Similar to any other sport or outdoor activity water consumption cannot be overlooked. As you will see below, maybe even more so when it comes to snowshoeing. A good rule of thumb to combat dehydration through the inevitable perspiration fest that is about to occur is to start hydrating the evening before, perhaps a full day before.
Dependent on your comfort level and experience with hydration techniques, I’d recommend getting in at least a half gallon (2 liters) of water in you by the time you are ready to turn in for the night. I’m not a big fan of water first thing in the morning, just doesn’t taste right and I need something in my stomach before I start pounding my hydrogen and oxygen concoction. After breakfast I’ll begin the water cycle slowly, and start with one water bottle, slowly taking sips, working to consume at least one liter (on average 2, 17 oz. water bottles) by the time I’m ready to pull off the road and strap on the shoes.
You may be making a pit stop or two before you hit the trail, and even a few more along the way, but this will ensure that you’ve done more than your part to combat dehydration. As with anything strenuous endeavor performance is key and that starts with something as simple as increasing your water intake prior and during an activity.
How might you know how to select the right size, and right snowshoe? Well if your renting, then it gets fairly simple as the on shift staff will ask all the questions and get you sized right up and out the door in no time.
However deciding on your own will require you to visit the store directly or play around on the perspective companies website in which you may be eyeing your purchase. REI has a great help-section on their site that will aid you in determining the best type for your upcoming adventure (flat terrain, hills, etc.) as well as help you in selecting the appropriate size (link provided): https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/snowshoes.html . Additionally, Sierra Trading Post has a nice page complete with a sizing chart (link provided): https://www.sierratradingpost.com/lp2/snowshoe-guide/ in fact I used this very chart when purchasing my first pair from Yukon Charlies.
Good luck, and choose wisely!
One thing I learned quickly in 2016 is that layers are your friend. Even in temperatures as brisk and as low as mid 20’s (or cooler) the amount of body heat created once you begin to move is quite astounding. This one is pretty simple in my mind, but I’ll break it down in three ways to help you put this all together and show you where I’ve had the most success and comfort: base, middle, outer:
1. Base: Breathable set of underwear, tights or compression leggings, and shirt–moisture-wicking fabrics
2. Middle: “Lightweight” pair of shorts, vest (I use an Adidas down vest)
3. Outer: Gloves, snow-pants, warm and functional jacket (I usually will go with a thinner jacket that is wind-resistant, mine is a Marmot windbreaker with a thin fleece lining. I can shed the down vest underneath, thus staying cool but not sacrificing the wind resistance), and beanie
When I refer to “breathable, and lightweight” I mean fabrics that allow for maximal air flow, are quick drying, and flexible. Champion, Nike, Under Armour, etc. are your friends. These are usually a 100% polyester type fabrics or a blend 70/30 or 60/40 (poly/cotton), nylon, spandex, etc.
90 percent of the time I end up trekking with my snow-pants, jacket, and beanie in my backpack before the end of the day. It just gets too warm, and this is obviously dictated by like weather, but also by the length at which you travel, and the terrain in which you are navigating. I can say though that in a bulk of my experiences, the layers do come off!
Eye and Skin Protection
Even on a cool sunny day in the alpine, the sun burns hot and quick. Sunlight reflecting off the ice and snow, and higher altitudes can make for a painful post snowshoeing experience. I’ve been there a few times, and have endured some pretty nasty burns and major peeling in the cooler winter and spring months.
Make sure that sunglasses, and sunscreen are on your gear checklist before you leave for the day. These will of course help prevent damage to the eyes and skin from the magnified UV rays coming through that thin alpine air and those bouncing rapidly off the snow floor. Consider this information from Impact Melanoma:
SPF 15 filters out approximately 93% of incoming UVB rays. SPF 30 blocks 97% and SPF 50 blocks 98%. These may seem like marginal differences, but they’re meaningful especially if you have a history of skin cancer. But no sunscreen blocks all UVB rays, so it’s still important to seek shade whenever possible, and reapply sunscreen often.
And this from the American Academy of Dermatology: Skin cancer also can form on the lips. To protect your lips, apply a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
As for eye protection, the American Academy of Ophthalmology aside from never looking directly into the sun recommends, UV-blocking sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats, to shield your eyes.
Bottom line, take the necessary precautions to protect your eyes and skin before, during, and after your expedition.
Beginner Trail Selections
Groomed vs. Back-country
Groomed trails, are just what they sound like they are; a nice predetermined groomed trail that may loop you around towering pine and up and over gently rolling snow covered hillsides. These types of trails are great for a few different reasons: 1. Its your first time out; 2. You are taking your children along for the first time as well; 3. Greater sense of security for those not quite ready to venture off the the beaten path. Again, although these routes are limited in what they offer from an exploration standpoint, the experience is still beyond rewarding and is a great testing ground to see if you are committed to future trips.
Back-country trails and routes are, well, a little less groomed. Although no groomed path, there are usually defined routes or “official” trail boundaries. These offer the most bang for your buck, allowing for a great sense of freedom and the ability to explore beyond a groomed route. There is nothing quite like gently trudging over a fresh layer of powder to ridges overlooking deep snow filled valleys, granite encased alpine lakes that would otherwise be left in solitary existence until those late spring early summer months.
So which one do you choose? Go with what feels right, go with what seems comfortable. I recommend starting off simple, and really seeing if you like the idea of exploring around with a couple of giant slippers strapped to your feet. The last thing you want to do is get out there on your first time, go for broke ,have a bad experience, and never do something again that you would have otherwise loved had you not bitten off more than you could chew.
A couple of our favorite beginner destination suggestions for you:
– Alturas Lake
– Location: Idaho, Sawtooth National Recreation Area
A fairly flat haul that will have you meandering through pine and around the smaller neighboring Perkins Lake before arriving at scenic Alturas Lake and her breathtaking landscapes
Afterwards head back into town and grab a warm bowl of chili (it’ll have your taste buds shouting for joy) at the Mountain Village Resort and maybe if you hit it right you’ll catch some live music or stand-up act to help wind down an eventful day.
– Brundage Mountain
– Location: McCall Idaho, Brundage Mountain Ski Resort
– Cost as of 2016: Free
Trudge through world class powder off the beaten path and away from the herds of snowboarders and skiers. Pine and Aspen trees aplenty here, and some gorgeous forest and valley views.
Afterward head into the skil odge and sit down at Smoky’s for some soul enlivening grub sure to melt away all the aches as well as just soothe any tired muscles: https://brundage.com/dining/smokys-bar-grill/
Just a thought: Snowshoeing is invigorating, and highly rewarding, however it is also quite demanding on your body. The physical requirements are something else you may want to consider before heading out on your first trip. It may be a safe suggestion that you look into beginning a light exercise regimen in preparation for that trip. Lastly, as stated above, your first trip out might want to be one where the trail has been cut for you, and offers you a nice comfy rehabilitation point (lodge, ski/rental office, etc.) to recharge and regroup.
In an effort to wind this article down, I wanted to suggest a couple more items to add to your trip list in order to make this excursion as comfortable and beneficial as possible.
Trekking Poles: Again keep it simple, and cost beneficial. You can buy a decent pair for a pretty cheap price or most sporting goods stores with a rental counter will allow you to rent some. When the legs and hips need a break, a mechanical advantage is a nice back pocket ace. Trekking poles offer at times much needed push and leverage to maneuver the terrain getting you up and down hills and driving you forward at a steady pace.
Gaiters: Above I stated that often times that the snow pants come off too due to the heat generated while slicing through powder,and therefor I’m left to trek in my shorts and tights. The gaiters help hold in a little heat, as well as keep the snow off your exposed lower legs and boots thus keeping your dry…and warm…er…
Fairly self-explanatory, but a hydration pack/water bottle, food, and a water filtration system (I use a Sawyer Mini) are a must.
Closing note: The above content has been generated purely from my experience and is in no way intended to be taken as snowshoeing gospel. Use this information as part of your research and take what elements you can from it, to incorporate into your experience!