Wooden Snowshoe Maintenance
Get Outdoors Knowledge Outfitting Staff
Wooden snowshoes can provide faithful service for many years if they are maintained and stored safely. I happen to have a pair of Adirondacks and a pair of bear paws that are as original as they day I got them 40 years ago. They would work as well now as they did then and for all intents and purposes, I haven’t done a whole lot to them down through the years. The secret to keeping your wooden snowshoes in top condition is to keep them dry and stored out of harm’s way, preferably hung up in a cool dry place.
Rawhide is quite subject to the effects of water, although it might only be a temporary condition. When rawhide gets wet it stretches, when it dries out it shrinks. It is the cycle of stretching and tightening that will put the most stress on rawhide and keeping it dry to stop the cycle is an effective way to preserve the rawhide for many years. A coat of clear varnish to the entire snowshoe (except the bindings of course) will provide a waterproof coating that will repel water easily for the season. A yearly coat will keep your snowshoes rot free and ready to go the next time you look out the window and see two feet of fresh powder in your driveway.
Before protecting the shoe with varnish, lightly sand the entire shoe to remove any loose particles of old varnish that remain on the service. Bear in mind you are only removing loose varnish material and not trying to remove any rawhide or wood if it can be avoided. For the best protection, let the first coat of varnish dry for a full forty eight hours before adding a second coat. Make sure that you brush the varnish into every nook and cranny of the entire shoe, especially where the decking attaches to the frame. For my money, the best sealant for the job is a marine spar varnish. This material will give a high gloss finish that is flexible and totally waterproof.
Storing wooden snowshoes for the off season is a critical part of their maintenance. The worst enemies of wood are heat and humidity. The best way to keep your snowshoes in top condition is to hang them in a cool dry well-ventilated space. Using coat hangers or even just a nail with a piece of twine to suspend them away from rodents or other pests is an excellent idea. Never store your snowshoes in a plastic bag, Condensation will occur and cause the shoes to mold and then be adversely affected by the built up moisture.
Before hanging your shoes up for the season, gently was them with a mild detergent on a sponge or cloth to remove any salt accumulation on the snowshoes. This is especially applicable if they have been used near salt water or tar roadways treated with salt during the winter. Salt is an extremely corrosive material and should be kept off your shoes regularly. Check for damage regularly and if a minor crack or split occurs, sand gently and brush a substantial amount of spar varnish into the crack until the split is filled completely. Then apply your final two coats of varnish with the appropriate drying time in between coats and you will be ready for the next season.
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