How to Snowshoe with Kids
If you clicked on this post, you probably live in a place with significant snow depth. Snowshoes are an important gear purchase as they allow your children greater freedom out on snowy treks.
Snowshoes for kids are one of those purchases that you almost don’t need, but when you need them, you are really happy to have them. We have snowshoes for all our kids, even though we don’t use them every day.
I’ll be honest–when we are out in a large field or open space, we all prefer cross country skis. Snowshoes are best when in woods, or very deep, powdery snow. They are also important for traction when on packed, slippery hiking trails.
Our family resides in Vermont, so we have plenty of snow each winter to explore on foot. Snowshoes make this easier by keeping us from sinking in to the full depth of the snow. They are also great for packing trails to later walk on with boots. My kids have used many snowshoe brands over the years, and certain brands definitely stand out.
On the other hand, we have bought and tried out some snowshoe styles and brands that really were disappointing. They were either hard to walk in, had no grip, or would constantly fall off. I am recommending a few select snowshoe styles in this post that our team has direct experience with.
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How to snowshoe with kids: Getting started
What to Look For:
When shopping for snowshoes, you want to be an educated consumer. Many local gear shops sell a variety of brands. You can also search your local Buy, Sell and Trade groups for specific brands if you want to find a good deal.
I restate this all below, but there are a few key features for snowshoes to have. Make sure they have the traction you want for the conditions your kids will be using them for. Make sure you like the binding style–there is always going to be a compromise between ease of use and security.
Boots that Fit the Bindings
Also check to ensure that your child’s boots are comfortable for snowshoeing and that they fit the snowshoes! Any boot that stays on well will generally be comfortable for snowshoeing. However, rain boots, slip on boots, sneakers, or over-sized, bulky snow boots are going to be uncomfortable in the snowshoe or fall off. The boots need to have laces or a cinch strap near the ankle.
Sized for the Weight of your Child
Snowshoes are made in various widths and lengths, depending on how they are intended to be used. Generally, the longer a snowshoe is, the more weight it can support for floating over the snow. Width also helps, however, a snowshoe can only be so wide before they become impossible to use. If trying on snowshoes, make sure your child can have a comfortable stride–she shouldn’t look too much like a duck or penguin!
Practice and Explore Together
And finally, once you have bought them, find some awesome snow and go test them out. I recommend your first snowshoe expedition should be in your backyard–children inevitably trip and might be frustrated their first time. Keep it short and sweet and remember to make cocoa!
Most young children don’t need poles for snowshoeing on easy terrain–we find they tend to slow them down. Kids usually have better balance than we think. Generally, after a few trips around the yard they start to figure it out.
Once you and your child are comfortable with snowshoeing, go find some trails! Golf courses, parks, state parks–even the play ground! As long as there is snow they can use snowshoes in it. Before heading out, get those feet dressed in cozy socks, pack some snacks, and enjoy!
Winter is magical and snowshoeing is a great way to explore the wonder.
How to Snowshoe with Kids: Shopping Checklist
When I am snowshoe shopping for my kids, I look for a couple key features outlined below.
Note: This year in particular it’s really hard to find great youth snowshoes because of supply-chain challenges. Keep your eyes open for used!
Easy On and Off
One feature that is super important is ease of use for gloved hands. Ultimately, the parents are the ones latching the snowshoe bindings and helping kids take them on and off. This means it needs to be easy. I don’t want to spend 15 minutes in the cold with my gloves off trying to put snowshoes on my kids!
Secure Binding System
Another important feature is how well the snowshoe stays on. There is nothing quite so frustrating as having a snowshoe pop off every 1/8 of a mile (been there, done that!). Often, snowshoe manufacturers have to make a compromise between ease of use and security of the binding.
Traction is the final feature that I find important. Because the boot is surrounded by the snowshoe, all the traction comes from the snowshoe. If you are walking in fresh powder, this is less important. However, as soon as you are on a semi-packed or icy surface, the traction becomes important. I like to look for snowshoes with cleats or traction bars in more than one place.
All snowshoes have a cleat under the ball of the foot, but I find that to be insufficient for anything but flat, powdery trails. Look for snowshoes with “teeth” down the center or around the edges.
Best Snowshoes for Little Kids
MSR makes a super popular snowshoe for little kids. The MSR Tyker combines a lightweight platform with a very secure binding system. There is a small cleat under the ball of the foot, and then extra “teeth” on the outer edges of each snowshoe. I like these shoes because they provide good grip without having a huge crampons that can slice up snow clothes.
Downside? These snowshoes do not pivot at the ball of the foot, so they are a little more tiring to use. Additionally, the binding system (while being very secure) is a little tricky to do with mittened hands. They are very light, which is important for littles.
Weight Capacity: Up to 60 lbs
Tubb’s is very recongnizable name in the snowshoe business. They are known for durable, high quality snowshoes, espescially for adults. I do not love their traditional kids’ snowshoes as we have had trouble with them falling off. However, they recently came out with a Flex line of snowshoes that have great features.
The Tubb’s Flex JR Snowshoes are for younger kiddos. The binding is not strap based and relies on an easy-cinch binding system. This binding systems is easier to use than the Tyker system, however, they may be harder to get tight on very small boots.
They also have good traction for the size of the snowshoe.
Best Snowshoes for Big Kids
Again, MSR really stands out in this category. I have been impressed using the MSR Shift Snowshoes for my kids for several years. The Shifts have a more aggressive crampon than the Tyker. It also rotates at the ball of the foot, so your children can have a more natural stride.
The Shifts have metal “teeth” along both sides of the snowshoe’s mid-line. We find them to have excellent traction. This is so great for kids. It keeps them stable and secure on the trail, and helps them going downhill on the snowshoes as well. Going down a steep, packed trail is much safer with good grip under foot!
The bindings on these are very secure, but a little hard to use for small hands. And adult will need to help a child put them on until they become comfortable on their own.
Weight Capacity: Up to 125lbs
Tubbs is a standard in the snowshoe industry. They make a wide range of models for various ages and abilities of kids.
The Tubbs Flex HKE Snowshoes are particularly good. The traction is great, and the snowshoe is lightweight thanks to the composite material it is made from. The binding system is easier for kids to use than the MSR binding, but this means the binding is slightly less secure.
The Tubb’s Flex line also has a snowshoe with the option of a heel lift bar, which is awesome for hiking. In fact, if you plan to hike mountains with your child, I would recommend this snowshoe since the heel lift bar (also called a televator) makes a big difference when climbing steep terrain.
Yukon Charlie’s Snowshoes
Team member Amelia has used and recommends a few models of snowshoes from Yukon Charlie’s.
The Yukon Penguin is a polypropylene (think strong but lightweight) snowshoe for trail and backyard walking. It has a “glove friendly” binding system, as well as ample traction for younger kids. It is an in between size– the weight limit goes to 100, which is less than the MSR Shifts but more weight than the Tyker can carry.
Weight limit: Up to 100 lbs
The Yukon SNO-Bash snowshoes for kids are built with an aluminum frame, which make the snowshoe very durable. It has a quick release binding that allows the kids to tighten their own snowshoes! Woot woot!
These snowshoes are recommended for backyard and light trail use only as they do not have aggressive crampons for mountain snowshoeing.
Weight limit: 100 lbs.
Other gear you need to snowshoe
Leg gaiters (not to be confused with neck gaiters) are a waterproof sleeve that covers the gap between a boot and the lower leg. They are basically a sleeve that fits over the boot and extends up the leg over pants.
Gaiters are a useful piece of gear if you find yourself snowshoeing in areas with really deep and powdery snow. They keep the snow from getting into shoes or boots. I use them for winter hiking, but for snowshoeing on low-elevation trails my kids generally use their snow pants.
Wool socks are the BEST! Seriously, we wear them 365 days a year. Wool keeps your child’s toes warm, even when wet. They stand up to snow, rain, and cold. In a pinch, you can even use them as mittens. All my children have multiple pairs and I always make sure to bring extras (see above and using them as mittens).
Our favorite brand for comfort is Smartwool. We find their socks to be soft, stretchy, and most importantly, warm. We like these Smartwool hiking socks for kids who are active outdoors. They work for four-season use when combined with an insulated winter boot.
You’ll want to invest in a heavier weight sock like these Smartwool Wintersport socks if it is below 30 outside or your child moves less.
Boots that are good for snowshoeing
Like I referenced earlier, wearing the right boots is critical for a successful snowshoeing experience. Rain boot type boots don’t work at all, as the boot can slip off of a child’s foot, leaving them barefoot in the snow. Your child needs a pair of sturdy, insulated boots that cinch or lace securely at the ankle.
If they don’t already have a pair, here are a few of our favorites.
Kamik Boots for Snowshoeing
Kamik is a favorite for our family because they make a huge range of boots. They generally offer great sales, they keep the kids’ feet warm, and they last long enough to pass down to siblings.
These Rocket Pac boots from Kamik are reasonably priced, waterproof, warm, lightweight, and they have a removable liner, which makes drying the boots much easier. They are rated to -40 degrees, so your kiddo will always have warm toes.
Sorel Boots for Snowshoeing
Sorel has made high quality, WARM winter boots for generations. I grew up wearing them. My dad has had the same pair for 40 years. They are DURABLE.
The Sorel Yoot Pac boot is a great snowshoeing boot for kids. It has removable liners, a tall cuff, and laces up very securely. They cost a bit more than the Kamiks, but they will last longer as well. They also weigh more than the Kamiks, but that is the trade off with a more rugged design.
Reima insulated hiking boots
Amelia really likes the Reima Orm boots for kid snowshoeing too. They aren’t ideal for super deep snow since they are shorter, but they cinch down very well and are comfortable.
Snow poles are great for use in challenging terrain where there are hills, mountains or tricky footing. My children rarely use them when we snowshoe near our home, but when we head to the White Mountains National Forest for winter hiking, we defintely bring them. Poles are particularly helpful for controlling speed when going downhill.
My husband and I both really like these aluminum poles from Cascade Mountain Tech. They are cheap, adjustable, and come with several different basket types. The great thing is that these poles work just as well for summer hiking as they work for snowshoeing!
Related Winter Articles
- Winter Hiking with Kids
- Ice Cleats for Kids (and Adults)
- Winter Gear
- Playing After Dark
- Best winter boots for kids
How to Snowshoe with Kids
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