It's the second day of summer, 2017 and here we ae talking about snowshoes. Well, why not? It isn't like winter isn't going to come. This is Canada, after all. Cold weather will be coming. Snow will be falling. What better time to start thinking about a new pair of snowshoes, PLUS, yo may even be able to pick up some deals for off-season product from your local hiking gear store.
All you need is your regular hiking gear, a pair of snowshoes, a bit of planning and you’re ready to roll.
Snowshoeing is one of the least expensive winter sports I can think of that can get you into the great outdoors. In comparison to skiing, boarding or even hockey, snowshoeing is very affordable. Snowshoeing is easy to learn with almost no learning curve. It’s a great way to get in a workout during the cold winter months. Moderate snowshoeing in a few inches of powder snow can burn up to 550 calories per hour, help tone muscles and provide a good cardio-vascular workout. But, don’t overdo it and don’t forget a healthy diet. Of course if you have any health concerns you should always ask your doctor if snowshoeing is for you.
How to Dress
Another nice thing about snowshoeing is that you don’t need a lot of specialized clothing. Starting with your feet, my preference is Merino wool socks, not too thick. Merino wool is ultra-fine wool taken from Merino sheep, raised mostly in Australia and New Zealand, and to a lesser degree, Spain. Merino wool is the finest and softest of all the wools with fiber diameters down to 17 micron, which is almost half the diameter of most wools and the fibers are much longer and softer. Merino wool pulls moisture off your skin, does not itch and is slow to pickup any odors due to its anti-microbial nature. Wool can absorb up to 30% of its weight in water without feeling wet or losing its shape. If you have a history of heel blisters, try using an ultra thin sock-liner on your foot first, then pull on the socks. This allows the sock and liner to rub against one another, saving your skin.
Lightweight hiking boots will be fine – preferably mid-height or full cut. No need for a stiff heavy boot. Waterproof is my preference, but you can also treat regular boots with special sprays to help repel water and wet snow. The lower legs will be showered with a constant spray of snow, kicked up from the snowshoes, so, you’ll likely want gaiters which fits over the hiking boot and wraps the lower leg with a snow-proof material to keep your pants dry and snow out of your boots.
Pants, which shed snow easily, are a great idea. Nylon or a “soft-shell” material will work perfectly. They both breath, dry quickly if they become damp and shed snow easily. Two or four-way stretch construction is ideal for improved comfort and mobility. If you want couple of brand names, I use Fjallraven (out of Sweden), Marmot and The north Face. Try to avoid cotton and jeans.
If it’s going to be quite cold then long underwear or “base layer” will be necessary. The base layer pulls moisture off the skin and transfers it to the outer layers where it can evaporate away without making you feel clammy and cold. Again, my preference is Merino wool, although some synthetics such as Capaline® nylon or CoolMax® polyester, can work quite well.
For your upper body, try to dress with layers. This way you can remove a layer if you get too warm or add a layer when you stop for a rest and begin to cool. Start with the long sleeve base-layer; add a “mid layer” like a medium weight sweater (synthetic or wool) and a lightly insulated, snow-shedding, breathable outer layer, like a soft-shell material. Remember, snowshoeing can be quite a workout, so be cautious of overdressing.
Hats and gloves are a must.
Finally, don’t forget sunglasses to help protect your eyes from the glare off the snow and the harmful UV rays from the sun. No point in a case of snow-blindness if you can avoid it. You might also want to bring along - and use - a 30+ sunscreen. Winter rays can be quite strong and sunburned skin a real possibility.
Snowshoes have come a very long way in design and materials over the past 20 years. Wood frames have been almost entirely replaced with aluminum, plastic and carbon fibers. Lighter, stronger and more durable, these new materials have revolutionized the sport and helped bring it from a “cottage experience” into the mainstream of major winter sports.
Frame – the outermost component of the snowshoe to which all other components are attached. Usually made of aluminum or carbon fibers.
Deck – the component that allows you to “walk” on the snow. It’s it attached to the frame and forms the base upon which the binding or harness is attached. Usually made from durable, cold resistant plastic.
Binding or harness– the component that binds yo