I detailed the important features you should evaluate when selecting snowshoes in my November AMC Outdoors article, Winter Walkers: How to Choose the Right Snowshoes. Now I wanted to highlight some specific favorite models of snowshoes I recommend.
But first, some quick background on my personal preferences. One of the most important features I look for in snowshoes is packability. On many winter backcountry adventures, you may or may not need snowshoes depending on conditions, but you usually need to bring them along because you never know what you'll run into, especially if your trip covers a lot of miles or elevation change.
If you don't need snowshoes—and you should really only wear them if going without is an even more strenuous option—you'll need to strap your snowshoes onto your pack. Models with harness systems that fold flat make this much, much easier since you can nest the two snowshoes together, rather than needing to strap each snowshoe separately because of ungainly bindings.
The other feature I personally look for is maximum, go-anywhere versatility. I prefer a snowshoe that allows me to tackle even the most challenging alpine terrain if that's where I choose to go. If I'm headed somewhere more mellow, a burly, aggressive pair of snowshoes can easily handle it. The reverse can't be said for recreational snowshoes designed for gentle to moderate terrain.
Atlas makes some great snowshoes, from the go-anywhere 12series to their new entry-level 8 series, but hands-down my personal favorite is the Aspect ($279).
You'd be hard-pressed to find a snowshoe with more all-terrain traction than these, from an aggressive crampon underfoot to a serrated frame for excellent perimeter grip. The lay-flat bindings accommodate large mountaineering or snowboard boots and the slightly larger width of these snowshoes provides more surface area, and flotation, than other snowshoes of equivalent length. Available in 24- and 28-inch versions.
MSR Evo Series
This is the current evolution of MSR's classic Denali series, which I have used as my go-to snowshoe for many a winter adventure. The Evo series provides the flexibility to add additional tails to the snowshoes, increasing surface area and flotation when you need it, and allowing you to go with a lighter option underfoot when you don't.
The Evo is available in three different versions, each with a slightly different (and increasingly secure) binding system that lays flat for easy packing. The basic Evo ($139) is designed for moderate conditions; the Evo Tour ($169) for steeper, more challenging terrain; and the Evo Ascent ($199, pictured) for go-anywhere adventure.
Kahtoola MTN Step-In Snowshoes
Bagging a winter peak often requires snowshoes for the initial approach and ascent, and then crampons for the rocky, ice-encrusted terrain at higher elevations. Rather than carrying both—and dealing with the hassle of switching between the two—check out these snowshoes. An eight-point crampon lashes to your boots, then clicks in (or out) of the accompanying snowshoes in just a few seconds. Available in 24- and 28-inch versions ($279 - $289).
A few caveats on this suggestion: These guys make my list because 1) I have had a great experience with Kahtoola products in general, especially their Microspikes and hiking crampons
and 2) these are a potentially great innovation I hope to see in other
snowshoes in the years ahead. That being said, these are new to the
market, so the jury is still out on their long-term durability and
ease-of-use in the snow and cold.
"Equipped" is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.