How to Make Snowshoes Out of PVC

How to Make Snowshoes Out of PVC


Snowshoes may seem inconsequential until someone gets stuck in a survival situation that involves trudging through deep snow.  Their surface area helps to distribute weight, and this allows wearers to walk atop the snow instead of sinking with each step.  They help to conserve energy, minimize exposure and allow us to move around faster as well.  Let’s take a look at a simple project we’ve stumbled upon that can be used to make a rudimentary pair out of PVC and some sturdy material. 

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Required Material

2 pieces of 10′ long PVC pipe that are ¾” in diameter

Vinyl or similar material for the covering

Cordage or small plastic ties

4 elbow joints that are ¾” in diameter

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Preparing the Frame


The first step is to cut the PVC pipe into appropriate lengths to create the frame.  The following dimensions are for information purposes only, and you can adapt the lengths in order to create a frame that is tailored to the size of your feet.  You will need 2 pieces of PVC that are 8” long, 2 pieces that are 28” long, and 2 pieces that are 52” long.  This will produce shoes that are about 36” long, which is suitable for most adults.


Next, attach the T joints to each of the ends of the shorter pieces and set aside.  The next step is to take a sharpie and mark some locations on the longer pieces where they will be bent later on to form the frame.  Place one mark in the center of each 28” long pieces, and then mark spots that are 6” from the ends of both segments as well.  Place a mark in the center of the 52” inch pieces before marking off a spot that is 18” from each end of these segments. 


The next step is to heat the long segments so they can be curved to form a U shape.  Start by heating at the center mark, working your way down to the marks near the ends.  Choose whatever method of heating that works best for you, but remember that you should do this in a well-ventilated area in order to avoid inhaling the toxic fumes that will be released during this process.  Heat the segments until they are just soft enough to bend. 


The goal is to create U shapes that will be wide enough at the ends to fit perfectly into the T joints attached to the shorter segments.  You can either eyeball this or use some type of form, such as a bucket or rounded block of wood to press the PVC against to make a nice curve.  Remember that the stems leading from the U to the end of the pipe need to remain straight and parallel to each other.  Do this for both of the long segments, one for each shoe.  Attach the ends to the T connectors so that the short piece serves as an anchor that is situated perpendicular to the stems.


Repeat the same process with the 28” long segments and attach them to the other ends of the T connectors.  The finished product should place the perpendicular cross beam about ¾ the way down the frame.  Secure everything in place with some adhesive or epoxy if desired.

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Preparing the Covering


The next step is to trim your vinyl or other material to fit and overlap the edges of the frame.  You want to make two segments.  The first one will attach to the long end and wrap around all of the edges as well as around the cross beam.  The second will attach to the U joint and straight edges of the shorter segment, but you also want to trim the material so the bottom edge leaves about an inch long gap between the edge and the cross beam.  This will allow for some snow to get into the shoe as you walk in order to provide better traction and stability. 


Once you’ve measured and trimmed the material, the next step is probably the most tedious.  You want to poke holes that are an inch apart all the way around both sections of the material.  The holes should be situated around 2 inches from the edges so you can wrap them around the frame and tie them off.   

Now, all you need to do is lace the cordage through all of the holes and pull them tight.  You can either do this by feeding one continuous piece of cordage in and out of all of the holes, or you can cut the cordage into individual segments and tie each loop off one by one.  You can also use small, plastic ties to accomplish the same thing. 


The biggest advantage to tying each segment individually is that you reduce stress on the webbing which can cause the cordage to pull against the material and cause it to bunch up in spots over time.  However, this isn’t necessary, and feel free to experiment with the option that works best for you.  The most important thing is that the material is taut and can support your weight once you start using the shoes.  However, you want a slight amount of flexibility as well in order to prevent the material from tearing as you walk. 

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Attaching the Anchor for the Boots


The last step is to create an anchor where you slide the toe of your boots into the shoe.  This will be tied off at both ends of the cross beam.  You can use cordage for this as well, but you may be better off creating a flap/cover out of the material you’re using for the shoe for more stability.  If you choose the latter, cut out a section of material that resembles a T.  Place the intersection of the T across the cross beam and anchor the sides of the T junction to the beam with come cordage. 


Make sure that the stem of the T is facing toward the front of the boot.  This piece will become the front flap for the toe, and the side flaps will be for the feet.  It’s important to keep the flaps loose so you can fold them up and tie them off once you’re boot is inserted atop the shoe.  Poke a series of holes into the material inside the edges of the side flaps so you can lace them up and tie them off over your boots. 

Tuck the end piece beneath the side flaps to cover your toe.  While this seems like a lot of extra work, creating a thicker anchor piece will give you a lot more stability and control as opposed to using cordage. 

However, you can also improvise by using some duct tape as an alternative as well, but it will be less-permanent, and you will most likely need to attach more tape over time as it becomes stretched and loose.  You can also use duct tape instead of vinyl or similar material to make the padding for the shoe as well. 

Finally, you can also borrow the same principles outlined here and create a frame out of any type of material that may be on hand at the time.  This includes aluminum tubing as well as sticks.  Feel free to explore your options and come up with a solution that meets your needs based on the material that you have on hand.  However, at the end of the day, this simple project can prove to be worth its weight in gold if you are ever in a situation where you need to walk long distances over deep snow. 


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