snowshoe1For those of us outdoorsmen living in the Midwest, winter has arrived in full force. There’s over a foot of the white stuff in my neck of the woods. A little powder won’t stop true outdoorsmen from hitting the trails, though, and you can still enjoy a trek through deep snow with the aid of a solid pair of snowshoes. It’s not as simple as grabbing a pair and hitting the trail, though. You’ll need to make sure you’re prepared for harsh winter conditions, and today begins a primer on snowshoeing that will help you do just that by taking a look at what you should wear when taking on the activity.

Let’s start with your feet. The boots or shoes you buy should match your snowshoeing activity—walking, backpacking, climbing, or running. For most people, insulated, waterproof boots are the best bet because they offer thick soles, rubber/leather uppers, and reliable insulation. Be sure also to wear wool or synthetic socks with wicking liners to keep your feet warm and dry. Also, gaiters keep snow out of your boots when it gets a little deeper. When it’s deeper than anticipated, consider knee-high gaiters with waterproof/breathable lowers.

When it comes to clothing, as always, it’s smart to dress in layers that can be removed or added to depending on your needs, and, as always, try to avoid cotton. When choosing a baselayer, look for synthetics and wool that will retain warmth, even when wet. Wear long underwear that wicks away moisture, insulates well, and dries quickly. There are even microlight, lightweight, or midweight options from which to choose, based on the temperature and your activity level. Merino wool from SmartWool, the Patagonia Capilene, and UnderArmour ColdGear are all great options. For an insulating midlayer, I go for polyester fleece, which is a good insulator since it retains heat when wet and breathes as you exercise. A waterproof, breathable shell jacket and pants as an outer layer will keep you dry and fend off wind.

During winter, it’s important to keep your head and hands covered to prevent loss of body heat and to protect them from sunburn, wind, and potential frostbite. A wool or synthetic hat, headband, or balaclava retains heat very well, while a solid pair of goggles or glasses will protect your eyes from the sun and wind. Waterproof ski gloves or mittens are a must to keep your hands dry and warm, and on cold days, combine them with fleece mittens or gloves underneath.

As with any outdoor winter activity, considering the temperature and your planned activity when choosing clothes to wear while snowshoeing will go a long way towards ensuring your comfort and warmth on the trail. Hopefully, this article was a great stepping stone for your venture into snowshoeing. Be sure to return for a closer look at how to choose the best pair of snowshoes for your adventures.