What’s a good pair of snowshoes for day hiking?

I looking to purchase a pair of snowshoes and wondering what length/style I should get. I'm five-foot, 11-inchess tall, and weigh about 180 pounds. I most likely will be using the shoes primarily for day hikes so I would probably be wearing a daypack and possibly carrying my skis. Scott Garvin Boston, Massachusetts

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Buying snowshoes is a pretty imprecise art. Sure, you can look at snowshoe specs and estimate your weight and typical pack and go from there. In your case, the starting point would be 180, plus let’s say 25 for a daypack and skis. Add a big breakfast, say two eggs, bacon and pancakes, about two more pounds. Call it 210. In the Atlas Trail Adventure snowshoe, a good mid-range snowshoe, that would be the model 833 ($175), which is recommended for 175-250 pounds of cargo. The Tubbs 30, with comparable capacity, is $250 and has a little nicer binding setup.

The wild card is the kind of snow on which you anticipate hiking. Here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s usually pretty heavy and wet, so a big snowshoe isn’t always necessary. In the Rockies, where you get dry powder, a big snowshoe is necessary. What do you typically get? I haven’t hiked in New England in the winter, so I don’t know. But from what I’ve read, you tend to get a big snowfall that then freezes up and hardens for a few weeks. So you probably could get by with a snowshoe designed for 180 pounds or less capacity.

The fact is, years ago I bought a pair of Redfeather mid-sized snowshoes. I’ve used them for day hikes, for climbing Denali, for backpacking. I put them on, then deal with whatever snow conditions come up. The idea of having three or four pairs of snowshoes sitting around so you can tailor them to the load and the snow is, to me, ridiculous —- although snowshoe makers would no doubt like it.

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