I'm looking to do a first two-day snow-shoe hike.. Just a short push in and quick out in the lower Sierras, to test the waters and get a feel for it. Thought it'd be nice to chat with folks who have some experience.
Hey there @GucciMechie! What an exciting new endeavor!!! I started doing overnight snowshoe trips a few years ago back and in Michigan, and I have to say the Sierra is much better starting place. It was negative temps my first trip and I've never been out below 20 degrees here in the Sierra. I do a few trips every winter, but haven't been out yet since the snow hit a couple weeks ago. I love chatting winter overnights, so let me know how I can help!
Here is a crew from my store in Folsom, CA on our annual winter trip this past February. We had 4 folks who were out for their first overnight! Happy trails!
Yup this looks like fun. Our plan is to re-visit a known trail, walk in as far as we feel comfortable with, camp overnight to practice logistics, and get out the next day.
Then figure out a multi-day. Still haven't bought snow shoes, so that's the next decision point.
Since equipment weight keeps climbing, we're considering the idea of sledding the backpacks... Any experience with that?
It definitely is: cold and fun! That's a great starter plan. We only hiked in maybe two miles with this group because we had so many first-time folks.
When you start to look at snowshoes, my major features I look for when the primary goal is backcountry snow camping are: availability of field repair kits, heel lift for heavy loads on hills, and ability to add tails.
We took a sled with this group, but only to carry in firewood for our fire. I tend to find that the larger the group, the less likely you will be to need a sled, since you can space out the shared gear more.
I've done it before for extra gear, but I personally find it more comfortable to carry a pack and then use the sled for heavy or bulky items. I like to put at least some of the weight in my pack, because I find sleds to be a bit more awkward than a pack and they give you less freedom in choosing your route, since you have to pick the most level route. I do have friends who prefer the sled route, so it might be nice to have both options on your first trip, so you can try either.
What Sled did you use?
The ones I see look overbuilt - sturdy enough to carry a large person at speed.. So are heavy to carry if you get to areas where a sled doesn't make sense.
We used a very cheap plastic hunting sled that was not really the best thing for the task. It was one of the light weight styles, but the strap system on it wasn't great at holding the load or at attaching to us. I am actually planning a snow camping trip for this weekend now and we are thinking we are going to try and do this: https://www.rei.com/blog/snowsports/diy-make-your-own-pulk-sled!
I'll post photos if it ends up working out!