Snowshoes open up a winter wonderland. Thanks to the flotation and traction they provide, you can walk on anything from packed tracks, to dedicated snowshoe trails at ski resorts, to untracked powder.
Generally speaking, snowshoes are easy to put on and use. The longer and larger the snowshoe, the more flotation they provide. But, that’s not to say that a five-year-old should be put in a standard 8-inch wide by 19-inch-long snowshoe; they’d be too cumbersome for a five-year-old to walk comfortably. Finding the length that’s appropriate for the size of your child, plus the best binding, traction, and intended usage for your needs is the key to happy snowshoeing.
I had eight kids, ages 7 to 10, test different snowshoes on a winter hut trip and various other outings to see just how easy each pair was to put on, keep on, and enable fun. (While snowshoes for toddlers and smaller kids do exist, we limited this test to snowshoes for elementary school-aged children.)
One caveat: A couple of the kid testers wore snowboarding boots in the snowshoes, while others wore winter boots or weather-treated hiking shoes of some sort. We recommend high-top boots and thick, wool socks to keep feet warm, and waterproof pants, like ski pants, to help keep kids dry as their ‘shoes will flick up snow agains their behinds.
MSR Tyker, $60
Molded, plastic traction means minimized potential for metal snagging clothes or skin when not in use. The Tyker, like the MSR Shift, secures via three hook-and-loop binding straps (kids younger than 10 or so will need parental help).
Age: 5-9 Shoe sizes: Kids 7.5-13.5, adult 1-4.5 Terrain: Flat to rolling Weight capacity: Up to 90 lbs. Snowshoe weight: 2 lbs., 1 oz. Dimensions: 6.5″ x 17″
MSR Shift, $90
Steel traction bars extend toward the tail of the Shift, and a large profile provides great flotation. Three hook-and-loop straps make up the binding, requiring some finagling to get into and secure. “I think they were good snowshoes. I had good traction,” said our 9-year-old tester.
Age: 8-12 Shoe sizes: Kids/adult 1-7 (men’s) Terrain: Varies Weight capacity: Up to 125 lbs. Snowshoe weight: 2 lbs., 8 oz. Dimensions: 7″ x 19″
Atlas Echo (and Spark), $85
Both the Echo and Spark (color and graphics differ) feature what Atlas calls a “Grom” binding. We like the large, flat, one-pull section of the binding that secures the top of the foot and eliminates pressure points. A large surface area provides great flotation, but is more to maneuver for littler kids.
Age: 8-12 Shoe sizes: Varies Terrain: Flat to rolling Weight capacity: 50-120 lbs. Snowshoe weight: 2 lbs., 3 oz. Dimensions: 8″ x 20″
Tubbs Flex Jr., $65
Long rails of traction, plus an articulating toe crampon, gave testers in the Flex Jr. sure footing. The “QuickLock” binding refers to a ratcheting strap across the top of the foot that is indeed quick and holds secure, but parents still need to help younger kids secure the back-of-heel strap (the same kind of hook-and-loop strap found on many models here).
Age: 6-10 Shoe sizes: Varies Terrain: Flat to rolling Weight capacity: 40-90 lbs. Snowshoe weight: 2 lbs. Dimensions: 7″ x 17″
Tubbs Flex HKE, $95
“They’re grippy, easy to move in, and snug,” raved a 10-year-old tester. Major props: He was able to get in and out of the Flex HKE himself. With a heel-lift bar to save calf fatigue on steep ascents, and a 22-inch length offering major flotation, these are ready for rugged adventure.
Age: 8-12 Shoe sizes: Wide range Terrain: Backcountry, steep ascents Weight capacity: 80-150 lbs. Snowshoe weight: 2 lbs., 10 oz. Dimensions: 8″ x 22″
Yukon Advanced Float, $100
The “Fast Fit II Easy-pull” binding across the top of the foot is, in fact, easy to pull both on and off. “They felt perfect, not too heavy or too light,” our 9-year-old tester said of the Advanced Float. “I felt like I had good grip.” The men’s and boy’s version, the Advanced, comes in blue and has a slightly different frame shape.
Age: 7-13 Shoe sizes: Kid/adult size 4-7 Terrain: Trail walking and backcountry Weight capacity: Up to 110 lbs. Snowshoe weight: 3 lbs., 8 oz. Dimensions: 7.5″ x 19″
L.L. Bean Kids’ Trailblazer with Boa Bindings
We love the Boa lacing system of the Trailblazer, which tightens and loosens the entire binding with one round tab that’s easy to use with gloves or mittens. They’re heavier than other models, but capable on a wide range of terrain types. “I like the Boa because it’s easy,” said a 10-year-old tester. Also come as a kit with poles and a storage bag (pictured, $160).
Age: 8-12 Shoe sizes: Kids winter boot size 4 to 7 Terrain: Rolling hills and moderate slopes Weight capacity: 50-110 lbs. Snowshoe weight: 4 lbs., 4 oz. Dimensions: 7.5″ x 19″
LL Bean Kids Winter Walker Snowshoes, $70
Two ratcheting binding straps are easy to secure and stay put, and the under-heel and toe crampon provided ample traction. “They were super light and I like the color,” said our 8-year-old tester. We tested the 16-inch model of Winter Walkers, but they also come in a 19-inch model ($80), and both sizes are available in a kit with poles and a carrying bag ($110 and $130).
Age: 6-10 Shoe sizes: 13 youth to kids size 5 Terrain: Rolling to moderate Weight capacity: 25 to 60 lbs. Snowshoe weight: 2 lbs., 10 oz. Dimensions: 7″ X 16″ (also come in 19″)
Get more tips, trips, and stories about family outdoor adventures on BACKPACKER’s Families Gone Wild.