Staring out your window at a world of white right now? Consider it an invitation. Hiking can be done year-round—with the right gear. Snowshoes distribute your weight across a larger surface area to keep you from sinking into powder, allowing you to hike well beyond “hiking season” if you live somewhere with four seasons. Add in some cold-weather gear that breathes well and break out of hibernation for the best of the fourth season: untouched powder, snowy vistas and empty trails.
Here are some of our staff’s favorite products for snowshoeing.
True: This all-in-one package of snowshoes, poles and carry bag from MSR costs less than what many snowshoes cost on their own, a fact that may delight beginners. Also true: The Evo’s steel frame and underfoot crampons make it durable and reliable enough for intermediates to enjoy, too. The poles are adjustable, and the kit also comes with a foam pad for trailside hot chocolate breaks. $199.95
Thirty-five liters may seem like a lot for a dayhike, but between the additional layers, snacks and water you need in winter, you’ll be hauling more than you might anticipate. The Gregory Alpinisto’s full-length side zippers with glove-friendly hardware make mid-hike layer changes and water breaks a cinch. Reinforced front nylon pockets, gear loops and tool-attachment systems make the Alpinisto 35 a great pack for winter climbing, skiing and mountaineering, so it should have life beyond your snowshoeing kit. $199.95; 3 sizes
Never experience frozen water when you need it again. This 3-liter reservoir from CamelBak is insulated with 600-denier polyester, so its contents won’t freeze in your pack. The drink tube and valve are also insulated. $55
For snowshoeing, you’ll want a softshell pant that’s cozy next-to-skin, but breathes better than a hardshell ski pant. The Mercury Pro 2 from Dynafit fits the bill with a poly-nylon-elastane blend that’s brushed for repelling water and wind. (Can’t find your size? Try the regular Mercury, men’s and women’s.) Zippered vents help you dump heat when you start sweating, and integrated gaiters cinch around your boots to prevent powder from sneaking in. $229.95
Patagonia’s R1 fleece has been around for 20 years, and the popularity of the original waffle grid speaks for itself. The idea is that it insulates like a true midlayer with synthetic fleece, but sweat vapor can escape through the channels created in the waffle pattern. It’s pretty much perfect for heart-pumping, cold-weather activities like snowshoeing. $129; S-XXL (men’s), XXS-XL (women’s)
You’ll start out cold when you’re snowshoeing, but you’ll warm up fast. Pack a compressible insulation layer like the Atom LT from Arc’teryx, which tips the scales at 11 to 12 ounces (depending on size) and squeezes down to cantaloupe size. Worn alone, it delivers just enough weather protection to fend off light snow and wind. $259; XS-XL (women’s), S-XXL (men’s)
Your hands will warm up fast when snowshoeing, so reach for breathable, liner-style gloves like these from REI Co-op. The Polartec Power Stretch offers just enough protection from the cold, while a silicone palm grip helps you bear down on poles. The index finger is also touchscreen-compatible. $34.95, XS-XL
Warm feet while crunching through the snow means more miles and smiles, so look for a cushioned merino wool sock like this one from Darn Tough. (It’s a men’s sock, but this women’s offering is similar.) The nylon adds durability, while the Lycra helps it retain its shape after you start sweating or after you launder it a few times. $26; S-XL
Pair these products with waterproof hiking boots and sunglasses and you’re ready to go. Interested in more staff picks and kits? Find more Trail Mix collections here.