Thursday, 23 December 2010

Improvised Snow shoes

I had seen Ray Mears make these and I thought I would give it a go.  When I was gifted two days off work due to snow and I couldn’t miss an opportunity!

Firstly, I went and cut a dozen straight willow saplings and picked the best looking ten.  It was like a winter wonderland and I had a friend in the form of a curious little robin to keep me company.  I cut them with a folding saw at each end to the same thickness and put them in the car. 

Back home, I cut the willow rods to be slightly longer than I am tall (6ft) and stripped the bark.  I then pointed the rear ends to ease travel.  Then I tied them at one end using a clove hitch and found the balance point.  This is where the ball of the foot goes.

I had a couple of pieces of hazel, which I split to use as cross pieces.  I lashed the cross pieces on using twine – one at the balance point and one at the heel.  This was probably the longest job!  Interestingly, another little robin came up to see what I was doing!

I loosely tied the rear ends together and bent up the front ends like skis.  This needed some cord slightly stronger than the twine as they are under more tension.

I used thin polypropylene twine for the lashing, which is ‘slippy’ and doesn’t hold knots well – but I was improvising.  I expect that as the willow seasons over the next while the lashing might loosen.  I will probably rebind them all with better stuff at some point.

I tried using some leftover elasticated upholstery webbing as bindings that I had used for making canoe seats, but they stretched too much.  I bought a bit of 25mm polypropylene webbing and that worked really well.  Tying the bindings on so that they didn’t loosen took a bit of jiggling but finally got it.

I took them out in a local field with a good depth of snow and they worked really well.  It was an interesting project – not sure if I would have enough cordage in a survival situation to make them – but you never know. 

Pictures and write up by Stuart staples.


  1. Looks as though they could be a little clumsy in the woods, but a great idea, well done. I am sure one could come up with a more compact pair using the same method.
    Great idea.

  2. Well done Stuart. Great project

  3. I missed this the first time round.

    Excellent stuff.