Your Ultimate Snowshoeing Guide
Snowshoeing is essentially hiking in the winter on snow and is not only great exercise, but you’ll also see some fantastic scenery. You’ll need a few snowshoeing essentials before you hit the trail. Here’s the gear you need to get on the snow.
It may seem obvious, but you’ll need snowshoes to wear for your snowshoeing adventure. A snowshoe is a large basket that attaches to the outside of your hiking shoes. They distribute the weight of the hiker over a larger surface area, so the hiker does not sink into the snow.
Hiking shoes or boots
You will want a pair of hiking boots or all-terrain shoes just like you would if you were going hiking. If you have waterproof or Gore-Tex shoes it will give you added protection in the snow to keep your feet warm and dry. Boots will give you more stability and protect your ankles, but if you don’t like wearing boots, look at trail running shoes or climbing approach shoes. Whatever hiking footwear you choose, make sure you wear new shoes for a few days before hiking to break them, which will help to avoid blisters.
Ski poles, or hiking trekking poles are nice for balance and stability. If the snow is fresh, you’ll want a powder basket, so the pole does not probe too deep.
Waterproof jacket and pants
If the snow is deep waterproof pants will keep your legs dry and a waterproof jacket is essential in stormy or windy weather. It’s best to go snowshoeing prepared, so wear hard shells. However, insulated ski and snowboard pants and jackets may be too warm if you are moving fast or uphill.
The key to a successful and comfortable snowshoeing trip is being warm, but not hot. Layering is the way to go. Start with lightweight and breathable under layers on top and bottom. Add fleece layers on colder days, and possibly even a vest if it’s really cold. Top with waterproof hard shells and you will be set for any weather. If you warm up, just ditch a few layers and continue on.
It might be cold, but the sun is still intense at 8,000 feet, plus the snow reflects the sun back. Protect yourself from sunburn. Make sure to lather up all exposed skin before heading out. Then reapply a few hours into your hike at a snack break. Thick waterproof sunscreen also helps protect your skin from the cold and wind.
Wear sunglasses. Do not attempt to participate in any snow sport without eye protection. Regular sunglasses are fine for snowshoeing since you are not moving at high speeds. Goggles will provide more protection, but they are normally too hot for snowshoeing unless it is stormy.
Beanie and hat
Your head radiates a lot of heat, so to keep warm in winter; you need to keep it covered. A warm beanie is essential for any outdoors sports in the winter, but a brimmed hat or visor is also nice. You can switch hat for beanie when you warm up, to protect your face from the sun, or if it’s cold wear the beanie over your hat. The brimmed hat is also effective for protecting your face from falling snow if it gets stormy.
You’ll want to keep your hands warm while outdoors in the winter, so wear a pair of gloves. Lightweight gloves or glove liners are best, since you’ll be moving and warming up. A pair of waterproof gloves work well too and are essential in stormy weather.
If you are planning to go snowshoeing in stormy weather a face mask, neck gaiter, or balaclava is nice for extra warmth and protection from snow and wind. In fact, this extra gear can make storm hiking comfortable and really fun.
Snacks and water
Bring a liter of water for each person on your snowshoe adventure. Even though it might be cold and you don’t think you are thirsty, hydration is very important while exercising at high altitude. Depending on how long you are trekking you will either want some snacks or possibly even a full lunch for longer days. Plan to bring at least an energy bar per person so that you have the fuel you need to keep going. Trail mix, fruit, beef jerky, and electrolyte drink mixes are also nice.
Make sure you know the route your are taking and bring a map and compass. There are great snowshoeing trails that are easy to follow in the Mammoth Lakes Basin and at Shady Rest, however it is possible to get turned around. A map is essential.
Carry at least one small backpack per two people in your group. The backpack will carry your map, water, food, extra sunscreen, and give you a place to stash any extra layers you take off throughout the day.