Gear up for Snowshoeing, Head to Toe |

Gear up for Snowshoeing, Head to Toe

SUMMIT COUNTY – So you want to be able to enjoy the outdoors in the winter, but the slopes are too crowded, too steep or aren’t wild enough. Or maybe you’re a runner for whom summers just aren’t long enough. In either case, snowshoeing may be the activity for you.

The popularity of snowshoeing has increased in recent years alongside the public interest in other outdoor recreation activities. This is good news for consumers getting into the sport, because it means more research and development on high-performance, long-lasting products, as well as production of more affordable equipment. If you’re just getting into the sport, fortunately there isn’t the variety and complexity of gear to obtain, as in, say, skiing.

Although new gear is manufactured each season, the technology has remained very much the same. Here’s a guide and price list on how to outfit yourself from head to shoe, starting from the bottom (also where most of your expenses will come from)

Snowshoes – Top brand makers include Redfeather, Tubbs and Crescent Moon. Shoes come in a variety of weights, materials, with different systems for bindings and traction. Large men will want larger snowshoes. Runners tend to want minimal surface area on their shoes, and they also look for secure, stable binding systems.

Models use different crampon systems for traction, so think about what kind of terrain you’ll be crossing. Snowshoes range in price from $150-$250.

Footwear – Snowshoers can be found in everything from tennis shoes, to heavy duty Sorrels, to snowboard boots. Your pace and interest will determine what you put on your feet. The beginner’s best bet is an over-the-ankle, lightweight boot with some waterproofing. You can find a $50-90 pair at your local sporting goods store.

Socks – No need to go overboard here. Your feet will be hot and sweaty, so get a lightweight, wicking sock. Socks made of waterproof Gore-Tex can be found at Wal-Mart in the under-$10 range.

Gaiters – Cover the gap between your boots and pants with a pair of gaiters, or spats. This will keep snow from getting into your socks and prevent heat loss. Brands and models vary in materials and amount of coverage. Small spats by Lowe Alpine retail at $34.95; larger Outdoor Research gaiters run $49.95; and, heavy-duty Gore-Tex models by Ultrex sell for $85.95.

Tights – As with all clothing in winter sports, the key to staying warm and maintaining a comfortable temperature is layers. If you’re running with your snowshoes, two layers will probably suffice; a stop-and-start tour may call for more layers to stay warm. Fleece or polypropylene tights are a good idea on both counts, and the bibbed sort are recommended for keeping the body core temperature up. The material also should be the wicking kind to pull sweat away from the body. Simple unbibbed fleece tights by Pearl Izumi can be purchased for $49.95. Bibbed tights by Castelli retail for $69.95.

Pants – A light, waterproof shell will keep the melting snow off your back: Snowshoes have a way of kicking snow up onto the warm backs of runners, so waterproofing is important here. Side zippers at the ankles come in handy, too, if you stop to cool off and need to remove the pants. Models by Pearl Izumi and Sporthill sell for $64.95.

Torso Base layer – As with the legs, a light layer that keeps the sweat out and the heat in is recommended. Polyester tops with mock turtlenecks by Layers run $31.95, $56.95 by Lowe Alpine. A high-performance, polyester-nylon-lycra blend by Lowe Alpine sells for $88.95. Shell – If you’re worried you might get to warm running the snowshoe trails, get a shell you can pack away. Pearl Izumi makes a waterproof shell top that folds up into a pocket with a belt. The shell sells for $99.95.

Gloves – Those with really cold hands will want mittens, but keep it light and simple. Fleece or wool is good. Au Clair makes fleece gloves for $8.95. Swany makes a heavy-duty, synthetic material glove for $23.95. Poles – These are a good idea for anyone worried about balance, or someone tackling difficult terrain. Some collapse and expand, some hook together to form avalanche probe poles and others clip to each other for easy carrying or packing. Poles are made by most ski makers. A cheap pair of used cross-country poles can be found for about $20. Leki makes a collapsible set of “anti-shock” poles for $109.95.

Hat – Don’t go overboard. A wicking, polypropylene hat is all you need. If you buy a wool one, make sure it has a cotton liner to avoid chafing on your forehead. Smith and Lowe Alpine make comparable hats for $19.95, but you may have better luck at a discount retailer.

Sunglasses – In a high alpine environment covered in white, if you don’t shield your eyes, they’ll sunburn. Glasses with polarized lenses protect your eyesight, and skiers will tell you rose or yellow tintings help you make out definition in flat light conditions. Goggle-makers such as Dragon and Smith make sunglasses in the $80 range.

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