What Size Snowshoes Do I Need? Unlock the Secret

“What size snowshoes do I need?” I remember asking myself that very question before my first snowy adventure.

Choosing the right fit can feel like unearthing some ancient secret, right?

But here's the thing, it doesn't have to be a mystery anymore.

Together, we're gonna crack this code and get you stepping out in snow with confidence!

Understanding Snowshoes and Their Function

What Are Snowshoes?

Snowshoes are a type of footwear designed for walking over snow. The idea has been around for thousands of years, with ancient people crafting rudimentary snowshoes from wood and animal hides. Modern versions are often made from lightweight metal and synthetic materials. The large surface area of snowshoes distributes your weight over the snow, preventing your feet from sinking in – a principle known as flotation.


Why is the Right Size Important?

You might wonder why the size of your snowshoes matters so much. Well, the answer lies in the very function of a snowshoe: flotation. The size of your snowshoes determines how effectively you float on snow.

Too small, and you'll find yourself sinking into the snow with each step, making your trek unnecessarily strenuous. Too large, and you might struggle with maneuverability, particularly on narrow or steep trails. In addition, the wrong size could potentially pose safety risks in certain conditions.

Learn more: Snow Boots Vs Hiking Boots

Understanding Snowshoe Sizes

How are Snowshoes Measured?

Snowshoes are typically measured in inches, and the size usually refers to the length of the snowshoe. The width varies but is designed to provide a balance between flotation and maneuverability. The correlation between snowshoe size and weight capacity is a key factor in choosing the right size. Bigger snowshoes offer more flotation and are suitable for heavier loads.

When we talk about snowshoe size, we're generally referring to the length, not the width. Snowshoe lengths typically range from 20 to 36 inches. The right length for you depends primarily on your weight, including any gear you might be carrying.

This is because your weight affects how much pressure you exert on the snowshoes, which, in turn, affects your flotation. The heavier the load, the larger the snowshoes needed for adequate flotation.

Different Types of Snowshoes and their Sizes

Now, before we get into size recommendations, it's important to understand that different types of snowshoes are designed for different activities. Let's take a look at the three main types:

Recreational Snowshoes

Recreational snowshoes are perfect for beginners and casual snowshoers. They're designed for use on flat or gently rolling terrain and come in various sizes to accommodate different weights.

Designed for casual snowshoeing on easy to moderate terrains, these are the most common type of snowshoes. They are versatile and user-friendly, making them ideal for beginners. Typically, they range from 22 to 28 inches in length.

Backcountry Snowshoes

For the more adventurous souls who wish to venture off the beaten track, backcountry snowshoes are the way to go. They are designed to handle rough terrains and deep snow. Because of the heavy loads and deep snow typically associated with backcountry snowshoeing, these snowshoes are generally longer, ranging from 25 to 36 inches.

Running Snowshoes

Running snowshoes are the athletic cousins in the snowshoe family. They're smaller and lighter, designed to facilitate running or fast walking in packed snow conditions.

If you're into winter sports and enjoy a brisk run in the snow, running snowshoes are for you. These are typically shorter and narrower to facilitate running. The lengths of running snowshoes usually fall between 21 to 25 inches.

To know more: How to Attach Snowshoes to Backpack

Snowshoe Sizes

Now that you've got a basic understanding of snowshoe types, let's dive into size recommendations. Remember, the primary factor determining the size of your snowshoes is your total weight, including any gear or backpack you might be carrying.

User WeightRecreational Snowshoe SizeBackcountry Snowshoe SizeRunning Snowshoe Size
Under 150 lbs22″25″21″
150-200 lbs25″30″23″
200-250 lbs27″36″25″
Over 250 lbs30″36″N/A

Note that these are general recommendations and other factors like snow conditions and personal preferences may influence the optimal size for you. Always try on different sizes and types of snowshoes to find the pair that fits you best and suits your activity.

The size of snowshoes you need primarily depends on your total weight (including gear), with sizes ranging from 16 inches for up to 75 lbs, up to 36 inches for over 225 lbs, although snow conditions and terrain should also be considered.

Read more: How Should Snow Pants Fit

Factors to Consider when Choosing Snowshoe Size

Your Weight (Including Gear)

How does your weight influence snowshoe size?

As discussed earlier, snowshoes work on the principle of flotation – distributing your weight over a larger surface area to prevent you from sinking into the snow. Hence, the more you weigh, the larger your snowshoes need to be to provide sufficient flotation.

Your weight, including the weight of your winter gear and backpack, is one of the most crucial factors when determining the size of your snowshoes. The more you weigh, the larger the snowshoes you'll need for adequate flotation.

Considering the weight of your gear

But it's not just about your body weight; the weight of your gear matters too. If you're just out for a casual hike, your gear might not weigh much, but if you're packing for a backcountry expedition or a camping trip, that additional weight could be significant. Always consider your total weight, including gear, when determining the right snowshoe size.

Remember to factor in the weight of your gear when choosing your snowshoe size. A day out snowshoeing often requires packing extra clothes, food, and safety equipment, which can significantly add to your weight.

The Snow Conditions

Light and fluffy snow vs. wet and heavy snow

Snow is not always the same; it can be light and fluffy or wet and heavy. Light, fluffy snow, often found in colder regions or right after a snowfall, offers less support, meaning you'll sink more and therefore need larger snowshoes. In contrast, wet, heavy snow, which is more common in warmer regions or later in the season, offers more support, allowing you to opt for smaller snowshoes.

How snow conditions affect the size choice

Depending on your region's usual snow conditions, your snowshoe size might vary. If you regularly encounter deep, powdery snow, opting for larger snowshoes would be wise. On the other hand, if the snow is often compact and hard, smaller, more manageable snowshoes might serve you better.

In general, if you're expecting to encounter a variety of snow conditions, it's better to err on the side of larger snowshoes. They'll provide better flotation in soft snow, and although they might be a bit more cumbersome in hard-packed snow, they'll still perform adequately.

The Terrain

Flat terrain vs. steep terrain

Just as with snow conditions, the terrain you'll be trekking influences the size of your snowshoes. Flat or gently rolling landscapes usually require less traction, and larger snowshoes can be used without issues. However, steep, uneven terrain might necessitate smaller snowshoes for better control and stability.

The type of terrain you'll be traversing also influences your snowshoe size. Flat, open terrain allows for larger snowshoes, which provide better flotation. However, if you're tackling steep or heavily forested terrain, maneuverability becomes more important than flotation, and a smaller, more compact snowshoe is ideal.

How terrain affects snowshoe size

It's all about striking a balance between flotation and maneuverability. Larger snowshoes offer better flotation but can be cumbersome on steep or complex terrain. On the other hand, smaller snowshoes offer better control and are easier to maneuver but provide less flotation.

Considering the terrain when choosing your snowshoe size is essential. While larger snowshoes provide better flotation, they can also be bulky and challenging to navigate on steep or uneven terrain. Smaller snowshoes may offer less flotation but provide better maneuverability in challenging conditions.

How to Measure and Choose the Right Size Snowshoes

Snowshoe Size Chart

Based on all the factors we've discussed, here's a general snowshoe size chart to help you find your ideal fit:

User WeightSnow ConditionTerrain TypeRecreational Snowshoe SizeBackcountry Snowshoe SizeRunning Snowshoe Size
Under 150 lbsLight SnowFlat Terrain22″25″21″
Under 150 lbsHeavy SnowFlat Terrain20″23″21″
Under 150 lbsLight SnowSteep Terrain20″23″21″
150-200 lbsLight SnowFlat Terrain25″30″23″
150-200 lbsHeavy SnowFlat Terrain23″28″23″
Over 250 lbsLight SnowFlat Terrain30″36″N/A
Over 250 lbsHeavy SnowFlat Terrain28″34″N/A

Remember, this chart is just a general guide. Personal comfort and preferences play a huge role in finding the right fit. So, consider these factors and if in doubt, consult an expert or the specific manufacturer's guidelines.

To effectively decide what size snowshoes you need, you can use a snowshoe size chart. These charts offer a general guideline on the correct snowshoe size based on your weight

User Weight (Including Gear)Recommended Snowshoe Size
Up to 75 lbs (34 kg)16 Inches
75 – 125 lbs (34 – 56 kg)20 Inches
125 – 175 lbs (56 – 79 kg)25 Inches
175 – 225 lbs (79 – 102 kg)30 Inches
Over 225 lbs (102 kg)36 Inches

The size of snowshoes you need primarily depends on your total weight (including gear), with sizes ranging from 16 inches for up to 75 lbs, up to 36 inches for over 225 lbs, although snow conditions and terrain should also be considered.

Learn more: Way to Carry Snowshoes on Backpack

Trying on Snowshoes

Just like trying on shoes, the best way to ensure a perfect fit is to physically try on different snowshoes. Walk around in them. How do they feel? Do they provide sufficient support? Are they comfortable? Can you lift your feet without straining? These are all important questions to answer before making a final decision.

Check the fit, test the bindings, and walk around if possible. You're looking for a fit that offers a balance between comfort and control.

Customizing Fit: Bindings and Adjustments

Once you've selected the right snowshoe size, it's time to perfect your fit. Most snowshoes come with adjustable bindings that secure your boots in place. Make sure the bindings are secure but not overly tight – you don't want to restrict your circulation. Some snowshoes also offer adjustable heel lifts or crampons for steep terrain, so take the time to familiarize yourself with these features and how to use them.

FAQs about Snowshoe Size

What size snowshoes do I need for my weight?

The size of your snowshoes primarily depends on your total weight, including gear. Generally, the heavier the load, the larger the snowshoes need to be to provide adequate flotation.

How do I know what size snowshoes I need?

Snowshoe sizing is typically done on weight ranges. Check the manufacturer’s specifications for the appropriate size. Your total weight, including your gear, should be considered.

What length snowshoes do I need?

The length of your snowshoes is also determined by your total weight, as well as the conditions of the snow. Heavier loads or lighter, powdery snow usually require longer snowshoes.

How do I know what size snowshoes to get?

You can find out the right size by referring to the weight chart provided by the snowshoe manufacturer. This will account for your body weight and the weight of your gear.

What happens if snowshoes are too big?

If your snowshoes are too big, you may find them difficult to maneuver in. This could cause tripping or falling, and it may be harder to traverse narrow or steep trails.

Why do snowshoes have a weight limit?

Snowshoes have a weight limit to ensure effective performance. If the load is too heavy, the snowshoes may not provide the right amount of flotation, making walking more difficult.

Are bigger snowshoes better?

Bigger snowshoes offer more flotation which is great for deep, soft snow. However, they may hinder your ability to move freely and comfortably, especially on denser snow or narrower trails. Thus, it's about balance and the right fit.

Can I use the same size snowshoes as my regular shoes?

Snowshoe sizes do not correspond to your regular shoe sizes. They are typically chosen based on your weight including gear, not shoe size. The heavier the load, the larger the snowshoes needed for adequate support.

Is it better to have snowshoes that are too big or too small?

Ideally, your snowshoes should be the right size. If they're too big, maneuverability can be difficult. If too small, they may not provide enough flotation. Therefore, proper sizing is essential for performance and comfort.

What if I am on the border between two sizes?

If you're on the border between two sizes, consider the type of terrain and snow conditions you'll be encountering. For lighter, powdery snow or carrying heavy loads, go for the larger size. For hard, compact snow or easier trails, a smaller size may suffice.

To Sum It up

Knowing “what size snowshoes do I need” is a crucial part of preparing for a snowshoeing adventure. Remember, the right size depends on several factors including your weight, the snow conditions, and the terrain.

Choosing the correct snowshoe size is crucial for a comfortable and safe snowshoeing experience. From considering your total weight to understanding the snow conditions and terrain, there's a lot to take into account. But don't let this deter you.

With this guide in hand, you're well on your way to finding your perfect fit and embarking on your snowshoeing adventures. So go on, step into those snowshoes, and start exploring!

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Hey there, fellow explorers! This is Ovi Tanchangya, passionate blogger and avid outdoorsman. I want to share my thoughts about my past outdoor experiences, and of course, I will continue to do so. The past is very practical and can't be forgotten. I don't know which is unique about camping, but I can't forget the campfire smoke and the smell of the camp foods. When I am in mechanical society, I try to recall my memories by watching various camp videos and listening to the sound of the forest raining. And this is me.

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