Snowshoeing is a great and healthy way to have fun when camping or hiking in the winter, and it is not as extreme as other winter sports like snowboarding or seeing. Essentially the only piece of ‘special’ equipment is snowshoes.
Long walks on snowy trails cause snow build-up. Household items like cooking spray and even WD 40 can prevent this, with regular maintenance. Depending on the type of shoe (the material it is made of) and how you use it, snowshoes can last from half a season to more than a decade.
Table of Contents
Types of Snowshoes
There are a few important features to consider when renting or buying snowshoes for hiking in cold weather. Modern snowshoes can be made from plastic, aluminum, or even foam. There are traditional ones which people who have experience and passion for tradition prefer to wear. It all comes down to personal preference.
The main intent of the snowshoe is to help the user ‘float’ on the snow. Keep in mind that hard-packed snow has a more even weight distribution than deep powder or freshly fallen snow.
Modern or aluminum framed snowshoes require the least amount of maintenance, snowshoes made from traditional wood, rawhide or neoprene require some maintenance to be able to last a few years. This type of shoe should be bought to last, as it is not traditional footwear.
Investing in traditional shoes, made from natural materials, are more silent when walking on snow. This is great for tracking deer, or other animals found in the wild during winter, and a great practice for hunters, photographers, or just observers.
They allow you to approach much closer than you would be able to with snowshoes made from aluminum, or other types of materials.
How to Maintain Snowshoes?
For people who are devoted to their equipment maintenance, snowshoes can last up to 15 years. It only means that proper maintenance can make any type of shoe (this is great news for people who started collecting antique and handmade snowshoes) las longer.
Checking your snowshoes every day is important before and after you use them. If they have a wooden frame, check them for cracks, and the first aid for it can be splitting or taping them together with cloth tape.
By keeping your snowshoes inspected every day you can make the most of your hikes and snow walks. It will also prevent your snowshoes from giving way during a walk.
Remember to check the rawhide laces to be certain they did not become abraded because of any splints in the frame. On the off chance that you see any issues, take a day and splint the crack, do some varnishing, and the abraded rawhide to strengthen the shoe. You will not be able to do this in the wild.
Find Cool and Dry Storage
After you use the snowshoes, make sure they are placed in a space that is cold and dry. This will reduce the impact of moisture on the wood and rawhide.
Another option is to hang them in a well-ventilated spot, keeping them away from rodents and other animals. Maybe your own dog will chew the rawhide just for fun, so it is highly recommendable to hang it in a way animals can’t easily reach.
Air out and properly dry snowshoes during the season. This way, you will be able to prevent the wood from wrapping, or the moisture causing mold or mildew.
Annual Snowshoe Maintenance
In addition to routine maintenance during the season, it is advisable to do a ‘general maintenance’ at the end of the season.
After you are done with long hikes in the snow, wash the snowshoes with water to remove all dirt and debris. This part is very important if you walk across salted snow. Water and moisture are detrimental to snowshoes, using a gentle quirt of the hose, or a mild pressure under a faucet will remove all dirt and salt (that do more damage to the snowshoes than the actual winter).
Keep in mind that washing snowshoes should be done only by water. No detergent, soaps and never leave them to soak in water. When the dirt is washed off, immediately start drying. Make sure that they are completely dry before you can do the final restoration.
Once the snowshoes have dried at room temperature in a well-ventilated spot, take medium grit sandpaper and remove all the flaked old varnish. Focus only to remove the last coat, and try not to thin the frame or the lace.
Get a marine spar varnish that is available in both liquid and spray form, and is quite easy to apply. Use it to apply three coats, making sure that it has dried completely after each coat. Apply it over and under the webbing, as well as the entire rawhide or neoprene laces. This will ensure that your snowshoes are protected from mold and mildew during storage, and the next season as well.
Once the varnish coats have completely dried, it is time to find the ideal storage space. Wooden snowshoes are most prone to moisture and heat, as they can wrap them, and never store your snowshoes in attics or basements. Instead, it is good to take some time and choose the cool and dry spot where they can be hung, keeping them the same from any type of rodent, or other animals at the same time.
Tips During the Snowshoeing Season
Injuries from falling on ice can result in back pain, fractures, brain concussions, and the consequences of falls can be particularly dangerous for older people who have brittle bones. To master the skill of walking on ice, and to be able to prevent serious consequences, there are several rules you should abide by.
1. Free Your Hands
When walking you shouldn’t keep the hands in your pockets, or wear any additional baggage in your hands. This way if you fall, you won’t be able to land on your arms.
2. Walk a Bit Wider
To obtain more stability it is highly recommended that your walking stand is a little wider. Besides, walking can significantly reduce the possibility of falling.
3. Try the Trick With a Cut Sock
For safer and easier walks (especially for beginners), it is highly recommended that you additionally ensure your shoes with some old socks or other cloth tags. Use them to tie them under and around your feet, fixing the front part of the foot to the standing surface.
4. Lean Forward
To additionally prevent yourself from falling, while walking, it is highly recommended that you lean forward. This walk should resemble the walk of a penguin. When in this position, the gravity force is passing through the front foot, securing our walking capabilities (especially on ice).
5. Avoid Sports or Flat Footwear
Combining any boots with snow boots, keep in mind that sportswear and boots with a flat sole. Using proper boots with your snowshoes can significantly impact your experience.
Taking long walks on freshly fallen snow, or if you are new to the sport, it might take some time and adjustment for you to avoid falling into the snow. The buildup from the back will also be a hard-to-control challenge, but try out a few options and go with what works best for you.
Keep in mind that using any wax, cooking spray, or even WD 40 can impact the material your snowshoes are made of. For example, if you have your standard aluminum snowshoes, the aluminum parts will be slippery and water-resistant, but if you apply too much of WD 40 on the rubber parts of the shoe, it can get damaged permanently.
Wooden traditional snowshoes have a varnish finish, so keep in mind the type of material you may apply over them so it does not take off. If that does happen, take your time and really it as you do not want moisture creeping up in the wood in any way.
So, How Do You Keep Snow Sticking From Your Snowshoes?
There are many options people consider to prevent snow build-up on their snowshoes. The buildup is usually between the bottom of the crampons, and it depends on what materials the boots are made from to know what can be used on them.
When it comes to cheap options that require a few coats every day you are using your snowshoes, cooking spray is a great option. After drying your snowshoes well, and approximately half an hour before you get into them, spray a coat of cooking spray on the bottom of the shoe. Check with the local snowshoe rental service what tips they have on maintenance, as they are sure to have much more experience in using durable snowshoes than you.
Other appliances like WD 40 may seem like a great solution for aluminum boots or metal crampons. Keep in mind that you need to be careful when applying because using that, or any oil can damage the rubber parts of snowshoes and boots. Some people use the same spray for skis and their snowshoes, but it takes more of the material (more money than) and does not provide you with an efficient result.