Looking to venture off the beaten path and explore uncharted territory this winter? Snowshoeing can offer maximum benefits for minimal investment — not only is the sport easy to learn and inexpensive, but it’s also a great activity for staying in shape during the cold months.
According to a study from the University of Vermont, runners who traded their sneakers for snowshoes actually gained fitness and escaped impact-related foot injuries in the off-season. The fluffy white stuff provides excellent resistance when training, plus it absorbs heel strike for a lower-impact workout that’s beginner-friendly for all ages.
But even though the sport is an accessible one, it’s smart to prepare in advance when planning on tramping through the woods for a day. Here are my five must-haves to make the trip fun, safe and memorable:
When you’re burning up to 600 calories an hour, it’s important to fuel your body well. Pack nutrient-dense, portable snacks that can be eaten intermittently throughout the day to keep your energy up and blood sugar levels steady.
Need ideas? Check out 15 of my favorites here (and, nope, they’re not just for preggos!).
Occasionally there’s an element of surprise when it comes to outdoor activities, whether it’s broken gear, an injury or just Mother Nature messing around with you. And the last thing you want to do is tempt fate as the temperature drops, so take the proper precautions and you’ll be ready to address any issues that may arise.
If your trek includes mountainous terrain, for example, consider toting some avalanche-preparedness gear (portable shovel, collapsible probe, avalanche beacons), along with snowshoe repair tools (duct tape, spare grommets, wire, zip ties) and a basic first aid kit.
No, not tires – we’re talking clothing here. Remember that as you work out, more than 70 percent of the energy that powers your muscles is converted to heat, causing core body temperature to rise. In an effort to keep from overheating, warm blood gets diverted from organs to skin, causing you to sweat, which evaporates to cool things off.
It’s a fine line to walk between being sweat-soaked or shivering, though, so pack lots of layers and plan on adjusting based on your level of exertion and the ambient air temperature. The American College of Sports Medicine outlines some general guidelines here if you’re interested in more info.
I did a spring snowshoe review a few years back with tips on selecting the proper pair based on your desired type of activity (packed trails, deep powder, etc.). One of my personal favorites is still the Atlas Elektra 10 Series because it’s a smaller, more efficient female-friendly model that provides a great mix of comfort and stability on winter trails.
But the best way, by far, to get started is to “try before you buy” in order to A) see if you like the sport before investing in it and B) get a feel for the types of snowshoes available for the terrain you prefer. Many ski resorts, Nordic centers and retailers (such as REI) now offer rentals, so do a little research and try a few options before you commit.
Finally, what’s the fun in reaching the summit if you can’t document the view, for
social media’s posterity’s sake? Invest in a good waterproof digital camera, waterproof phone case or a GoPro, and you won’t have to worry about dropping it while fumbling around with frozen fingers.
Know that it can get a little lonely out there on the trails, too, so if you’re flying solo or want a group picture but don’t have access to a cameraman, consider bringing along a selfie stick for your phone or camera to document the day. Two of my favorites are the Mpow iSnap Y for my phone, which I got as a Christmas gift, and the Xshot Pro Camera Extender, which I’m currently testing with my GoPro (stay tuned for a review, coming soon…).