Snowshoes??

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Sgt. Pepper

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So up until last weekend I’ve only used micro spikes in the winter and never had a problem what so ever. (3rd winter hiking). My daughter and I went out to Goodrich rock thinking it was a perfect hike for the little window of time we had, well we were smacked with a surprise. Post holed the whole way and the hike too wayyyyyyy longer than it should have. I’m looking to buy us some snowshoes but I’m a bigger guy! Live around 250lbs was hoping to get some recommendations/reviews from other bigger hikers?? My daughter is about 110lbs with her gear on so she has it much easier then I. Thanks in advance!
 
First a question, How many pieces and types of footwear do you own?. Probably more than one pair, well its the same with snowshoes ;( Every design is optimized for different conditions so if you are buying one pair they are going to be a compromise. MSR offers a bit of flexibility by making optional "flotation tails" which can help to tune a snowshoe to the conditions, they are better than nothing but talk to most MSR owners and the tails tend to not get used much if at all. Being a "bigger guy" (working on being less big) I have 3 pairs of snowshoes,

Pair one are "powder shoes" they have a large surface area. If you dont stick to trails and want to break your own through the woods, let Uncle Sam help you out and buy a pair of Army Surplus Magnesium snow shoes. Here is a random example from Ebay MILITARY SNOWSHOES 48" X 12" ALUM FRAME-STEEL WEBBING-NYLON BINDINGS US 1985 | eBay Now when they arrive, take a sharp knife and cut off the Us Military bindings and throw them away. Now invest in an Iverson Binding Iverson A Binding (Neoprene) Iverson A Binding (Neoprene)
Hard to beat for a "bombproof powder showshoe but not very good for trails broken out by modern recreational shoes. They also are close to useless with hard crust as they lack traction claws.

If you want to go uphill on crust or ice then you need rotary bindings with traction claws. The temptation by most hikers is to go too small as they are going to stick to broken out trails. Thats fine unless you want to head off the broken path and then you are swimming in snow because the shoes do not have enough surface area. You can take the MSR flotation tails out of the pack and screw them on and they will help you swim less but you will find that the "balance" of the shoe is messed up as the tails hang off the back so the shoes swing down to near vertical when you take a step. Some designs incorporate stops in the pivot assembly (see Brambor's Tubbs repair post) but its a lot of leverage on very small clips.

The guys who are going to haul your butt out when you get in trouble, NH F&G tend to use snowshoes that have been out of production for 30 years. They are called Sherpa's, SHERPA SNOW-CLAW SNOWSHOES 25x8.5" With Bindings Gold Tan | eBay They are huge, bombproof and the traction claws are marginal unless you can find the rare Tucker Claw option.

Most folks settle on small agile snowshoes good for trails but not so good on powder. Another thing that has changed over the years is as snowshoes have been optimized for speed is they have gotten narrower. Most snowshoes tracks will get broken in with narrow width and if you try to use wide snowshoes on them its annoying. I retired an older pair of snowshoes for that reason, I kept catching the edge of the snowshoe track.

BTW even small snowshoes will reduce effort off trail especially in a group but it can be work out on fresh powder.

One newer technology are Televators, if you going up slope you can flip some metal devices up to elevate your heel so the snowshoe matches the slope. In the right conditions on a steep slope they are an incredible assist. Binding designs are always changing year to year and the concept of "one size fits most" means some folks like me with big feet dont fit in the "most" category. Insulated winter boots are going to easily be one size up from a regular boot so bring your winter boots with you to the store to make sure they fit the binding.

Showshoes are constantly evolving and sometimes the latest and greatest model has teething problems. The Whites and ADKs are notoriously hard on snowshoes and sometimes it takes a year or two for the flaws to appear. Many folks on this site swapped to the MSR Lightnings when they came out and for a year or two they had a good rep but they proved to be less than durable when used in the Whites. Still a good snowshoe but mine tend not to go on long trips where I may be stranded by a failure. The MSR Revo's have been out for year or two and seem to be mix of the advantages of the Lightning with the durability of their prior designs so it may be good one to consider. Many folks have good things to see about the new Paragon binding.

I cant really comment on the Tubbs current offerings, IMO it's just a name brand of K2 now sourced from whatever part of the world can make them cheapest with some attempt at customer service and quality control and a design group to crank out new usually derivative versions of other companies' models (note Atlas snowshoes is owned by K2 also) The company has been bounced around of late and is now owned by a hedge fund. (MSR is part of Cascade Designs a family owned company with a mix of domestic and foreign production) All of the firms had their issues with Covid so inventory was an issue. I expect given the snow drought out in New England you may find some good end of the season sales.
 
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Peakbagger, it's the rare time I find anything you post that I disagree with. In this case, it's the Sherpa snowshoes. I did the ADK46W and Cat35W in those. The shoes themselves are bombproof but the bindings are nightmares. The lacings come undone multiple times a day, from being wet, stretched or catch on branches, resulting in binding falling off the back of your boot and you walk out of them. The wet straps then are harder to stay in place. I devised a piece of bicycle tire with slits thru the binding with a strap over the top that kept the bindings on all day. Sherpa liked the design enough to send me decking and lacing for a prototypes. They then went out of biz and sold to successor that failed. I also had the Mountaineer version with the much better crampon but the binding were the same. I find the rest of your advice spot on. Too bad Sherpa didn't stay in biz. My royalties might have allowed me to take an early retirement. LOL
 
I actually think they had a new binding at some point before the brothers sold out. Once they lost the patent on the rotary binding and Tubbs came out with Katahdin Design and got past that first year material defect, IMO they were better snowshoe for less money. Their standard Claw was a Tucker knock off but it worked. I have seen several sherpas over the years with the TD-91 binding.

I think IRL is still selling the same design, so maybe its not too late;)
 
When Sherpa sold I lost interest in getting the successor company to understand the problem. Kept both sets of well-used shoes until I donated them to local scout troop 3 years ago.
 
Great info here! Some History on Sherpas.
https://www.snowshoemag.com/a-history-of-sherpa/
One of today's updated take off of the sherpa design. never tried these but they look like they could be a viable solution for not a tom of money. Does look like they make a 10x36.
https://yukoncharlies.com/product/sherpa-snowshoes/
Great summary from peakbagger. As he well explains Snowshoes come in many shapes and sizes. They are very terrain and condition dependent. If you land up doing a lot of snowshoeing plan on owning a lot of snowshoes.
 
The original Sherpa shoes were workhorses, the bindings were awful. The Yukons look like the bindings are solid.
There were lots of mods on the bindings out there back in the day. At one point there was a step in binding which actually incorporated crampon components from a Black Diamond Swithblade. Albeit it was heavy and was only useful with a plastic boot or another boot with step in soles. But it was a beast of a climber. I have a couple pairs and will try to post a pic just for interest later in this thread. Also to the OP. A good way of trying Snow Shoes is to rent and or demo a few times to get a better idea for a solution. Also if you want to save check out a consignment store or look for a rental company that might be selling out their fleet at the end of the season.
 
I saw some of the original Yukon Charlies at Walmart when they first came out, they were clones of the Sherpas with possibly a better binding and not very well built but they were inexpensive for your typical recreational buyer that might used them three or four times at the local golf course on packed down snow they were probably fine for the price point. I figured they were a flash in the pan but I think they went upmarket a bit and the newer product seemed to be better quality. I havent looked at a pair closely for several years.

One thing in general is winter 4Ks are relatively extreme service for snowshoes due to a frequent mix of ice rocks and snow and that is probably what VFTT folks routinely use them for so we have high expectations. I think the observation made long ago that the Whites are where good snowshoes go to die was an indication that a robust shoe is needed. Not being an ADK hiker I cant compare winter conditions in the ADKs but guess its similar. I remember once meeting up with a VFFT member on top of North Kinsman where he was showing off his new snowshoes. He thought they were great and that the warranty service was great as this was the second pair he had used that season. He commented that they were so good he could climb trees with them. Knowing the individual no doubt that he did ;) . I expect that for the vast majority of the public technical snowshoes with rotary bindings, televators and crampons are overkill but to typical VFTT we have all probably used those features (if they were available)
 
I saw some of the original Yukon Charlies at Walmart when they first came out, they were clones of the Sherpas with possibly a better binding and not very well built but they were inexpensive for your typical recreational buyer that might used them three or four times at the local golf course on packed down snow they were probably fine for the price point. I figured they were a flash in the pan but I think they went upmarket a bit and the newer product seemed to be better quality. I havent looked at a pair closely for several years.

One thing in general is winter 4Ks are relatively extreme service for snowshoes due to a frequent mix of ice rocks and snow and that is probably what VFTT folks routinely use them for so we have high expectations. I think the observation made long ago that the Whites are where good snowshoes go to die was an indication that a robust shoe is needed. Not being an ADK hiker I cant compare winter conditions in the ADKs but guess its similar. I remember once meeting up with a VFFT member on top of North Kinsman where he was showing off his new snowshoes. He thought they were great and that the warranty service was great as this was the second pair he had used that season. He commented that they were so good he could climb trees with them. Knowing the individual no doubt that he did ;) . I expect that for the vast majority of the public technical snowshoes with rotary bindings, televators and crampons are overkill but to typical VFTT we have all probably used those features (if they were available)
Where snowshoes go to die…no doubt I agree. One of the best things about The original Sherpas was their field repair ability. Back when I did larger base camp style trips with multiple climbers we would always carry extra parts which for the most part were easy to swap out in the event of a failure. We did the same with skis carrying tip repair and binding replacements. Now a days with the evolution of snow shoes the better functioning that has occurred the caveat is a more complicated design with multiple parts that are hard to switch out. Thence the need for a plethora of wire, zip ties, duct tape and what have you. Which correlates to day use and have what you need to get out and deal with a real repair later. When your deep in and for multiple days at a time it’s real nice to have the real thing. We would even carry an extra deck and an extra full binding. Of course that is easier to do with multiple climbers, big packs and maybe even a sled.
 
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I went out to Goodrich rock thinking it was a perfect hike for the little window of time we had, well we were smacked with a surprise.
Snowshoes or skis are required on Livermore Road during ski season.

Post holed the whole way and the hike too wayyyyyyy longer than it should have.
That leaves a mess for anyone else who wants to hike the trail. This applies year-round, but if you're not leaving the trail in equal or better shape than you found it, you should probably turn around.

So up until last weekend I’ve only used micro spikes in the winter and never had a problem what so ever. (3rd winter hiking).
Mountain snowshoes are ideal for legitimate winter mountain hiking. Some may suggest MSRs or Tubbs Flex Alps (I much prefer Tubbs Flex Alps, except in shoulder season when there's no snow on the approach, since they are clunky on the pack).
 
Agree with Rocket 21, and hoping that the OP did not destroy the ski tracks on Greeley Ponds Trail.

My MSR Denali’s are now into their 20th season, pretty much indestructible except for one replacement of hinge plate binding on each shoe, now just five peaks short of two NH48 grid rounds. I always carry a replacement stub with circular cotter pin for the hinge bindings with small needle pliers. if you lose a binding stub, you are SOL as wire or plastic zip ties do not cut it.
 
Agree with Rocket 21, and hoping that the OP did not destroy the ski tracks on Greeley Ponds Trail.

My MSR Denali’s are now into their 20th season, pretty much indestructible except for one replacement of hinge plate binding on each shoe, now just five peaks short of two NH48 grid rounds. I always carry a replacement stub with circular cotter pin for the hinge bindings with small needle pliers. if you lose a binding stub, you are SOL as wire or plastic zip ties do not cut it.
Sounds like you could be out on a cliff without hinge.
 
First a question, How many pieces and types of footwear do you own?. Probably more than one pair, well its the same with snowshoes ;( Every design is optimized for different conditions so if you are buying one pair they are going to be a compromise. MSR offers a bit of flexibility by making optional "flotation tails" which can help to tune a snowshoe to the conditions, they are better than nothing but talk to most MSR owners and the tails tend to not get used much if at all. Being a "bigger guy" (working on being less big) I have 3 pairs of snowshoes....

....The guys who are going to haul your butt out when you get in trouble, NH F&G tend to use snowshoes that have been out of production for 30 years. They are called Sherpa's, SHERPA SNOW-CLAW SNOWSHOES 25x8.5" With Bindings Gold Tan | eBay They are huge, bombproof and the traction claws are marginal unless you can find the rare Tucker Claw option.
As said, different conditions are best served by different snowshoes; and yes Sherpas.

I started snowshoeing 40 years ago and the prefered snowshoe was the Sherpa with Tucker binding. If you're big you would get the 30x9"; if you're small you would get the 25x8". Some really big people or people desiring flotation in deep powder got the 36" but almost everone who owns this size says thery're too heavy hence the previous reco for the US military alternative. If you only go in groups and mostly on existing trails you might select a 25" shoe for a 200lb person as it is nice to fit into the common trench which tend to be made by people in 8" wide shoes not 9" wide. For this reason I now use the 25" shoe more often while I did my first 35 years almost entirely in 30" shoes.

Snowshoes are a consumable. Meaning they only last so many hikes. Like hiking boots, if you use them alot, then you'll need replacements periodically. Most people will discount this idea but most people don't hike alot. If you+your load is heavy then expect wear or breakage more often. If you hike in snowshes in low snow conditions (as we often did before microspkes) or like to jump down 3 foot high rocks your breakage will increase. I have not tracked it but I would guess my snowshoes to last 20-40 hikes before a repair should be expected. You will see lots of examples of failures on forums. So you should carry stuff to field repair your snowshoes so you don't freze to death from immobity. Here I will skip my many stories of field repairs... and go to the important stuff. IMO, for sherpa snowshoes, the best repair gear is 6 zipties (4@5/16" width, that's important, and 2@3/16 wide) Leave the multi tool at home to save the weight. Other shoe designs require other gear.

I've tried other snowshoes. The low cost made in China shoes tend to be not robust or heavy. I got a good pair of Atlas 10 series shoes but sold them to my nephew. Good shoe but I prefer the Sherpa. Why? I like the simplicity and functionality of the binding. Is it 100%? no but I still prefer it. I have a set of Atlas retrofitted with Sherpa bindings. I would not hesitate to grab them and use them. They have a rivoted deck (not laced.) This is a cost cutting measure that can help reduce maintenance as laces tend to break and need repair. But if you have 1-2" of powder over a hard crust, then the snow is deep enough to reduce claw bight and the laces add just enough extra traction to allow the experience person finesse mobility.

You can still find nice Sherpas on Ebay for ~$100. I recently purchased 2 pairs for gearing up the family. Youll get a better selection off season. You need to know what to get because some of the early and later (cost cut) design Sherpas are not good. If you are going down this route, the toe flap is a MUST have. Many dont have this. Tucker bindings are very useful but if you're handy and like DIY stuff to can retrofit similar traction claws.

Some more vintage information attached.
 

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  • Snowshoe Basics 2.pdf
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Also agree with Rocket 21 MSR Denali or Tubbs Flex Alps are the way to go. Plenty tough enough and help maintain trail integrity. Also for safety issues.
 
I’m 6’4”, 230 (250-270 with a pack) and have had great luck with MSR Lightning Ascents, with the extra 6” on the back. IMO anything shorter than that won’t give you enough float. HYOH… YMMV!
 
The MSR Lightnings are great snowshoes, I bought a pair late in the game after many VFTT folks recomended them highly one winter. The new pair arrived just about the time the frame failures started to become an issue. I still have them and use them for a bit more flotation but I inspect them carefully before using. I think at least one VFTT member has two failures and convinced MSR to send them a pair of the Denalis Evo Ascents.
 
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Peakbagger, it's the rare time I find anything you post that I disagree with. In this case, it's the Sherpa snowshoes. I did the ADK46W and Cat35W in those. The shoes themselves are bombproof but the bindings are nightmares. The lacings come undone multiple times a day, from being wet, stretched or catch on branches, resulting in binding falling off the back of your boot and you walk out of them. The wet straps then are harder to stay in place. I devised a piece of bicycle tire with slits thru the binding with a strap over the top that kept the bindings on all day. Sherpa liked the design enough to send me decking and lacing for a prototypes. They then went out of biz and sold to successor that failed. I also had the Mountaineer version with the much better crampon but the binding were the same. I find the rest of your advice spot on. Too bad Sherpa didn't stay in biz. My royalties might have allowed me to take an early retirement. LOL
I first replied to this post and after some reflection I'm changing my post to be less harsh.

Yes this can be a problem with the Sherpa binding. The issue is caused by the foot slipping forward in the binding and the heel strap dropping down off the heel. This is the reason I mention the "MUST have" for the toe strap in my other post as the front flap is critical.

I too have had this problem. While the nylon stretch can be a factor, I find the looseness of the lacing to be more of an issue. There is an importance to give proper attention when lacing the shoe on. If I dont lace them properly then this can happen more often. For me it's not about about tightness but rather smoothness (and some tightness.) It is important to make sure the front flap is properly folded over the toe and the cross lace that holds it in place pulls it toward your leg. All the lacing must be flat (not twisted) and pulled snug. You cant brute force this as too tight is not good in the cold. The heel lace must be postioned on the heel where it rests in a small groove. Most boots have this groove where the sole meets the upper, but some don't. I never change the adjustment of the heel strap. I always push my heel firmly against the back strap and lace up the front. This way the lace is positioned correctly every time. It sounds tough but once you know and get the habit its acually very easy and I am often done before others have their shoes on. For me very little additional time is needed to do it correctly, just attention to the correct postioning of the straps. That said if I'm descending fast and forcefully on hard crunch or packed trail, with good claw bight, I will on occasion walk out of a shoe.

I have a friend who does not have a substantial bump on the heel of her boot and she added an extra strap attached to the back of her Shepa heel strap that clips around her ankle and it keeps the heel strap from falling down, She never had the same issue.
 
One possible thought for your daughter (not being sure how old and if there is likely to be growth) - Ocean State sells some snowshoes that are fairly cheap (price wise). I haven't had them, but we did have a couple families in the Scout group that did (likely due to the lower cost and that they weren't using them all that often), and they seemed not to have much issue with them.
Of course, we are in NY, but they did go on trips to the Lake Placid area and did some of the smaller peaks up there (where of course snowshoes are mandatory with a certain depth of snow), so it wasn't just using them in easy terrain all the time either.
Not sure how large they go, so might not be worth it for you, but seems a better possibility for those who may need to change them anyway (due to getting larger feet or heavier weight over the years, or for those who need them only occasionally).
 
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