Your First Snowshoe Outing

Hurray! After taking last year off, winter has arrived in New Mexico! It is nice to see all the fluffy snow and it puts a smile on my face to shift into winter mode. I have been out snowshoeing as much as possible and I know you want to get after it too. So, why not grab some snowshoes and go hit your favorite trail on the crest, in the east mountains or north in Santa Fe?

One of the constant reminders I have been sending out with every pair of snowshoes we rent, is to dress in layers. Moisture management is important during this aerobic activity (and many others).

Breaking Trail

Breaking Trail

I just came back from a short 30 min snowshoe in about 8-10 inches of the fluffy white stuff and I worked up a light sweat while I was out. Here are some tips that help me stay comfortable.

Depending on your level of fitness, the elevation and temperature (wind chill too), you will want to follow a few basic rules. First dress in non-cotton clothing for the best results. Cotton holds moisture and will not keep you warm once you start sweating.  I will start at the feet and work my way up to your head.

On my feet I wear a mid-weight wool hiking sock, this seems to do the trick for me during all but the coldest outings. Over that I have been wearing my waterproof breathable hiking boots. On my legs I have a midweight long john bottom, and a pair of hard-shell full side zip ski pants. These work well at cutting most of the wind and offer a venting option if I get too warm on the up hills. On my torso, I have a silk weight long john top, a mid-weight top and then a waterproof breathable hard-shell top for the outer most layer. This too has venting zippers on the under arms for relieving some excess heat and it keeps the wind out. The snow has been a little wet which is why I chose the hard shells over a soft-shell outer layer.

My hands are always cold, so I pack mittens for longer stops, but I will get to that in a minute. I generally wear a windproof midweight liner glove on my hands, they move around a fair bit with my trekking poles, so they stay warm on most outings. I also wear a wicking winter beanie on my head with a balaclava in my pack for the colder days. Any winter hat will do the trick if you can remove it easily with your gloves on to help regulate your temperature. Lastly, I wear either polarized sun glasses or ski goggles depending on the conditions. Protecting your eyes at altitude is super important especially when snow or ice are flying around in the trees.

Snowshoeing in the Jemez

Snowshoeing in the Jemez

I generally carry a small pack on all but the shortest outing (30 min or less). What’s inside? It really depends on if I am taking my kids, adults, or just me. I will describe the contents when it is just me.

Water, I usually take 1-2 liters of water in a wide mouth bottle. I do not use a camelback because they freeze too easily. I store this water inside the extra socks I take, and I try to arrange it upside down in my pack so if it freezes, the ice is at the bottom of the container. Additional layers are as follows: 1 additional warm layer for the top and the bottom (this is usually a heavy weight long john top and bottom), a larger down jacket and spare hat or balaclava. First Aid/Survival readiness: First Aid kit, sunscreen, fire starter, and a head light, duct tape, zip ties, small reflective blanket (or heat blanket) small cook stove with fuel, and 1 prepacked meal (freeze dried so all you need is water), “spork,” cook pot, insulated seating pad, and powdered Gatorade or some type of electrolyte mix.

Del Agua Canyon Overlook

Del Agua Canyon Overlook

I realize the pack contents seem like a lot, but once you go out a couple of times you will dial in your kit. The heaviest thing will be the water that you take. If you run out, you can always make more with your camp stove. There are a lot of additional items you can carry, and I encourage your to find your set up. This is just what I carry for me personally.

MST Adventures offers snowshoe rental and guided tours at competitive rates. We operate under special permit in the Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands. Use the “Book Adventure” button to schedule your next outing.