Snowshoeing Guide: What to wear, what to expect

Spears Strongers breaking for a snack at White River Sno Park in 2016 

Spears Strongers breaking for a snack at White River Sno Park in 2016 

Maybe you've had those snowshoes in the garage since last Christmas. Maybe you've always wanted to try snowshoeing but are a little unsure. Snowshoeing is a lot of fun and a great workout but it can be a little daunting if you're new to it. What do you wear? What do you need to bring? How hard is it? How cold will you be?

We turned to Personal Trainer Jonathan Spears and leader of our winter snowshoeing adventures to give us some tips. 

Below is a Q&A with Jonathan on some snowshoeing tips based on his experience. As with any adventure on the mountain, snowshoeing can be a dangerous activity and we suggest doing your own research as well to find out if snowshoeing is the right adventure for you. 

What do you wear snowshoeing? 
Layers. Wool is my favorite for base layers. As soon as we start you are going to be in the red zone because it’s tough, snowshoeing. It’s aerobic. It’s going to warm you up and if you stop to have a snack or snap a photo your body temperature is going to lower so as soon as you start to get warm you will want to lose a layer or unzip. You want to de-layer before you get too warm or you will start sweating, creating moisture that will then make you too cold when your body temperature lowers as you slow down or stop. You may also want to consider a waterproof or water resistant jacket designed for being in the snow. 

How cold will it be and how can you prepare for that? 
If you are snowshoeing with Spears Strong we are not going to be in arctic temperatures so it doesn’t have to be the most technical jacket but something easy to unzip, maybe even ventilated with zippers is a good idea. For pants, you will again want something that waterproof or water resistant. If the temperature is in the 20s or lower, long underwear is a good idea. Again wool works great. For footwear, normal hiking books that are water resistant work great and you can also get some gaters to keep snow from getting into your boots. Mittens also work better than gloves in cold temperatures but a good pair of gloves will work. (see below for a detailed gear list) 

What should you expect? How hard is it? 
Anybody who feels comfortable walking 6 miles or so for over at least a couple hours can snowshoe but there’s going to be effort that’s involved with it. Snowshoeing is going to be more effort than walking, of course.  

Snowshoeing at Bennet Pass 

Snowshoeing at Bennet Pass 

For example, if the snowshoe adventure is 5 miles, you can compare that to  going for an 8-mile walk. Snowshoeing is more effort. You have more weight on your feet. The snow is making your ankles, hips, glutes, all your stabilizers work a lot harder on top of your hip flexors lifting with more weight with every step. It’s going to wear out your whole body.

During Spears Strong adventures we do a warm-up to get your body ready for the snowshoeing and a cool-down to reset you after the journey. 

Expect beautiful scenery and a fun social time or a relaxing meditation, whatever you want to make of it. 

Gear List 

  • Snowshoes
  • Hiking boots
  • Food that won't freeze: raisins, pretzels, bananas, pbj, whatever you like
  • Layers: (Wool is highly recommended) thick wool socks, base long-sleeved wool or technical shirt, extra shirt, vest, extra t-shirt, hat, mittens or gloves, waterproof outer jacket, waterproof or water resistant pants, gaters (optional), sunglasses, face protection if sensitive to cold. 
  • Backpack for food, extra clothes and other items 
  • Dry clothes for after the snowshoe hike 
  • Camera
  • Sunblock 
  • NO cotton