Military Snowshoe Assembly and Use

By CTD Blogger published on in Military Surplus


The toe strap installed by itself.

The heel binding installed by itself.

The heel and toe bindings installed together.

Strapping in the toes.

The bindings correctly installed and ready for use.

Snowshoe in use showing proper binding range of motion.

We got a great deal on these lightweight military-surplus magnesium snowshoes, but before you head off on an exciting winter adventure you’ll need to make sure that the bindings included with the snowshoes are properly installed. Though it can seem intimidating when you’re staring at a tangle of webbing and latches, the actual installation process is easy and straightforward.

First, take the shorter of the two strap sizes, the toe straps, and string them through the webbing just behind the toe gap as indicated in the photo to the left. Next, take the larger of the straps and lay it out flat. These ankle straps are secured to the snowshoes by way of two straps that thread through the snowshoe webbing on either side of the toe strap. These straps are threaded through and then looped back through the locking ratchet.

At this point, you are ready to strap your boots into the bindings. With the ankle strap (the rear strap) laid out to the rear, place your foot onto the snowshoe and fasten the toe strap over your foot using by threading the strap through the locking ratchet. Next, pull the rear strap up to the rear of your ankle and then wrap it around your ankle and fasten it though the locking ratchet.

Tighten down the toe and ankle straps until they are snug but not so tight that they inhibit movement of blood flow. Adjust the length of the ankle strap for your foot size by loosening or tightening the ankle straps where they attach on either side of the toe strap.

Check for proper movement as indicated by the lowermost image on the left. The heel of your foot should be able to pivot up with the heel strap while your toes pivot down through the toe gap. Perform the above binding installation process and verify proper range of motion on your other foot, and you’re ready to go!

For even more information on the proper use of these snowshoes, we’re including the following excerpt from the Army Field Manual 31-70


Section IV. MILITARY SNOWSHOEING
4-36. Purpose and Scope

a. Snowshoes are individual aids for oversnow movement. Like skis, they provide flotation in snow and are useful for cross-country marches and other activities which require movement in snow-covered terrain.

b. The snowshoe is an oval or elongated frame braced with two of three crosspieces and the inclosed space filled with a web lacing. A binding or harness attached to the webbing secures the wearer’s foot to the snowshoe. Flotation is provided by the webbing, which is closely laced and prevents the snowshoe from sinking too deeply into the snow when weight is placed upon it. Depth and consistency of snow will determine the amount of support obtained on the snow cover and the rate of movement.

c. Snowshoes are particularly useful for individuals working in confined areas such as bivouac sites and supply dumps, for drivers of various types of vehicles, gun crews, cooks, mechanics, and for similar occupations where aids to movement in snow are necessary. Transporting, carrying, and storing snowshoes is relatively easy due to their size and weight. Maintenance requirements are generally negligible and little skill is required to become proficient on snowshoes. However, the requirement for physical conditioning is as great, or greater, as that needed for skiing. The use of snowshoes when pulling and carrying heavy loads is particularly practical, as the hands and arms remain free. On steep slopes, however, the use of snowshoes is considerably limited because traction becomes negligible and the snowshoe will slide, causing loss of footing. Generally, the rate of movement in any type of terrain is slow because snowshoes will not glide over the snow. The gliding properties of the ski are not obtained with the snowshoes; this adversely affects the amount of time and energy spent in movement. In deep snow the trailbreaker must be changed frequently. Especially when wet, snow tends to stick to the webbing, thereby adding weight to the snowshoe.

d. There are three types of standard issue snowshoes: the trail, the bearpaw, and the magnesium. They can be used with all types of winter footgear. The trail snowshoe weighs approximately 6.5 pounds, the bearpaw, 5.5 pounds and the magnesium, 4.6 pounds.

(1) Trail. The trail-type snowshoe is long, with a rather narrow body and upturned toes (fig. 4-29). The two ends of the frame connect and extend tail-like to the rear. The turned-up toe has a tendency to ride over the snow and other minor obstacles. The excellent flotation provided by its large surfaces makes the trail snowshoe best for cross-country marches, deep snow conditions, and trailbreaking.

(2) Bearpaw. This type of snowshoe is short, wide, and oval in shape, with no frame extension (fig. 4-30). The bearpaw snowshoe is preferable to the trail type for close work with weapons and vehicles, in heavy brush, and in other confined areas. Carrying or storing is also easier.

(3) Magnesium. The magnesium snowshoe is the lightest and most durable of the three types (fig. 4-31). The snowshoe has a magnesium frame with the center section made of steel, nylon-coated wire. The magnesium snowshoe is 17.70 cm (approx 7″) shorter than the standard wooden trail snowshoe but is 9.50 cm (approx 4″) wider giving it approximately the same flotation characteristics.

e. The trail and bearpaw snowshoes have their own individual bindings, however, the, “Binding, Snowshoe, Bearpaw and Trail Type” has been developed for use on all three types. This binding consists generally of a toe strap and a heel and instep strap. The straps are made of nylon and are secured by keepers and cam lever quick-release buckles. The method of securing the binding to the magnesium snowshoe is snown in figure 4-32.

4-37. Care and Storage of Snowshoes
a. Care. Snowshoes must always be kept in good condition. Frequent checks are necessary, particularly of webbing and binding, because individual strands may be ripped or worn out. Repairs must be made immediately, otherwise the webbing will loosen and start to unravel. If unvarnished, the rawhide webbing on wooden snowshoes will absorb moisture, stretch and turn white, particularly in wet snow. It should be dried out slowly, avoiding direct flames, and be revarnished at the first opportunity. Wooden frames may fray from hard wear and should be sanded and varnished. When needed, other minor repairs should be made as soon as practicable. When snow cover is shallow, care must be taken not to step on small tree stumps, branches, or other obstacles, since the webbing may be broken or damaged. Stepping into water is to be avoided; the water will freeze and snow will stick to it. When not in use in the field, snowshoes are placed in temporary racks, hung in trees, or placed upright in the snow. They should be kept away from open fires and out of reach of rodents.

b. Storage. In off-seasons, wooden snowshoes are stored in a dry, well-ventilated place so that the rawhide will not mildew or rot and the frames warp. Each snowshoe is closely checked for possible damage, repaired if needed, and revarnished. As in the field, snowshoes are protected against damage and from rodents. Magnesium snowshoes are cleaned and repainted if necessary. Webbing is examined and repaired or replaced if needed.

4-38. Snowshoe Technique
a. A striding technique is used for movement with snowshoes. In taking a stride, the toe of the snowshoe is lifted upward, to clear the snow, and thrusted forward. Energy is conserved by lifting it no higher than is necessary to clear the snow and slide the tail over it. If the front of the snowshoe catches, the foot is pulled back to free it and then lifted before proceeding with the stride. The best and least fatiguing method in travel is a lose-kneed rocking gait in a normal rhythmic stride. Care is taken not to step on or catch the other snowshoe.

b. On gentle slopes, ascent is made by climbing straight upward. Traction is generally very poor on hard-packed or crusty snow. Steeper terrain is ascended by traversing and packing a trail similar to a shelf across it. When climbing, the snowshoe is placed as horizontally as possible in the snow. On hard snow, the snowshoe is placed flat on the surface with the toe of the upper one diagonally uphill to get more traction. In the event the snow is sufficiently hard-frozen to support the weight of a person, it is generally better to remove the snowshoes and proceed temporarily on foot. In turning around, the best method is to swing the leg up and turn in the new direction, as in making a kick turn on skis (fig. 4-33).

c. Obstacles such as logs, tree stumps, ditches and small streams should be stepped over. Care must be taken not to place too much strain on the snowshoe ends by bridging a gap, since the frame may break. In shallow snow there is danger of catching and tearing the webbing on tree stumps or snags which are only sightly covered. Wet snow will frequently ball up under the feet, interfering with comfortable walking. This snow should be knocked off with a stick or pole as soon as possible. Although ski poles are generally not used in snowshoeing, one or two poles are desirable when carrying heavy loads, especially in mountainous terrain. The bindings must not be fastened too tightly or circulation will be cut off, and frostbite may occur. During halts, bindings should be checked for fit and possible readjustment.

4-39. Training
Snowshoe training requires little technical skill. However, emphasis must be placed on the physical conditioning of the individual and the development of muscles which are seldom used in ordinary marching. The technique, as such, can be learned in a few periods of instruction. Stiffness and soreness of muscles are to be expected at first. The initial training should be gradual with regard to loads carried and distances covered. It should be progressive, with ample time allowed for the individual to acquire physical proficiency, gradually increasing the distance covered and weight carried or pulled. Overcoming obstacles such as dense brush, fallen timber, and ditches should be emphasized during training. Trailbreaking, with frequent change of lead man, should also be stressed. Snowshoe training can be accomplished concurrently with other training requiring individual cross-country movement.

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