How to Survive With Snowshoes

Traditional or modern, snowshoes can do a lot more than help you float on powder.
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Traditional or modern, snowshoes can do a lot more than help you float on powder.
In high winds, use the snowshoe as  a deadman to anchor a tarp or tent. Photo by Fullerton Images.

In high winds, use the snowshoe as a deadman to anchor a tarp or tent. Photo by Fullerton Images.

Snow Shovel

Tunnel into snowdrifts for shelter or dig out an avalanche victim. Improve your grip by holding the center of the binding port or the side of the snowshoe frame and the back side of the frame.

Wind Break

Once you’ve dug out a snow cave or (pro option) built an igloo, lash the snowshoes together and fit them with evergreen boughs to form a solid doorway that buffers against wind and driving snow.

Insulated Seat

Place the ’shoes up in a tree between two stout, low branches and tie them securely to make a temporary platform above the snow. Add some pine boughs for insulation.

Fishing

Use a sharp stone to cut aluminum-alloy crampons from the frame,
then shape them into fishing lures. The bright colors found in many modern snowshoe frames will also attract a wide variety of fish.

First Aid

1. Use newer bindings to fasten splints for anything from a tent pole to a broken bone. 

2. Two showshoes lashed together and placed on long, stout branches will make a good base for a travois or stretcher (attach strips of bark to the bottoms of the snowshoes, if you're going to drag it). 

3. Support a sprained back by lashing the frame to them. Pad the back area and tie the ’shoes in place with the bindings or other cordage.

Protection

The snowshoe itself can also make a defensive weapon. The whooshing sound it makes when you swing it is often enough to deter many animals from coming closer. If they do approach, give them the business
on the nose.

Anchor

In high winds, use the snowshoe as a deadman to anchor a tarp or tent.

1. Dig a hole on the windward side of your tent that’s deep enough to insert most of the snowshoe. 

2. Using cordage or guylines, tie your shelter to the snowshoe, then bury it up to its belly. (Tip: Use a slip knot so it doesn’t freeze tied.)

3. Stomp the ground around your anchor for extra security.

Fire Starter

Traditional snowshoes are typically made from ash, which is hard enough to make an excellent fire drill, if you’ve got the technique.

Saw

For models with long, shallow crampons that run the length of the snowshoe, remove or break off the metal piece. If it's still attached to the frame, you're good to go. Otherwise, carve a groove in a stick, place the blade in there and tie it securely with cordage. Use this to saw logs or ice blocks for shelter making, or to cut firewood.