Written by: Anna Sibal
12/02/2012 10:30 AM
You've decided to pack up the car, truck, or RV and head out on a winter expedition - to brave the elements and enjoy the colder weather. Even if you haven't traveled far to get to your campsite, you will be surprised by how vastly altered everyday scenery becomes when enveloped in snow. And, this same snow presents a host of fun outdoor activities for the young and experienced alike. One such activity is snowshoeing.
You may not have heard of snowshoeing before. Surprisingly it is a winter activity that has been around for centuries. Though it was once a technique used mainly by fur trappers and hunters for moving around in deep snow, now it is a thriving winter sport that has a growing following throughout the world - or at least in parts where there is snow in the winter.
In the most basic of terms, snowshoeing is simply traveling by foot in the outdoors while wearing snowshoes. That definition may sound bland, but snowshoeing brings a lot of fun and excitement that words can't easily describe. You can't help but notice how different the often-familiar landscapes look when covered in snow. Seeing nature in a whole new perspective gives you an appreciation for how beautiful our world is. To know just how wonderful snowshoeing is, you have to experience it for yourself and it is something you should do at least once in your life, whether you are an avid hiker or not. It's affordable and a great way to get some exercise too!
Buying the Right Snowshoes
Snowshoeing sounds fun, doesn't it? Half the fun of snowshoeing lies in having the right pair of snowshoes on when you go out there and stride in the snow. There are two major factors that you have to consider when shopping for snowshoes. First is the activity you have in mind for buying snowshoes. The other is your size.
All snowshoes have three basic elements, namely: the frame, the decking, and the bindings. The frame is the skeleton of the snowshoe; it is the part that keeps your feet from sinking deep in the snow. The decking is the part that gives you traction over a snowy or icy surface; this part has metal teeth called crampons. The bindings keep your feet in place while walking in your snowshoes. You will bind you shoes or boots to the snowshoes.
Just because snowshoes have all these basic elements doesn't mean that all snowshoes are the same. There are, in fact, three basic types of snowshoes: recreational snowshoes, backcountry snowshoes, and racing snowshoes.
Aside from getting the type of snowshoe most suitable for the winter activities you have in mind, you should also consider your size when buying a pair of snowshoes. Unlike regular footwear, the snowshoe size you need to have depends on your body weight. Youalso need to factor in the weight of the pack you will be carrying (if you will be carrying any) when getting sized for your snowshoes.
The common formula used in figuring out the right size of snowshoes is one square-inch for every pound of body weight and pack weight. For instance, if you weigh 150 lbs and your pack weighs 10 lbs, you need to have a pair of snowshoes that can support 160 lbs of weight. That would be a 26-inch pair.
You can buy snowshoes at various outdoor stores such as Dicks Sporting Goods, Eastern Mountain Sports, LL Bean and REI.
"Accessorizing" Your Snowshoes
Snowshoes are definitely the most important gear you must possess if you are going to be traipsing in the snow. But you will want to get a few other things as well to make your snowshoeing safer and more comfortable. Among these things are:
Also, when you go snowshoeing, you have to be dressed appropriately for the winter cold. So, your outerwear should have the ability to keep you warm and dry. In addition, snowshoeing means you get to sweat some, so your clothes should be able to let moisture out and allow your body to breathe.
Many snowshoe manufacturers package their snowshoes with their very own tote bags. If your trek won't be done entirely on snowshoes, it would be a good idea to take a tote bag along. This bag will not just make carrying your snowshoes around a lot easier but will protect them as well.
You can buy accessories at various outdoor stores such as Dicks Sporting Goods, Eastern Mountain Sports, LL Bean and REI.
Moving in Your Snowshoes
As a popular saying goes, you can snowshoe if you can walk. Snowshoeing may look intimidating if you have never tried it before, but it is actually quite easy once you get the hang of it.
When snowshoeing, just walk in your natural gait. You only need to keep your legs wider apart while walking so you won't trip over your snowshoes. In some ways, walking in snowshoes is like marching. You lift your knee a little as you stride along and then dig your cleats in the snow as you put your feet down. This will help you gain traction over the surface. Never drag your feet or you'll get snow in your shoes.
On an uphill trail, you'll need to bend your knees a little and keep your stride shorter as you climb up. Remember to dig your cleats in the snow as you bring your feet down. When going downhill, bring your body to a slight crouch and keep your knees bent while striding.
You may find turning while wearing snowshoes a bit tricky to do, but it is definitely possible. One way to do it is to face the direction you want to turn to and then place your right foot towards that direction, with your right heel close to the toes of yourleft foot. And then, step your left foot parallel to your right foot and continue your stride.
Staying Safe While Snowshoeing
A few pointers:
Snowshoeing can sound intimidating if you have never tried it before. However, it is a great way to have some physical activity and enjoy the great outdoors even during winter. Snowshoeing is easier than it looks and once you get the hang of it, you'll be running in your snowshoes in no time.
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