Snowshoeing is a special form of hiking that has been around for centuries. To snowshoe, you need the perfect weather, which is usually the winter, when the snow falls heavily and covers most trails. The later part of fall or early spring is also an ideal time to snowshoe because the snows are still a bit heavy in some regions.
However, not all snow depths are perfect for a snowshoe fun time. At the very least, there needs to be a level of snow depth to use snowshoes successfully. This guide will discuss the level of snow you need for a perfect snowshoeing and all other essential factors that make the experience worth it.
When Do Snowshoes Become Necessary?
It would be awkward to use a snowshoe when minimal snow is on the trail. Unless you want to become the center of attention among your hiking group or the general public, walking with one when there is little to no snow depth on the trail is a bad idea. Snowshoes are more of a necessity footwear than a fashion choice.
As a personal standard, there should be a snow depth of at least 6 inches / 15 cm for snowshoes, and snowshoeing to become necessary. At 6 inches, it is almost guaranteed that a normal hiking boot will get thoroughly soaked and become uncomfortable to wear. So try to target a depth of at least 6 inches before using a snowshoe.
Once the snow depth is over 6 inches from the normal ground surface, it becomes a really bad idea to use any footwear apart from snowshoes. You will only end up walking through the snow, which means you will exert more energy and get exhausted much more quickly. Also, you are at increased risk of suffering one injury or the other. On the other hand, using a snowshoe will help you walk on the snow faster and more quickly.
Snowshoes are designed to distribute a person’s weight across a surface area, which is important to walking on snow successfully. Due to the looseness of snow-covered trails, concentrated weight spots will cause breaks and dips, damaging hiking boots and making the hike uncomfortable. A snowshoe spread nature counters that because it distributes your weight all around to keep your feet on the surface.
Factors That Determine When Snowshoes Become Necessary
Snowshoes are not the same. Some are designed for all kinds of snow depths and will give the perfect snowshoe experience. There are also a couple of other factors that you must have in mind when snowshoeing. It is not just about the snow depth or the type of shoe. There are also other factors that matter.
Choice of Terrain
The terrain choice is the biggest determinant of whether you need a snowshoe. Most people can manage to walk with normal shoes on snow-filled even-leveled terrain because they do not put too much pressure into their strides. This is not the case with snow-filled steep terrain.
A steep terrain will see hikers put more pressure on the snow because they are trying to maintain balance and control due to the elevation and gravity pull. They are disadvantaged and generally need more pressure to sustain balance with each stride.
Therefore, a snowshoe is more necessary in a steep terrain than an uneven one. So it is essential to have one if you plan to use steep terrain during heavy snow downpours to avoid ruining your hike.
Experience as a Winter Hiker
Hiking experience is essential in determining when snowshoes become necessary. In some cases, you may not necessarily need a snowshoe if you are relatively good at walking through snow. There are waterproof boots that can be very effective in bulldozing through snow, and veteran hikers usually use them to fight their way out of average snow depth.
An avid hiker will find it relatively easy to walk in a 6 inches depth of snow with a waterproof hiking boot and may not find snowshoes necessary. But a new hiker will definitely have many problems achieving the same feat.
So sometimes, you just need to look inwards and rate your experience as a hiker to know if a snowshoe will be the preferable option when planning to hike on a snow-filled trail. Don’t make a decision based on the experience of another hiker.
How Fast is Snowshoeing Compared to Typical Hiking?
It is very important to know that when snowshoeing, your pace will generally be slower than you usually go when hiking. It is widely believed that most hikers could become 1.7 slower snowshoeing. There are two major reasons for this concern. The first is that the snow-filled trail is often strange to hikers, and they may prefer to take it slow to avoid any uncertainties and possible injuries.
The second reason, which is the major one, is due to the heavy nature of most snowshoes. Snowshoes are significantly heavier than typical boots, so it takes more effort to lift them off the snow. Those milliseconds lost to raising each foot higher than required when snowshoeing eventually end up becoming a significant loss of minutes after a few hours of hiking.
However, the slowness issue with snowshoes is rewarded with better calorie loss. You will burn off more fat snowshoeing than hiking in normal weather. Since you are spending more time on the trail and need to exert more energy than is usually required, you have a better chance of losing weight. Snowshoeing helps you be in better shape and also improves your immune system.
Finding the Right SnowShoe
The perfect snowshoes can make all the difference when you’re out in the snow. But with all the different brands and models available, how do you know which ones are right for you? Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re shopping for snowshoes.
First, consider the type of terrain you’ll be using them on. If you’re planning on hiking through deep powder or over rocky terrain, you’ll need a durable snowshoe that can handle the rough conditions. On the other hand, if you’re mostly sticking to packed trails, a lighter-weight snowshoe will be just fine.
Next, think about what kind of bindings you prefer. Some snowshoes have integrated bindings that are easy to use but not as adjustable as other types. Others have separate bindings that can be adjusted for a custom fit. Choose the binding system that’s right for you and your intended use.
Finally, make sure to get a good pair of poles. Snowshoes can be challenging to balance on, so having a good set of poles will help you keep your balance and stay upright.
With these tips in mind, you should be able to find the perfect snowshoes for your next winter adventure.
Walking With Snowshoes
If you are a bit new to using snowshoes on snow, it may be a bit tricky to use them. They definitely are not like normal shoes due to their shape and spread, and you are very likely to make several mistakes, but in the end, you will get around it.
Since snowshoes have a bigger spread than typical boots, you will need to spread your legs much wider than you are typically used to. This step is mandatory if you want to succeed with your snowshoes. Increasing the space between your two legs when walking helps prevent one foot from landing on top of the other and leaving you face-first on the cold snow. There is a relatively high risk of misstepping when using snowshoes for the first time, and you could sustain injuries. So you need to be careful.
Another tip for using snowshoes successfully is to raise your leg relatively higher when walking. Snowshoes’ advantages are in their spread, and to ensure you always walk on the snow and not through it, you have to raise your feet much higher than you would do on a typical hike. That way, you will keep your socks dry and have a more enjoyable experience.
The final tip is to maintain focus. Snows are quite tricky, and a lack of concentration may see you end up on the ground. Ensure you gaze steadily on the snow-covered ground, especially if the trail is notoriously known to have different holes that the snow may have covered up. It is best actually to avoid tricky trails in their entirety during heavy snowfall. However, if you must walk on these trails, you need to concentrate and maintain focus on the trail.
Snowshoeing is generally considered a different activity from hiking. However, the idea is the same, and no real hiker considers it as a unique activity different from hiking. It is literally hiking on snow-covered trail, which is more fun and kind of special. Of course, it is important to stick to the rules to enjoy your snowshoeing: Use snowshoes when you have a snow depth of about 6 inches, get good snow shoes and avoid tricky terrains to avoid injuries. Following these basic rules will keep you safe from injuries and ensure yu have a fun time in the cold season.