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Thread: Military snowshoes

  1. #1
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    Default Military snowshoes

    I don't live in Alaska, I just need some info about snowshoes. That is hard to come by in my part of N.Y. State. I seldom see any other snowshoers.

    Eight years ago, I bought some of those white aluminum snowshoes that occasionally show up in military surplus. You know the type, eliptical pad with a long long tail. Wire mesh, white nylon bindings. I have not ever tried any other shoes, and I am pretty disgusted with these. Every time I take them out, same story. I am 200 lbs. I sink 12 to 18" deep into the snow. Of course then it is very difficult to turn with the long tails. Especially since the binding allows the tails to drag when you lift your foot. I would rather trudge through the snow in boots. Lot less tiring.

    I have had the notion that I could cut off 1/2 the tail and weave some nylon webbing through the wires. The increase in surface area SHOULD increase my buoyancy. I don't know what I can do about the crappy bindings. I'm probably wrong, but I'd think you'd want the whole shoe to lift with your foot, rather than just the front. I never mastered the similar setup in cross country or downhill skiing. It all seems to be ergonomically screwed up to me.

    Has anyone here ever done a modification like this? Or am I just plodding up the wrong hill?

  2. #2
    Member PatrickH's Avatar
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    The tails on the snowshoes are to help keep your shoes tracking in a straight line. Most people do not do a lot of turning, so it helps. In the brush or in areas that require a lot of turning the oval snowshoes are better, but they are harder to walk straight in.
    Snowshoe bindings always allow the back to sag down. This allows the front to lift up and get on top of the snow with each step. If it were solid you would have to work five times as hard to walk through deep snow because you would be lifting the entire shoe plus any snow on top with each step. The military bindings are a pain in the butt. You should get some aftermarket bindings that are much easier to use and stay on better. I use bindings that have a neoprene boot pocket in front with a nylon strap with a quick release buckle that goes around my heel. Some people like the all rubber stretch on bindings, but I don't like them.
    If you fill in the webbing with something you will increase the flotation a little. However you will also prevent the loose snow on top of the snowshoe from falling back through. This will make you work harder.
    If you are trying to get through deep powder you will need much larger snowshoes which will be even harder to turn in. Breaking trail with any snowshoe is a lot of work. The white military snowshoes are a compromise in ability to float on snow versus the ability to change direction. You are probably at the upper limit of what these shoes were designed for. All snowshoes work better once the snow has packed into a crust.
    Good Luck

  3. #3

    Default Snow shoes are work

    It takes about 5 minutes in deep soft snow to learn about all there is to snow shoeing.

    You probably need a couple different pairs of snowshoes depending on the conditions.

    You can find on-line some older-style wooden frame snowshoes. For deep soft snow you need bigger shoes. Get some about 5 feet long and about 12 inches wide.

    When the snow has compacted more you can use your military snow shoes or better to get a modern pair like atlas or tubbs. I actually bought a pair of "yukon charlies" at Walmart and I like them better than my tubbs. They are excellent if the snow is not powder.

    I have a pair of 5 foot long Indian made, birch frame, caribou binding snowshoes that are extremely light. They are very hard to beat in the deep powder.

  4. #4

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    Snowshoes are fun and effective when they're well-designed for your needs. The shoes you have currently are none of these things.

    Retailers have deep discounts right now on snowshoes, because of the miserable early winter in the Northeast and the fact that the snowshoe buying season is virtually finished.

    Find someone who sells lots of snowshoes in your vicinity and tell them what you like to do. Look at the manufacturers' web sites -- Tubbs, Atlas, MSR, Northern Lights, etc.

    I guarantee you it can be a lot better than what you've experienced.

  5. #5
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    Default Magnesium shoes

    The ski's you have are pretty decent for the $$$. I got to spend much time in them when I was in the military. They are a compromise of course. The bindings are a pain. You can replace them as mentioned with the rubber slip over kind. You can even make them easily out of an old inner tube, but be careful not to make any nicks in the cuts or they will tear. In any event replacement bindings are very inexpensive.
    The magnesium design was for weight, but they can also "allegedly" function as fire starting material in a survival situation. I have never done that but thats what was preached.
    One can never do, with one pair of snowshoes anymore than one can do with one rifle.... or fishing rod.... etc..

    reuben...

  6. #6

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    You are going to start seeing a lot of these showing up in the surplus stores now, the military has recently changed to MSR Denali snowshoes, They are nice, compact but can break pretty easily when jumped in. I do like the though.
    Steve

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    Smile Experienced with snowshoes...or as my kid sister says...older than dirt!

    I have been on snowshoes for fifty years. You do not want the tails chopped off, or they totally cease to function. If you want that, find a pair of Green Mountain Bear Paws and go for it...as they have no tails. They also are like the lousy aluminum shoes though, in that they do not provide much flotation for bigger guys on powder snow. The newer aluminum shoes are not good snowshoes, and ironically, they do not hold up nearly as well as the rawhide leather and ash models. I have four pairs of the top of the line Sherpa shoes, and they all need restringing. They simply do not age well at all...and yet are newer than my wooden models...some of which are WW II vintage and still perfectly functional.

    Maintenance involves spraying the shoes with the bindings removed, every other year, with spar varnish.

    I prefer the tubbs style...commonly called the improved "A" style bindings. I have use the inner tube ones, but they simply are not enough to hold your foot properly for a long extended day in the woods. The inner tube bindings are easy on and easy off, but that is where the advantages stop. The other styles have their own advantages, but over all...give me the tubbs bindings from the seventies. Over water, where you may fall through, the old fashioned "H" bindings are nice, as they kick free if you fall through a beaver air hole or the like. I personally have fallen through numerous times, but catch myself before my body goes all the way through anyway...so from my vantage point it is not a big issue, whereas over a stream, it just may prove to be problematic. I do not make it a habit to cross streams in winter...unless it is small and shallow. It is far too easy to bridge your shoes by doing so, and damage them. The risk of drowning is also omnipresent.

    The best all around shoes are the wood and leather alaskan styles...usually 10" by 56" for men or 10" by 48" for women (though they did make freighter shoes that were both wider and longer...for heavy loads in powder). They provide the best flotation and are the easiest to use. If you use the wider shoes, you will find yourself stepping on the shoes as you walk. If I am in thick woods, I tie a leather thong to the back of the alaskan shoes, and tie that to either the back of my belt...or a belt loop. That allows you to back out of tight places easily.

    Michigan...Huron...and regular Bear Paw shoes, are just plain too wide to be functional, and you will tip over frequently, by stepping on your own shoes. The gait with those shoes is also unnatural...your legs are spread far too wide for comfort. I have never actually used the ojibwa syle shoes, so have not a clue how well they work. With ojibwas that have the front rounded up...and are not totally flat, I suspect they would likely work well.

    One more caveat...beware your dog(s).... They invariaby walk on your snowshoes as you go, and it results in an instant snow bath. My samoyeds are notorious for it...but I would not ever leave them at home anyway. It just goes with the turf.

    Beware the "canadian" and "indian" shoes, as they generally are a cheaper knock off, of the good quality Maine shoes from years back, and they look better on the wall, than they are functional on your feet. You cannot beat the Snowcrafters...the Tubbs-Vermont...the FN co. from Maine, or the Iverson shoes from the UP of michigan (where I am...with 350 plus inches of annual snowfall). LL Bean had shoes also, but never made their own...most were the Tubbs-Vermont.

    The aluminum newer style of shoes, are simply not made for the real sport of snowshoeing, and have not withstood the test of time. I call them city kid's toys.

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    Thanks for all the advice. I'm afraid while waiting for your replies, I already cut the tails off the shoes. But frankly, I haven't had any problems going in a straight direction, and I think I can turn a little better without the tails digging in.

    You've said snowshoes work better on hard packed snow. Well, I can walk a lot quicker and with less effort in boots on hard packed snow. And for soft snow, the shoes seem to offer zero flotation. That's why I considered filling the gaps between thw wires with webbing. Maybe I am too heavy for the shoes?

    Can someone tell me where to buy those aftermarket bindings?

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    The bindings are sold by Iversons, and are called the Super AA bindings.

    http://www.iversonssnowshoes.com/ind...d&productId=41

    Real snowshoes work on deep powder.

  10. #10
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    keep the tails, they are magnesium and light good waterproof firestarting material.

    If you cant stand behind the troops in Iraq.. Feel free to stand in front of them.

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    Cutting the tail off of a pair of the "michigan" style shoes was not the best idea. The "green mountain bear paws" and the regular "bear paws", each have the strut you walk on (and where the binding is attached) further forward, such that the entire back of the shoe works as a tail. Neither of them is really very effective with a 225# man on them and in deep powder snow...and I am reasonably sure you are finding the same to be true of the military magnesium shoes...with or without the tail.

    Get a good pair of the snowshoes made in Maine, and get them in the wooden and rawhide "Alaskan" style. Use the minimum 10" by 56" sizes, and I suspect you will be totally amazed at how well they work, especially compared to the magnesium military style "michigan" snowshoes, with the tails cut off.

    They did also make wood and rawhide shoes in a "freighter" style "alaskan"...for carrying heavy packs over powder snow. These shoes tended to be 60 inches long and generally are 12 inches wide. The regular alaskans are the best to walk on though, and they definitely provide significantly more floatation than any of the aluminum shoes out there. Been there and done that.

    If I am going to be traveling far and long, I always wrap some additional latigo hide on the frame of the shoes, as you never know when you may have to make the necessary repairs, just to get back out again.

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    Thanks! I'll check them out!

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    I saved the tails. Filed some dust off them. The dust burns, but I'd hate to depend on them to start a fire.

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    Thanks for your suggestion. The Alaskan style look pretty neat. I wonder though, how good would they be in the woods like we have in upstate NY. Lots of roots, sticks and rocks sticking out of the ground. That's why I tend to try and lift my military snow shoes completely off the ground rather than allow the tails to drag.

    I should probably go on a diet. I'm 220 lbs with all my gear.

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    The redfeather, the Torpedo, and the Faber shoes, are cheap junk...plain and simple. The inference is, if they come from canada, they must be good. Caveat Emptor. There is a bit of a science to making snowshoes properly, The good older wooden Maine shoes from Tubbs Vermont or Snowcrafters work so much better, and once you have them, they will serve you for decades. Take a pair out for a day, and you will never go back to the pretenders.

    Magnesium is a very bright flame, but I question also, if they actually will function as fire starters. I have burned a lot of magnesium ribbon over the yesrs, and though is is showy, I do not think that depending on Mg shavings to start fire is very practical.

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    The woods we hunted snowshoe hares in, were wicked, but the "alaskans" handled them all with aplomb, and I can honestly say, that I never had any issues with them. Tying the thong to the back of the shoes in heavy cover, really does work quite well.

    I have you by 45#, and they work for me.

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    You know, I imagine it would be a good thing to learn where you can buy the good shoes...and that is on eBay.
    The people selling them usually know less about them than the people buying them, but if you shop a bit, you will find that which you seek.

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    Don't know about the other makes you mentioned, but I have two pair of Faber trail shoes, a 10X56 and a 12X60. One pair had to have the babiche repaired, after a broken sapling went through on a fall. The frames have never wimpered, in spite of a lot of tough going, some of it with very heavy loads.

    Maintenance, drying, and spar varnish, and they are still going strong after almost forty years.

    Ted

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    The design and the execution for the canadian shoes, vs the quality Maine made shoes, is not even remotely comparable.

    You like what you have, and that is good, but no way are the Faber shoes on a par with Snowcrafters, Tubbs-Vermont, the FN co., or even the Iverson snow shoes.

    Likewise the mass produced newer canadian shoes are not nearly as good as the older models. It does not take a trained eye to see the difference either. Before you piurchase, just ask for a picture showing the side view, and you will see my point.

    Have you ever used them...so you can actually compare? I have.

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    Have used the Fabers, as I said, for almost forty years. From -65F to melting, soaking-wet snow, over rocks and bridging logs, they have never missed a beat, with the one exception mentioned above.

    I probably got the only two good pairs they made.

    Your experience with the ones you like is, no doubt similar, and that is good! If you really want to try amazing shoes, strap on a pair of Teslin tight weaves. Nothing touches them for bouyancy or speed.

    Ted

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