Winter Is Coming…..Are Your Snowshoes Ready?
Officially, the calendar says it’s still summer for almost another month. But all too soon we’ll be putting away lawn furniture and barbeques and contemplating what we have to do to get ready for winter. And the late summer/early fall season is the time to do this. Wait too long beyond this point and you may be digging through an early snowstorm to locate your snow shovel. And early winter preparations don’t just mean thinking about shovels, road salt, and snow tires. What you’ll have on your feet this winter needs maintenance and replacement, too. It’s not a good idea to wait until you’re in hip-deep snow in the middle of nowhere to discover this. And you shouldn’t just be inspecting boots now but your snowshoes as well.
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What Do I Have To Do To Prepare For Snowshoe Season?
If you’re new to snowshoeing this season, you’ll need a complete snowshoe outfit. Being prepped for snowshoeing is easy, but requires more than just strapping modified tennis rackets to your feet and hitting the trail. For more seasoned snowshoers, you should look at each component of your current outfit for signs of damage and wear.
- First time shoppers should start by considering the shoe binding. You can’t snowshoe without bindings, it’s what holds the whole shoe together! Select a well designed binding of durable material that moves naturally with your foot. Make sure the straps can be adjusted easily and correctly and with gloves on.
- Novice snowshoers also want to pay attention to the shape of their shoes. Those shoes with “tennis racquet” tails may look fetchingly traditional, but they also put more strain on joints and can cross and trip inexperienced walkers. Novice ones often do better with “tear drop” shaped tails that allows them to walk with a more natural stride.
- The “claw” or shoe’s traction (technically referred to as the crampon) can be affixed under the ball of the foot for flat terrain and soft snow walking, or under the toes themselves for walking on icy or steep terrain, or for running. One style won’t do it all, so buyers should consider what they’ll be using these shoes for before purchase.
Experienced walkers should check bindings annually for wear and tear and replace accordingly. Claws should also be examined for wear and other damage.
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What’s that you say, new snowshoe walkers? You’re too “rugged” to need poles? Not so fast! Poles can help with balance and relieve fatigue when walking on uneven terrain and through deep snow. They should at least ride along on snowshoe treks in case a walker or companion needs a “Plan B”. But make sure you have the right poles for snowshoeing. The pole should be strong and collapsible, and preferably have a “flick” (easier to use with gloves on) as opposed to a “twist” lock. Most snowshoers use various models of ski poles, but increasing numbers of collapsible extreme hiking or trekking poles are appearing on the market as well. You can certainly use a fixed one piece pole, but they can be difficult to carry when not actually needed.
Veteran snowshoers, check your poles for wear and stress before the season starts and make sure they open and close properly.
The term “basket” is a little misleading here. Snowshoe pole baskets aren’t designed to hold anything but instead keep the pole from sinking into deep snow. Commonly known as “snowflake baskets”, these snowflake shaped plastic devices are affixed to the bottom of the poles and can be removed.
Veteran snowshoers should check baskets for wear and damage and replace as needed.
Gaiters slide over the leg of the pants and are held in place by an elastic strap that goes under the boot. Gaiters prevent snow from getting into the top of the boot. Traditional gaiters extend above the knee. Gaiters for running or racing stop right above the top of the boot. It’s also now possible to buy a gaiter “bootie” which covers only the boot or other footwear and is generally used for running.
Gaiters used for snowshoeing should be made of a waterproof or resistant material like nylon. They should fit snugly but not too tightly over the area that they are protecting.
Veteran snowshoers should examine gaiters for wear and tear and replace as needed. And both new and veteran snowshoers should never forget to bring along a first aid kit on these treks as well as review their general day-hike checklists before setting out.