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By Diane Spicer
Snowshoeing = hiking + bigger boots.
Woohoo!! What a great equation!
Seems obvious to me now, but it took me awhile to put that outdoor equation together.
I used to feel trapped inside the overheated, dry as a desert house during the long snowy winters in upper Michigan, when temperatures dipped below zero for days on end and the snowstorms just kept coming.
And then one fine day, I borrowed a pair of old fashioned, hand made bear paw snowshoes.
My world has never been the same since.
And I mean that quite literally.
So let me share with you why you (and your loved ones) should try snowshoeing, along with some of the best tips on how to get started as a newbie snowshoer.
To shortcut things, drop down to Snowshoeing FAQ.
Or use these buttons:
Or keep reading to pick up tips for making winter hiking on snowshoes not only enjoyable, but safe and comfortable.
Snowshoeing a hike you're familiar with under mild conditions is going to be a completely new experience with "boats" on your feet. (I prefer to call them floats!)
That includes some of the gear you'll carry into the pristine winter wonderland.
This unique, low tech sport requires very little in the way of gear, but you will need to put some thought and experimentation into choosing rock solid snowshoe gear.
In wintertime, you have less margin for error: shorter daylight hours, more extreme temperatures, and more effort for less pay off.
As for the physical effort required, you won't be shocked to hear that it takes more work on the trail, compared with summer hiking, partly due to your more rugged winter gear.
Your winter hiking boots are going to weigh more.
If you're not already using trekking poles, add them to your snowshoe gear list. Read why here.
My most cherished possession for winter snowshoeing outings isn't my carefully selected pair of snowshoes, it's my boots!
My waterproof, insulated, clunky, absolutely not stylish, but uber-functional winter boots:
If you prefer more of a traditional hiking boot look, take a peek at boots like these
Here's some good news.
Snowshoeing has gained in popularity lately, at least in the United States. That means there are lots of good brands of snowshoes to choose from.
Read about the brands I recommend here.
Or read my review of my new MSR Revo Ascents.
Try to be realistic about your commitment to this winter sport, and don't over or under spend for features that won't benefit you.
Snowshoeing clothing needs to be warm, of course, but also needs to do these things for your hard working body:
All the tips you need to select the right clothes for layering are right here.
You will also be using different muscles, or perhaps I should say you'll use the same old hiking muscles in different ways.
And if you're the first person, or the only person (lucky you!!), to go in that direction, you'll need to break trail.
Fact: You can't get as far on snow as you can on a dirt trail.
You'll be working hard (burning more calories) for less mileage.
Winter is the time when you should be carrying fat in your hiking lunch.
We've already covered how much harder you'll be working, and carbs alone won't be able to fuel your muscles.
The other reason for adding some fat into your hiking nutrition is to give you extra calories to burn as you keep your core temperature stable in the face of cold windy conditions.
Plus, fat makes you feel satisfied with small amounts, and keeps hunger pangs at bay.
Here is a complete guide to what to eat and drink on a snowshoe hike.
Strapping on snowshoes to explore a wintry scene is an absolutely amazing experience, regardless of where in the world your snow falls.
Now let's turn our attention to the motivation behind this type of winter hiking.
Heck, yeah it's fun!
Let's start this list of reasons to snowshoe with my favorite reason of all:
This winter hiking sport is an amazing opportunity to see places you can't get to during non-winter months.
All of that walking is a great opportunity to burn tons of calories, allowing you to eat a hearty breakfast, lunch, second lunch, snacks and dinner.
After my most recent snowy adventure at Mt. Rainier, I consumed an entire plate of burritos, rice, and beans, washing it all down with chips and salsa, more chips and salsa.....I thought I'd never feel full again!
This, from a woman who is hard pressed to finish one burrito.
And the best part?
So if I sound as if I'm advocating this winter sport as an excuse to enjoy good food, and plenty of it, I am!
If you're considering hiking for weight loss, you can't go wrong with a little physical exertion in cold conditions.
Being outdoors allows you to enjoy the tranquility and serenity of winter.
If you're lucky enough to be able to get away from the noise of human activity, you can marvel at the crunch of snow under your feet that shuts off the instant you stand still.
If you love to observe nature, winter is a marvelous time for you.
Fresh snow also makes animal tracking much easier.
OK, that's 6 motivations!
Here are 2 more reasons to go snowshoeing.
Snowshoeing is one of the few sports that has no learning curve. You're going to go from beginner to competent snowshoer very quickly!
The first few minutes might be a bit awkward, but after you hit your stride you'll be whizzing along humming a snowshoeing tune!
Tip: Be sure to choose easy terrain and good weather for your first few snowshoe outings.
I've saved the best reason to snowshoe for last:
Snowshoes are not expensive, compared with skiing.
You can take up this sport by either renting a pair of snowshoes for the first few times, or buying a pair at your favorite gear store like REI.
Being able to walk easily over the snow is wonderful because:
But winter hiking also brings responsibility for your safety.
Here are some questions that I get asked alot.
Just click on the question for a succinct answer and links to more detailed information about snowshoeing.