Snowshoeing tips
  1. Buy or rent suitable snowshoes. Know that wet, compact snow is best handled by smaller snowshoes (with less flotation) than you need in powder snow, which requires larger snowshoes (with more flotation). A snowshoe's "recommended load" refers to your weight plus the weight of your gear. Not sure? Go with the smallest snowshoes that will support your weight.
  2. Carry a larger pack than usual. The extra clothing and gear you need for a winter day trip can equal as much as you'd take for summer overnighter. A pack with an outer pocket is handy for carrying a snow shovel or for your snowshoes should you need to carry them in places.

Snow baskets

  1. Use poles. These help with balance and make crossing slopes easier. You can use snowshoe poles, ski poles or trekking poles. If using trekking poles, replace the standard baskets with larger snow baskets (shown at right) to improve performance in deep snow.
  2. Bring a repair "kit." Wrap some duct tape around one of your snowshoe poles to secure broken binding straps or patch puncture holes. Carry a few plastic tie wraps (used for securing cables) or bailing wire to attach decking back to the frame. If your snowshoes are constructed with grommets, consider getting a grommet repair kit.
  3. Warm up your muscles. Walking on snowshoes requires that you take longer steps than normal, especially uphill. You also walk with your feet much wider apart than normal. Lightly stretching your hamstrings (muscles on the backs of the thighs) and hip flexors (muscles in front of the hips that lift the legs) will help your flexibility for snowshoeing.
  4. Follow backcountry safety practices. It's a sad fact that most avalanche victims inadvertently triggered the snow slide that buried them. Take classes in avalanche safety or read the REI Expert Advice series of articles on Avalanche Basics before heading out to the mountains. Have every person in your party carry and know how to use an avalanche transceiver, probe and a shovel.
  5. Drink plenty of water. Just like on summer trips, you need to stay hydrated when you're active. To keep hydration systems flowing, use an insulated tube or fill the reservoir with warm water (see video for additional tips). If you bring a small stove to melt snow, be sure to include some water in the bottom of your cooking pot to avoid scorching.
  6. Use an insulated vacuum bottle. Fill with hot cocoa, tea or soup when out on a day trip. It can make a cold, wet trip much more enjoyable.
  7. Take turns breaking trail in fresh snow. This lets everyone in the group share the extra work. As soon as the leader is tired, he or she brings up the rear and takes a break by walking on the packed snow. Then the next person in line kicks steps for awhile, and so on. This is especially useful on steep slopes so that no one becomes exhausted.

Handwarmer packet

  1. Use hand warmers. These small chemical packets work wonders for keeping your digits happy. Put them next to your camera or flashlight in cold weather to keep them working, too.
  2. Carry along an extra shirt. You may want to change into a new top at the turnaround point of your day trip. You're likely to be sweaty and will cool off quickly when you stop. A dry long underwear top will keep you much warmer when you head downhill again and are not creating as much heat.
  3. Practice good etiquette. Avoid snowshoeing in the groomed ski tracks used by cross-country skiers.

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