When you head in to the backcountry there is a certain kind of snowshoe that will perform well, and a few other kinds of snowshoes that you probably want to avoid taking, because they will decrease your level of enjoyment, and maybe even cause a few accidents. Backcountry travel really is one of the more enjoyable things you can do on snowshoes, however. Trails can be fun, but a wide open expanse of untouched snow is a tantalizing treat, and backpacking snowshoes are a great way to explore that.
What you want to see on a pair of backcountry snowshoes.
Crampons – First and foremost, you need snowshoes that have a good amount of crampons if you intend to go in to the backcountry. Steep terrain, rolling terrain, uneven terrain, you have to expect that at certain points you’re not going to be able to get much a grip with your snowshoes, and you better hope that what grip you do manage to get holds.
Maximum Weight – If you’re doing any backcountry travel with snowshoes, you’re probably taking a backpack along with you. And depending on how heavy your backpack is, there’s a chance that you‘re exceeding the maximum recommended weight of your snowshoes. So getting snowshoes with a high enough maximum weight is a good idea, as is getting snowshoes with optional tails, to increase the maximum weight.
Best Backcountry Snowshoes
Some of the better pairs of backcountry snowshoes.
MSR Evo Ascent 22 Snowshoes - These are a great pair of snowshoes for backcountry travel. They include a heel lift bar, to help with leg fatigue, and two long crampon rails, in addition to the toe and heel crampons, to aid with traction. They're only 22 inches long, and as a result will only hold 180 pounds, but with the attachable tails that goes up to 250 pounds. These are also plastic, which means they're comparatively lightweight, at just 4 pounds 1 ounce, or 1.84 kilograms, and also comparatively cheap.
MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes - The Lightning Ascents are another excellent backcountry snowshoe. They use what MSR calls the 360 degree traction system, which is crampons around the entire outer frame of the snowshoe, in addition to the standard heel and toe crampons. These come in three different lengths, the largest of which will hold 280 pounds, and there are also optional tails that will add even more weight capacity to that, which makes them perfect for carrying a heavy backpack. The medium size weighs 3 pounds 15 ounces, or 1.78 kilograms, and there's also a women's version.
Atlas 12 Series Snowshoes - One more pair of backcountry snowshoes, this time from Atlas. These have a fairly standard aluminum frame and nylon deck design, though the frame is the high quality 7075 aluminum, and the deck is a proprietary material called Duratek. Standard backcountry snowshoe features like a heel lift bar are included. These come in three different lengths, the largest of which will hold 300+ pounds. The medium size weighs 4 pounds 7 ounces, or 2.02 kilograms, and there's also a women's version.