Traditional snowshoes vs new-age designs. Which do you prefer?
Most outdoor stores opt to carry new-age snowshoes made of lightweight plastic or anodized aluminum equipped with mini-crampon bindings. They’re a good choice if snow depths aren’t a pressing issue.
If I was up in the Far North trekking across three metres of fluffy snow, I might need the longer, wider traditional design to keep me from sinking in. The newer shoes would only cut it on less deep snow.
For that reason, I prefer the traditional wooden type—especially when out winter camping in those remote places. However, there is one major issue with the wooden style: choosing the perfect binding system to hold your foot in place. This is critical. There’s nothing worse than messing around with an awkward binding system when your hands are numb with cold. There are an endless assortment of bindings. The most common binding, however, is a combination of a wide toe-piece and a leather-heel strap with a cross strap over the instep.
I’ve tried a few of the common bindings but I hit the jackpot this winter when I picked up a new design—Esker's Traditional Snowshoe Bindings.
The material is a hardy vegetable-tanned buffalo leather and is attached to the snowshoe with the same material. My old design was strapped onto the snowshoes’ paracord, which let the bindings loosen, and eventually had my foot shifting freely on top of the snowshoe.
Esker's Bindings are extremely quick to get in and out of, which is what sold me on them in the first place. During my first winter trip with the bindings, cold wind was howling across a frozen lake at me, so I wasn’t all that keen on leaving my hands exposed too long to the cold while fussing with straps and buckles; instead, to apply Esker’s Bindings, I simply put my toe into the hold, pulled tight the double cord lace lock, and then clipped on the side-locked ankle strap. Perfect!
And the best part—the Esker Traditional Snowshoe Bindings are made in Canada. Ya gotta love that!