I’m going to start this post sharing a few things you should know before you read further. Why? Because there are factors you need to realize as you read through this post. I get tired of people sharing things online and not adding who they are and more importantly, who they are not.
- I am not a fitness professional, other than being a swim instructor which has no bearing on this kind of physical activity at all, other than if I fall in water I can rescue myself.
- I have not been hiking and snowshoeing forever. This is why I started to write these type of posts. There are things I really feel a novice should know. I do, however, consider myself physically fit and active. I run, I swim, and I do yoga.
- I am from Wisconsin and have lived in SoCal, NorthernCal, Iowa, Oklahoma and now Washington. If you aren’t familiar with many of these states (having lived in a cave or something), we have snow. Even more important, I love snow! I love the cold.
- I am not made of money.
Last year my husband and I bought our first set of snowshoes as our Christmas gift to each other. Life happened. We took them out once. This year, life happened again and we finally got a chance to take them out last weekend.
Why snowshoeing? As a runner and someone who loves to hike, snowshoeing was a way to combine both my love of hiking and being outdoors with my love of snow.
Why not snowboarding or skiing? Did you not read item 4 above? Where I said I wasn’t made of money? Have you seen how much it costs to snowboard and ski? Yes, snowshoeing costs money, but it is a lot more accessible financially for many of us.
SnowShoes. Well, it’s called snowshoeing so I’m guessing you know you need those. We went with a reasonably priced pair. Not the most expensive, not the cheapest. I’m going to put links to everything at the end of the post.
Hiking Poles. Look at the photo. You’ll want the ones with the wide feet made for snow attached. Your snowshoes may come with a pair, depending on where you get them or you can purchase them separate if they did not.
Gloves & Hat. I started out with a pair of Columbia® waterproof gloves with Omni-Heat™. My hands were plenty warm quickly, so I removed my gloves. I might suggest having a lighter pair in your pack. The same goes for a hat. I had my favorite, a CC beanie, but I was hot really soon, so it came off and went in the pack.
Pants. The first time I went snowshoeing I had on my New Balance® Heat leggings that I use for running in the colder temps. They kept me warm, but not dry or protected from the wind that can come up off the lake where we were hiking. This year, I picked up a pair of North Face® ski pants that didn’t have a lot of insulation so they weren’t bulky. You want to be able to move, so these were perfect when combined with my NB leggings underneath. There are a ton of options, the key is comfortability, move-ability and protection from the elements.
Tops. Layers, the key is layers. Light layers that you can take off and stuff in your pack as you heat up while snowshoeing. Based on recommendations, I used a base layer from Columbia® with Omni-Heat™. It’s the cute quarter zip in the photo. This is their lightweight version. There is a heavier version, but I wanted to use this when running as well, so I went with the lightweight version and paired it with a Stay Wildish® sweat shirt and a light non bulky Helly Hansen® ski jacket that I found at my local Goodwill® for $6.99.
Boots. Please make sure you have comfortable, supportive and waterproof boots. These three things will make a huge difference between a fun experience and a miserable time snowshoeing. For socks, I had a thin base layer sock followed by my Smart Wool® hiking socks.
I’ve listed the brands I use just to give you an idea. I’m sure people will have a load of opinions on brands, but you did notice I said I’m a newbie right? Not made of money?
Do your research, buy what you can afford or borrow from someone, especially if you aren’t sure if you will like it. I’ve loaned my snowshoes to friends. For as many times as you may go out then you may offer that option too.
Finding a Trail
there are multiple factors to consider when choosing a trail to snowshoe on. First, many of you may be able to simply take a walk through your neighborhood or in a park nearby simply by the fact that you have snow in winter. Where I live we get snow periodically in winter, but it can also be dry so we have to seek out winter play spots.
When you are new to snowshoeing you don’t want to hit those trails that are too steep or treacherous. You know the ones, they make amazing IG photos, but aren’t the ones for newbies.
Seriously, please take into consideration the conditions. Is snow due to arrive, is the snow melting and there is avalanche advisories? Are you snowshoeing with people who are newbies, little kids, older or less physically active adults? You really need to consider all these things before picking out your spot.
If you live in Washington State go to https://www.wta.org/go-outside/seasonal-hikes/winter-destinations/beginner-backcountry-snowshoe-hikes-for-everyone to find a trail. Go easy first or at least give yourself time to acclimate to coordinating on the snowshoes. There are similar sites for other states where snowshoeing is available.
Figure this out ahead of time when you research a trail. Many of the websites will list if you need a specific parking pass.
Also, find out if there is going to be actual parking when you get there and what to do if there isn’t. You don’t want to hike to your hike. Seriously! We saw people walking to their cars parked off Hwy 2 near Stevens pass. Literally on the side of the freaking highway. For at least 1/2 mile. Are they insane?
What to Bring
We used our regular hiking backpacks with water in bottles rather than the usual bladder as we were concerned that the water would freeze in the line. Inside we had the usual munchies and what not we use for hiking. If you are curious, head over to my blog post, “A Novice’s Guide to Hiking.”
We also made hot chocolate and poured it into our Stanley® growler. We kept it in the car and enjoyed piping hot chocolate at the end of our hike, 7 hours after we made it in the morning. Enough said, right?
Lastly, we packed walkie-talkies for everyone and set them to the same channel. Coverage in the mountains is spotty, so be smart and be safe.
Actually getting out there and going for it is easy. We walked an easy trail, but stayed on the trail the entire time. Don’t be stupid. Stay on the trails. That’s all I am saying out that. Enjoy yourself. Take breaks when needed. Go slow when the trail warrants it. We had warmer weather the days before our second trip, so melted snow froze overnight and there were patches of ice. That’s what those wonderful spikes are for at the bottom of your snowshoes, we stepped hard on these spots and went slow. We stepped toe to heal on the narrow paths, imitated penguin feet when going uphill.
I am definitely loving snowshoeing and can’t wait to get out there again…oh look it’s finally snowing outside my window!
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