Snowshoers know the importance of maintaining their unique footwear. Both the traditional wood-framed classic styles and the modern, high-tech models have their own specific needs to keep them in sustainable, serviceable condition. Let’s look at the basic care needs and applications for each type:
Traditional: Ash wood frames laced with rawhide webbing. These snowshoes have changed very little over hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years of use. Ash is a strong, sturdy but manageable wood to use for bending and stressing while rawhide is strong and plentiful. Combined, they form the perfect pairing of frame and webbing needed to support the wearer over snow.
Keeping these snowshoes in good shape requires a few simple tasks:
1) Always clean off the shoes (soap and water) after use and prior to any applied treatments;
2) Sand down any scratches, spurs or other surface issues on the frame using 120 grit sandpaper;
3) Dust off frame and apply two separate coats (allow first to dry thoroughly) of a quality marine spar varnish;
4) Replace laces, straps on traditional leather bindings as needed;
5) Apply quality waterproofing (Neatsfoot Oil, Sno-Seal, saddle soap) to all leather binding components.
Modern: Utilizing high-tech materials (aluminum framing with neoprene decking and synthetic component bindings), ‘modern’ snowshoes take the concept of the traditional style to different design levels that take advantage of the newer materials. Stout frames can support heavier decking, either neoprene webbing to mimic the traditional styles or more often a solid surface decking that provides similar support but at smaller overall frame dimensions – making these snowshoes smaller but no less efficient.
The maintenance on modern shoes is quite basic:
1.) Cleaning out debris, etc. from the mechanical areas of bindings, latches, etc;
2.) Checking other buckles and straps for wear.
Traditional Shoes are basically one cohesive unit, the frame and lashing literally intertwined to form the body of the snowshoe. Most cracks in frames can be fixed through splint repairs or perhaps glue in some minor instances. Sections of webbing can often be rewoven. Major breaches in the frame/webbing, however, may necessitate a complete re-lacing of the frame altogether.
Traditional rawhide webbing can be usually be patched with sections of rawhide. Some shoes have wooden frames but use neoprene or nylon webbing for decking. Sections of those materials can also be used for repairs.
A temporary field/short term fix to keep webbing taunt is to use a cable/zip tie (keep a variety of lengths in your field kit)
On traditional, old-style leather lace-up bindings, you can use 550 paracord for replacing lacings if you have grommeted lacing eyes, otherwise it can ‘saw’ beyond the edge of the unprotected hole, expanding or cutting through the surrounding leather.
Modern Shoes frames can become bent, creased or otherwise compromised, too. They can be splinted (using quality duct tape/hose clamp) depending on the location and extent of damage. Breaks/rips in the neoprene decking make be temporarily fixed using cable ties as well, again depending upon where it’s located and how extensive the damage is. Duct tape can sometimes be used to repair neoprene/synthetic decking to help maintain decking support (surface needs to be dry and clean for duct tape to adhere properly).
Whether you routinely inspect your snowshoes throughout winter or as a relaxing chore in the middle of summer (good for drying that spar varnish), snowshoe maintenance is a key part of enjoying that sport when the season comes around again.