Snowshoeing 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Snowshoeing, Gear, and Techniques

December 30, 2022

One of my favorite things to do in Winter is to go snowshoeing. It’s a great way to enjoy the snow and get outdoors. Snowshoeing is a fairly easy activity that any can learn how to do, whether they are young or old. I’ve written this guide to snowshoeing for anyone who is interested in trying snowshoeing. (And even if you’re experienced, you might find some useful information!) In this snowshoeing guide for beginners, I talk about the basics of snowshoeing to get you started hitting the snow-covered trails. You’ll learn about different kinds of snowshoes, various pieces of gear you’ll need, and some easy snowshoeing tips and FAQs.

Trekking Poles and Snowshoes on a snowy mountain. Snowshoeing for Beginners: A guide to snowshoeing, gear, and techniques

What is Snowshoeing?

Snowshoeing is a form of hiking or walking in the snow using specialized shoes called snowshoes. These shoes have a large, flat surface area that spreads your weight out over a larger area. The wider surface area allows you to walk on top of the snow rather than sinking into it. When you wear snowshoes you can access snowy areas that might be inaccessible during the winter months.

Snowshoes come in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit different types of terrain and activities. Some are designed for use on flat, groomed trails, while others are built for more rugged, off-trail adventures.

Types of Snowshoes

There are several different types of snowshoes available, each designed for a specific type of terrain and activity. Here are a few of the most common types:

Trail snowshoes

Trail snowshoes are the most common type of snowshoe and are designed for use on groomed trails or packed snow. They are generally smaller and lighter than other types of snowshoes, making them easier to carry and maneuver on flat terrain.

Backcountry snowshoes

These are designed for off-trail adventures in deep, ungroomed snow. They are generally larger and wider than trail snowshoes, with more aggressive crampons and bindings for better traction and stability on steep or uneven terrain.

Racing snowshoes

As the name suggests, these are designed for racing and are generally the smallest and lightest type of snowshoe. They are not suitable for use on rugged terrain, and are best suited for flat, groomed trails.

Kids’ snowshoes

Smaller versions of adult snowshoes, kids’ snowshoes are designed for children and young teens.

Snowshoeing for Beginners: A Guide to Snowshoes and Snowshoe Gear. A row of different types of snowshoes and trekking poles along a fence in the snow.

Snowshoe Gear

In addition to snowshoes, there are a few other pieces of gear you will need for a successful snowshoeing trip. Here are a few snowshoeing essentials:

Warm Clothing

It is important to dress in layers when snowshoeing, as your body will generate heat while you are active but you will also be exposed to the cold. Start with a base layer of moisture-wicking fabric to keep your skin dry, followed by a mid-layer of insulation to keep you warm. On top of this, you will need a waterproof and windproof outer layer to protect against the elements. Don’t forget a hat, gloves, and warm socks to keep your extremities warm.

Snow or Winter Boots

It is important to wear warm and waterproof boots when snowshoeing. You can wear your regular winter boots, or invest in a pair of insulated, waterproof boots specifically designed for snow sports.

Poles

Trekking or snowshoe poles can be helpful for balance and support on uneven terrain, and can also help you to gauge the depth of the snow. Look for poles with adjustable lengths and snow baskets (large, disk-shaped attachments that help prevent the poles from sinking too deep into the snow).

Other gear for snowshoeing

Depending on the length and difficulty of your trip, you may want to bring other gear such as a backpack, a map and compass, a first aid kit, a headlamp or flashlight, and snacks and water.

What type of snowshoes should I use?

There are a few key factors to consider when choosing the right type of snowshoe for your needs:

  1. Terrain: The type of terrain you will be snowshoeing on will greatly influence the type of snowshoe you should choose. For example, if you plan to stick to groomed trails, you will likely want a smaller, lighter snowshoe with a more streamlined design. If you plan to venture off-trail into deep, ungroomed snow, you will need a larger, wider snowshoe with more aggressive crampons and bindings for better traction and stability.
  2. Weight: Snowshoes come in different sizes to accommodate different weight ranges. It is important to choose a snowshoe that is appropriate for your weight to ensure optimal performance.
  3. Activity: Different types of snowshoes are designed for specific activities. For example, racing snowshoes are lightweight and streamlined for speed, while backcountry snowshoes are larger and more durable for off-trail adventures.
  4. Personal preference: Ultimately, the type of snowshoe you choose will depend on your personal preferences and needs. Consider your budget, the types of terrain you will be using the snowshoes on, and any other factors that are important to you when making your decision.

It can also be helpful to talk to do some research online to compare different models and read reviews from other users. This will give you a better idea of what to expect from different types of snowshoes and help you make an informed decision

People going snowshoeing on relatively flat, snowy terrain.

Snowshoeing Tips for Beginners

Here are a few tips to help you get started with snowshoeing:

Start slowly: Snowshoeing can be a physically demanding activity, especially if you are not used to hiking or walking in the snow. Start with shorter, easier trails and gradually build up your endurance and strength.

Pay attention to the weather: It is important to check the weather forecast before you head out on a snowshoeing trip. Dress appropriately for the conditions, and be prepared for changes in the weather.

Stay hydrated: It is easy to become dehydrated while snowshoeing, especially if you are sweating under all your layers of clothing. Make sure to bring plenty of water, and take breaks to drink and rest as needed.

Wear sunscreen: The sun can be intense at high altitudes, even in the winter. Make sure to apply sunscreen to exposed skin to protect against sunburn.

Use proper technique: When snowshoeing, it is important to use a wide, stable stance and take short, quick steps to avoid sinking into the snow. Pay attention to your body positioning and try to keep your weight evenly distributed on both feet. Keep reading to find more tips on how to walk using snowshoes.

Respect the trail: Snowshoeing can have an impact on the environment, especially if you are hiking off-trail. Stay on designated trails and be mindful of your impact on the surrounding ecosystem.

How to Walk with Snowshoes – Basic Techniques for Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing for Beginners: How to Walk with Snowshoes.

Walking with snowshoes is a great way to enjoy the winter outdoors and explore new terrain. Here are some step-by-step instructions on how to walk with snowshoes:

  1. First, put on your snowshoes and make sure they are properly adjusted to fit your boots. The bindings should be tightened enough to hold your foot securely, but not so tight that they are uncomfortable.
  2. Stand up straight and take a few steps to get a feel for the snowshoes. They may feel a bit awkward at first, but you will quickly get used to them.
  3. When walking with snowshoes, it is important to keep your feet wide apart to give yourself a stable base. This will help you maintain your balance and prevent falls.
  4. Take small, measured steps. Lift your feet high to avoid tripping on the snowshoes or getting stuck in the snow.
  5. To turn, simply pivot on one foot and lift the other foot to turn in the direction you want to go.
  6. If you need to climb uphill, use a diagonal stride to help propel yourself up the slope. This involves crossing one snowshoe over the other as you take each step.
  7. To descend a hill, take small, controlled steps and use your poles for balance. Avoid leaning back, as this can cause you to lose control and fall.
  8. If you do fall, try to roll onto your side or stomach and use your arms to push yourself up. Do not try to stand up too quickly, as this can cause you to lose your balance again.

By following these simple steps, you should be able to walk comfortably and safely with snowshoes. Remember to take your time and pay attention to your surroundings.

What are the benefits of snowshoeing?

1. Low-Impact Cardio Workout

Snowshoeing can be a great cardiovascular workout. Since you’re walking through snow, with heavier gear and snowshoes, it can really get your heart pumping. As an aerobic activity, going snowshoeing can help improve your endurance and burn calories. Walking with snowshoes can burn more than 600 calories per hour. That’s 45% more calories than you burn while walking or running at the same speed! Additionally, snowshoeing is a low-impact exercise that is easy on the joints, making it a good option for people who may be prone to injuries or who have joint problems. Snowshoeing is a great way to get in some exercise outdoors during the winter months.

2. Improve Mental Health and Focus

Because snowshoeing gets you away from technology and screens and into nature, it can improve mental health and focus. Snowshoeing increases mental focus because it requires concentration, patience, and determination. It also encourages mindfulness as you become more aware of your surroundings and the sounds around you. Going snowshoeing can improve your focus and concentration skills while you’re having fun in nature. Plus, the physical activity involved in snowshoeing can help to reduce stress levels and improve overall mental health.

3. Increased Balance and Coordination

Snowshoeing can be a great way to improve balance and coordination. It requires you to lift and move your feet in a different way than you do when walking or running on solid ground. Wearing snowshoes requires you to make wider strides than normal. The wider your stride is, the more you have to balance yourself in order to avoid stepping on the insides of your snowshoe frames. This increased balance and coordination helps build strength in your hips and groin muscles over time.

4. Connect More with Nature

Snowshoeing is a fun and enjoyable way to spend time outdoors in the winter. It can be a great way to connect more with nature and explore new trails and terrain. Going snowshoeing allows you to explore the wintery terrain, experience its beauty and tranquility, and bond with family and friends. Whether you are hiking through pine-scented forests or feeling the sun’s warmth reflecting off snow, snowshoeing offers an immersive experience that connects you with nature in a special way. Additionally, the clean air can help clear your mind and provide relief from stressors of everyday life.

5. More Budget-Friendly Winter Activity

Snowshoeing is a relatively inexpensive activity, as it requires only a pair of snowshoes and some warm winter clothing. It is also a low-cost way to get out and enjoy the beauty of Winter scenery. Additionally, since snowshoeing does not require as much skill as skiing does, beginners can get out and enjoy the sport without spending a lot of time learning how to use their gear or practicing maneuvers.

Where and how to find the trails for snowshoeing near you

There are several ways to find snowshoeing trails near you:

  1. Check with local parks and recreation departments: Many local parks and recreation departments offer snowshoeing trails and may even have snowshoes available for rent. Contact your local parks and recreation department to find out what trails are available in your area.
  2. Search online: There are many websites and resources available online that provide information on snowshoeing trails in different areas. A quick online search can help you find trails near you.
  3. Ask at local outdoor stores: Outdoor stores and sporting goods stores often have a wealth of knowledge about local trails and may be able to recommend some good options for snowshoeing.
  4. Join a local snowshoeing group or club: Many communities have snowshoeing groups or clubs that organize outings and trails. Joining a group like this can be a great way to find new trails and meet other people who enjoy snowshoeing.
  5. Use a trail app or website: There are many apps and websites that provide information on trails in different areas, including snowshoeing trails. Some examples include AllTrails and Hiking Project.

By following these steps, you should be able to find some great snowshoeing trails near you.

Snowshoeing for Beginners FAQs

What do I need to get started with snowshoeing? You will need a pair of snowshoes, appropriate winter clothing, and possibly some poles or other gear depending on the terrain and conditions. You may also want to invest in a good pair of winter boots to keep your feet warm and dry.

Where can I go snowshoeing? You can go snowshoeing on trails in parks, forests, or other natural areas, or you can even snowshoe in your own backyard or a local field if there is enough snow.

Is snowshoeing hard? Snowshoeing is generally easy to learn, but it can be more physically challenging than walking or hiking on solid ground. It is important to take your time and go at a pace that is comfortable for you.

Can I snowshoe in any type of snow? Snowshoes work best in deep, powdery snow, but they can also be used in other types of snow, such as packed or crusty snow. However, they may not work as well in these conditions and may require more effort to use.

Do I need special training or skills to go snowshoeing? No special training or skills are required to go snowshoeing, but it is a good idea to be in good physical condition and be prepared for the physical demands of the activity. It is also a good idea to familiarize yourself with basic safety techniques and emergency preparedness.

Should I use poles when snowshoeing? Yes, it is recommended that you use poles when snowshoeing. Poles help to maintain your balance, provide support to distribute weight, and protect joints and muscles from injury. They also provide an upper body workout and allow you better control over your movements on uneven terrain. Adjustable poles should be used so they can be shortened for uphill travel or lengthened for descending.

What type of terrain is best for snowshoeing?

Snowshoeing can be enjoyed on a variety of terrain, from flat, groomed trails to rugged, off-trail adventures in the backcountry. The best type of terrain for snowshoeing will depend on your skill level and the type of snowshoe you are using.

If you are a beginner at snowshoeing, it is best to start on flat, groomed trails with a moderate level of difficulty. This will allow you to get a feel for the activity and build up your strength and endurance before tackling more challenging terrain.

For those with some experience snowshoeing and are looking for a more challenging adventure, consider heading into more mountainous areas where there are steeper hills and valleys that offer plenty of space for exploring. This will allow you to explore more remote areas. Just be prepared for deeper, untracked snow and more rugged terrain.

Ultimately, the best terrain for snowshoeing will depend on your personal preferences and goals. Whether you are looking for a leisurely stroll on a groomed trail or a more challenging backcountry adventure, there is a type of terrain out there for you.

What type of clothing should I wear when snowshoeing?

When snowshoeing, it is important to wear Winter clothing. Dress in layers to help regulate your body temperature and keep you comfortable. You should wear a base layer, mid layer, outer layer, hat, and gloves/mittens. Start with a base layer. The base layer should be lightweight or midweight (depending on the temperature forecast) of moisture-wicking fabric. This layer should fit snugly, but not too tight. A base layer should keep your skin dry by pulling sweat away from your body.

After the base layer, you’ll want a mid-layer. This layer is where you’ll get most of your insulation. Fleece or synthetic materials are good options for this layer, as they are lightweight and breathable. Your mid layer should be soft-shell jackets or pants that retain heat when wet and move freely.

On top of this, you will need a waterproof and windproof outer layer to protect against the elements. Look for a jacket and pants made from waterproof and breathable materials such as Gore-Tex or a similar material.

A hat or balaclava will keep your head warm while gloves or mittens will keep your hands warm in cold temperatures. Wear sunglasses or snow goggles and sunscreen to protect against UV rays which are more intense when reflected off of snow.

In case the weather turns colder or you get wet, bring extra layers, such as a down jacket or insulated pants.

What safety precautions should I take when snowshoeing?

There are a few safety precautions to keep in mind when snowshoeing, especially if you are new to the activity:

  1. Dress appropriately: Wear layers of warm, moisture-wicking clothing, and make sure to protect your head, hands, and feet from the cold.
  2. Bring the right gear: In addition to your snowshoes, make sure to bring other essential gear such as a map and compass, a headlamp or flashlight, a first aid kit, and plenty of water and snacks.
  3. Stay on designated trails and be aware of your surroundings: Stick to designated trails to ensure you don’t get lost. Pay attention to your surroundings and be aware of any hazards such as steep drop-offs or unstable snow. If you are unsure of the terrain, it can be helpful to hike with a partner or group.
  4. Know your limits: Snowshoeing can be physically demanding, especially if you are not used to hiking or walking in the snow. Start slowly and build up your endurance and strength over time. Don’t push yourself beyond your limits and take breaks as needed.
  5. Know the weather forecast: Check the weather forecast before you head out on a snowshoeing trip and be prepared for changes in the weather. If conditions are unfavorable, it may be best to postpone your trip.

In conclusion, snowshoeing is a fun and rewarding winter activity that allows you to explore the beauty of the outdoors in the snow. With a little bit of practice and the right gear, anyone can enjoy this activity, regardless of age or fitness level. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced hiker, there is a snowshoe trail out there for you. So get out there and enjoy the beauty of the winter landscape!

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Bushcraft Charlie

Born and raised on the East Coast, Bushcraft Charlie first started developing his bushcraft skills in the woods outside the suburbs. Then, he picked up and moved to Montana, where's he's spent the past decade hiking the Rocky Mountains, building lean-tos and enjoying more bushcraft.

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