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Backpacker Magazine – BACKPACKER.com Online Exclusive
Get up close and personal with all those snowshoe parts.
Decking is the material that creates a snowshoe's surface area-basically, it's what keeps you afloat. Remember that antique pair of snowshoes mounted above the fireplace in Uncle Frank's living room? The webbing made of rawhide strung across the wooden frame is the decking.
Newer versions of snowshoes feature solid sheets of lightweight, tough materials like Hypalon (a rubbery type of nylon known for it's resiliency), vinyl, or polyurethane-coated nylon, to offer better flotation with a smaller surface area.
Snowshoes designed for varied backcountry use should have metal teeth, or crampons, that sink into snow and ice for improved footing when you're climbing, crunching across crusty ridges, or crossing frozen, windswept ponds.
The simplest systems use toe crampons, which jut out under the ball of your foot and bite with every step. Metal teeth under the heel are also common.
Snowshoes built for expedition use and peak-bagging feature more extensive cleating, with toe and heel crampons plus a variety of metal and plastic ridges running the length or width of the shoe to prevent backsliding on steep or icy approaches. The most aggressive high-mountain shoes sport longer, sharper teeth, or even spikes, under the forefoot to cope with steep, icy areas.