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Fitting snowshoe bindings...

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So I'm back in snowshoe country, and lately the warmer weather (above zero, some sun) has me hankering to get back into the woods. As it happens, though, I haven't used my snowshoes in 40 years, and the bindings were never satisfactory. They're the old type, with a leather "cup" for the front of the foot, and a leather strap which feeds through it to anchor the cup to the webbing, and which buckles around the back of the boot. They also have a short piece of leather the strap threads through, which goes across the toe of the boot to keep the strap from slipping down off the boot.

I've found that buckling the strap around the back of the boot is problematic; not only is it difficult to reach and buckle while you're standing on the snowshoes, but the buckle never seems to set the right tightness. Further, this arrangement was never built for feet my size; when you open the cup wide enough to get my boot in roughly the right position, the strap actually comes off at or below the sole, which isn't going to work as designed. Further, the leather cross-piece is then way too short.

I did some web research on bindings. I can spend over $50 and get some contemporary bindings which should work better, but I also learned that you can tie on a pair of snowshoes just with parachute cord. Here I'm using a bootlace to experiment with ways of using the current leather cup (I'll make new ones if I have to, but I need to know how I'm going to mount them) which will allow me to use cord but end up with a binding which ties across the toe, doesn't slip down on the heel, and produces minimum waggle in the mount to the webbing.

These are 10" x 58" "Adirondack" pattern snowshoes, and are about the minimum size to carry someone of my weight. At my height, they're fairly nimble. If I'm willing to spend some money, I can get some which have better "float", have contemporary easy-on bindings, and are easier to maintain, but I kinda like these older ones!
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Thanks for the great (and technical) reply, dondi. We can always learn new stuff, especially from folks like you.


Boy Oh Boy I never thought about all that... But then I never own a pair either....


I had no idea that snowshoes were so technical, too!


Yes, plumpossum, these are rawhide webbing, which means they need coat of varnish every year (well, every year they're used) - both to protect the wood and to keep the rawhide from absorbing water. When you wet rawhide, it gets pliable and stretchy; in fact, that's how they lace them - wet - and when they dry, it shrinks to create webbing tight as a drum. But rawhide is also attractive to squirrels and similar critters for gnawing; the varnish helps, but you need to be cautious where you store them. A pair of my fathers, stored on the rafters of the barn, now need a repair because of the squirrel who inhabits the area (and leaves partially eaten walnuts all over).

PH, glad to hear your ice cleats worked well. Mine, too - I needed them again last week, clearing snow over ice, and I didn't notice any instability at all; I could go anywhere without thinking about it. But if you like my snowshoes, you should see my father's! A set of bearpaw and two sets of Adirondack pattern at least a generation older then mine, and absolutely gorgeous workmanship! When I get mine in shape, I'll work on conditioning his.

Yes, jyl, I did a bit of research on older ways of binding (and making) snowshoes - in fact, I have a pattern for making simple "Indian" wooden snowshoes. The lacing pattern I'm working from is a variant of an early method of lacing on snowshoes; part of the difference was that they laced over moccasins or mukluks, while I have rigid boots. And the leather "cups" are more stable mounts, if I can adapt them. But these snowshoes *are* basically the Canadian style, designed to work deep snow while carrying weight (e.g. trappers), with the binding design which has been used for well over 100 years. New materials developments in the second half of the 20th century have resulted in a variety of modifications ranging from aluminum frames to artificial-fiber rope webbing to neoprene shoe cups to snap-together web bindings. Someone like Maine Guide Snowshoes ( now make snowshoes which are probably better for my size, require less maintenance, and are easier to use, but I like the old ones.


How interesting, dondi. I never thought or knew that snowshoes were so technical. I guess they have to be up to doing the right job. We need paddles over here in England UK instead of snow shoes at the moment!


My dad had snowshoes very much like these. I believe the webbing was rawhide.


Your snowshoes are incredible, Don! Although it sounds like they present a few challenges, they are the real thing. I have a newer pair that I use, but yours look like the way to go!

By the way....we used the ice cleats on our "outdoor sandals" (don't ask) the other day. The driveway was a sheet of ice. It's the first time we used them, and they WORKED!!!


Love your puzzles, Dondi. Thanks for them; they make us think. Have you considered researching Native American and Canadian snowshoes? Their designs tend to be practical and reliable.

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