Emergency Snowshoes

I’ve been up in the High Arctic of Norway running a SERE Instructor package. Part of what I taught included movement in this environment. I’ll cover Arctic survival navigation in another post but here’s a bit on survival movement in deep snow.

JH Long improvised snowshoe

JH Long improvised snowshoe

If the snow is deep it can be almost impossible to move through- up to 24hrs to cover 1km. You have to move over it. If a vehicle breaks down it’s normally best to stay with it but there could be occasions where moving to a better area is the right choice. In that circumstance you need a pair of skis or snowshoes. If you haven’t brought a set with you you’ll have to improvise. I made sets of survival snowshoes in two designs- one long and thin (not quite skis!) and the other more rounded (“bearpaw”).


All types have pros and cons: Long & Thin “float” better but… bearpaw are easier to use in the woods etc. etc. It all depends on where you are, where you’re going and what you’re doing. But the best option is to be prepared…

JH smallfoot

The final set I demonstrated are made by a European firm called SmallFoot. Designed for use in emergency by extreme sports types I think they’re perfect for anyone entering the wilderness in winter. They’re tough, easy to use, float really well and pack away very small. Inflatable snowshoes. We live in the future! You could even use your ejection seat liferaft as a pulk/toboggan for your gear.