Hiking in snowshoes is a blast. They're a great way to get outside in the winter and, if there's enough snow, they'll let you travel over brushy areas that would have been a miserable bushwhack during the summer. At its most basic, snowshoeing is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. The simple fact of winter travel on snow, however, means there's room for a little fine-tuning once you tackle more adventurous snowshoe hikes:
- Stay oriented. Familiar terrain can look very different when blanketed by snow, and it's easy to wander off established trails without realizing it -- or to do so on purpose! After all, that's one of the points of hiking in snowshoes. Keep yourself safe by staying oriented and carrying the "Ten Essentials" just in case.
- Remember your winter basics. That includes:
- Dressing in appropriate, non-cotton layers
- Being aware of, and proactively managing, any avalanche hazard
- Knowing the signs and symptoms of cold-weather emergencies like hypothermia and frostbite, plus how to treat them
- Being proactive about staying warm and comfortable.
- Have a way of attaching your snowshoes to your pack. Snowshoes are great in deep snow -- but you can travel faster without them on frozen crust, a hard-packed trail, or anywhere the ground is scoured free of snow. Carrying them in your hands is a real drag, so put some thought into how you can attach them to your pack. Some of the best options include:
- Slipping them under your pack's compression straps -- either both on the front of your pack or one on each side, depending on where the compression straps are located
- Stowing them in your pack's front pocket (this works well if this front or outside pocket is built for accepting a snow shovel)
- Using bungees or webbing to secure them to the outside of your pack.
- Carry hiking poles with you. The poles make it easier to maintain your balance on varied terrain. They're great for pushing brush out of the way and are a great help for getting up should you fall down. No need to buy special snowshoeing poles -- just outfit your usual trekking poles with wide baskets that'll let them support more weight in deep snow.
That said, you always want the option of having your hands free -- so make sure you know how to attach your trekking poles to the outside of your pack.
- Consider wearing gaiters. On the off chance you end up fumbling in the snow, they'll keep snow from creeping into your boots, socks and pants.