Introduction to Basic Snowshoeing
Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius. ~Pietro Aretino
- Staying Warm
It seems to me that everytime I invite anyone to come snowshoeing with me their automatic response is “ I don’t like being cold”. Nobody does not even me, but I’ll let you in on a little secret. Snowshoeing is no different than hiking. After walking for a little bit you will realize that you are too hot and you can take off a layer. If you’re still cold after walking for 10 minutes then you are doing it wrong.
Snowshoeing just like any other outdoor activity requires the proper atitre or layering system. You don’t need to run out and buy a ton of expensive, specialized clothing. (You can if you want to, new clothes are fun) If you are on a budget, any large department store has cheap Polyester and Nylon clothing.
Just make sure that: You don’t wear cotton! Those of us that spend a ton of time outdoor have heard the saying “cotton kills” at least 1 million times. If you have not heard it a million times…..cotton kills, cotton kills, cotton kills, cotton kills…. Why does cotton kill? Because it can absorb up to 27 times its weight in water. As you walk you sweat, your t-shirt absorbs that sweat and prevents it from wicking or evaporating away from the body. This lack of evaporation can lead to hypothermia really quick. I could break into a chemistry lesson right now and explain why some fabrics are better than others for wicking moisture away from the skin. No, I couldn’t, I’m not a chemist. I’m just a lowly recreation dude that knows one thing about cotton and guess what that 1 thing is. That’s right: “cotton kills”
Have I rambled enough yet? I could go on, but let’s get down to the reason you’re here reading this ridiculous post.
I’m not the first to say this and I won’t be the last. “Layering your clothing is a tried-and-true way to maximize your comfort in the outdoors”. The great thing about this concept is: it is so simple. If you are cold, add another layer. If you are hot,take a layer off.
Each layer you wear has a specific function. The first layer you will need is the Base Layer. The base layer is typically made from Polyester, Smartwool or Capilene. These products are designed to wick moisture away from the body, while at the same time trapping a warm layer of air against your skin. If it is really cold out you need to make sure these are long-sleeved/legged.
Next, you will need a middle layer or Insulating Layer. The purpose of this layer is to retain heat and keep you warm. Prime examples are fleece, wool, polyester or down.
The last layer is your outer layer or Shell. The function of the shell is to keep wind and water off you, but it must have ventilation (waterproof/breathable)
Now, to confuse you even more I will introduce weight. Both thermal underwear (base layer) and fleece tops (insulating layer) are available in 3 weights:
- Mid-weight for moderate activity such as downhill skiing or if you get cold easy.
- Expedition-weight for low activity such as sleeping in an igloo, ice fishing or if you “really hate the cold”.
Example: When I am snowshoeing on a normal day. I will choose a lightweight base layer, a lightweight vest and a windbreaker with vented armpits. I always carry a down jacket with me for 2 reasons.
1) It gets cold fast when you are not moving, If I stop for lunch or take a break I will put on my down jacket.
2) If I have been hiking for 5 minutes and I’m still cold, I will put on my down jacket, underneath my shell.