Navigating your favorite hiking trails in the winter can quickly devolve into a total nightmare without the right gear. But why let a few inches of snow get in the way of your winter enjoyment? With a bit of finesse and the right pair of snowshoes, you can conquer any slope you please and explore all the stunning backcountry terrain your heart desires.
A good pair of snowshoes is integral to your winter hiking gear as it can provide just the right amount of underfoot traction and floatation needed to walk about in the snow effortlessly. However, to get optimum value out of your snowshoes, it is important that you choose a pair that is tailored to your needs and level of expertise.
To help you choose the right pair of snowshoes, we consulted our team of specialists and put together a list of the best snowshoes of 2022. Regardless of whether you are a beginner or a pro or prefer to hike the flats or the steeps, there is a pair in this list for you. Keep reading to find out more.
Best Overall Snowshoe: MSR Lightning Ascent
MSR has a stellar reputation creating snowshoes that cover the entire price spectrum—from entry level to high-end.
The immensely popular and critically acclaimed MSR Lightning Ascent is our top pick among the best snowshoes of 2022, bringing together all the qualities that you might want in a premium snowshoe.
These combine class-leading comfort with exceptional floatation and traction, providing performance that justifies the high price tag many times over.
If you need one reason to get the MSR Lightning Ascent, it can well be the class-leading traction which is ingeniously implemented in the design. The shoes feature two horizontal steel bars that run the entire length of the frame and a claw-style crampon in the front. Beyond the front claws, there is a row of multiple points that feature large and small spikes. There is another row featuring the same under the heel. The side rails also feature traction with the inclusion of serrations.
This means that you will be getting traction from any part of the shoe when it is touching the snow—a unique feature you would not find in most other premium snowshoes. The lateral traction that the Lightning Ascent brings to the table is truly unmatched, helping you negotiate terrains that involve complex switchbacking or sidestepping.
Next, we come to the excellent floatation properties. The Lightning Ascent provides uniformly good floatation for different types of terrain. The model is available in three lengths and each can be used for specific situations. The 22-inch variant can be handy in light to moderate snowfall. The 25-inch variant can handle powdery snow and the large 30-inch variant easily negotiates deep snow. The decking is fashioned from TPU-coated nylon that is durable and makes for quiet operation on the snow. In terms of ergonomics, the floatation and the size of the shoes are balanced really well.
Then, all you need to do is to cinch up the heel strap and you are good to go. The smaller straps give you room to make subtle adjustments. The straps, buckles, and strap keepers are immaculately designed and perform with great reliability. Also of note is the fact that the straps are easy to manipulate even when you are wearing heavy gloves.
The Paragon system is also responsible for the superior comfort provided by the Lightning Ascent. The system does a great job of distributing the weight evenly across the foot. As the binding tension is properly distributed, there aren’t any hotspots and the toe area has no issues with proper circulation.
The build quality is supreme as it is with all premium MSR products with the “ballistic-grade” nylon decking and tough and thick steel crampons. You also have the option to go in for the Modular Tails as an extra for super-deep conditions. While the price is high, you definitely get what you pay for with the MSR Lightning Ascent and for this reason, it is our top pick in this review.
Well-Rounded Affordability: Atlas Helium-TRAIL
Another leading name in the realm of snowshoeing, Atlas has been producing some of the most technically innovative snowshoeing equipment since the 90s.
Their dedication to unwavering quality and performance has made Atlas one of the most well-loved brands among hiking and snowshoeing enthusiasts.
The Atlas Helium-TRAIL snowshoes boast the company’s hallmark advanced technology and robustness and are perfect for beginners and moderately extreme winter hikes.
Let us start with the unique design of the Helium-TRAIL snowshoes—the one-piece frame and deck design. While most snowshoe brands claimed this to be impracticable, Atlas made it happen and quite successfully, too. This design combined with the aluminum frame and the plastic deck makes this pair lightweight and lends it fantastic floatation and traction. The large size of these snowshoes, at 23”, 26”, or 30”, further adds to its floatation, allowing you to cover long distances on rolling or flat terrains. However, because of their size, the Helium-TRAIL is less than ideal for climbing.
The Helium Deck technology uses a louver design with slats and holes carved out throughout the deck. This not only enables the shoes to shed snow easily and shave several ounces off its weight but also kicks up its traction several notches. These snowshoes also feature Atlas’ signature Wrapp Trail binding that is gender-specific for maximum comfort and ease-of-use. The webbing crisscrosses and cradles the foot securely and can be quickly and conveniently adjusted on the fly by tugging the glove-friendly ratchet straps. The binding is designed in a way that does not create any pressure points but distributes the binding tension evenly across the foot.
The traction rails of these snowshoes run 2/3rd of its total length, boosting control and stability while leaving room for flexibility along the tail. The 19-degree heel lift is conducive to gentle climbing and conveniently stowes away when scaling flats or descents.
Coming to stride ergonomics, the Atlas Helium-TRAIL is pretty versatile. The hinged deck-to-binding attachment is a neat detail, although it makes more sense for a trail pair to have a fixed strap attachment. The large size of these snowshoes may give off the impression that they are difficult to maneuver, but the Helium-TRAIL poses no issues in that regard. In fact, its plastic build combined with the louver design makes it one of the most lightweight and easily-maneuverable snowshoe models currently in the market.
The Atlas Helium-TRAIL seamlessly blends advanced technology, durability, state-of-the-art design, and great ergonomics, making it your perfect companion on long snowy trails. All this comes at an extremely lucrative and affordable price point and lasts you several seasons, providing unmatched value overall and making this model one of the best snowshoes of 2022.
Best for Fresh Deep Snow: Crescent Moon Gold 10
If going off-trail into relatively soft snow is your thing, you cannot go wrong with the Crescent Moon Gold 10.
Purpose-built for the fresh deep snow of the backcountry, the Crescent Moon Gold 10 can be your friend whenever you find yourself negotiating deep powdery snow or need a versatile pair of snowshoes that would also help you take care of those rocky off-trail bits.
With its large size and superior quality, you get an excellent balance of floatation, traction, ergonomics, and comfort.
When it comes to floatation, it is difficult to find a pair of snowshoes that do as well as the Crescent Moon Gold 10. This is primarily due to the large size as this pair is one of the largest general-purpose snowshoes you can buy. The superior floatation is also aided by the excellent design, which makes use of a tapered construction to ensure that the center of gravity of the user has the largest amount of surface area underneath. It does this expertly while also providing improved ergonomics with the narrower tips and tails. The tubular frame in these shoes is completely rigid front-to-back, which, combined with the large surface area, makes it a floatation champ.
While there is usually a tradeoff between floatation and traction, the latest update to the Crescent Moon Gold 10 model does a good job of significantly improving its traction characteristics. While designed primarily to focus on floatation while working deep snow, the updated design also features sharp metal teeth under the forefoot area. This is complemented by a series of spikes under the heel area and several small teeth in the toes and mounting straps. While this by no means gives it traction to compete with trail-focused snowshoes, the traction is significantly better than earlier iterations of the product and actually more than sufficient for snowshoes means for deep snow.
In most cases, a larger size makes for snowshoes that are not as comfortable and ergonomic. However, the Crescent Moon Gold 10 bucks that trend quite expertly. This is largely due to the tapered shape of the shoes. As you have excellent surface area for the center of gravity and narrow tails and tips, you have enough room for maneuvering while your gait remains standard. Also, instead of a more regular hinged binding system, these shoes use a strapped connection. This works out as the straps prevent any rotation of the shoes while also allowing for a little extra cushion. It also prevents tail drag.
The heel strap is built with extremely sturdy dual buckles, one of which lets you adjust coarse length while the other helps when getting the shoes on and off.
You also get a removable heel lifter in the package that can swivel into place when needed. The binding is sturdy and these snowshoes are compatible with multiple shoe sizes.
Best for Trails: TSL Symbioz Elite
The TSL Symbioz Elite is designed specifically for the trails, with a jacked-up crampons and a strategically placed heel lift that makes it an ideal choice for mountain slopes.
This is our top pick for trails as it balanced functionality with rugged comfort while being a good option for all kinds of snow conditions.
The design and ergonomics of the Symbioz Elite is, according to our findings, equally suited to a packed terrain as it is to a breaking trail that has deep powdery snow.
The first thing you will notice about the TSL Symbioz Elite is the interesting design. Every part of the design has been accomplished with a clear goal. For example, these snowshoes come in a unique hourglass shape, which is instrumental in ensuring that you do not step on your opposite shoe while walking the trail. Then, there is the design of the decking which features strategically placed slots that prevent any snow from accumulating on the top.
As the Symbioz Elite are essentially smaller shoes, their floatation quality might not be as good as some competing models with larger designs. However, this becomes meaningful if you think of the intended use case. Since they are meant mainly for trail use, the smaller size is actually a bonus as it helps you negotiate dense trails or melt-freeze snowpacks with ease. The focus of the design, therefore, is not as much on floatation as it is on traction, ergonomics, and comfort. In these areas, it is hard to beat the TSL Symbioz Elite on the trail.
When it comes to traction, the design itself inspires confidence. The crampons that come with these snowshoes are large, aggressive, and extremely sharp, making them supremely effective for trails. There are a total of six spikes that are spread evenly across the shoe bottom. Then, there are several ridges and paddles that are molded right into the decking and large cleats built onto the binding. These large steel cleats go a long way to prevent side slipping.
In terms of ergonomics, the Symbioz Elite is truly elite. The hinged binding system is precise and reliable and the deck is extremely flexible, leading to superior shock absorption and comfort. The bindings can be adjusted both across the toes and length-wise and are then set-and-forget. All you need to operate is the plastic hinge and the strap system that closes with a ratchet. The unique design negates the need to make your straps extremely tight, which in turn enhances the comfort.
Along with the functional bindings, you have a strategically placed heel lift. Easy to flip up or down, this heel lift can reduce fatigue to a great degree, enabling you to keep working those trails much longer. The frame, while flexible, is extremely durable thanks to the reinforcing carbon fiber strips and the plastic decking. The bindings are rock-solid over prolonged use and we cannot recommend these snowshoes enough for complex, technical terrain.
On a final note
Now that we have gone over the best snowshoes of 2022, it is time for you to make your choice. Carefully asses your needs and use case and weigh in factors such as size, comfort, binding system, design, ergonomics, and budget to find a pair of snowshoes that will enhance your overall hiking experience and last you a long time.