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SWIMMING THROUGH TREES: Prepare for your snowshoe trip with this gear list

February 7, 2020

This list is what I use for most snowshoe excursions. It may seem like a lot of stuff, but as you can see, most of it is wearable and small items.

Please feel free to use this list as a starting point, but not an end-all-to-be-all. You may find that you don't need everything, or maybe you need more.

If need to adjust the list a bit, feel free. The list should reflect your day's outing, and you may find that your pack gets adjusted quite a bit over the course of the winter season.

Article Photos

Winter snowshoeing can be a very comfortable endeavor with the right gear.
(Provided photo — Spencer Morrissey)


Leave a note

Before you leave home, you should always have a plan for the day. It's simple, jot this plan down on a piece of paper and maybe include a printout of a map with your planned route on it. This tidbit of information will let someone know what you are doing and where you are going to be, just in case.

Consider it a piece of equipment that you leave behind, and maybe another copy in your car. If people don't know where you are, what time you plan to return and small details, they may not know where to find you if needed in an emergency. Also be sure to include who you're hiking with and what vehicle you will be driving, and always sign into the trail register if one exists.


On your body

During the cold winter months, your body is an important part of your gear. Without it, you won't get anywhere - especially your feet and hands - so keep it in good shape.

Below are some recommendations on how to dress for day snowshoeing in the Adirondacks. Always steer clear of cotton because it absorbs sweat and water and becomes uncomfortable and cold:


- Wool or synthetic hat, something that covers the ears

- Balaclava, this is very important for super cold days or above tree line for wind protection as well as warmth.

- Goggles (optional), but you might find them very important on windy days above tree line


- Wool or synthetic glove liners (2-3 pairs). These should be considered a must. Many snowshoers don't use them, but they are worth their weight in gold. They keep your hands protected and allow for fine dexterity when the outer glove is removed for taking pictures, fumbling through your pack, getting a drink, eating a snack and much more. They get wet very easy from snow and sweat, which is why it is important to have multiple pairs.

- Waterproof gloves (2). It's always handy to have two pairs especially on long days. These can be a shell for a glove liner or fully insulated

- Waterproof mitts. These can be a shell mitt with a glove liner if you wish or an insulated mitt


- Wool or synthetic socks. Mountaineering weight or heavy weight work the best, but on some warmer days you can go a bit lighter.

- Sock liners (optional). These are used for added warmth, wicking capabilities, and to take up extra room in bulky winter boots

- Waterproof, insulated boots. These boots should be sized and fit correctly and they should be broken in on shorter trips rather than longer trips

- Gaiters. Used to keep snow out of your boots and add a layer of warmth to your feet.

- Snowshoes. Size depends on the person, terrain and intended use. There are snowshoes ranging from recreational to mountaineering. See a store associate for more sizing details.

- Traction. Microspikes are a good alternative to have in your pack. These rubber, pull on traction devices, work where snowshoes might not be needed.


- Wool or synthetic base layer shirt. Weight dependent on weather conditions

- Fleece or Synthetic Down jacket, as a second layer. Works well as a standalone piece, but does not offer water protection

- Waterproof jacket. To be used as a water protection piece as well as for wind protection. Has limited warmth capabilities and should be a shell with no insulation for better layering.

- Down jacket. For times when you stop or above tree line, it also makes for an excellent piece of emergency gear.

- Wool or synthetic base layer pant, weight dependent on weather conditions

- Waterproof pants. These can be ski pants, which can be very bulky. A shell with base layer is the best option for proper layering


While not always on your body you should have some backup gear along with you, just in case. Have these few simple things in your pack:

- Dry socks

- Dry base layer top

- Dry base layer bottom

- Dry hat

- Sunglasses (optional)

- Wind cream, protects skin from cracking and drying out

In your pack

I have seen small packs and I have seen large packs for day hiking, mine is someplace in the middle. No matter, it should be sized correctly and fit comfortably and proper. Also below you will see there is group gear in the list, which means one per group, split up the weight.

Below is a listing of possible other items you might and should consider having along for the ride:

- Matches

- Headlamp with extra lithium batteries (lithium batteries don't get affected by cold weather)

- Food for snacks and lunch. Keep some snacks in a pocket close to your body to keep them from freezing.

- Two 1-liter water bottles. Do not use a hydration pack, they will freeze much quicker and the hose become useless. Keep water in insulated sleeves and the bottles upside down in the sleeves. Keeping the water bottle upside down prevents the top from freezing, by making the bottom the top. Water freezes where the air is.

- Map and Compass

- GPS (optional)

- First-Aid Kit (group gear)

- Small stove. Jetboil works perfect (group gear)

- Emergency sleeping bag, 0-35 degree for emergencies (group gear)

- Trowel and toilet paper. Use far away from trail, as the ground if frozen and it will not be possible to bury adequately.

- Small Knife

- Tarp or bivy sack (group gear), great for emergency shelter

- Camera (optional), keep warm, close to body

- Snowshoe repair kit, each company has their own

- Moleskin. This blister prevention material can also be applied after for some relief, but should be applied before you set out. Blisters happen more in winter than in other seasons, usually due to boots that are bulky and harder to size properly.

- Hand and toe warmers. You have to have these in your pack and have plenty of them. These chemical warmers will save your digits.

As I said, these are guidelines to go by, and by no means the perfect list. It has worked for me for many years, and as far as I can tell I still have all my body parts and feel comfortable setting off for a day in the mountains either solo or in a group.

The most important piece of gear is your head, use it and make wise, safe decisions and everything else just might fall into place.



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