Introduction: Duct Tape Snowshoes From Scratch

            I live in the mountains of Colorado, and often find myself having to wade through feet of snow just to get anywhere around town.  Unfortunately, I also do not have the necessary funds to buy a nice set of quality snowshoes that would help me traverse the snowy streets each winter, and am thus forced to look for an alternative means of "walking on snow."  The recent Duct Tape Design contest provided the perfect opportunity for me to try something new, and I decided to design and make a pair of snowshoes using easily acquired household objects and of course, Duct tape.  The following is the instructable for this project.

Step 1:

Materials: The first step is to collect the necessary materials to have on hand throughout the project. Also, this project took me two days and roughly three hours of actual to complete, so make sure you set aside the necessary time.


-Duct Tape (Two entire rolls)

-Hot Glue

-Exacto Knife or other cutting implement

-Tree Boughs 6-7 ft long (2-2.5 meters) and 1/2" - 1" in diameter (I personally used Willow boughs which are springy, yet when soaked in water will dry into the shape they are positioned at. Serviceberry is also good, but the material is at your discretion)

-Small Brads (Not necessary, but helpful once it comes to positioning braces)

-String or twine-Ruler


-Large bowl and means of heating water to near boiling point

Step 2: Soaking the Boughs

Step 2:  Wrap your boughs together with a piece of twine and place them in a large container of mild to hot water.  I used a hot tub, but any similar container will do.  The bundle does not need to be submerged, but each bough must at least have a large majority of its structure touching the water.  Leave the bundle sit in the hot tub/container for more then four hours, keeping in mind that the longer they are left in the water, the more pliable they will be when taken out.  

Note: This step can be omitted, but the wood will be very difficult to work into the correct shape without prior heating.

Step 3: Creating a General Outline

Step 3: Once the bundle of boughs has been soaked a sufficient amount of time, select two boughs of roughly equal length (at least five ft) and diameter and separate them from the bundle.  With your hands, gently bend the boughs into roughly the shape in the picture below.  My prototype was roughly ten inches across at the widest point and it is this size that will be used for instruction throughout the remainder of the instructable.  Using string or thread, tie the bough together where it crosses over in an "X" formation to hold the bough in shape.  This is customizable, and I urge you to simply try and find a shape that works for you, keeping in mind that later, the front will need to be bent upwards (see later step for clarification).  Do the same with the second bough, ensuring that they are again, roughly the same shape, and then lay both in the sun to dry and attain their shape.

Note:  One suggestion from another instructables member was to use the bend in a bicycle to at least get the bend in the snowshoe outline started.  This is an excellent idea for the beginning, and should ensure less breaks in the willow, either soaked or dry.

Step 4: Creating Splints or Cross-Braces

Step 4: Creating Wooden Cross Braces for your snowshoes:  This addition to the snowshoes is vital, as it provides stability that will help hold the shape of the shoes as well as providing the wearer with a location for the platform that we will discuss later.  

To make your braces, choose the two straightest and least pliable boughs from your remaining willows and separate them from the others.  Using a ruler, measure the width of the snowshoe outlines at a point roughly five to six inches down from the tip and again at a point seven to eight inches above the "X" tie.  Cut the boughs to one inch greater then this width and strip the bark from your cut pieces.  My front pieces each ended up being roughly 7 3/4" as can be seen in the picture, while my back pieces were roughly 6 3/4."  Try to reach the point achieved in the first picture.

The next goal is to cut notches into the braces so that they fit snugly against the body of the snowshoes.  To do this, measure in 1/2" from each end and on a single side of brace cut out a roughly 3/8" deep notch that is of a width that matches the diameter of the bough of the snowshoe body.  This will be different for each pair based on what size bough was used to create the general body outline.  Do this for each of your four braces and then set them aside momentarily.  The neater this is done, the more sturdy the snowshoes will eventually be.

Step 5: Attaching the Braces to the Snowshoe Body

Step 5: Attaching the new cross braces to the body of the snowshoes.  

Place your snowshoe body outlines on a solid table a short distance apart and gather your cross braces.  Now, apply a generous amount of hot glue to the inside of the notches in each cross brace and place them in their respective locations on your snowshoe bodies.  At this point you may either simply leave the clue to dry without further action, or you may add a small brad at the point of the notch to help hold it in place.  Because of the holding strength of the dried glue, the brad is not necessary for the structure of the shoe, but it does help ensure that during the drying process the braces are not accidentally bumped or displaced on the shoe.  This will also allow you to undertake the next step before the glue has completely dried without fear of ruining the project.

The Pictures below show what the skeleton of the snowshoe should look like upon completing this step of the project as well as an example of a brace being applied to the top portion of the snowshoe body.

Step 6: Applying a Tape Wrap

Step 6: Applying a Tape Wrap to the Back of the Snowshoes

The next action to be taken involves creating long strips of tape to be used to replace the twine holding the "X" portion of the snowshoe back together.  This provides a sturdy wrap that will be the first permanent tape portion on the snowshoes.  When completing the project myself, I used an exacto knife to cut the long strips from the duct tape but I found near the end that simply tearing the tape lengthwise is more efficient and all around neater.  

Tear lengths of tape roughly 1/8" wide and 20" long and gradually wrap the rear of the snowshoes with it.  It is fine to leave the twine that is there in place as it should not affect the waterproof nature of the tape bind.  Continue tearing strips until you have secured the "X" together (see pictures), and have begun to climb the snowshoe.  Do this for the second Snowshoe as well and tuck the final portion under previous wrappings to ensure that it is not torn off or pulled later.  Pinch the sticky portion together wherever possible.

Step 7: Beginning the Tape Wrap Netting

Step 7:  In this portion of the instructable, you will create a netting of sorts out of woven tape lengths.

For this portion of the instructable, please refer to the pictures which will provide more valuable information that is difficult for me to explain.  

Using long strips of duct tape, fold the pieces in half and wrap them horizontally around the body of the snowshoe between the cross braces.  The goal here is to create double sides strips with the adhesive of the tape holding each strip together and remaining unexposed.  To solidify their position on the shoe, use more tape to secure them to the body of the snowshoe.  Repeat this five to six times until the snowshoe has been horizontally covered.  Use excess small tape straps to seal the pieces together and ensure that only the black (waterproof) portion of each strip is showing.  Leave spaces in between each wrap that will be used to weave the vertical strips into the pattern.  I know its confusing and again, the picture is exceptionally helpful in this instance.

Step 8: Cross-Threading the Snowshoes

Step 8:  Create a cross thread pattern between the cross supports

Now, using a method very similar to that of step 7, thread pieces of double non-adhesive side out tape above and below the horizontal strips vertically in a woven pattern resembling a net. (Again see pictures for clarification)  Alternate starting your weave above and below the horizontal strips with each double sided piece in the vertical pattern.  Secure each end around the wooden structure on each side by wrapping a piece of tape (or two) completely around and re-attaching it to the strip on the underside of the pattern.  Repeat this process five to six times for each snowshoe until you have created essentially a woven mat between the cross braces and the snowshoe sides on each.  Go over the project again, and using spare pieces of tape make sure that no part of the adhesive side of the tape is showing.

Note:  In the second picture, the snowshoe that goes on my right foot is on the bottom and the one that is designated for my left foot on top.  The inward curve resembles that of a shoe shape and thus works better in this pattern.

Step 9: Wrapping a Platform for the Binding

Step 9: Using thick cardboard or thin wood to create a platform

In this step, you will create a wrapped platform that, when laid atop the cross-braces of the snowshoe will provide support for the wearer as well as provide the framework for the binding.  For this step, you will need to cut a piece of cardboard or thin wood to a size just slightly longer and wider then that of the shoe or boot you plan to use most frequently with the snowshoe.  After this has been done, measure in roughly two inches from one end of the platform and bend the cardboard upwards at roughly a forty-five degree angle (If using wood for the platform, make a small cut completely across at this point on each platform).

Next, at the bottom of the platform, begin carefully wrapping the entire cardboard or wooden length in tape (adhesive side down). Also, ensure that the forty five degree bend stays at the forty five degree angle after taping (It is wrapped as well).  It is important to note as well that multiple layers of tape will provide both waterproofing and support, though depending on your tape inventory it is not entirely necessary.  I personally felt that three layers was perfect for maintaining an even tape job and good support/protection.  Complete this step for both snowshoes.

Step 10: Creating a Binding for Your Shoes

Step 10: Building your bindings

Now, using your newly wrapped platforms, you will create a binding that can be strapped and unstrapped to provide for easy access.  This step actually has two separate sub-steps which will each be described individually.  

First, using your snowboot or shoe, place it on top of one platform and using a piece of gorilla tape turned upside down, measure the size of a circular strap at the widest point on the shoe.  Tighten down so that it snuggly embraces the shoe across its top and sides (See second picture).  This should be roughly three inches from the front of the platform.  Now, secure this double sided strip to the platform using duct tape and on the bottom, provide a cross tape to hold its position.  All this means is to place tape perpendicular to the direction of the original piece of tape securing the strap to the platform in order to provide extra hold.  Now, where the shoe begins to curve up towards the ankle, use another piece of double sided tape and secure another strip across the top of the shoe.  This should be at a more slanted angle towards the rear of the platform (follow the curvature of the shoe).  Again, cross tape in order to secure.  Now, using the same method, strap a third double sided piece perpendicular to your second strap around the heel of the shoe (see picture for clarification.  Secure this to the second strap on the inside (shoe side) of the strap on one side only.  Leave the other side open to make a clasp for opening and closing the binding.

Making the Clasp:  Where you left the third strap unattached you will be attaching a clasp mechanism.  I used a plastic curtain hook and a metal picture frame support, though any small hook shaped items will work.  Making sure that the strap is snug around the heel of the shoe and the binding holds the shoe stationary, attach one of your hook mechanisms to the open end of the third strap and its complementary side of the second strap using tape/glue (the glue ensures no slippage occurs and adds waterproofing).  Repeat for the second binding and you will have completed the bindings.  

Note:  My pictures of the clasps were prior to being cleaned up, so the taping looks pretty rough.  I fixed this for the final and would recommend it.  They look good!

Step 11: Bending the Front of the Snowshoe

Step 11:  Soaking and Bending the front of the Showshoes

For the next two steps we will return to the snowshoe body now complete with the woven mat-like interior.  In this step, we will be bending the portion of the frame in front of the woven center upwards in the typical resemblance to traditional snowshoes.  This step is simple yet important as it ensures that come winter, the snowshoe will distribute the weight evenly as well as reduce the number of involuntary catches or stumbles experienced by the user.  

Find an open bowl large enough and deep enough to soak the entire front of the snowshoe in.  Fill it with hot to near boiling water and place the snowshoe in, front first, and soak the exposed wood for roughly thirty minutes (each shoe).  Then, using your hands, bend the front of the shoe up evenly on both sides of the front frame.  You can either hold it here for an extended period of time as it sets, or you can place it under something reasonably heavy and bend the shoe up at the right angle to let dry.  Let sit for roughly thirty more minutes and then remove.  The front should stay permanently bent upwards.  This part actually looks really cool, and you should start to see the shape of a nearly finished snowshoe coming into being.

Step 12: Wrapping the Back of the Snowshoe

Step 12: Using Tape Strips to Wrap the Back of the Snowshoe

In order to keep a person from sinking into the snow, a snowshoe needs to be able to spread the weight over a large surface area.  To extend the surface area of this snowshoe, it is necessary to use half strips to wrap about three quarters of the back of the snowshoe starting at the base of the bottom cross brace.  Using duct tape, continue to wrap horizontally until about five to six inches has been wrapped on each snowshoe.  This will provide both stability for the shape of the shoe and load bearing purposes.  It also makes the snowshoes look really cool.

Step 13: Attaching the Bindings

Step 14:  Using Tape Strips to Attach the Bindings to the body of the Snowshoes

For this step, you must first create four strips made of tape that are four to five tape thicknesses, five inches long, and about a half inch wide uniformly.  Once this has been done, thread two for each snowshoe through the spaces at the front of the webbing around the front cross brace.  Then, place one binding on each snowshoe so that the point of bend on the binding extends less then 1/8" over the front cross brace and is centered.  Using gorilla tape, cross tape the strips of double sided non-adhesive tape to the binding at even distances from each side.  What you're aiming for here is a hinge type effect, so leave enough room for the strips to slide over the wooden cross brace vertically, but not horizontally.  Do this for both pieces of strip tape on both snowshoes.  See the Pictures for clarification.  

Step 14: Taping the Front

Step 15: Using Duct Tape to Wrap and Seal the Front of the Shoes

Similar to the information in step 13, the more surface area of the snowshoe, the better a job it will do at distributing a persons weight.  Also, we need to balance the support of the front and the back of the snowshoe.  For this portion, we are simply going to wrap the front with our remaining Duct tape.  Begin at the point where the shoe bends upward and start to tape diagonally towards the top of the snowshoe, making a sort of 'A' frame.  Be sure to leave enough room so that the hinged binding can completely rotate without being hindered by the frontally wrapped tape.  Repeat this for the second snowshoe and you will have completed the snowshoe design!!!!  However, there is one more step involving gorilla glue that is not required, though I would greatly recommend it.

Note:  The following step is optional but may help in making the Snowshoes functional to a greater extent.

Gorilla glue is renowned for its strength and waterproof qualities after drying, so I decided that it would be beneficial to "Seal" the project.  To make the sealant, I mixed 80%water and 20% gorilla glue in a disposable container and then, using a cheap paintbrush, distributed the mixture over anywhere on the project that was wooden, as well as at any point of connection between Tape and Wood (minus anywhere around the hinges to avoid accidentally killing their purpose).

Because it is not yet winter, I was limited in my testing process, though I was able to manufacture a reasonably good test for its capabilities.  I soaked the entire shoe in water for an hour to simulate being in wet or melting snow, and then walked across thick grass to test the weight spreading capabilities.  In both instances, the Snowshoes worked beyond my expectations and I attribute that to the strength of gorilla glue and gorilla tape.

And that's the end of it!!!  Let me know what you think of it and Vote for me in the Gorilla Glue Stick it contest!!!!

Gorilla Glue Make It Stick Contest

Runner Up in the
Gorilla Glue Make It Stick Contest