Snowshoes are invaluable for hiking in deep or soft snow. There are different models for different types of activities and terrain. If you are unfamiliar with snowshoes, the link below provides an excellent overview of the various types.
Generally, the categories of snowshoes are recreational, adventure, and backcountry. Recreational snowshoes were designed for traveling mostly on flat terrain or simple snow trails. Adventure snowshoes were made for more challeging terrain and have better bindings and crampons. Backcountry snowshoes were designed for extreme conditions such as that found when winter mountaineering or backcountry snowboarding. Backcountry snowshoes have high end bindings and crampons for steeper and more rugged terrain.
Some factors to consider when shopping for snowshoes are:
Size: Snowshoes come in different physical sizes and have a rating for recommended load or carrying capacity. Estimate your weight (including pack) and select an appropriately sized snowshoe. Some snowshoes are made specifically for women and kids.
Frames and Decking: Most snowshoes are made with either an aluminum frame and synthetic decking, or plastic decking. Both have advantages. Generally, the synthetic decking is lighter and quieter, and the plastic decking is stable and more durable.
Bindings: Most bindings will accomodate a wide variety of boot sizes. However, double-check before buying if you plan to use plastic boots to ensure that they fit in the bindings.
- Rotating Bindings pivot, allowing for a more natural step and snow to shake free. However, backing up and stepping over objects can be clumsy.
- Fixed Bindings do not pivot and are better for backing up and stepping over objects, but they are not as comfortable for climbing.
Traction Devices: The built in crampons are especially important for hiking or climbing in steep terrain. Each snowshoe has a different design.
Snowshoe basics, by REI.