The crunch of the snow is the only sound among the wind in the trees and the twitter of the remaining winter birdlife. Yep, snowshoeing is a peaceful pastime. Strenuous yes, technical for sure, but it is at its core a peaceful activity, and one that when the snows fall we look forward to.

Whether you’re heading up into the Cairngorms for a multi-day trek and need assistance over the snow, or venturing out of an alpine chalet with a daypack and a plan to get back in time for a vin chaud and a fondue dinner, it’s just a great way to get around. Of course, if you’re heading out skiing or snowboarding in the backcountry, these can be seriously handy too.

Far from the wooden tennis racket-style shoes of the past, snowshoes today are highly technical pieces of equipment designed for different things. Some are designed for steep terrain, some for trail hiking, some for backcountry use. We chose MSR’s Lightning Ascent for the Outdoor 100 because of their versatility.

“We chose MSR’s Lightning Ascent for the Outdoor 100 because of their versatility."

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These are pretty much the only snowshoes you’d need (even Mpora’s gear shed doesn’t have more than one pair). The first thing to note on the Lightning Ascent is the amazing traction. There’s two toe crampon and rear braking spikes. The difference however is in the ‘360 Degree Traction Frame’. Whereas most snowshoes have a tube going around the edge of the snowshoes, the Lightning Ascent has a toothed frame – it grips everywhere. These work especially well on traverses and hard-packed ice. MSR has also provided ‘Flotation’ tails that can be added to increase the surface area if you find yourself in especially deep snow.

The bindings are secure, even in freezing conditions, and are adaptable to most footwear. There’s also a device that you can switch in to help with heel lift. Seattle-based MSR make very high quality gear that is full of smart solutions, and many of the products are made in the US by a small team of engineers. These Lightning Ascent showcase their design-meets-functionality ethos brilliantly, and are quite simply, the best thing for the job.

MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes Stats:

The 100 Best Outdoor Products for Winter 2016 View them all

Shot on location in Chamonix