Snowshoeing is one of the easiest outdoor activities to learn. Just strap on your
snowshoes and start walking.
Renting snowshoes is the best way to introduce yourself to the sport. It allows
you to test different types of shoes and find out what works best for you. Rentals
run about $10 to $20 per day. Most retailers allow you to pick up the snowshoes
on Friday evening and return them by Sunday noon as a one-day rental. You can
rent snowshoes at REI (off Hwy 160 near Costco or at the Galleria Shopping Center
in Roseville or the new store next to Hwy 50 in Folsom), Adventure Sports (2633 El Camino, near Fulton Ave.), The Sports Chalet in Country Club
Plaza (on Butano Drive near Watt and El Camino) or Land Park Ski & Sports
Snowshoes generally range in price from $100 to $250. A good pair will last a
lifetime. The lower cost snowshoes use more plastic and a simpler binding. The
high-end snowshoes use neopreme, more rugged aluminum frames and a better binding.
Higher priced snowshoes are usually made for backcountry use where lower cost
shoes are for lighter use, such as day hikes. Look for sales through outdoor retailers
and outdoor catalogs (Campmor, Sierra Outpost). Those companies who rent snowshoes
often sell the rentals every few years at a good discount.
Contemporary snowshoes are made of an aluminum frame, a plastic or neopreme decking
surface for flotation, a crampon or cleat for traction and a harness system to
clamp down your boot. Snowshoes come in several different sizes and are built
for various types of use. The size of the snowshoe determines how much weight
it will support on snow. Three common sizes are: 8" x 22", 9" x
30" and 9" x 36". The corresponding weight that these snowshoes
will hold (remember you are carrying a pack) is approximately: 150 lbs, 200 lbs
and 250 lbs. The type of snow also determines how big your snowshoe should be.
If you are hiking in deep, fresh powder, go for a larger snowshoe.
Wearing the right clothing is very important. The layering principle is the best
system to stay warm. The first layer is lightweight, breathable long underwear
(no cotton). The second layer is your warmth layer using fleece, wool or a synthetic
fiber. The third layer is for protection against wind, rain or snow. It consists
of nylon, gortex or some other waterproof, windproof fabric. Remove or add layers
as needed, carrying them in your pack. Bring a wool or synthetic cap. You will
also need gloves.
Boots and Socks
On your feet you should first put on a pair of thin nylon socks. Next wear thick
wool or polypropylene hiking socks (I recommend SmartWool). Wear waterproof boots.
If your boots aren't waterproof coat them with the appropriate waterproof solution
(any REI salesperson can help you select the right waterproofing depending on
the type of boot). Finally, I would recommend wearing gaiters. Gaiters are nylon
or gortex covers that fit over the top of your boot and the bottoms of your pants
to keep the snow out.