The North American Division recently approved the new Snowshoeing and Snowshoeing – Advanced honors. I had been thinking for some time that there should be such an honor, and was considering submitting one myself, but having never snowshoed until this year, thought better of it.
The introduction of that honor is what spurred me to buy two pairs of snowshoes this year. It is something I had been wanting to do anyhow, and this gave me the extra push I needed. I am so glad I did. I think I like snowshoeing even better than hiking.
As soon as the honor came out, I researched the topic and wrote up answers to the standard honor in my Wikibooks project. That can be found here. I also started on the advanced honor, but it’s not nearly complete yet.
One of the requirements for the advanced honor can be met by making a pair of traditional snowshoes, or by making a pair of survival snowshoes. I do intend to make a pair of traditional shoes in time, and I will document the procedure as I go along so that I can add it to the Wikibook.
But I decided to try my hand at a pair of survival shoes today. I had researched it last month (or maybe in January), and found that there are two basic designs out there on the Internet. The first was rather simple, and is documented in a U.S. Army Field Manual – I don’t remember which one, but it wasn’t FM-21 (the survival manual). I must admit that I was a little skeptical about their approach, which involved harvesting evergreen boughs, binding them together at their base, and attaching them to the feet. So I decided to try it out before putting it in the Wikibook. Here are my photos of the procedure.
First I gathered some fir boughs. Those have thicker, brushier branches than pines. I suppose hemlock would have been about the same. Once I had a bunch of them, I bound their stems together at the base with some cord. That’s basically it, other than attaching it to your feet. To do that, I ran another length of cord beneath my shoelace:
Then I ran the rope under my soles and tied it securely to the boughs and tried them out.
My conclusion: these are no better than hiking boots. I only sank 18 inches into the snow. Maybe I put my foot in the wrong place, or maybe I had them on backwards. Or perhaps the boughs were too flimsy. I don’t know what went wrong, but these were certainly no help in traversing my snow-covered yard. I still have the boughs, so I will look at this again. Now that I think about it, I’m almost positive I did have them on backwards.
With the failure of the “easy” route, I decided to tackle a more ambitious design. That one involves bending green wood into a snowshoes-shape, binding the ends, and then weaving sticks into it to form the webbing. My own innovation was to do it to a standing sapling rather than cutting one down. This held it up at chest level where it was a lot easier to work on, vs laying it on the ground and kneeling in the snow. Whether this snowshoe design works or not, I definitely think that making the shoe this way is the superior approach. Here’s the tree after I looped it around and tied it to itself.
Then all I had to do was weave more green twigs into it:
It’s important that the twigs be green or they will just snap when they get woven in, and if they don’t snap then, they surely would when the makeshift shoe was put into use.
It was nearly dark by the time I got it to this point, and I don’t think I had enough webbing on there for it to be effective. That’s kind of an important point as well. If you’re in a situation where your survival depends on a pair of makeshift snowshoes, it would behoove you to give yourself enough time to make them while you have daylight. This would have been pretty difficult in the dark.
I also need to bind a thicker stick across the widest part – that’s where my boot will attach. I intend to use a “lampwick” binding on this one, but I’ll write about that when I have pictures to show.
I will try the fir boughs again too, and once I’ve done that, I may weave my fir boughs into the sapling set for extra webbing. That will have to wait until at least Sunday though. I sure hope it doesn’t rain as it is forecast to.