When I lined out the Snowshoeing with Your Small Dog 101 series, I planned to address gear and snowshoes towards the end. It was clear by your questions that these two subjects were what you were itching to know. You asked me several questions about what you needed to wear and how to pick the right snowshoe.
I decided to rearrange the order of my posts to answer your most burning questions first. I am going to start with what you should wear, how to decipher the multitude of snowshoe choices and what you should get for your dog. I will move to things like fitness, safety and trail resources near the end of the series.
The most important thing for YOU is to make sure you are comfortable by wearing the right clothes. Not only will the right clothes make your adventure more enjoyable, they will also keep you safe.
I can really sum up what I am going to tell you with three concepts: cotton Kills, layer and stay dry
This is a popular phrase among Search and Rescue circles and with outdoor guides. When cotton gets wet it, loses the ability to keep you warm. You might as well not be wearing anything at all. If you wear cotton and it gets wet there is a high probability of Hypothermia – which can kill you. Just don’t do it.
Everything you wear – from socks to gloves to hats and everything in between (ok…your underwear can be cotton) – should be either synthetic or wool. Synthetic fabrics, like polypropylene and acrylic, and wool will continue to keep you warm even after it gets wet.
I can guarantee you that you will start out cold so you will pile on the clothes. In the first mile you will be hot and possibly sweating in those same clothes. I have been doing this for years and it still happens to me.
Wearing layers will allow you to adjust for the changes in your body temperature. As you get hot you can peel layers off. If you start to get cold again, you can pile them back on.
When someone says “layer your clothing” they usually mean that you wear a thin layer close to your skin (long underwear, socks), one or more middle layers (a thicker shirt, fleece jacket, hat, gloves) and an outer layer (Waterproof shells and boots)
Even though synthetics will continue to insulate you when they are wet, they will still lose some of their ability to do so. Besides being colder, you will also just feel yucky. When any material is wet, it increases the chance of chafing and bunching. You’ll fell all clamy and possibly look like a prune when you get home and take your clothes off. Staying dry is made possible by what you wear on the outside of your layers.
One note here: If you live in a rainy climate or one with wet snow, it is important to make sure that your outer layer is WATERPROOF, not WATER-RESISTANT. I won’t bore you with the technical details but basically, water-resistant stuff won’t keep you dry for long.
This is what I wear [of course, if you’re a dude, you will need the guys version 🙂 ]:
Middle Layer (varies based on weather forecast)
The North Face 900-fill Diez Jacket (I only wear down if it is extremely cold. It’s also great for after the hike)
Lululemon Luon Hoodie (example because they don’t make the one I have anymore)
Knit Cap/Beanie (I have several but they are all synthetic or wool)
REI One Gloves
Pearl Izumi Amfib Tight (worn alone if I am not going to wear a waterproof outer layer)
Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiters (to keep the snow out of your boots)
Arc’teryx Beta AR GORE-TEX Jacket (one of THE best brands for outwear but you pay for it)
Arc’teryx Theta SV GORE-TEX Bib (if I wear a waterproof outer layer)
Lightweight or Midweight waterproof hiking boots (I have a few kinds of shoes that I switch between based on weather, terrain and comfort)
If you looked at each of the things on my list, you can tell I am gear junkie with expensive tastes. I tend to go with top of the line stuff. I will also confess that I got most of this stuff when I worked for REI and got a killer discount.
I am willing to bet that most of you that live in places that get snow already have at least one or two things similar to what is on the list.You won’t have to purchase everything on the list.
Even if you don’t have any of it, you can certainly outfit yourself for cheaper than what I did. If I assume you own nothing like any of these things, I would say you should be prepared to spend $200 to $300 though. Consider it a good investment. Most of this stuff you can use when out walking, sledding or skiing in the winter too. Also, if you don’t use this stuff every day it will last you for years.
There are some great places to hunt for used or inexpensive gear. You can go to your local outdoor gear store and hunt for cheaper versions or go during their big sales times. Other good places to look are community gear swaps, thrift stores or online. Two of my favorite online places to look for closeout gear are the REI Outlet and the Sierra Trading Post.
If you cover all of these bases, you will most surely have a safe, enjoyable adventure.
Next week I will tell you more than you probably wanted to know about snowshoes.