I’m not a huge winter or snow person. There is a reason I live in California and a lot of that is weather related. I decided on my annual winter trip to Lake Tahoe that I wanted to actually get out and enjoy the snow. I’m not into skiing or snowboarding and had kept hearing all about snowshoeing and thought I had to give it a try. So I found a tour group and when I got my “Things to Bring Along” list I was suddenly overwhelmed. What had I gotten myself into? I’m in decent shape, but nothing exceptional, and I can’t stand being cold and wet. It turns out my worries were for nothing, but I knew before I headed out I needed some tips for snowshoeing.
In the end, I had a great experience that made me want to make snowshoeing a part of my winter routine. Whether you love the winter or are more hesitant about it like me, snowshoeing is worth giving a try. Here are a few tips for snowshoeing I could have used before my first trip.Note: Some tours were provided at no cost to the author. All opinions remain my own. You’ll find affiliate links in this post which allow me to continue to improve Traveling Nine to Fiver. I hope these tips for snowshoeing useful for you.
Planning Your Hike
Book a Tour
There are a few different ways to go about your first snowshoeing hike. The simplest is booking a tour with a reputable company. This way you are provided with your gear, often snacks, have someone talk you through each step and lead you along the trail. This is how I took my first trip with up in North Lake Tahoe with Tahoe Adventures. It was the perfect way to get started.
Going on Your Own – Finding Gear & Researching Your Trail
There are two ways to get your needed gear for the hike. The first is to rent it from an adventure shop, most places you’ll go to take a hike you’ll be able to find these stores. You can often find packages with snowshoes and poles for under $20 a day. Or check out your local REI that might have rentals.
If you’re planning on making this a regular adventure look into purchasing your own snowshoes, you can get good quality snowshoes ones for under $100.
When heading out on your own you’ll also want to research your trail. If you’re somewhere you visit when snow isn’t on the ground stick to the trails you know. Otherwise, find out which parks and areas have trails made for snowshoeing, this will keep you on firm ground where you won’t wear out as quickly and keep you from getting lost along the way. Make sure you know how long the trail you’re taking is so you can prepare for your time on the trail.
What To Wear – Layers
My top tip for snowshoeing is making sure you stay dry. Otherwise, you hike will be miserable and possibly even dangerous. Make sure to prepare with the right time of layers.
On Your Feet
You’re going to want top notch boots that will keep your feet dry. Ideally, you’ll want to find a pair that is waterproof and has insulation like the North Face Chilkat Boot. With that, if you aren’t walking in deep powder and temperatures aren’t too low just waterproof can make do with something like the Columbia Redmond Hiking Boot. I used a similar boot and it worked just fine and can use the boot in a wider variety of situations.
Under your boots, you will want wool socks. They will keep your feet warm but also avoid absorbing water. Do not wear cotton socks!
If you want to trek in deep snow you’ll need a little more protecting, the worst feeling in the snow is when you get some up your pant leg. A simple pair of gaiters will do the trick. On the other hand, if you stay on the trail you won’t normally need them.
Your Bottom Half
Again, you will want to avoid any cotton on your the bottom half of your body. Two layers here will do the trick. Start with a waterproof base layer, for me, this is yoga pants. You can do just about anything that is either wool or synthetic, find some options here.
On top of your base layer, you’ll want waterproof pants. This can be what you wear skiing or snowboarding or get a softshell more designed for hiking. This will help keep you both warm and dry.
Similar to your bottom you’ll start with a water resistant base layer top, either wool or synthetic. You’ll also want a waterproof softshell or ski jacket to wear on top of it. If temperatures aren’t too low that will be enough for you. If it’s getting chilly you’ll want to also have an insulating layer between the two standards. Down jackets can be great for this as well.
On Your Head & Hands
You’ll want to pack yourself a beanie (my favorite) and a scarf to keep you warm. Depending on the weather these will end up in your bag, but you don’t want to be without them if it gets chilly. You’ll also want to wear a pair of snow gloves, ones that are waterproof and can be tucked into your jacket to keep the water out.
What to Bring
You’ll want to bring a sturdy, easy to carry bag to hold everything. Somehow I ended up bringing a saddleback and quickly regretted it. I had to keep adjusting it and it drove me nuts.
If you’re taking a longer hike and expect to take a break for a meal, to watch the sunset or just rest a bit, you’ll want to bring along a waterproof blanket.
Hydration & Snacks
To start you’ll want to make sure you have enough water to make it through the hike. Even though it will be cold out you’ll still need to take water breaks along the way.
If you’re taking a longer hike you’ll want to bring a snack along with you, you can even bring a full meal. At the least pack some nuts or snack bars. It’s also well worth bringing along a hot beverage. Either bring a thermos of hot water and cups and packets to make individual drinks, or make one ahead of time.
This was one of the perks of taking a tour. All my snacks and a warm beverage were provided and without having to carry them.
Sun & Wind Protection
If you don’t spend much time in the snow it’s easy to forget how bright it can get, you’ll want to pack both sunglasses and sunblock if you’re hiking in the daylight. You’ll also want to bring along chapstick to make sure you don’t come back with dried lips.
For Night Hikes
Taking snowshoeing trips at night can lead to some of the best stargazing or watching the sunset from a peak. You’ll want to make sure to be extra prepared when you’re making your trail and make sure to bring along a flashlight and extra layers. If it’s a bright night you might not pull out the flashlight but if there is heavy tree coverage you may still need it.
Get Out & Have Fun In the Snow
Now that you’ve got some tips for snowshoeing you’re ready to have fun in the snow. Enjoy a chance to get out in nature and see a different season of the place you’re exploring.
As long as you prepare a little bit snowshoeing can be a fun adventure for everyone. Whether you’re traveling to a winter destination or you’re hitting the snowy trails in your own backyard it’s a great way to get outside and stay active during the winter.
Have you ever been? What are your tips for snowshoeing for someone just starting out? Leave a comment below.