Finished snowshoe

Frequently Asked Questions

Homemade Snowshoes

Q: Are they one size fits all or do have a size for an adult?
A: We use the same size for Scouts (11-18) and adults.

There is some adjustability designed in:

  1. The front piece of the webbing has 2 sets of holes (you could add another hole between them). For most boots, the shorter front piece works best, and for boots with a really big toe, go with the longer set of holes.
  2. The decking has 3 sets of holes at the heel so you can adjust where the heel rests (start out short for small feet and move back as they grow)
  3. The heel strap is long enough for most boots, and tightens through the ladder-loc for shorter boots. For very big boots, you might want to make the long piece even a few inches longer.
  4. For really large boots, you may also want to enlarge the toe hole in the decking just a little.

Q: Will these snowshoes accommodate a boot that is 12.5" in length?
A: Yes - See above answer.

Q: What is the approximate cost per pair?
A: It varies, depending on what quantities you are buying and what kind of deals you can get. Also, the metal foot and heel plates can be expensive if you have to pay to have someone make them.

When I was buying the supplies "in bulk" several years ago and getting the aluminum for the foot plates donated, they were costing about $15/pair. A couple years ago, buying smaller quantities of supplies and paying $4 for the set of metal parts, they ran about $23/pair.

Q: Are the snowshoes fairly durable, or does the PVC tend to break after a while?
A: We originally made some snowshoes (a different pattern) with lighter pvc, and we did break several of those. We've made over a hundred pairs of these using the schedule 40 pipe and I've never seen a frame broken in the 14+ years we've been using them (we've even used them for snowshoe races and obstacle courses at Klondike).

We made one pair out of schedule 80 (grey) pvc for a very large leader, and it worked great, but it was quite a bit heavier.

I've worn mine on 40 campouts and many hikes over the past 14 years. I'm careful to wear them only on snow and not on hard surfaces (ie like parking lots or hard-packed trails) because the heel plates get bent (but I can fix that with a pair of pliers). The cord is getting a bit frayed on the bottom, so I should replace that one of these years.

Note - if you try to use a regular drill bit to drill the hole for the rods, it can catch and chip/crack the frame at the hole, greatly reducing the strength and making it likely to break at that point.

Q: Did you make your own foot and heel pieces / spikes, or did you have them fabricated?
A: We've done both. When I had access (at work) to a shop with sheet metal tools, we did our own. One year we worked with a local community college (they had an outdoor class which built the snowshoes).

We have also had local metal fabrication shops do them. One was a big supporter of Scouting and did them for free one year. Another shop gave us a great deal which worked out to about $3 per pair. I checked with them in 2010 about getting some made for resale at cost to other Troops, and they gave me a quote of $11.50/pair if I'd buy 100 sets (pretty expensive investment - I decided not to do that).

If you do your own, you definitely want to use the right tools - sheet metal punches and breaks (for bending). It would be a huge amount of work with a hacksaw, drill, bench vise, etc.

If anyone comes across a shop which would be willing to supply them at a reasonable price, please let me know and we'll publish their contact info.

Q: I can't find the deck material (Deck - .06" HDPE) around here (Montana, Utah, ...) Where do you buy it?
A: I live in a city of about 60,000 but still had to go to Denver (about an hour away) to get the plastic at a plastics supplier. Regal Plastics has distributors in major cities. They are a wholesaler, but were willing to sell me the sheet material since it was for a Scout project. You might need to check with more than one plastics company in the nearest big city. The 4x8 sheets are bulky so I'd expect that shipping charges would be high. Try to find someone who is going to the city to pick up the sheets of plastic. The sheets will bend, and several (4 or 5) can be tied into a big roll (about 3' diameter) and transported in any vehicle.

  • Regal Plastics Supply Co
    5265 South Rio Grande Street
    Littleton, CO 80120-1002
    (303) 794-9800
  • Professional Plastics
    5885 Stapleton Drive North
    Unit C-313
    Denver, CO 80216
    tel: 800-453-3502
    tel: 303-355-0138
    fax: 303-331-9816
I did a google search and didn't find any in Montana, but it looks like Spokane or Salt Lake City might have some. One online company has 4'x8' sheets for $26 and will ship it, but I don't know how much the shipping is:

We got 18-20 pieces (for 9-10 pair of snowshoes) out of each 4x8 sheet.

Q: I don't think the scale came out right when I printed the various plans. What are the actual sizes of the snowshoes, webbing, frame bending form?
A:The dimensions on the Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 plan for the form are correct - each page represents about 10" for an overall length a little over 30".

The finished showshoe is 29" long. The decking is 26 3/4" long.

On the webbing plan, the top-left piece is an even 8 inches long.

Q: The decking appears to taper toward the back, but the frame form gets wider?
A: The snowshoe tapers toward the back, so the decking tapers to the back. The frame pattern is deliberately "spread", but the frame will also taper toward the back once the tails are cut and glued into the 45 ell.

Q: Do you have to-scale template for the decking material?
A: Yes - we now have a template for the decking (thanks to Jeff Plank).

Q: Does this size snow shoe work well in light powder for adults, say 220 lbs or so, or would you recommend making them slightly longer?
At 10" wide and 30" long, they have quite a bit more surface area than most commercial snowshoes. I had used a longer, narrower style for several years. They worked well for traveling, but were very awkward in camp when we were winter camping - it was hard to get "up to" the stove, etc, and quite difficult to turn around.

I designed these as a cross between the even rounder bearpaw style and the long ones. I chose a tradeoff which is usable by younger scouts 11-12 years old, but which would still work as they grew. We went for the larger surface area just so we could do winter backpacking here in Colorado where we also get deep powdery snow. Note - we also often use sleds for hauling our gear when winter camping so we don't have the full weight of the heavier gear in our backpacks.

The size should be fine for Varsity scouts and most adults. Larger adults in deeper lighter snow may want/need more area. In the deepest snow, someone else may need to break trail. Have the heavier adults rent snowshoes to determine how big they need before deciding. If you do decide to rework the plans to make them longer or wider, let me know how it works out.

Q: Do you have a plan for smaller version?
A: I only have plans for one size. We made them larger than many of the popular "recreational" snowshoes because we go winter camping (including short backpacking/sled trips) in deep snow in the Colorado mountains and we need the "flotation".

Q: It takes two 10' lengths of pipe per pair. That is a lot of waste?
A: We were usually able to get the pvc in 20' lengths from a plumbing supply, so we could get 3 pieces out of that, but it seems it has been harder to find anything but 10' the past couple years.

Someone asked about making a smaller version (so they could get 2 snowshoes out of a 10' piece of PVC). I suggested that he could try scaling the plans to 90% of the original size (or shortening the sides by 3") and shifting the location of the foot support rod forward a little. I have not heard if he tried it or how it turned out.

Q: Pipe - did you ever use grey electrical conduit?
A: The grey conduit I found around here was heavier (schedule 80?) than the standard pvc pipe (schedule 40), so the snowshoes would be awfully heavy to wear (you want your snowshoes to be strong but light). We haven't had any breakage of the standard schedule 40 frames (see note above).

We used the heavier grey conduit one time for extra strength for a pair for an adult leader who weighed about 250. Note - We had to fill it with hot sand, wait a couple minutes, dump that out and fill it again with more hot sand to heat it enough to bend it.

Q: Have you considered aluminum frames?
A:I checked into that, but it looked like they would be a lot more expensive and it took some very specialized tools to bend the aluminum without messing it up.

Q: Have you tried an electrician's "hot box" for heating/bending the frames?
A:Yes - I have heard from troops that used that approach. The report is that it took longer to heat each piece than the "hot sand" approach, but it worked. The "hot box" would be fastest/easiest if you are only making a few pair at a time.
Because of all the setup time for the hot sand method, we usually bent enough frames for several years as long as we were doing them.

Q: Is the webbing flat or tubular and is it nylon, poly?
A: I use flat nylon webbing.

Q: Would you consider selling "kits" that had all of the parts to assemble these snowshoes?
A: Sorry, I just don't have the time to do that now. I've been trying to use up my supply of parts over the past couple years. If I hear of someone who is willing to do that, I'll post their contact info on the web page.

Q: Is it possible to purchase a sample pair from your troop?
A: Sorry - I don't have any extras to sell, and I'm no longer with the Troop.

Last Updated Friday, 20-Dec-2013 19:51:34 CST