DIY Survival Snowshoes Efficient Winter Trekking & Survival

If you need to travel over deep snows, then you’ll need footwear to help you move. Here are a couple of links explaining how to make your own snowshoes.

Snowshoes work by distributing the weight of the person over a larger area so that the person’s foot does not sink completely into the snow, a quality called “flotation”

Snowshoeing is easy to learn and in appropriate conditions is a relatively safe and inexpensive recreational activity.

Quick Navigation

    What are Snowshoes
    Snowshoes for Survival
    Making Quick DIY Snowshoes
    Proper DIY Snowshoes

In the past, snowshoes were essential tools for fur traders, trappers and anyone whose life or living depended on the ability to get around in areas of deep and frequent snowfall, and they remain necessary equipment for forest rangers and others who must be able to get around areas inaccessible to motorized vehicles when the snow is deep.

What are Snowshoes?


Snowshoes were first invented by the native people of the artic to help them travel in the deep snow that they deal with year-round.  The goal is to walk on top of the snow instead of walking through it.

Snowshoes are designed to distribute your weight over a much larger area.  This means that the resistance of the larger snowshoes against the snow should keep you at or near the surface of the snow.

Since their invention, snowshoes have developed and evolved.  More and more, adventure seekers are wanting to get out into the deep snow to explore the winter wonderland.  Companies that manufacture hiking and climbing gear have used lighter and stronger materials to improve on the design of the snowshoe.

They also have redesigned them so there is even more surface area and resistance against the snow.  This means that moving in modern snowshoes is much easier than the primitive kind.  However, it takes some time to get used to walking in any snowshoes.

Why Use Snowshoes for Survival?

snow in the arctic

There are many environments that can be challenging for wilderness survival.  The arctic is one of the toughest.  The characteristics that make this area rough are low temperatures, high winds, a lack of food sources, frozen water sources, and deep snow.

However, you can find these characteristics in areas other than the arctic.  There are plenty of areas around the world outside of the arctic that can provide the challenge of deep snow. I live in the central Midwest and remember a few occasions on which we had about two feet of snow to wade through.

Any time the snow is more than about a foot deep, mobility is difficult.  You are already burning through calories shivering from the cold.  In addition, the food sources are limited so you are at a major calorie deficit.  When you have deeper snow, you end up ‘post holing’ as you walk.

This is the process of needing to completely lift your foot and leg out of the snow before stepping and shoving it back down into the snow.  The process is exhausting and easily burns four to five times the calories of normal walking in the snow.


The deeper the snow, the more calories you will burn.  In some extreme cases, you might even find yourself wading in the snow which is even tougher.

The only real solution for this issue is the use of snowshoes.  Unfortunately, in a wilderness survival scenario, people rarely have snowshoes with them.  This means you will have to use the natural resources around you to make your own.

If you take your time and build them right, your DIY snowshoes can save you thousands of calories and help you get where you are going quickly and efficiently. In this article, we will cover how snowshoes work and a few ways you can make your own in a survival situation.

Making Quick DIY Snowshoes from Natural Material

spruce trees in the winter
spruce tree is the best choice for DIY snowshoes

If you are in a hurry to get going and need some snowshoes, there is a quick way to throw them together in just a few minutes.  Even in the arctic, you should be able to find spruce trees with full boughs.

They do not lose their needles in the winter, so the boughs provide a great deal of surface area.  In this case, you are going to use all of the branches and needles on that spruce bough to provide resistance against the snow.

Cut or break off a bough at least four feet long with plenty of smaller branches.  Fold it back on itself to create a loop and tie it off where the two ends intersect.  You now have your general shape.

Next, you will need to create a crosspiece to attach your foot.  You can tie sticks across the center of the loop, or you can just wrap cordage between the two sides.  Just get it stable enough that you can hold your crosspiece and the rest of the snowshoe does not move too much.  Finally, place your foot on the crosspiece and lash them together.

Wrap under the crosspiece, over your foot, under the crosspiece, around your heel, under the crosspiece, around your ankle, and tie it off.  They will not be pretty and will be cumbersome walking but should provide plenty of surface area to help you stay at the surface of the snow.

How to Make Proper DIY Snowshoes

If you have a few hours to make a higher quality pair of snowshoes, you will have a finished product that is lighter and less bulky.  It will also hold up better over time.  Start with four bendy branches about five to six feet long. Strip off any addition branches from them so they are clean and straight.

Just like in the example above, bend them back on themselves to create a loop and tie them off where the two ends intersect.  Place one loop on top of a second loop for one snowshoe and do the same for the other.  The idea is that you will weave cordage between these two loops to create a mesh in the middle.  You can use any kind of cordage such as vines, twine, wire, or paracord.

DIY snowshoes
DIY Snowshoes – Taken from Far North Bushcraft And Survival

Start by weaving horizontally across the narrow part of the loop.  To hold the two loops together and hold each crosshatch in place, you will want to switch how you string across the frame each time.  For example, for the first one, you can go over the top loop and back through the middle.

For the next to go under the bottom loop and back through the middle.  For the third go-around both loops.  Continue this rotation as far towards the top as you can without the cordage slipping off of the end and tie it off.

Then, go back in a perpendicular direction and do the same thing.  However, this time you are going to weave above and below the original strands creating a king of woven checkerboard.

DIY Snowshoes - Taken from Far North Bushcraft And Survival
DIY Snowshoes – Taken from Far North Bushcraft And Survival

As a final step on your weaving work, you will want to tie the two frames tightly together in several places.  This will hold everything together.  If you find that you are having issues keeping the woven structure in place, there is another option.  You can start over and tie each strand onto the frame before weaving across.

If you use the right knot, this can potentially hold the strand in place better than just using the pressure from the weave. I suggest a clove hitch.  You can also use the original method suggested but can loop the cordage around the frame a few times each time you reach the frame.  This also will do a better job of holding everything in place

DIY snowshoes
DIY Snowshoes – Taken from Far North Bushcraft And Survival

Your final step will be to attach the snowshoes to your feet.  You should not need a crosspiece as the weave should give you a good structure for attachment.  However, if you want the snowshoe to be more solid against your feet you can lash a few branches across the frame for a more solid structure.

Either way, you want to attach cordage to the snowshoe.  Then wrap over your foot, behind your heel, and around your ankle.  Get it as tight as possible so there is little chance of the snowshoe coming off.  You should now be ready to start hiking.

DIY Snowshoes - Taken from Far North Bushcraft And Survival

I know this all seems like a great deal of work, but you can be sure it is worth it.   Just spend a few minutes walking around in the deep snow and you will be ready for another option.

That being said, walking in snowshoes is still not easy.  Take your time and pace yourself.  Make sure you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and take breaks whenever needed.

Try not to work so hard that you sweat.  Sweat has a chemical that drops body temperature faster than just water, so you can quickly slip into hypothermia if you are not careful. If you have any food, you will need the calories.  No matter how far you need to travel, having snowshoes will get you there faster.

That being said, this is not what I would consider an easy build.  You will want some practice putting together snowshoes before your life depends on it.  When you have time, gather some branches and cordage.

Practice putting them together and see what works for you and what does not.  You might even try walking around in the back yard to get used to walking in them.  The neighbors might think you are nuts, but it might just save your life.

Cub Scouts have been making their own snowshoes for decades.

You can have yourself a fully functional pair of snowshoes with a very small investment of money and a bit of time!

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