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Everything You Need to Know About Snowshoeing

December 20, 2017

There is more to snowshoeing than people think. Find out what type of snowshoes and gear you need to have before hitting the trails.

Hitting the trails in snowshoes is a great winter activity that’s as easy as walking.  

If you can walk, you can snowshoe.  It is a great workout, and you can get as much exercise as you want.

There are certain guidelines to keep in mind for buying the best snowshoes for your needs.  

Because there are different types of snowshoes, you want to make sure you choose the most appropriate one based on what you will be doing.  A snowshoe is kind of like a bicycle.  There are different types of bicycles for the road, trails, mountain, downhill, and so on.  In the same way, there are certain snowshoes for different terrains.  Snowshoes come in a variety of types and sizes, so before heading to the store to purchase your new snowshoes, be sure to consider a few things.

  • Consider where you will be snowshoeing. When it comes to snowshoes, there are different snowshoes for different terrains, so be thinking about the type of snowshoeing you will be doing before you go out to find the right ones.  Let’s break it down into three activity categories:                                                                    
  • 1. Flat terrain snowshoes.  This is a great option for beginners and casual snowshoers.  These are designed for easy walking on flat to rolling terrain.  If you want to take your family on a snowshoeing adventure, flat terrain snowshoes are the way to go!      
  •  2.  Rolling terrain snowshoes.  This is a great option for hikers and backpackers.  These are designed for hiking on rolling to steep terrain off the beaten track.  These work well for all weather conditions, except extremely steep or ice conditions.      
  •   3. Mountain terrain snowshoes.  This is a great option for experienced hikers, mountaineers, and backcountry snowboarders.  These are designed for those extremely steep or icy conditions.  Snowshoers who want to blaze their own trail should most definitely go with this type of snowshoe.  
  • Consider your weight and gender.  It's important to think about your weight because this will influence the size of snowshoe you will need.  If you’re heavier, you’ll usually want a larger snowshoe.  This will give you more surface area to prevent you from sinking into the snow.  In addition to weight, consider gender.  The tail of a women’s snowshoe is usually more narrow because they tend to take smaller steps.  The tail of a man’s snowshoe is wider.  

Once you determine your terrain and activity level, shop snowshoes at REI to find the perfect ones for you.

Choose all your gear carefully.

  • Boots.  When choosing the best boots for your snowshoes, there are five things you want to consider:  a secure fit, warm insulation, waterproof materials, a stiff sole, and a sturdy, non-compressible upper.  Learn more about these five key features to consider.
  • Socks.  Wear wool or synthetic socks.  You want your feet to stay nice and warm in the snow, and this will help with insulation.
  • Waterproof outermost layer.  Make sure your outermost layer is waterproof, including pants and jacket.  This will keep you nice and dry for your entire snowshoeing experience.
  • Snowshoe poles.  Having a pair of snowshoe poles is also essential for balance and control in variable snow conditions and terrain.  Did you know you can upgrade your trekking poles into snowshoe poles?  There is a great option if you are looking to save some money.  All you need to do is replace the standard hiking basket with a larger snow basket. If you are interested in going this route, learn more about how to turn your trekking poles into snowshoe poles.  

Know before you go.

  • Have all the essentials.  In addition to snowshoe-specific gear, make sure to have all of the essentials 
  • Know the trail before you go.  Use well-marked trails or know how to use maps since it is easy to get lost in the snow.  It can be tempting to go off trail, but beginners especially should stay on the trail.  If you are going alone, make sure you tell someone where you are going and when you plan on returning.
  • Check weather conditions.  In the winter time, there are different safety concerns to be aware of.  Know before you go by checking the weather conditions, whether it be avalanche or trail conditions.  If you live here in the Northwest, you can check the conditions at the Northwest Avalanche Center. You can also check with a national park ranger.  

Snowshoeing can be such a fun outdoor sport, and a great way to enjoy the snow.  Keep these tips in mind as you pick out the best snowshoes and get ready for your snowshoeing adventures.  

Do you have any other words of wisdom about snowshoeing?  Please share your knowledge with our hiking community in the comments.  We would all love to hear it.


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