You’re strapping on your new pair of snowshoes, ready to spend a few hours inthe backwoods. What should you wear? Knowing you will be working up a sweat,do you dress light? Not so fast—after all, it’s winter outside.When snowshoeing, versatile clothing is key. You need to be comfortable in awide range of temperatures and conditions. Here are a few things to keep inmind when dressing for a snowshoe trek.
Winter means cold, and that means dressing warmly. But once you get into therhythm of snowshoeing, blazing a path through deep snow, continuously liftingthat extra weight strapped to your feet, you’re going to work up a sweat. That’swhere the ability to ventilate comes in.
Underarm Zipper Vents
Affectionately knows as “pit zips,” these jacket vents can be opened up asyou’re on the go, letting you cool down without having to peel off layers.
For maximum ventilation, be sure to wear tops that can be zipped fully, orat least partially open. Choose a full-zip fleece over a pullover sweater. Pickbase layers that zip at least partially down instead of traditional T-shirts.
The Importance of Layering
Instead of snowshoeing in a huge, furnace-hot (maybe an exaggeration) parka,opt for dressing in lighter layers. Layers trap heat more effectively, and they letyou add or remove a top as needed.
Pick a thin, lightweight top to wear. Don’t worry about insulation here; that’swhat the other layers are for. You want a shirt that picks any perspiration ormoisture off your skin (wicking) and moves it to the next layer. Keeping yourskin dry in winter helps prevent excessive cooling once you stop moving.Synthetic fabrics such as Techwick work well. Also consider merino wool,which is surprisingly soft and a natural temperature regulator.
Also called the insulation layer, this piece is the one that keeps you warm.The most common midlayer is a full-zip fleece, though if you’re wearing anoninsulated outer shell, you might get away with a light goose down orPrimaLoft jacket underneath. It all depends on how cold it is outside and howhard you’re going to be snowshoeing.
The outer shell keeps you dry when it’s snowing. A waterproof, breathablejacket using something such as System Three or Gore-Tex works best,but a water-resistant jacket might suffice as well. Remember: if you’resnowshoeing, it’s probably too cold to rain, and snowflakes don’t penetratefabric like raindrops do. In fact, some fitness enthusiasts who get theirworkout on their snowshoes will opt for a light, water-resistant soft shelljacket that provides plenty of stretch.
Pack Extra Clothing
You’re snowshoeing in the backwoods in winter, so just to be safe, carry an extrainsulating fleece in a daypack. Better yet, bring an extra down jacket or sweater.They usually pack down to a small bundle and will stuff easily into a corner ofyour backpack.
Unlike your torso, your legs don’t need as much insulation. Either wear apair of heavy tights if the weather is fair, or layer an outer weather-resistantshell pant over a thin pair of leggings in colder conditions.
Do you need specially designed boots to go snowshoeing? No, just normal bootsthat will keep you dry and warm. The best options are waterproof, insulatedhiking boots. They keep you warm, yet they aren’t too heavy. Insulated Sorel orKamik boots, though heavier, will also do the job.
Like all your other clothing, choose your hat based on the weather report. If it’swarm and pleasant out, a headband might suffice instead of a hat. Conversely, ifthe weather is nasty, wear a balaclava or a hat and face mask.
Waterproof insulated gloves are a must. More than any other piece of clothing,your gloves are likely to get wet. Maybe it’s because you throw too manysnowballs. Who knows? But choose gloves made with System Three, Gore-Tex,or some other waterproof, breathable technology.
Gaiters are often overlooked. Wrapping around the ankle and over the top ofyour boots, gaiters prevent snow from falling down inside your socks and helpkeep your legs just that little bit warmer. Gaiters also protect your pants from thecrampons on your snowshoes if you have a clumsy moment.
Summing It All Up
When snowshoeing, wear versatile clothing that allows you to adapt to changingtemperatures, as well as stop-and-go activity. Pack an extra top, as well as anextra hat, gloves, and socks if you’re spending all day in the backcountry. Andmost important—have fun!