 25", 30" 22", 25", 30", 36" 24", 28" 22", 25", 30", 36"
Binding System Quickpull Nylon and rubber straps Ratchet straps with plastic buckles, EVA padding, rubber tension straps Quickpull Nylon and rubber straps Ratchet straps with plastic buckles, nylon strap with ladder-lock buckle
Frame Material Aluminum Aluminum Plastic and steel Aluminum
Measured Surface Area 198 sq in 225 sq in 182 sq in 205 sq in
Measured Dimensions 26"L x 8"W 31"L x 9"W 25"L x 8"W 25"L x 8"W
Binding/Deck Connection Hybrid hinged and strapped Hinged Hinged Strapped
Crampon/Traction Aids Steel crampons and teeth Aluminum crampons and teeth Steel crampons and rails Aluminum crampons and teeth
Deck Material Soft-Tec PVC-coated polyester Polyethylene fabric Torsion Deck (plastic) Polyethylene fabric
Heel Lift No Yes No No
Flotation Tails Sold Separately? No No No No
Men's and Women's Versions? Yes Unisex Yes Unisex
Optimum Weight Load (per manufacturer) 120-200 lbs (size 25")
170-250 lbs (size 30")
220-300 lbs (size 36")
up to 150 lbs (size 21")
up to 200 lbs (size 25")
up to 250 lbs (size 30")
up to 300 lbs (size 36")
80-160 lbs (size 22")
120-200 lbs (size 24")
over 190 lbs (size 28")
90-130 lbs (size 22")
130-210 lbs (size 25")
180-250 lbs (size 30")
250-300 lbs (size 36")
Tested Size 25" 30" 24" 25"


Best Overall Snowshoes


MSR Lightning Ascent


77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Flotation 5.0
  • Traction 9.0
  • Walkability 8.5
  • Bindings 9.0
Uses: Fresh and spring snow, steep terrain | Weight Load: 120 - 220 lbs (25" model)
REASONS TO BUY
Stiff and precise
Excellent traction
Superb range of motion
REASONS TO AVOID
Hinged binding not ideal on firm trails
Forefoot straps are short

The stout MSR Lightning Ascent continues to lead our field of snowshoes, performing highly in nearly every metric during testing. It provides reliable traction on snow, ice, slush, and even the occasional bit of exposed rock. It's the model our testers reached for on steep or technical terrain. The Paragon binding system has been on the market for a while and has proven comfortable and secure in repeated tests. We liked most of the models we tested for one feature or performance area or another, but the Lightning Ascent brings it all together like no other contender.

Our only gripe with the Lightning Ascent pertains to the straps that control the rubber webbing securing the forefoot. The strap's tail seems unnecessarily short, making it challenging to adjust or remove, even more so when wearing gloves. This won't be a problem if you're always using the same boots, but it makes size changes annoying, especially if you have bigger feet or bulky boots. We wish this strap was a bit longer. Otherwise, this is our favorite model. And the icing on the cake? If you have plans for fresh powder and want to increase surface area or accommodate a heavier load, the Ascent has supplemental add-on tails available for purchase. Another model we like for steep or technical terrain is the Tubbs Flex VRT, which scored just behind the Lightning Ascent.

Read more: MSR Lightning Ascent review

The shape of this model's frame - coupled with longitudinal rails - take it over the top in traction.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Weight Load
The weight loads listed for each snowshoe are based on the size we tested. Most models offer multiple sizes to accommodate your trail weight, and several also have optional add-on flotation tails to increase surface area when needed.

High Performance Affordability


MSR Evo Trail


65
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Flotation 4.5
  • Traction 6.0
  • Walkability 7.5
  • Bindings 9.0
Uses: Spring snow and moderate terrain | Weight Load: up to 180 lbs
REASONS TO BUY
Affordable
Easy to use
Good traction
REASONS TO AVOID
Decking is loud
Subpar flotation

The MSR Evo Trail is a classic. They are easy to use, offer good traction, and are affordable. The bindings are secure and can accommodate a wide range of boot sizes, and the compact design is relatively easy to strap to the outside of a pack on dry ground. At just 3.7 pounds for the pair, they are one of the lightest options in our lineup. We really liked how quick and easy it was to put the Evo Trail on and take them off, making them a great option for trails with mixed terrain.

The simplistic molded plastic decking of the Evo is not quiet, so if you only want the pristine sounds of nature, these won't be the best bet. The small deck doesn't provide a ton of flotation. While the traction is quite good for a trail model, winter travelers heading to the steepest of steep terrain should consider the MSR Lightning Ascent for better flotation. Despite these gripes, the Evo is a great option for many scenarios at a very fair price.

Read more: MSR Evo Trail review

Our testers found these snowshoes quick and easy to get on.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Best on A Tight Budget


G2 Ratchet Binding


47
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Flotation 8.0
  • Traction 2.0
  • Walkability 3.5
  • Bindings 5.0
Use: Fresh and spring snow, groomed trails | Weight Load: 50 - 300 lbs (25" model)
REASONS TO BUY
Comfortable and secure binding
Great value
Poles included
REASONS TO AVOID
Poor side hill and steep terrain performance
Carry bag is flimsy
Only ok in ice terrain

Can you get a great pair of snowshoes with poles for less? Turns out you can! While many cheapo models are out there, the G2 Ratchet Binding stands out for the binding quality. The EVA foam adds cushion and security, and the ratchet system (similar to snowboard bindings) confidently secures our foot. We bought a few other inexpensive models that were tolerable, but usually, the toe box did not secure our foot. We appreciated the rubber heel strap, which feels much more secure and durable than the cinch buckle on most other inexpensive snowshoes. This heel strap is essentially a “ski strap” that is easy to use and never loosed on us like other cheap bindings can. While the trekking poles are nothing special, they get the job done, and it's nice to have them included.

Without any side rail reactions, these snow shoes do not perform well in icy terrain or on firm sides hill travel. They are for soft snow or groomed trails. The bindings will get you some purchase, but these are not ideal for icy terrain like the more expensive models in this review. While the included poles are acceptable, the carry bag feels cheap and flimsy. We don't expect it to last long (but we rarely use the carrying bag on snow shoes). Overall, the G2 was one of our favorite budget options. If you are getting into snowshoeing or only go a few times a year, this is likely more than adequate for your needs. If you snowshoe quite often, the Tubbs Flex VRT is worth considering. The Flex VRT has great traction and easy-to-use bindings.

Read more: G2 Ratchet Binding review

Putting on the G2 Ratchet Strap and then walking through soft snow. The last clip shows the use of the heal riser, which is handy on steep terrain.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Best for Fresh Deep Snow


Crescent Moon Big Sky 32


60
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Flotation 9.0
  • Traction 4.0
  • Walkability 4.5
  • Bindings 6.0
Uses: Deep snow | Weight Load: up to 225 lbs
REASONS TO BUY
Great flotation
Relatively easy walking
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavy
Clunky heel lifter
The Crescent Moon Big Sky 32 was previously known as the Crescent Moon Gold 10. You may find it still sold under its old moniker or the new one, but the product is the same.

Flotation is critical for trail-breaking in deeper or soft snow. This is primarily a function of pounds per square inch, and larger models offer more flotation. With a length of 32 inches and a width of 10 inches, the Crescent Moon Big Sky 32 are the largest snowshoes we tested. They boast a whopping 256 square inches of measured surface area. That being said, they float incredibly well in deep snow. The Big Sky sports a comfortable and fairly user-friendly binding that features rubber straps and buckles.

On the flip side, the Big Sky 32 is not tops for traction, but we think this is fair for a model designed for soft and deep—not so much steep—ground. While this snowshoe has a removable plastic heel lifter, we generally prefer the wire-type standard found in other models. But this is the model to reach for if your biggest concern is staying on top of deep, powdery snow. If you want more versatility, check out the Atlas Montane. The Montane has great traction and flotation, which will be able to handle more angled terrain.

Read more: Crescent Moon Big Sky 32 review

Tugging on this black rubber strap tightened the plastic cage over our forefoot quickly and effectively.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Best for Trails


TSL Symbioz Hyperflex Elite


60
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Flotation 2.0
  • Traction 9.0
  • Walkability 6.5
  • Bindings 7.0
Uses: Groomed trails | Weight Load: 110 - 260 lbs (23.5" Medium model)
REASONS TO BUY
Precise and compact design
Easy to hike in
Impressive traction
REASONS TO AVOID
Performance lacking in deep snow

In the past, most snowshoes were being used by hardy mountain folk venturing far from the beaten path. Now that winter outdoor recreation has become hugely popular, many hikers are tramping on groomed trails or tracks where sinking into the snow isn't the main problem. The TSL Symbioz Hyperflex Elite provides excellent traction for firm or icy ground. The deck is flexible and relatively small, and these qualities make for a pleasant experience when hiking on hard-packed trails.

These characteristics listed above are the enemies of good flotation, so if deep powder is on your winter hiking menu, look to a snowshoe like the Crescent Moon Big Sky 32. But for hikers who aren't looking to reenact The Revenant and who just want a snowshoe that's not cumbersome to walk in, the Symbioz Elite is a great choice.

Read more: TSL Symbioz Hyperflex Elite review

The flexible deck of the Symbioz Elite makes walking on firm snow a breeze.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
77
MSR Lightning Ascent
Best Overall Snowshoes
$390
Editors' Choice Award
72
Tubbs Flex VRT
$280
69
Atlas Montane
$250
65
MSR Evo Trail
High Performance Affordability
$170
Best Buy Award
61
Tubbs Mountaineer
$280
60
Crescent Moon Big Sky 32
Best for Fresh Deep Snow
$220
Top Pick Award
60
TSL Symbioz Hyperflex Elite
Best for Trails
$300
Top Pick Award
55
MSR Evo Ascent
$240
51
Tubbs Panoramic
$270
51
MSR Revo Explore
$270
50
Tubbs Xplore
$150
47
G2 Ratchet Binding
Best on A Tight Budget
$80
Best Buy Award
47
Tubbs Flex STP
$110
42
Chinook Trekker
$116

snowshoes - real world testing in the snow is the foundation of our reviews.
Real world testing in the snow is the foundation of our reviews.
Credit: Ian McEleney

How We Test Snowshoes


We conducted hours of research into the current snowshoe market before selecting and purchasing (at full cost!) the models in this review for our side-by-side tests. Then, our in-field testing took place in the Sierra Nevadas, Tetons, Colorado Rockies, and the Alaska Range. We made short approach hikes to technical ice climbs, taught winter mountaineering courses, climbed high peaks (including Denali), and strolled the local cross-country trails. We often traded models with our clients to get their opinions on specific features. We made detailed notes on each snowshoe's ability to handle various snow types and trail conditions, along with how easy the shoe was to use. Then, we compiled our findings to bring you this detailed review.

Our snowshoe testing was based on five rating metrics:
  • Flotation (30% of total score weighting)
  • Traction (30% weighting)
  • Walkability (20% weighting)
  • Bindings (20% weighting)

We got our hands, and feet, on each pair of snowshoes to test them and bring you this in-depth guide.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Why You Should Trust Us


Author and tester Ian McEleney is an AMGA certified Alpine Guide. He spends numerous days each year traveling on snow and has logged hundreds of thousands of vertical feet guiding while wearing snowshoes all over the country, including in the High Sierra and the Alaska Range. The foundation for this review was laid by Jediah Porter, an internationally licensed AMGA/IFMGA Mountain Guide. He has guided hundreds of clients in winter environments and helped them select the right gear and clothing for their trips. Together, these two make a testing team that's hard to beat.

Testing the Montane on a walk in the woods.
Testing the Montane on a walk in the woods.
We&#039;re all about that side by side testing.
We're all about that side by side testing.
Snowshoes gave us access to baby&#039;s first snowman.
Snowshoes gave us access to baby's first snowman.
Our testers log miles with each product.

Analysis and Test Results


Humans have been using snowshoes for thousands of years, and for good reason — walking through deep snow with only boots on your feet sucks. Most hikers enjoy three seasons: spring, summer, and fall. When the first big winter storm arrives, the hiking gear is packed away until next year. However, anyone who has trod in boots through deep snow knows that even the best boots can't keep you from ending up thigh-deep in snowshoe territory. Snowshoes allow you to stay atop the snow and require little skill beyond what any hiker of moderate experience and fitness is capable of. This is one of the reasons that snowshoeing is one of the fastest-growing winter sports in America.

Finding the right pair for your style of winter travel can make all the difference in your enjoyment. There are a lot of different designs on the market. The big considerations, though, are the same across the board: frame size and shape, traction, binding compatibility with footwear, and application in specific terrain and snow conditions. Wide expanses of snow-covered terrain, local trails feet below the snow's surface, and mountains blanketed in white are all accessible with a little extra flotation. Snowshoes can extend your hiking season through the winter and expand access.


Value


Wondering which model offers the best ratio of overall performance to price? We compared the overall score from testing to the retail price for all products in this review. The MSR Evo Trail are versatile and perform well at a very reasonable price point. The G2 Ratchet Binding doesn't score as high but does boast a shockingly low price (and the price includes poles). Alternatively, the MSR Lightning Ascent is the best available, but that quality and performance cost a big chunk of change.

snowshoes - without flotation on a day like this you&#039;re going nowhere.
Without flotation on a day like this you're going nowhere.
Credit: Ian McEleney


Flotation


Flotation is how well you stay on the surface of the snow. Surface area (as measured in square inches) is the prime determinant of flotation, and more is better. The shape of a snowshoe also affects how well it floats. A wide, oval frame provides better flotation in deep snow than a narrow, tapered design. However, wider frames can feel pretty cumbersome underfoot. Some designs combine a tapered tail with a wide front to offer agility and flotation at the same time. We tested flotation in different snow conditions, such as spring snow, groomed trails, and fresh powder with depths up to three feet.


A secondary characteristic that affects flotation is the rigidity of the deck. While a stiffer deck (or deck and frame combo) will provide better flotation, it's not as important of a consideration as surface area. A rigid deck may enhance flotation, but a more flexible one can be nicer to hike in. The models that excel best in deep snow are the ones with the widest frame and longest tails. The biggest we tested is the Crescent Moon Big Sky 32, and it offers excellent flotation. It also has decent walkability for a snowshoe of its size.

snowshoes - more surface area floats (left) while less sinks (right).
More surface area floats (left) while less sinks (right).
Credit: Ian McEleney

The qualities that boost flotation can hinder an efficient stride — and vice versa. This can be particularly true on steep downhills or traverses. Hikers should consider which is more important for them. If you're heading into steep terrain or have alpine aspirations, you'll want to consider choosing a shorter option. The increased workload from sinking in a bit more is a small trade-off for more security and efficient travel on technical ground (or while bushwhacking). Those who recreate in regions with deep, dry winter snowpacks and gently rolling terrain should consider sizing up for easier travel.

The Atlas Montane, G2 Ratchet Binding, and Chinook Trekker are our runners-up for the flotation metric. They have dimensions that provide a respectable amount of measured square inches underfoot. On top of this, the Montane and Trekker have traditional tubular frames, which make them quite rigid, so you can squeeze all the flotation out of every square inch.

snowshoes - a rigid aluminum frame augments flotation.
A rigid aluminum frame augments flotation.
Credit: Ian McEleney

The MSR Lightning Ascent is ideal for off-trail travel in deep snow with varying conditions. Others are bigger and float better, but for something that can handle everything, the Lightning Ascent is excellent. And, if you know you need more flotation, the Ascent has optional flotation tails available for purchase that make deep snow easy.

snowshoes - the lightning ascent (worn by the center mountaineer) has good...
The Lightning Ascent (worn by the center mountaineer) has good flotation.
Credit: Ian McEleney

The TSL Symbioz Elite has an interesting convergence of features. It's the smallest model we tested, and it follows that we would expect poorer flotation — which is what we got. What isn't readily apparent is that the entire length is flexible, an attribute optimized for easy movement on hard and crusty snow. The downside is that your weight is focused in the middle, and the flotation ends up even less than what we would expect of rigid models of the same size. For the terrain and conditions the Symbioz Elite is designed for, poor flotation shouldn't be an issue. Nonetheless, it is worth noting.

snowshoes - in late winter and early spring snow can firm in the morning and...
In late winter and early spring snow can firm in the morning and soft in the afternoon. Choose your snowshoes wisely.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Traction


After flotation, traction is the most important consideration. Sliding around on slippery snow is irritating at best and could be dangerous. A versatile snowshoe will have a design that provides adequate traction in a variety of situations. We measured traction by testing each pair on steep and slick hillsides, intentionally trying to slip. We evaluated the stability and support gained from the grip on the bottom of each shoe.


All of the models tested here have some crampon-style teeth underfoot. While moving along groomed trails, the crampons dig in to keep you from shifting in your step. Lateral rails can add security on traverses. Tubular frames are naturally slippery and do not enhance traction. Models with a rail-like frame (like the Lightning Ascent and MSR Revo Explore) or a unibody plastic deck construction (like the Flex VRT and Evo Trail) can provide more traction with plastic fins and ridges molded into the deck. All other things being equal, we discovered that more metal teeth on the bottom of your snowshoe equals more traction.

snowshoes - formidable traction on the lightning ascent comes from teeth...
Formidable traction on the Lightning Ascent comes from teeth underfoot (in red) lateral traction rails, and the frame itself.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Anecdotally, models with a hard plastic deck seemed to be louder on crusty snow. Birdwatchers hoping to take their game to the winter months should take note.

The highest-rated traction systems in our review are on the MSR Lightning Ascent and TSL Symbioz Elite. The Lightning has crampons underfoot, and the frame is a rigid piece of serrated metal (not a tube) that improves traction no matter your direction of travel. The Symbioz Elite features aggressive metal spikes that are impressively sharp and confidence-inspiring.

snowshoes - different designs, similar traction.
Different designs, similar traction.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Our runners-up in traction — the Tubbs Flex VRT, MSR Revo, MSR Evo Trail, and MSR Evo Ascent — have some things in common when it comes to traction. These pairs all sport aggressive crampon-style teeth under the forefoot, ridges molded into the deck, and longitudinal steel rails.

snowshoes - the evo trail (above in blue) and ascent (below in grey) have the...
The Evo Trail (above in blue) and Ascent (below in grey) have the same great traction system.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Walkability


Ideally, a snowshoe is a tool that facilitates winter travel and not something that forces hikers to relearn basic walking skills. Attaching “tennis rackets” to your feet will inevitably impede your stride, but there are ways to minimize this impediment. Smaller and lighter models have less of a “footprint” and are more nimble. Larger and heavier models, of course, are more cumbersome and clumsy. When it comes to performance, flotation and walkability often exist in opposition to each other.


In technical terrain, a rigid, hinged connection between the binding and deck lends stability and improves climber confidence. On mellower terrain, a strapped, flexible connection between the deck and binding provides shock absorption and encourages a slightly more cushioned ride. The final factor to consider is the shape of the deck. The taper and asymmetry of a design can help to reduce the tripping hazard. However, a tapered shape can compromise flotation slightly.

snowshoes - a hinged binding allows the snowshoe to freely rotate around your...
A hinged binding allows the snowshoe to freely rotate around your foot.
Credit: Ian McEleney

We tried to evaluate the overall design and intention of the product before assessing the walkability of the binding/deck interface. The Lightning Ascent and Evo Ascent are designed for rugged terrain, so their hinged attachment is good. The Crescent Moon Big Sky 32 seems to be intended for lower-angled slopes, so a strapped attachment makes sense. However, the overall size and weight of this model, though suited to deep snow, kept it from a high score in this metric.

snowshoes - attaching the binding to the deck with a rubber strap isn&#039;t...
Attaching the binding to the deck with a rubber strap isn't preferred for steep technical terrain but is nice when the hiking is mellow.
Credit: Ian McEleney

The bulk of the features on the Atlas Montane seem to steer it toward technical terrain, except for the strapped, imprecise binding/deck interface and the unimpressive walkability. This generalization on the suitability of the different binding/deck interface options is subject to some opinion and debate. Our test team, with years of experience, is in agreement, but others may disagree. If you prefer flexible straps for technical terrain, the Montane is a good choice.

Two models step out of this hinged/strapped paradigm. The Tubbs Panoramic and Tubbs Mountaineer have the same attachment system, which is a combination of strapped and hinged. Both offer an above-average stride.

snowshoes - the hybrid binding attachment on the mountaineer sports a rigid...
The hybrid binding attachment on the Mountaineer sports a rigid steel pin coupled with a flexible strap.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Our best trail and firm conditions walking product, the TSL Symbioz Elite, is a bit of an outlier. With a small size and very flexible deck, we'd expect it to have great walkability. With a rigid hinged binding/deck attachment, we'd expect some of those advantages to be tempered. Defying our expectations, we had no issues with the trail walking of the Elite. For its intended purpose, it augments your stride better than any other in our test.

snowshoes - the crazy flexible deck of the symbioz.
The crazy flexible deck of the Symbioz.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Another high scorer for this metric is the Tubbs Flex VRT. This snowshoe's feature set is suitable for steep and rugged terrain. Its moderate size makes it a bit more nimble, and the hinged deck-to-binding connection allows for more precise foot placements. The heel lifter is also a nod to steeper ground. Couple these with good traction, and this model is one of our favorites for movement on mountainous ground.

snowshoes - the flex vrt has decent flotation along with its other features for...
The Flex VRT has decent flotation along with its other features for rowdy terrain.
Credit: Jessica Haist

The MSR Evo Trail is targeted at users entering more casual terrain, so at first glance, the hinged binding/deck interface is a detriment. On well-traveled or groomed trails, the short length and slightly tapered deck help compensate for this. Paradoxically, these are features we like for steep or technical situations, so their inclusion lends some versatility to this model.


The lightest of our bunch is the Tubbs Flex STP. These snowshoes weigh just 3.5 pounds for the pair. Following closely behind with sub-four-pound weigh-ins are the Tubbs Xplore, MSR Evo Trail, and MSR Evo Ascent. If you frequent trails with mixed terrain and spend part of the hike with your snowshoes strapped to your backpack, these are great options to keep your load light.

snowshoes - the tubbs flex stp are lightweight, so you can easily strap them to...
The Tubbs Flex STP are lightweight, so you can easily strap them to your pack when the snow-packed trail turns to gravel.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Bindings


If you are standing in a snowstorm and anxious to get on the trail, the last thing you want to be worried about is difficult buckles and straps that are challenging to use. We looked at how easy each model is to put on and adjust at any moment. We made these evaluations with and without gloves on. We counted how many steps are required to operate each binding — fewer is better. We also expect our snowshoes to stay firmly attached to our feet, and they have to be reasonably comfortable. The most comfortable bindings were sometimes the least secure, and vice versa.


Easy-to-use binding systems can look very different from one another. The Symbioz Elite bindings are the most complicated to set up initially but snap easily on and off once that initial setup is complete. The Lightning Ascent and Evo Trail feature a rubber “net” that goes over the forefoot. Once this is set up for your boot, it's pretty easy to wriggle your boot toe in and then just crank down on the heel strap. The BOA systems of the Tubbs Flex VRT and Panoramic might seem gimmicky, but we found them to be easy to use and glove-friendly.

snowshoes - we found the boa system to be very glove-friendly.
We found the BOA system to be very glove-friendly.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Our more experienced testers prefer the rubber, “pin-in-hole” style strap on their binding. These straps are durable and simple and conform to almost any footwear. Those new to snowshoeing (and winter activities in general) sometimes find that these straps require a bit of hard pulling to secure and have a learning curve. Others on our testing team (especially those with snowboarding experience) prefer a ratcheting strap, which — though a bit more complicated and maybe less durable — requires no exertion to get a snug fit.

snowshoes - ratchet straps are similar to those found on snowboard bindings.
Ratchet straps are similar to those found on snowboard bindings.
Credit: Ian McEleney

The MSR Revo Explore sports ratcheting straps. These narrow straps don't inspire confidence, and both the nylon and ratchet straps are troublesome when things get icy. The MSR Lightning Ascent has two straps that hold the forefoot webbing in place. Our testers found that the short length of these straps made them difficult to grip, especially with gloves on.

snowshoes - a boa knob lets you dial in the tension more delicately.
A Boa knob lets you dial in the tension more delicately.
Credit: Ian McEleney

A comfortable binding distributes its force over a wide area, and this is especially noticeable when you're wearing softer boots. If your bindings create pinch points or need to be cinched uncomfortably tight to stay on, circulation to your foot may be reduced, which is the last thing you want when it's cold outside.

The Lightning Ascent and Evo Trail sport a secure setup that walks the security/comfort line nicely. Several models, including the Montane and Flex VRT, have secure bindings that are padded with thin foam. This boosts comfort (and maybe warmth!) for all kinds of footwear.

snowshoes - comfortable bindings are key when you&#039;re heading out for a wintery...
Comfortable bindings are key when you're heading out for a wintery walk.
Credit: Jessica Haist

Best for Specific Applications

  • Deep snow: Crescent Moon Big Sky 32
  • Spring snow: MSR Lightning Ascent, MSR Evo Trail, or Tubbs Flex VRT
  • Groomed trails: TSL Symbioz Elite
  • Steep terrain: Tubbs Flex VRT or MSR Lightning Ascent
  • Sharing with family members or friends: MSR Evo Trail, G2, or Chinook Trekker

snowshoes - a storage bag helps separate your sharp stuff from your puffy stuff.
A storage bag helps separate your sharp stuff from your puffy stuff.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Conclusion


A good pair of snowshoes can open up an entirely new world for hikers who only have experience in the summer. Instead of stomping through snow in search of a good mountain trail, you'll be able to float on top and get to places you never could before. Finding the best pair for your objectives or preferred price range can be puzzling, so we hope our review helps you narrow down the options so you can get out there faster and enjoy the snow.

snowshoes - snowshoes can let you access high and wild places in the winter.
Snowshoes can let you access high and wild places in the winter.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Ian McEleney and Jediah Porter