Monday, January 11, 2016

Basic Snowshoeing Part Deux

Basic snowshoeing equipment includes:
  1. Snowshoes
  2. Boots (that fit in your snowshoes)
  3. Poles (Adjustable)
  4. Accessories (hats, gloves, backpack)
Since we are talking basics here, I am going off the assumption that most of you reading this will be going to a local park or golf course. Once we get into more advanced snowshoeing I will discuss avalanche beacons, probes, shovels, saws. Until then let’s just keep it simple.
Manufacturers divide Snowshoes into 3 categories:
  • Flat terrain: Designed for easy walking on flat to rolling terrain; ideal for families. Includes entry-level models that offer good value.
  • Rolling terrain: Best for hiking on rolling to steep hills; suitable for all but very steep or icy conditions. Good for hiking off the beaten track. Hiking and backpacking
  • Mountain terrain: Built for icy, steep terrain. Aimed at those who blaze their own trails for hiking or backcountry snowboarding.
I suggest that before purchasing you rent different styles and see what you like. Most University campuses have an Outdoor Recreation Center that rents gear.  Stores like REI and Recreation Outlet usually have a rental fleet as well. You don’t want to spend a bunch of money until you know you’re going to use them often.
Snowshoes are gender, age and weight-specific so that everyone can get a custom fit. Much like bicycles one size does not fit all. Snowshoe technology has really increased in the last few years and there are a  wide assortment of  materials, bindings and crampon systems for traction. Improper gear can and will  can ruin your day. Women's snowshoes offer a narrower nose and some children’s models offer easy-to-use straps and an adjustable footbed that can grow the shoe as the child does. Snow conditions and the weight of your backpack can also have a big effect on how your shoe will handle as will the boots you are wearing. A good rental and sales shops will know how to fit you correctly.
When you do purchase, I suggest getting a set for rolling terrain and make sure they have heel lift bars. The bars make it easier to walk up hill. When I made my purchase I took all the above factors into consideration and it made sense for me to buy a shoe that was adjustable to the different conditions I would be in. Some folks have 2-3 different sets of shoes for various purposes. I try to keep things simple so I went with one pair that does everything I need them to.
I use MSR Denali’s, the set I own are now considered the “Denali Classic” which make them a bit cheaper than the Evo’s or Lightning Ascents. The great thing about these shoes is they have tail floats which can add length 4-6 inches. Having this kind of adjustability really let’s you get where you want to go. If you encounter deep powder or are carrying a heavier backpack just throw on the 6” tails. If you’re on a well used trail with no backpack you can generally leave the tails off. When traveling on well packed trails without a heavy pack I will bring my 4” tails just in case I want to get off trail a little.
The other great thing about these MSR’s is you can repair them in the field. You can purchase repair kits for around $14. The only complaint I have about them is they are very noisy on crusty or packed snow. If your intention is not animal watching then the noise should not be an issue and on powder days the noise is not an issue.