Beginners Guide to Snowshoeing Gear

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Last month I spent a weekend snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park. I had so many people ask me questions about preparing for my trip, that I thought I would dedicate a post to it. It may seem kind of simple at first but depending on the length of the hike, the conditions and of course, YOUR conditioning, you want to be prepared.

Beginners guide to snowshoeing gear

Snowshoes

First and foremost, you need snowshoes. You can rent them, borrow them from a friend or venture out to your local outdoor store and purchase a pair. There are several brands of snowshoes (MSR and Tubbs seem to be popular) out there but what is probably most important is that you get snowshoes that fit and that are suitable for your weight.

tubbs snowshoe finder

Tubbs has a great snowshoe finder on their website. Simply enter your gender, your total weight with gear and the type of snowshoeing you plan to do. If you’re heading out for backcountry snowshoeing, you want to be sure your shoes have crampons to dig into that ice. Remember that “short-cut” that I took on my trip? I had to dig in and the crampons on my shoes became my best friends.

tubbs snowshoes for women

I’m only 5 feet tall (I’ve given up claiming the 1/2 inch) and weigh 110 lbs without gear, so for me, 21″ snowshoes would work the best. The mens snowshoes I borrowed were a bit too long for me and I ended up stepping on myself (and falling over), a few times.

Footwear

You should pick your footwear depending on the type of snowshoeing you plan to do. For backcountry and day hikes, you probably want to wear hiking boots that are waterproof. I wore a pair of Kamik snow boots that I used during my dogsledding trip and they worked perfectly fine.

Also, for the love of Pete, do not wear cotton socks! Grab a pair of wool socks that will not only keep your feet warm but dry as well. Cotton is great for some things but it’s terrible at wicking away moisture and staying dry. The last thing you want when being out in the elements is cold, wet feet.

gaiters

Gaiters

If you’re going into deep snow and your boots aren’t tall enough, use gaiters to keep snow from getting into your boots. They aren’t the most attractive things but this isn’t a fashion contest, it’s about being smart and warm out on the trail.

Clothing

Layers, layers, layers. The most important thing you can do is dress in non-cotton layers. When I got out of the car at the Bear Lake Trailhead, I was cold. It was was windy and I put on every piece of clothing I brought. Fifteen minutes into the hike, I was sweating and ripping clothes off. At our summit, I was again cold and putting clothes back on. I constantly had to regulate my body temperature by taking off and putting on clothing. Three layers on top always seems to work for me: a thin base layer, followed by my GoLite breathable wind jacket and a super light Montbell down jacket.

And common sense should tell you that a hat and gloves are essential.

Eye Protection

This is one of those do as I say and not as I do moments. From the beginning of time, I have loathed sunglasses. Maybe it’s because I have the worst eyesight imaginable and my lenses look liked coke bottles (for those of you who remember when pop came in a bottle) or that fact I have no nose bridge and they constantly slide down. Either way, I rarely wear them and on my last trip, I paid for it. My contacts were so dry on the descent from Mills Lake, I couldn’t see a thing in front of me. Everyone 10-15 minutes I had to stop and put drops of water in my eyes. All of this could have easily been prevented if I had worn the proper eye protection. So suck it up and get a pair of glasses that will actually protect your eyes not only from drying out but from the reflection of the sun on that beautiful white snow.

Trekking Poles with Snow Baskets

If you’re hiking a well-packed trail, these probably aren’t necessary but if you’re going into the backcountry, trekking poles are a nice luxury. Larger baskets are used for snow. They helped me from falling over when I stepped on the backs of my snowshoes and going up some steep terrain it was nice to have the stability.

Day Pack

Grab a small day pack and load it up with water, some snacks and anything else you might need on the trail (lip balm, saline solution, camera, etc.). You can also stuff your jacket in there when you get hot and then pull it out when you get cold. It’s a vicious cycle I tell ya…

snowshoeing gear for beginners

If you’re interesting in snowshoeing, do a simple hike to start out. Once you realize that you love it (because being outside with pristine white snow is amazing), invest in some gear. And once you’re bought everything on my list and then some, you’ll look like this guy….all geared out.

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About Sarah

Mom. Blogger. Runner. Hiker. Insomniac. Not necessarily in that order.

Comments

  1. I have always wanted to go snowshoeing. What a helpful guide!

  2. A very informative post and I have some relatives that live in Montana so I’ll refer them to your post. I agree with you 100% on not wearing cotton socks in the cold. I learned that when living in Indiana. Now that I live in Florida cotton is my friend in the summer.

  3. Great post! It is very important to have the proper gear on and the small backpack should be a must have on hand while your on your trail! ! I would love to visit the Rocky Mountain National Park look like so much fun!

  4. I don’t think I’ve owned one piece of snow gear since we live in So Cal. Can you rent snowshoeing gear like you can skiing and snow boarding gear?

  5. I’ve always wanted to snowshoe! I’ve never lived in a place where that was an option – but I will take notes for my next adventure!!

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