A snowshoer in New York's Adirondacks. (Martin Morissette/Flickr Photo)

A snowshoer in New York’s Adirondacks. (Martin Morissette/Flickr Photo)

If you’re a hiker who views winter as the “offseason,” you’re missing out on the arguably the best months of the year to be outdoors. During winter, you don’t have to deal with oppressive heat, there are no bugs, no crowds, and you get to enjoy the spectacular beauty of the winter landscape.

Snowshoeing is perhaps the best way to explore the winter wilderness. It’s fun, it’s great exercise, and all you need to do it is the ability to walk and have access to a pair of snowshoes. But before you embark on your first snowshoeing adventure, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

A man snowshoeing on Maine's Mt. Will. (ChrisDag/Flickr Photo)

A man snowshoeing on Maine’s Mt. Will. (ChrisDag/Flickr Photo)

  1. Always dress in layers. You might be surprised by how strenuous snowshoeing is. If you get hot, you may be comfortable removing your coat and snowshoeing in a long-sleeve T-shirt, hat and gloves. But when you stop, you’ll get cold quickly and need to layer up again. You may also get cold again if you’re snowshoeing in elevation or are suddenly exposed to wind. Be prepared for conditions to change.
  2. Check the weather forecast. Winter conditions can change in a hurry. If you’re unprepared and you get caught by a surprise snowstorm or a downpour of freezing rain, things can get dangerous fast. Always check the forecast before heading out.
  3. Start with a short trip. Sure, you’re a speedy hiker. But snowshoeing taxes your muscles differently than regular hiking. You may be slower and get exhausted quicker than you expect. For your first snowshoeing trip, start with a short, easy trail to get a feel for it. Also, remember to save plenty of energy for your return trek to the trailhead.
  4. Always carry a map, light and firestarter. Don’t get a false sense of security from your footprints in the snow. Even in winter, it is still easy to get turned around and confused in the wilderness. So you should always carry a map with you. You should also carry a flashlight or headlamp, even if you only plan to be out during the day. You may go slower than you think and be surprised by darkness. Also, always carry a firestarter such as a lighter or waterproof matches.
  5. Carry food and water. Staying hydrated is just as important in the winter as it is in the summer. Also, you’ll burn tons of calories snowshoeing. Bring quality food to refuel.

If you’re looking for ideas on where to go snowshoeing, check out our list of Great New England Snowshoe Trails and our list of Great Snowshoe Trails in NY, NJ & PA.