In college, I was introduced to snowshoeing. I fell in love and it quickly became one of my favorite winter outdoor activities. This year, mother nature decided to give Michigan more snow than she has in years past. That resulted in more time adventuring via snowshoes.
If you\’ve never snowshoes before you might be wondering \”why go snowshoeing?\” and that\’s a great question. I\’ll be answering that question as well as giving you a basics beginner\’s guide to snowshoeing in this article. Hopefully, this guide will give you the confidence you need to hit the trails and enjoy something new.
Why go snowshoeing?
1. Exercise. If you\’re looking for a way to stay in shape when the snow falls, snowshoeing is a great low-impact aerobic exercise. Think steady-state cardio.
2. It allows you to extend your hiking and/or running season. Plus most of the time you\’ll have the trails to yourself which is always a wonderful head-clearing experience.
3. Great social activity. You can do it at any age and ability level!
4. Inexpensive. Your required gear includes snowshoes and appropriate attire, poles help but are not required.
What do you need to go snowshoeing?
1. Snowshoes of course! You\’ll want to make sure you get a pair that is right for your weight, terrain, and snow conditions.
2. GOOD socks. I love Darn Tough and Smartwool.
3. Waterproof boots
4. Layer up.
How to choose snowshoes?
If you\’re just getting into snowshoeing, renting gear is a great start. The rental shop will set you up with snowshoes that are proper for your weight and the conditions where you\’ll be snowshoeing.
Buying snowshoes for the first time?
Flat terrain snowshoes are a great first choice. They\’re designed for easy walking on flat to rolling terrain. These are great for beginners or families.
Take maximum load into account
All snowshoes have a maximum recommended load. Your first reaction is to just think of your weight, but you should actually consider your weight plus the weight of your pack filled with gear. You do not want to exceed the recommended load.
How to Dress for Snowshoeing
Proper boots and socks
The good news is that snowshoes adjust to fit pretty much any type of boot or shoe. What does that mean for you? Your main concern is to wear something that will keep your feet comfortable and dry. I rotated between three different boots this winter. Socks are a make or break, and as mentioned above I love Darn Tough and Smartwool.
If you\’re used to dressing for exercising outdoors you know that it\’s important to dress in layers, therefore you can adjust your attire as needed.
Pro Tip: Avoid cotton because it can get soaked and chill you. Instead, choose synthetics or wool styles that will wick moisture.
How I layer up
You can layer however you feel comfortable. Since we are on the topic, I thought I would share with you how I layer.
Base Layer: I start with a light to medium weight base layer depending on the temperature.
Mid Layer: I love a soft-shell jacket and pants with good insulation.
Outer Layer: I go for something waterproof. I also love to wear snow pants.
Hat, gloves, mittens: I always wear a beanie and a pair of mittens when I am out on the trail. I also always use some SPF chapstick, and moisturizer to protect me from the sun even when I can\’t see it.
Where to Go Snowshoeing
1. Check guidebooks for destination inspiration
2. Cross-country ski resorts. These areas typically charge a fee to use their trail system.
3. Permit areas, such as metro parks
4. Any area where you hike in the summer.
5. National forests and state parks.
You may find yourself sharing a trail with cross-country skiers. Do NOT step on the ski tracks on those trails. Instead, walk on the outer edge.
Do your best to avoid trails used by snowmobilers. These motorized vehicles have the right-of-way and you don\’t want to have a mishap with one.
How to Snowshoe on Flat Terrain
Your stride should be wider than it is for hiking in order to avoid stepping on the insides of your snowshoe frames. FYI: If you snowshoe properly you\’ll most likely find your hips muscles aching a bit after the first few times you snowshoe.
How to Use Snowshoe Poles
Optional on flat terrain, poles come in handy on many snowshoeing outings. They not only provide you better balance, but they also help give your upper body a workout.
Adjustable poles are best because they can be shortened for uphill travel or lengthened for descending.
How to set your pole length for flat terrain: flip your pole upside-down and grab the pole just under the basket. Adjust the length until your elbow is at a right angle.
It\’s as important to drink during cold-weather activities as it is in summer. Sometimes I forget this and end up in a bad state when I return home. Now I always make sure that myself and anyone who is on the trail with me have something to drink. I personally love Ecovessel products when I am out on the trail.