by Diane Spicer
Use this free snowshoeing gear guide any way you'd like:
First big decision: where to snowshoe!
Decide if you're aiming to be a front country snowshoer, sticking to established trails and moderate routes.
If you want to go off established routes into the backcountry, you'll need more rugged choices for gear and clothing.
This guide covers both!
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This seems pretty obvious, right? Start with the snowshoes!
Back up to a more fundamentally crucial step: your winning combination of socks and winter boots for snowshoeing.
Check out REI's options for winter boots specifically recommended for snowshoeing.
Or read Hiking For Her's approach to winter boots here.
Need an example of a good choice of boots for snowshoeing?
Winter boots should be lightweight and of course weatherproof.
Cushioning, insulation, durability...
here's a nice choice for a female snowshoer. But really, any Baffin boot is designed to make your feet happy in cold weather.
Read HFH's review here.
You'll need thick, cushioned socks on your feet to keep your toes warm inside your winter boots.
You'll be generating a lot of body heat, but in my experience, toes run a bit chilly because they're the closest to the snow.
Tubbs is a brand which delivers the fundamentals and gets you out in the snow quickly.
If you're just starting out as a snowshoer, consider these Tubbs Flex STP snowshoes for these reasons:
Take a peek at all of the Tubbs women's snowshoes here.
You need to decide which type of snowshoe closure you prefer. Your choices include:
Try to imagine cold, wet fingers as you consider each type of closure!
Luckily, REI's website makes it easy.
Just select your preferred snowshoe closure option to eliminate snowshoes that won't work for you.
MSR is a rock solid company offering rugged gear.
When you go into terrain with downed trees to scramble up and over, rocky exposed slopes to crunch across, and icy stream crossings, you'll need snowshoes that take it all and never give up.
These MSR snowshoes are what are on my feet, and I can vouch for their easy to use bindings that stay glued to your boots, no matter what. The 2019 version has a binding re-design, making it even easier to strap these puppies on your feet and take off.
And their traction is amazing! Even on icy stuff, you'll keep your grip.
MSR Revo Ascents aren't cheap, but they are bombproof on your feet.
If you're going where there are no trails, and you want safe footing, these are great shoes to be wearing!
Read my review.
Lots more MSR snowshoe options here.
Think waterproof clothing that stands up to the cold.
If you already have a rain jacket and rain pants that do the job, wear those over your base and mid layers.
Or cut to the chase by taking a look at this jacket and pants combo.
REI Co-op Talusphere Pants will keep snow off your legs and give you easy access to your boot lacing and snowshoe bindings
Versatility is a well cherished trait of outer layers.
These pants can accompany you on four season hikes, and always keep you warm and dry.
Read a Hiking For Her review here.
This REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Jacket has all of the features you'll need as a snowshoer, to trap your midlayer's warmth and block wind and moisture.
It also provides additional protection on head and neck with its adjustable hood.
The shell jacket should be purchased with enough room for layering, right? Just a hint ;)
Vests are the ultimate winter mid layer to trap body heat and transmit it to your base layer.
Read more about vests so you don't miss a thing before you head out into the snow! I never go snowshoeing without a vest!
As a snowshoer, you want full visibility beneath a warm hat, and finger dexterity to manuever your boot laces, poles, backpack buckles and snack bag.
These are great options for a mighty duo:
An REI Co-op Lightweight Beanie
paired with the Outdoor Research Flurry Sensor Gloves
Here's a snowshoeing fact of life: once you get going, especially uphill, your head will begin to feel like it's cooking even in single digit temperatures.
But you don't want your ears and neck to get chilled, ever.
Always carry a balaclava to completely cover your head, neck and ears once the wind kicks up.
It's so much easier to stay warm than to try to add layers to warm up, even if you're moving and generating copious amounts of body heat.
A Smartwool Merino 250 Balaclava is a lightweight option to fit beneath your jacket hood (see above), and will cover your mouth when icy cold air makes it hard to breathe.
It will give you warmth in wet conditions, too, because Merino wool stays warm when wet.
If you don't use trekking poles for summer trails, now is the time you're going to want to have them in hand.
Snowshoeing requires some tricky maneuvers through deep snow and around tree wells (melted out areas around a tree trunk which can capture you).
Snowshoes on your feet force you to dig deep for balance when you're going uphill, and demands even more poise as you descend a steep slope.
Hiking poles will help you as a snowshoer in other ways, too:
Collapsible poles are the way to go, because they can ride along in your backpack to the trailhead, thus saving room in your car or public transport vehicle.
They can also be lashed to your backpack when you decide you don't need them on a trail.
Here's what I use:
These Black Diamond Trail Back Trekking Poles are relatively inexpensive, and you'll appreciate the solid feel of the rubber grips.
Rubber won't suck up moisture from the snow.
The shafts are lightweight, strong aluminum which lock down tightly using flip locks.
Note: These poles are shown with summer baskets on the ends.
All of your Black Diamond pole choices can be viewed at REI here.
And here are more HFH details about trekking poles.
Only buy one pair of hiking poles, and use them year round. Just switch the baskets at the ends.
Here is what winter Black Diamond Powder Snow Baskets look like: large contours to give your poles more surface area and allow them to "float" above the snow.
A pair of gaiters are essential to keep snow out of your boots and away from your legs.
They slip on easily (as long as your hands and fingers are warm - see above) beneath your boots, and buckle securely in place.
That's important if you're heading out for a long day of snowshoeing, or whenever the snow is heavy and wet.
You want full length (to the knee) gaiters like these for snowshoeing.
The REI Co-op Mountaineer GTX Gaiters are built a bit more rugged at the ankles, to protect you from debris you'll encounter.
One pair of gaiters will last for years and years, and will be welcome on snowy, muddy spring and fall trails, too.
When you head out into unknown territory and uncertain conditions on a short or stormy winter day, you'd better be prepared to get help if you need it.
Read about your choices for backcountry communication:
Yes, they're some of the most expensive pieces of snowshoeing gear you'll ever buy!
But what is your safety worth to you?
Exactly! That's why they're included in this snowshoeing gear guide.
There are a few hiking principles that I adhere to, and strongly recommend to you, in order to keep a wide margin of safety in winter hiking scenarios.
Most important: In winter hiking, you've got to stay warm, no matter what conditions you face.
Stay hydrated and eat the right food to fuel your body in cold temperatures, even if you don't "feel" like you need to eat and drink more frequently.
You'll need a way to keep your hot chocolate piping hot, and this 20 ounce Hydro Flask will help you out, no worries!
Put it deep inside your backpack, cozied up to your extra layers, if your hike lasts longer than four hours. Maximize your technology!
The other way to treat yourself to a hot beverage is to stash this in your car. After your hike, take off your cold, wet gear and then sip while you enjoy being out of the wind in your car or at the trailhead shelter.
You've come to the end of the snowshoeing gear guide, but you're just getting started on the fun and adventure of winter hiking with snowshoes on your feet.
The freedom and quietness of snowy landscapes will do wonders for you.
Bonus: Keeping your muscles conditioned year round will make you a top notch day hiker and backpacker.
To delve more deeply into preparation for a season of snowshoe adventures, here are more tips:
Best Snowshoeing Gear Guide
About the author
Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.
She's been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for 5+ decades & loves to share her best hiking tips right here.
All rights reserved.
Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer except where noted.
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