Gear Talk, The Lowdown

Snowshoes: Wood vs. Aluminum

February 28, 2011


Minnesota has snow this season, lots of the white stuff. Going out and breaking trail in your boots will be hard work, and you might find some snow as deep as your waist. Snowshoes are your best bet to get out and enjoy hiking through the powder.

You have two primary choices to make when deciding upon a pair of snowshoes: wood vs. aluminum in the make up of the frame.  Wood will then have rawhide or neoprene lacing and aluminum shoes will have a vinyl body section, which provides flotation over the snow.

First, let’s look at aluminum shoes. The advantages of aluminum shoes are they lightweight and smaller than their wooden cousins. The smaller size makes them a better choice for tight spaces like heavily wooded areas. Many aluminum shoes will also have a crampon on the sole of the shoe designed for traction in the hills and slopes of the western U.S.

The disadvantages of aluminum shoes are primarily durability; in extremely cold temperatures the vinyl can become brittle and crack or break. Additionally, many users have found wooden shoes can take more bending or flexing over uneven ground or rocks. And lastly, those crampons have a tendency to collect slush and freeze into a ball on the sole of your shoe.

Second, let’s look at the advantages of wooden snowshoes. Wood shoes are more traditional and date back many years. We all have been to a cabin or outpost where there is a pair of wooden shoes, most likely Iverson Snowshoes, hanging on the wall. They are larger than their aluminum counterparts thereby providing more flotation and making crossing of wide, flat, open areas easier. They are perfect for the dry, light snow of the Midwest. And very well suited for the extreme cold of Minnesota.

The disadvantage of the wooden shoe is that they are heavier than an aluminum shoe, and are generally more expensive.

Best bet is to come to the Duluth Pack store in Canal Park, where there are plenty of snowshoes to choose from, and have one of the extremely knowledgeable staff help you with your choice.

Above all, get out there and enjoy all that snow.

Post By: Brad Putney - Captain Brad Putney considers himself an inland waters guru, having been at the helm of everything from a ten foot inflatable to an America’s Cup yacht. In the summer the Captain works as an outfitter in Ely and is presently a sales associate at Duluth Pack in Canal Park.



  • Takashi Isaka March 4, 2011 at 3:33 am

    Hello Duluth Pack!!

    I live in Nagano Japan.
    Nagano has snow this season too.
    Snowshoes:Wood vs Aluminum・・・・
    Of course, my answer is “Wood” snowshoes.
    I have two Iverson snowshoes, Green Mountain and Cross Country.
    My favorite style is “Wood snowshoe, canvas anorak,blanket shirt,voyageur’s toque,plunge mitts and “Duluth Pack #51 Utility Pack”
    I like these traditional style very much.
    When I master these for snow hiking, I have a nice holiday.
    Thank Duluth Pack & Iverson Snoeshoes!!

  • Randy Fischer March 19, 2011 at 9:50 am


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