How to Build Backcountry Snowshoes

boot in improvised snowshoe made out of lashed pine boughs

Traveling into the backcountry can be filled with fun, excitement, and adventure; however, it can also be very dangerous. Mother Nature can quickly turn an enjoyable afternoon hike into a life-threatening situation. An unexpected snowstorm in the mountains can bring a host of problems. With cold temperatures and low visibility, travel can become extremely difficult, if not impossible, due to deep snow.

When traveling over a snow-covered landscape, post-holing may occur. Post-holing is when an individual takes a step into deep snow and their leg drives down through the snow – sometimes even as deep as their upper thigh. When this transpires, every step becomes tiresome and can significantly increase travel time and physical exertion.

Having snowshoes increases the surface area of your footsteps. This increased surface area will decrease the chances of post-holing, permitting easier and quicker travel in and out of the backcountry.


2-3 Feet of Rope/Twine

2-3 Sticks or Small Tree Branches, cleaned of leaves and branches

2-3 Evergreen Tree Branches

Knife or Axe, for cutting

hand holding two pine branches


Begin by cutting two sticks chest height.

close-up detail of pine boughs lashed together with black cord


Use a shear lash to bind the tops of the sticks together.

man in green flannel coat holding lashed pine boughs in snowy wooded area


Find the center balance point of the sticks.

skeleton of pine branch snowshoes on snowy ground


Lash a crosspiece approximately 3 inches ahead (toward the lashing from step 2) of the balance point.



Lash a second crosspiece approximately 2 inches behind the balance point.

snow shoe skeleton of pine boughs lying on snowy ground


Pull the back of the two sticks together and shear lash them. This will create the frame of the snowshoe.

hand made snowshoe made of branches and pine needles laid on snowy ground


Stuff the frames full of evergreen branches – use extra rope or twine to secure if needed.

brown boot with hand made snowshoes made out of pine boughs lashed with cord
boot in improvised snowshoe made out of lashed pine boughs

STORY & IMAGES BY:Dan Wowak of Coalcracker Bushcraft

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