Open main menu

Backcountry Snowshoes

Backcountry snowshoes are designed to tackle steeper terrain, especially off-trail routes, over longer distances. They offer the most flotation, aggressive traction for steep ascents and descents, and bindings that accommodate larger footwear (like mountaineering, ski, or snowboard boots). Backcountry models tend to be the most expensive due to their more technical features and stronger materials.

Top Picks

How we choose: The best backcountry snowshoes highlighted here were selected based on 372 reviews of 31 products. Our top picks are those that are readily-available in the United States and have received the highest overall ratings from reviewers.

How we test: Trailspace is powered entirely by our community of readers. The reviews posted here reflect the real-world experiences of outdoor enthusiasts just like you.

If you've used a backcountry snowshoe that you think should be listed here, please share your experience.

Disclosure: Trailspace never accepts payment for gear reviews, product placement, or editorial coverage. When you buy through affiliate links on our site, Trailspace may earn a small commission, which helps cover the costs of running the site.

Tubbs Flex ALP

user rating: 5 of 5 (3 reviews)

I will review my shoes, the 24 inch model, but my husband has the 28 inch version, and his review is the same as mine...we love these snowshoes! We have found them a nice step-up from our older Tubbs models (Adventure 25 and Eclipse 30), and have been excellent in our uses this year, on varying terrain and snow conditions.

Reasons to Buy

  • Heel lift
  • Flex deck
  • Binding system
  • Excellent traction

Reasons to Avoid

  • Sometimes a metallic clicking noise, especially on crust/hard pack

We snowshoe on sometimes steep and icy trails, and sometimes trails with unpacked or mushy snow. I have found the design and materials on these snowshoes to be excellent, and they have greatly increased my  confidence on tricky terrain,especially when traversing. The extended traction is wonderful,and an improvement from my old Tubbs, which had only toe crampons. The Flex Alps are light, and the binding system holds them securely...I have found no lateral "wiggle". The heel lift is also a feature new to us, and it seems like a nice advantage for some of our steep uphills.

Read more: Tubbs Flex ALP reviews (3)

MSR Lightning Ascent

user rating: 4 of 5 (25 reviews)

The MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoe is a very well designed go-anywhere snowshoe with a new Paragon binding design that lives up to its name. The Lightning Ascent's design has a number of aggressive features that really enable this snowshoe to be used confidently in the most challenging crusty and icy conditions. The new Paragon binding is simple to use and comfortable in use. This really is a great snowshoe option for someone looking for a durable design that can be used in any conditions.

Reasons to Buy

  • Simple binding adjustments
  • Very aggressive traction features
  • Not noisy like all-plastic deck models
  • Incorporates a heel support that can be operated with a trekking/ski pole
  • Tails are available for extra flotation
  • Paragon binding supports a wide range of footwear sizes
  • Spare binding parts are available and some are field replaceable
  • Designed by a manufacture that will be around to provide support well into the future

Reasons to Avoid

  • Decking material absorbs moisture

Overview The MSR Lightning Ascents are positioned as MSR’s top of the line snowshoe with a focus on being an ultralight aggressive design that can be used in challenging technical terrain. The latest version of the Lightning Ascent now comes with MSR’s new Paragon binding which MSR claims to offer greater comfort and foot control.  The MSR Lightning Ascent is actually one of three models of the MSR Lightning snowshoe designs and I provide a brief comparison of the three models at the end of this review.

Read more: MSR Lightning Ascent reviews (25)

Crescent Moon Big Sky

user rating: 4 of 5 (1 review)

Good all around shoe that excels in backcountry use. Fresh snow and off-trail adventuring benefit from the excellent float. Easy on and off with innovative one-handed binding.

Reasons to Buy

  • Easy to use binding
  • Great float
  • Tapered tail
  • Good traction in most conditions
  • Pretty paint job :)

Reasons to Avoid

  • Flexible deck limits traction at times
  • Pretty paint flecks in the snow :(

The Gold 10 Backcountry snow shoes are part of a line by Crescent Moon, a Colorado company that has been at it since 1997. They manufacture a really wide variety of snowshoes there and have stayed on top of changing times and markets with the recently Trailspace Review Corps reviewed EVA All Foam shoe. The Gold 10s are a more traditional shoe, but with some unique innovative twists. Specs: Weight 5.43 lbs / pair on my scale Dimensions: About 31" long and 10.5" at the widest point 6063 Aluminum tube with polyurethane deck Bindings: Let’s start here because that is where the snowshoeing starts and ends.

Read more: Crescent Moon Big Sky review (1)

MSR Evo Ascent

user rating: 4 of 5 (5 reviews)

Indestructible white plastic snowshoes that have good gripping and are easy to put on with mittens and are great for off-trail use.

Reasons to Buy

  • Lighter than most snowshoes
  • Very rugged
  • Extendable — separate tails can be added for heavy loads

Reasons to Avoid

  • Older models have not-so-easy-to-attach bindings

Easy to put on and take off without taking off your mittens. These are the best snowshoes for off trail use — map and compass stuff — work well in the forest. These MSR EVO ASCENT snowshoes have three binding straps and televators. The trail EVO models have two binding straps and no televators. Great for beginning but not good for large steep hills and mountains. Used these over the years in the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) in N.H. and once over a blizzard weekend on a winter backpacking trip on the Long Trail in Vermont.

Read more: MSR Evo Ascent reviews (5)

Tubbs Flex VRT

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Tubbs Flex VRT are Tubbs' flagship snowshoe for exploring the backcountry. The BOA lacing system, aggressive crampon, and televator bar makes them ideal for long icy climbs on snow/ice covered trails.

Reasons to Buy

  • BOA lacing system easy with gloves
  • Aggressive crampons plus televator bar for easy backcountry climbing

Reasons to Avoid

  • BOA system can pinch
  • Not a huge deck for excessive powder

The Tubbs Flex VRT are excellent snowshoes for exploring snowy and icy backcountry. They have the BOA lacing system for easy donning even with winter gloves. The aggressive crampons and televator bar make them great for climbing icy trails. The smaller decks mean you sink a bit more if you're doing strictly off-trail in excessive powder. I am 250 pounds with equipment and love hiking in these on and off trail in the snow in the 29-inch version. My wife has the 25-inch women's version and loves them because of the easy donning and ability to climb. One friend felt that the lacing system pinched the top of their foot compared to other strap configurations, but we never had this issue. 

Read more: Tubbs Flex VRT review (1)

Redfeather Alpine

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (2 reviews)

These shoes hold up to heavy use with max weight on them, but do have their problems.

Reasons to Buy

  • Strength
  • Good flotation
  • Easily put on and adjusted

Reasons to Avoid

  • Fair gripping crampon system
  • I have popped rivets
  • No toe cup
  • Might not take the widest boot on a big man

I have used these hard for two seasons [not this one, the last two]. I've used them on crust, crossing streams, deep snow, on hills, in the woods, in heavy brush and in rocky terrain in the Adirondacks. I like them. They are easily put on and adjusted, but the widest boot may just not fit in the front straps. I wear a 13w and do have boots that won't fit. They float well and that's saying a lot since I weigh 240 and always carry a pack. I do believe the crampons could be better on ice or hills, but this has always been a peeve of mine with other shoes also.

Read more: Redfeather Alpine reviews (2)

GV Snowshoes Mountain Extreme

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

The GV Mountain Extremes are lightweight backcountry snowshoes suitable for the steepest terrain. The traction frame design and crossbars help you stick on ascents, descents, and traverses. Ratchet bindings allow for quick and easy donning and doffing.

Reasons to Buy

  • Traction frame
  • Rugged decking
  • Ratchet bindings
  • Heel lifters
  • Heel supports
  • Toe stops

Reasons to Avoid

  • Heavier than similar snowshoes by other manufacturers
  • Bindings don't pack very flat

GV Snowshoes is a Canadian manufacturer of traditional and modern snowshoes, established in 1959. Their snowshoes are made in Canada. The Mountain Extreme is a backcountry snowshoe, especially at home on steep terrain with crusty, hard packed snow. My model is the 830, which is my favorite size even though I'm quite a bit heavier than their recommended load. Mountain Extreme 830.  "Rambus" ratchet bindings. Push the two ears toward the lever to release. The entire mechanism is plastic, hopefully they're durable enough to last long-term.

Read more: GV Snowshoes Mountain Extreme review (1)

Northern Lites Backcountry

user rating: 5 of 5 (2 reviews)

Northern Lites still offers the Backcountry for $240. I've had mine for years, and agree they are one of the lightest and easiest to use in the backcountry. The only model that's better for bantam weight folks is their Elite (8x25) if and only if you are under 175 lbs with a backpack!

Reasons to Buy

  • Light
  • Easy to maneuver

Reasons to Avoid

  • Can take a little practice to get used to 9x30

For more aggressive slopes, I'd love a pair of their Predator series, which replaces their aluminum cleats with steel in more places. But the overall Northern Lites build is the same...much lighter frame than other brands, plastic edge clamps that both provide some extra traction and keep the decking material from wearing through where it wraps around the frame. The strap system is sturdy though takes practice if you don't want to take gloves off, but once you're in they track well and are easy to walk in.

Read more: Northern Lites Backcountry reviews (2)

More Reviews of Backcountry Snowshoes

Trailspace reviewers have shared 372 reviews of 31 different backcountry snowshoes.

Show All »

or add yours

Other Types of Snowshoes

Find more snowshoes reviewed in these related categories:

Recreational Snowshoes

Hiking Snowshoes

Running Snowshoes

+2 more types

Review Your Outdoor Gear

If you've found this site helpful — or if we've missed something important — please consider paying it forward by some of your favorite outdoor gear.

Why? From professional gearheads to outdoor novices, everyone has an important point of view to contribute. will support the outdoor community and help others find the best gear.

Trailspace reviewers are outdoor enthusiasts like you: hikers, climbers, paddlers, backcountry skiers, and trail runners who share our experiences with the gear and clothing we rely on to get outside. Learn more about Trailspace