Sunday, 20 January 2013

Kids Snowshoeing Gear: Picking out Kids Snowshoes

MSR Shift snowshoes in action
The question of how to pick out a kids snowshoe came up on the discussion board of the Mountain Mamas (& Papas). When I started snowshoeing in Scouts, you had two types to choose from: oversized wood and sinew tennis rackets, and longer wood and sinew "Iroquois" style snowshoes. Both had leather bindings that were prone to icing up. There were no spikes or teeth or fangs on the bottoms. There were no step-in bindings that you tighten by turning a knob.

Good traction makes a big difference on hills
For snowshoes, as with most things, I prefer simplicity. Fewer moving parts mean fewer things to break or freeze up in the backcountry. I also prefer snowshoes with good traction. Even if you aren't going to be climbing mountains, having enough teeth on the bottom of your snowshoe will let you go up moderately steep hills with ease and descend them without your snowshoes slipping out beneath you. Many is the time I've watched people on cheap rented snowshoes slide their way down from Rummel Lake or Chester Lake, never to go snowshoeing again. The right snowshoes will increase the odds of your kids snowshoeing more than once.

My snowshoes are MSR Lightning Assents. They have aggressive traction built into the frames, in addition to toe crampons and cross bars with teeth, and heel lifts that make going up steep hills feel like climbing stairs. They're fantastic, but you can spend half the money and get a great snowshoe with many of the same qualities. The heel lifts are a nice-to-have, but most people don't need them and even fewer actually use them. For adults, the MSR Evo or Evo Tour (approximately $139 and $169) are great, and I bought my kids (8 and 12) MSR Shifts ($90). For younger kids, I'd recommend the MSR Denali Tyker ($60). I've seen them in action against other snowshoes in what I'll call the "mini" segment of the market, and toddlers on Tykers seem to be able to go a lot farther.

MSR Shift Snowshoes for kids. Note the two traction bars and teeth at the toes.
The bindings on all of these snowshoes are simple rubber straps that aren't prone to icing up and that even kids can get on and get off. They're also very light weight snowshoes. Best of all, they're no more expensive than other snowshoes, but can increase your odds of having a fun time.

Wondering where to go snowshoeing with kids? Read these posts:

Snowshoeing with Kids in Kananaskis: River View Trail
Snowshoeing with Kids in Banff: Lake Minnewanka
Snowshoeing with Kids in Kananaskis: Hogarth Lakes
Heli-snowshoeing with Kids in Kananaskis
Snowshoeing with Kids in Kananaskis: Canyon Creek
Snowshoeing with Kids in Kananaskis: West Bragg Creek

Note: MSR didn't pay me anything to write this review.

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