Walking through snow, let me rephrase that … trudging through snow is exhausting and the deeper the snow, the bigger the energy drain. A mere 100 yard walk through 2 foot deep snow requires the equivalent energy of running half a marathon. Worse yet if the snow is wet or you’re like me, and not in very good shape, the cost can be higher. Dying of a heart attack, exhaustion or hypothermia is not an option. Even if you already own a pair of commercial snowshoes, let’s learn another survival skill. This is your guide on how to build primitive snow shoes and glide across the snow instead of being engulfed in it.
You’re going to need that skill if you want to survive in the snow for any length of time.
- Bend two thin, flexible branches into tear-drop shapes. Tie the ends to hold their shape.
- Lay a branch across the middle of the snowshoe outline. Tie each end of the branch to the frame using an “X” pattern.
- Lay three cross pieces onto the snowshoe perpendicular to the middle branch. Tie these the same way, adding a third connection where the cross pieces meet the center branch.
- Insert smaller branches into the snowshoe by weaving through the cross pieces, similar to how a wicker basket is put together. These pieces do not need to be tied.
- Place your boot on the top side of the snowshoe. Cut an appropriate length of cord to use as a binding and tie it to both sides of a cross piece where it fits over your foot. The hold should be snug.
Keep in mind when in a crisis situation staying calm can at times save your life. Don’t know how to build a snow shoe? Remember what you’re trying to do, spread the weight around. Then locate natural materials which will allow you to do that.
It’s important to understand what you’re trying to accomplish when building a primitive snow shoe because there’s hundreds of different techniques, some very complicated .. some extremely simple. A snow shoe is based on the science of weight distribution over a specified area.
Like that little “Einstein” moment? It simply means spreading your weight out over an area bigger than your feet. Instead of all your weight being concentrated over your 2 feet, which causes you to sink into the snow, it’s spread out allowing you to glide over the top of the snow without breaking through.
There are three basic types and methods of making primitive snowshoes:
Brush snowshoes: As the name refers the shoes are constructed from green bows of brush, and are weaved together by smaller branches and tied together with cordage. Foot holders can be made from birch bark, clothing, poplar bark or cordage.
Cordage snowshoes: Start with bent willows, and create a flat webbing. Or heavy fiber rope as a woven “spider web”.
Sledge snowshoes: Using two long alders, and a couple of smaller ones to open them up. Then make the cordage weaving for the inner supports. You can use grass cordage bindings as the inner supports or foot attachments.
Required Material: Although relatively simple in construction a few items are required. Some variety of cordage such as string, para-cord, shoe laces or twined grass. A sharp knife is imperative. Live, green and easily bendable branches are a must.
Elementary Construction Steps:
- Step One: Cut two pine boughs with ample foliage to about 3 feet (1 m) long.
- Step Two: Tie a string near the base of the branch, where you cut it, flip the branch over and tie an overhand knot on the opposite side.
- Step Three: Place the branch so that the side that faces upward when the branch is on the tree, is face down in the snow, with the foliage bending upward. Step on it, tie the string to your shoe, and thread the line through the shoelace eyelets.
Walk normally across the snow. Your boot will automatically come up from the branch when you walk, which will keep you from sinking into the snow.