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I have recently seen that there seems to be a new outdoor gadget: inflatable snowshoes.

Examples:

As an engineer I can't help but immediately see a whole array of possible problems which could arise when using (or manufacturing) these things... Which makes me question how well they hold up in a comparison to actual snowshoes. But then again, these seem to be marketed for outdoors people and priced quite steeply - so maybe there is something I'm missing?

Frankly, I just have a hard time imagining that strapping miniature rubber dinghies to your boots would do you much good in any except for the most optimal circumstances.

Has anyone any experience with such products? How do they compare to the "real thing"?

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    I have never seen those before, so I only write a comment. I can imagine that those are reasonably OK on flat terrain or in a prepared snow shoe trail. But I cannot imagine that they will be safe on steeper terrain as they totally lack any rigidness. And I cannot imagine that this works on snow that has a semi-strong crust. The boot will break into the crust as the flexible snow shoe will bear the load only after breaking through the crust
    – Manziel
    Nov 22, 2021 at 9:09
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    I would also see a reliability problem. Step on a sharp stone hidden under the snow, puncture the air chamber and your shoe goes flat. Now you are stuck in sub-zero temperature.
    – Philipp
    Nov 22, 2021 at 9:26
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    For moderate (not very steep) slopes with well-behaved surfaces and relatively soft snow, they seem kinda perfect. Much lighter than metal ones too. I don't think they'll work for steep slopes (but then very few showshoes are designed for steep slopes) or even with harder snow or mixed ice. I don't imagine they are marketed as crampon friendly. Rigidity doesn't have to be a problem, there can easily be a rigid frame. Floatation would be high(er) I guess. Puncturing may or may not be a problem, there are puncture-proof and self-healing materials, but I don't know what these shoes use.
    – ahron
    Nov 22, 2021 at 12:48
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    They are probably not very walking-pole friendly either. Nov 22, 2021 at 14:12
  • The algorithm suggested some related questions, but i think this one is quite relevant outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/24295/…. Understand that all snowshoes are designed to work well on powdered snow on gentle slopes, and none work well on hard snow on steep slopes.
    – Martin F
    Nov 22, 2021 at 19:11

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For a couple of days, I traded my classic snowshoes for a pair of inflatables, on a 2-week Christmas outing, and found them quite effective in level soft powder, but much bulkier than my own mesh & frame, which allow the inner edges to ride over each other, for a much more normal stride. As the terrain becomes steeper, the inflatables rely much more on the sole teeth for purchase, and the balloon texturing seems less effective than the mesh of traditional snowshoes. It also felt like my foot had to sink deeper before the rounded outer margins of the balloon provided support. Under some stiffer snow conditions, however, they almost felt like 'bouncy' shoes, very springy during plunge stepping.

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