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Gear Addiction: Is there such a thing as too many snowshoes?

Michigan-style snowshoes

I have a problem. It used to be much worse but I pretty much have it under control now.

Hi, I am the Bushwhacking Fool and I am a gear addict.

As part of my therapy I thought I would start a series of occasional blog posts about all the duplicate gear I have accumulated over the years. In honor of the winter season, which is in its final stages now, I thought I would start out my therapy posts discussing the many different pairs of snowshoes I currently own.

I have seven different pairs of snowshoes. They come in all different sizes, materials and shapes. Two pairs are Michigan-style, two standard bearpaw and three Green Mountain modified bearpaw. Four pairs are made of wood, one is plastic and the final two pairs have aluminum frames.

See types of wooden snowshoes here

My two oldest pairs are Michigan-style wood frame snowshoes (also known as Maine-style); these are the traditional beaver tail type snowshoes. The history of these snowshoes has been lost in antiquity but rumor has it that they were made (or at least webbed) by my deceased aunt and her boyfriend at the time. The story is plausible since the webbing makes using these snowshoes difficult to use since the toe hole is a little small for an adult.

These two pairs of snowshoes were obtained from my aunt many years ago. In fact, these were the snowshoes that introduced me to the sport. They originally had some mealy-looking leather bindings on them, which always seemed to detach themselves from my boots at the most inopportune time. Like most wood-framed snowshoes these are not lightweight; at 4 lbs a pair without bindings they remain some of the heaviest snowshoes I own. They measure about 12.5 inches wide and 42 inches long from toe to end of tail.

I have not used these snowshoes for many years and they are in need of a good shellacking. Because of the small toe hole (even too small for my tiny size 8 feet) and their current condition these snowshoes have limited usability; I keep them for sentimental reasons and eventually plan to hang them on the wall as decorations.

Green Mountain modified bearpaws

My third pair of wooden snowshoes is Green Mountain modified bearpaws. Unlike the more tradition bearpaws these are less oval and more elongated from toe to heel. These snowshoes are by far the most attractive looking ones I own. They are 10 inches wide by 36 inches long and weigh a whopping 6 lbs. per pair. These are easily the heaviest pair of snowshoes I own.

Their attractiveness is probably due in no small amount to the fact I have never used them. Not even once. They are complete snow-virgins, i.e. they have never touched snow (at least not to my knowledge). At this point you might be thinking “This guy does have a problem” since I own snowshoes I have never even used. The thing is, I did not purchase these snowshoes; I won them as a prize.

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The Green Mountain modified bearpaws were a prize for participating in the National Audubon Society, Onondaga Chapter’s Birdathon many years back (to read the teaser for my bushwhacking Birdathon into the Pepperbox Wilderness last year click here). The prize was for either going the farthest afield (into the Five Ponds Wilderness in the northeastern Adirondacks) or for collecting the most singles (i.e. species of bird found by a single participant).

I have yet to decide the fate of these snowshoes. Whether I sell them, display them as decorations, use them or just let them gather dust in my closet (their current situation) is a matter of internal debate.

Bearpaw snowshoes w/ crampon

My final pair of wooden snowshoes is of the traditional bearpaw variety. These snowshoes used to be my primary snowshoes for years after I graduated from the small toe-holed beavertail snowshoes.

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These bearpaw snowshoes climbed many of the High Peaks of the Adirondacks despite their limited effectiveness for mountain climbing. Eventually I put metal crampons (Vee Grippers made by the now defunct Stowe Canoe and Snowshoe, Co.) on the bottom. Although the crampons helped, the snowshoes still under performed their aluminum-framed cousins going up steep slopes. All the climbing on bare rock has produced some wear and tear on these bearpaws but they still look in surprisingly good shape.

These traditional bearpaw snowshoes are 13 inches wide and 29 inches long with a total weight of 5 lbs. per pair including the metal crampons.

Tubbs Couloir Series Peak 30 snowshoes

Since the traditional bearpaw snowshoes were not entirely effective for mountain climbing and were suffering an increasing amount of wear and tear I eventually replaced them with a pair of Couloir Series Peak 30 snowshoes. These Tubbs snowshoes then became my go-to snowshoes for many years.

The Tubbs snowshoes are still used for many of my one-day snowshoes trips, especially when I anticipate deep, fluffy snow. Their relatively large size (they measure 9 by 30 inches) and lack of webbing appear to provide more loft than any of the other snowshoes I currently own. They remain the best performing snowshoes that I own for mountain climbing. Unfortunately, they are quite heavy, weighing about 5 lbs. per pair.

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These snowshoes were the same pair I used for both of my recent snowshoe trips up on the Tug Hill this winter (read about these trips here and here).

Little Bear snowshoes

The single plastic pair of snowshoes is Little Bear snowshoes. These small snowshoes are ideal for late season hikes where the necessity of snowshoes is not definite. Also, in addition to their small size, they are reasonably lightweight, weighing about 2 lbs. for the pair. They have metal cleats positioned along the periphery to assist with icy conditions. On the negative side, the bindings are not very effective as during the few times I have used them I continuously had to stop and readjust them to prevent them from falling off my feet.

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I originally purchased these for backpacking trips in the early spring where lightweight was more important than performance. But these snowshoes have been completely supplanted by the purchase of the Northern Lites snowshoes described below. The Northern Lites trump the Little Bears as they combine the performance of a mountain climbing snowshoe with extremely lightweight.

The fate of the Little Bear snowshoes remains undetermined but I have been contemplating selling them since they remain underutilized in my inventory of snowshoes and have little utility as decorations.

Northern Lites Elite snowshoes

Soon after purchasing the Little Bears I discovered the Northern Lites Elite snowshoes on the Internet. The Elites combine the mountain climbing performance of my Tubbs snowshoes with the lightweight of my Little Bears. The Elite’s come with crampons and some of the easiest to use bindings allowing me to put them on and take them off without removing my mittens and/or gloves. The Northern Lites Elites are fairly small (8 by 25 inches; only the Little Bears are smaller) and weigh in at about 2 lbs per pair.

For a complete review of the Northern Lites Elite snowshoes check out the review I wrote for the Adirondack Almanack website here.

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The Elites have now become my main backpacking snowshoes despite their relatively small size. With a full pack I am near or slightly over capacity with these snowshoes, which has led me to think about purchasing the larger Northern Lites Backcountry snowshoes for fluffier and deeper snow conditions.

Damn. I guess I am not completely cured of my gear addiction after all.

Does anyone else have stories about their gear addiction they would like to share? If so, just leave them below in the comments.

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