Tag Line

 Park Finder | Northeast | Mid-Atlantic | Southeast | Great Lakes | Midwest | Rocky Mountains | Southwest | Pacific Northwest | Far West | Discuss


Send A Post Card

Kids Safety
Meal Planning 101
Trash Bag Uses
Giardia lamblia
Bad Advice
Sex In The Woods
Fall Camping Pitfalls
Car Clouting
Finding Campsites
Children Camping
Leave No Trace  
Bites & Stings
Survival When Lost
Wildfire Safety
Discussion Group

Top Ten Foods
Snowshoe Basics
Ten Fall Hiking Tips
Wearing Layers
Hiking With Kids
Essential Gear
Insect Repellant
Poison Ivy
Bear Encounters
Heat Related Injuries
Discussion Group

Avalanche Safety
Altitude 101
Lightning Safety

Paddling With Kids
Buying The Right

River Rafting Danger

Caving Basics

Horses vs. Hikers

Floyd's Archive


Search Our Site


Read our Privacy


We advise you to
read our Terms of
Usage & Disclaimer
before using this


1999 - 2006, OutdoorPlaces.Com,  All rights reserved

left bottom


Snowshoe Basics - OutdoorPlaces.Com
Hiking > Snowshoe Basics > 1 | 2 | END >>> Tell A Friend

 Introduction to Snowshoeing - Page 2


snowshoeingThe next thing you need to consider is your boots. Unlike skis, you don't need to spend more money on specialized boots that latch into your snowshoes. Many people elect to use their backpacking boots that they would normally use in the summer months. By wearing layers of socks and making sure they are completely waterproofed, your regular backpacking boots can provide a moderate level of service.

If you have money to burn you may want to consider getting some mountaineering boots. Made out of waterproof materials like Gore-Tex and polypropylene, lined with Thinsulate or wicking materials like DriClime, and specifically designed for cold weather, mountaineering boots can provide traction, support, warmth, and protection from moisture that no backpacking boot can provide. If you live in an area with an extreme winter climate, you should strongly consider getting mountaineering boots.

snowshoeingAnother item that you should absolutely have before hitting the trail is gaiters. Gaiters fit over the top of your boots and go roughly halfway up your calves. They keep snow from getting into the top of your boot and prevent cold and moisture from building up around your ankles. They also help keep your outer layer dry, which is important, as your lower legs will be in an endless shower of snow as you trek. If you invest in gaiters you can use them year round, especially if you hike in wet, damp, muddy conditions when the snow isn't flying.

Don't hit the trail without a set of trekking poles. If you ski you can spare the investment of buying trekking poles and just use your ski poles. Quality trekking poles will allow you to change out the baskets; those are the, "rings" at the bottom of the pole. You can use snow baskets to keep the pole from postholing every time you press down during the winter. Because most trekking poles telescope, you will be able to adjust the length for uphill and downhill climbs, which is something ski poles can't do. In the summer you can remove the baskets all together, or replace them with more appropriate ones to the conditions you like to hike in, and use your trekking poles to take the pressure and weight off of your knees. If you are on a tight budget cruise yard sales and swap meets trolling for ski poles. You won't have a hard time finding a pair and you won't spend a lot of money.

So now you are ready to hit the trail, but just how do you walk with snowshoes on? The good news is there really isn't any specialized training required. If you can walk and chew gum, you're ready. It may seem a little awkward at first but once you get use to having to walk just slightly bowlegged, it is pretty easy. You will be able to turn, start and stop normally. However there is one technique you can't do in snowshoes, and that is walk backwards. Because snowshoes have little metal cleats on the bottom of them, the cleats can catch as you step back, and can put you on the ground fast. If you have to turn around, all you need to do is simply pivot in a tight circle.

This leads to one of the first questions of a novice to snowshoeing, how do you handle hills? The reality is that unless the incline is extremely steep, it is pretty easy. Because snowshoes have those little cleats, they act like crampons and grab the surface, even offering you traction when things are icy. The best way to go is straight up or straight down, using your poles to balance and add traction if needed. Walking along an incline can be very difficult in snowshoes with gravity wanting to pull you downward so avoid crossing hills and move with the terrain.

Your first trek shouldn't be a grueling trip into the backcountry. Keep things simple. You are going to move slower in snowshoes than you will if you are hiking. The snowshoes and the layers of clothing complicate simple tasks like taking a rest break, or even going to the bathroom. And then there is the danger of the cold. If you plan to hit the backcountry you should seriously consider taking a winter survival course. Never snowshoe without notifying a responsible person of your plans and always carry adequate gear. Even if you are going for a short afternoon jaunt, have enough to get by for at least 24 hours.

Another safety issue you should follow is the weather. In higher elevations the weather can change very quickly. A sunny afternoon can turn into a blinding blizzard or a cold miserable rain. The wind and cold can cut through like a knife, and if your body can't maintain it's core temperature, you'll start to get hypothermia. In other words check the weather forecast before going out the door and trust your instincts when you are on the trail.

Another threat to consider in some parts of the country is avalanche. Every year avalanches kill several people across the United States. If you are hiking in a hilly or mountainous area know the avalanche risks and don't take any chances. Listen to the recommendations of area officials or people you know as trusted experts. A group of people moving through a dangerous area does not mean it is safe for you to pass.

If you live in an area that is prone to avalanches, you should carry a shovel and an avalanche beacon with you at all times. In the event that you are buried in the snow, the beacon will send off a signal that rescuers can use to home in on. Remember that an avalanche beacon is not a life insurance policy; it only helps rescuers find you faster. The survival rate of people buried in the snow by an avalanche is extremely low so don't take unnecessary chances.

If you are already enjoying other outdoor sports like skiing or snowboarding, you are probably less than $200 away from starting snowshoeing. The benefits of trekking through the quiet forest, fields, and mountains are endless. Cold, crisp clean air offers spectacular views free of insects and free of most other people. The hiking season hasn't ended - it has just begun.