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Snowshoes or Crampons?

My favorite trail is snowed over now but I still want to get out there. Should I use snowshoes or crampons? Or is there something in between?


My favorite trail is snowed over now but I still want to get out there. Should I use snowshoes or crampons? Or is there something in between?

Submitted by - Michael, Clayton, NY


For fun, casual, winter hiking, snowshoes are the way to go, for sure. (Crampons are for high altitude mountaineering and ice climbing.)

Another option is to learn backcountry skiing, but if you’re not already a skier, it would require a substantial investment to get started.

The cool thing about snowshoes is that there’s zero learning curve—just strap them on and start tromping.

So put these on your Christmas list: MSR Lightning Ascent ($259). They topped out in our last snowshoe test (02/07) for their light weight, superior t raction and bomber bindings.

As for footwear, you can wear hiking boots that you already have or big, insulated pac boots (Sorel is a popular brand) for added warmth. But if you become hooked on snowshoeing, you’ll want to invest in a pair of insulated hiking boots like Lowa’s Khumbu Ice GTX ( or The North Face’s Chilkats (

And mark this date on your calendar: January 10, 2009. It’s Winter Trails 09. You can attend snowshoeing extravaganzas all over the country and test drive gear, take guides hikes, and meet other snowshoers. For more info, go to 

1 Comment

  1. Luke

    Sorry about the duplicate posts. The website is very hard to deal with.

    If you’re buying snowshoes at Costco for $100, be advised that you’re pretty much throwing $100 in the garbage. Replacing them and future upgrades will cost you much more than spending a bit more on a quality pair. They don’t have to be the Lightnings but but from a reputable manufacturer such as MSR or Atlas. If you’re unsure if you want to participate in the sport, go rent. REI as well as many other outdoor stores do rentals. If you plan on doing this once a year, then rental is the way to go. If you plan on doing it often, you need a product that is reliable. You don’t want to be out in the middle of the woods when the cheap plastic on your off-brand snowshoes breaks in half. Postholing back is a lot of work and takes a lot of time. Also, buy something that will last and is covered by an unbeatable guarantee. MSR will fix or replace pretty much anything for the life of their products even if it broke of your fault. Can you say that much for Costco? The cherry on top is that MSR snowshoes are made right in the USA in Seattle.

    Though I may sound like it, I am not in any way affiliated with MSR/Cascade Designs. Just a huge fan of their gear. Never been let down and their customer service is exceptional. When I stumbled on my tent after having a couple too many and broke the poles they replaced them in time for the following weekend’s trip at no charge.

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