How to Make Snow Shoes

How to Make Snow Shoes
Snowshoes can be fashioned on the trail from minimal materials using pieces of gear and found items from your surroundings. The shoes make movement in deep snow possible by spreading your weight over a larger surface area and keeping you above the drifts.

Snowshoes have been used for wilderness survival and transportation for centuries. They were used in North America by Native Americans from before the time when horses were introduced. Their use is thought to predate even that of the wheel.


Difficulty: Moderate

Crude Snowshoes

Things You’ll Need:
  • Knife or saw Tree branches Rope, laces or cordage Crosspiece material
  • Knife or saw
  • Tree branches
  • Rope, laces or cordage
  • Crosspiece material
Step 1
Cut two evergreen boughs. The chosen branches should have several smaller branching limbs and have a length and width that extends 6 inches beyond your footwear. Lay the branches so that the branching limbs point upward.
Step 2
Cut or break four 6- to 8-inch sticks. Tie these crosspieces about 4 inches apart near the center of the mass of the branch. Anchor them to the thickest parts of any branching limbs. Your footwear will rest upon these as you walk.
Step 3
Create bindings by fastening a tie across the toe. Center your tie material (rope, a shoelace, cordage) across the toe of your footwear. Bring each end under the toe crosspiece and tie it across the top of your shoe.

Improvised Snowshoes

Step 1
Find an item suitable to act as a frame. Willow is a good choice, but any branch that can be bent around to have the ends meet in parallel will work. Hold the ends side by side, wrap a cord around several times, then tie it off. You will have formed a hoop shape.
Step 2
Build the platform of the shoe. Use any available material long enough to cross the open center of the hoop. The crosspieces may be wide or narrow. Use at least three crosspieces if they are an inch wide, and at least double that number if narrow crosspieces are used.

Run crosspieces both from side to side and end to end to cover the length and width of the shoe. Overlap the pieces to create an open weave, filling the open center of the hoop.
Step 3
Fashion bindings by adding a toe loop and a heel catch. Place your footwear onto the shoe to get the correct tension. Anchor the tie on each side of the shoe by tying it off to one of the crosspieces. Bring a second loop of material from behind the heel of the shoe forward and anchor it to one of the crosspieces at about mid-foot.

Create the binding all in one step by first draping the tie over the toe, running it under a crosspiece on each side of the toe of your footwear and then bringing the ends back to tie around the ankle of your boot or shoe.

Article Written By Alice Moon

Alice Moon is a freelance writer with more than 10 years of experience. She was chosen as a Smithsonian Institute intern, working for the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and has traveled throughout Asia. Moon holds a Bachelor of Science in political science from Ball State University.

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