Wednesday, March 9, 2011

bmatt's First Snowshoeing Trip, by bmatt, and American Bushcrafter in Finland

Today in the News:  bmatt returns!  As always, great practical writing and amazing photographs.  Thanks for sharing!

Bernard Ten Bears Link of the Day: -  Maine Military Supply has traps and genuine U.S. military MRE's - they have the heaters, tp, matches, gum, hotsauce, etc. that the civilian MRE's don't have.

bmatt’s First Snowshoeing Trip

Last Sunday, I was finally able to get out into the forest to test one of my newest acquisitions: US military surplus snowshoes. These shoes were purchased from a military surplus store here in Finland, and I paid the equivalent of about USD $100, though I believe you can get them in the States for about $40 (at any rate, $100 is still far less than one would pay for newly-produced, good-quality snowshoes).

First a little info on the shoes. They were made in Canada for the US military and are stamped “1979”. The frame is a magnesium alloy coated in white urethane, the webbing is plastic-sheathed steel cable and the bindings are some sort of plastic webbing with metal clasps. They are about 45” long, have an up-turned toe and weigh about 5.25 pounds together. As I understand it, the design of these shoes is based on Native American Indian/First Nations snowshoes, specifically the Michigan pattern.

When I first opened the box, it struck me how long these shoes really are. I understand why many folks cut off about 6” of the tail before using them (I think I’ll be doing this as well). The instructions that come with the bindings are a joke if you are not familiar with bindings like these (there’s better information available on the Internet, just do a Google search). I managed to get the bindings fitted properly and headed out.

Fortunately, we had some of the best weather we’ve had in a while that day: sunny skies and 28*F. Warm enough to be pleasant, but not so warm that everything would be a soggy mess. I started out hiking in my regular boots in a few inches of snow on the plowed road until I reached the road I’d have to use the tennis rackets, uh, I mean snowshoes, on. That road was plowed several months ago, but because of wind and subsequent snowfall, was covered by about as much snow as the surrounding forest. After strapping into my new shoes, I headed down the snow-covered road. I was pleased to find that I was only sinking in about 4 – 6 inches on a full 3 feet of snow! My 36” Council Tool Jersey axe is almost completely covered and was bottomed out in the picture.

If you’re accustomed to wearing skis, which I’m not, you’ll probably be fine in these shoes. I had two very clumsy and awkward falls during the first 10 minutes and learned two very important things: Don’t try to be fast and don’t try to be agile. Slow and steady wins the race. It didn’t take long before I had the hang of it and was striding along. I hiked about 20 minutes on the road and then another 10 minutes on very uneven terrain in the forest until I reached my campsite with the lavvu I set up in January (looks like it’s holding up pretty well). This was followed by another 10 minutes around the forest and back to my camp site. Then I repeated the 10 minutes back to the road and the 20 minutes back to the cleared road for a grand total of 1 hr. 10 min. on the shoes.

Well, I didn’t do it exactly like that. I did some bucking and splitting of a dead tree I remembered seeing on a previous trip. I kept the shoes on while doing this work, and repeatedly got tripped up because of the long tails. They’ll have to go. This should make it much easier to maneuver when doing tasks like this.

Overall, I’d have to give these shoes an 8 out of 10. They seem to be bomb-proof, yet are not overly heavy. They shed snow well and kept my 200+ pounds afloat. The bindings aren’t perfect, but they worked well enough and stayed put. These snowshoes can be a bit awkward because of the extra length, but that can be fixed. I’m very pleased I bought these shoes and look forward to much freer and less-exhausting winter hiking in the future!
As always, fantastic writing and great pictures!  Thanks, bmatt.  Can't wait to see the follow up when you trim them down.  I'd also like to see their magnesium properties exploited, if you know what I mean. ;)
Stay tuned next week.  bmatt will be bringing us on a journey of refinishing the double bit axe head that he won here on The Sharpened Axe.  I've already read it and what I can tell you is that it is very cool.  I can't wait to try bmatt's rust removal method.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel......out.


  1. Nothing like a good hike in the snow to help you enjoy a crackling fire on the hearth.

  2. You said it, GS!


  3. I have not seen snow that deep here for 20 years! More is the pitty!!!
    Great images.

  4. I have been considering something like these for over a year now. About $40 online from Glad to see that they aren't a complete rip-off, it's just to bad we only get 1-6 inches of snow here now(used to be 1-2 feet). Can't wait to see how they work without the tails.

  5. TWT, I think the shoes will probably work just as well without the tails, but only testing will tell. The tails can't possibly provide any support. The only use I can think of is for sticking them upright in the snow when you're not wearing them! ;)