My wife and I have always been very active. We have done a lot of skiing, snowboarding, hiking, playing tennis and so on. She has even gone skydiving (not me!). However, as we got older (and sustained more injuries) our participation in those sports dwindled. In fact, we probably have not skied in about 15 years. In fact, except for the one inch of snow we got last year here in Texas, we have not even seen snow. Our favorite sport now is whitewater kayaking, something we do every chance we get.
Looking for a new adventure, my wife and I decided to try a one-day introduction to snowshoeing in Mt. Hood, Oregon. We hooked up with Next Adventure in Portland, a company my wife found because they provide whitewater kayaking outings, something we will be interested in when summer comes around. This time of the year was a bit cold for whitewater kayaking, for us at least, so we decided to try snowshoeing.
Next Adventure provided the snowshoes and poles, and took us to the Bennet Pass Sno-Park in Mt. Hood. In total, there were 7 of us snowshoeing and 3 guides. Of the 7, only one person had been snowshoeing in the past so I didn’t think we would be holding up the rest of the group. I think that was a good ratio especially, as in kayaking, someone would have to be in the back of the pack to keep an eye out for someone who might need some help.
The picture below shows the guides who were with us. All of the guides have had amazing lives and done amazing things. You can find their bios on the Next Adventure web site: Next Adventure Staff
The purpose of the outing was to introduce us to snowshoeing, which it did quite well. The path we followed only had about 3-4 inches of snow on it, and that covered a hard pack. The snowshoes themselves had “grippers” to make walking a bit easier and kept us from slipping when we encountered icy patches.
To be honest, the snowshoes were not what I expected. My only familiarity with snowshoes is what I have seen in old movies, like the ones below.
Instead, the snowshoes were small and made of plastic. You can get an idea of how big they were in the picture below. I’ve looked at a lot of snowshoes for sale and it seems that most of them are about that size.
Anyway, after walking on the path we finally got to go off into deeper snow. I found going up hill and going downhill to be challenging. Also, I found that I still sunk about a foot into the snow despite having snowshoes on.
So here are a couple of questions for you experienced snowshoers: how far down into the snow do you actually go when you have snowshoes on? How deep must the snow be for snowshoes to be effective?
I found walking in snowshoes to be a bit strange. You have to keep your feet somewhat wide apart so you don’t step on the snowshoes. Later that evening I had thigh cramps. I’m accustomed to leg cramps because of the type of exercise I get, such as being crammed into a whitewater kayaking for a few hours at a time, but thigh cramps were something new to me. But, all in all, we had a good time. Just being out in deep snow for the first time in years was, in itself, great.
We are going to do more business with Next Adventure and I recommend the company highly. Next Adventure also provides outings for kayakers, climbers, snowboarders, hikers, campers, skiers, cyclists and mountaineers. We are interested in their whitewater offerings as well as backpacking and wilderness first aid.
We also stopped at the Next Adventure store after snowshoeing.
It just happened to be their “great sock giveaway” in which they would donate a pair of socks to charity for every pair someone bought. I bought a pair of FITS socks which are, without a doubt the most comfortable socks I have ever owned. These are not your everyday run-of-the-mill socks, by the way. They can be pretty pricey. But, in my opinion, the socks are worth the prices. To say that Next Adventure has a large selection of socks would be an understatement.
Now, a little bit about what to wear. We had not skied in about 15 years. While we lived in Florida, we stored our equipment in the space above our garage and, because of the heat that built up in that space, a lot of it simply disintegrated. For example, the bottoms of our ski boots turned to dust. Nonetheless, we saved some of our equipment “just in case” and it came in handy. Interestingly, some of our whitewater kayaking gear came in handy as well.
I’ll discuss what I wore and provide links to Amazon pages where you can buy the gear – Amazon seems to have the best prices, better even than the manufacturers’ prices.
As my base layer I wore the Columbia Omni-Heat midweight stretch baselayer long sleeve shirt. This shirt has a thermal-reflective lining that holds heat in, while the wicking fabric keeps you from getting a chill. This is part of my whitewater gear. When it is cold, I wear it under my dry top and it keeps me very warm. If you are going to do anything in the cold, especially kayaking, you have to check this out!
For my mid layer I wore a Kokatat NeoCore Long Sleeve Shirt. This is made from a lightweight neoprene fabric that features a plush polyester inner lining that is comfortable against the skin and retains less water. This shirt and my bases layer combined could not have weighed more than a couple of ounces. It is something that you could, again, wear whitewater kayaking.
For my outer layer I wore a Columbia Shreddin’ Jacket. My wife bought this for me to wear on a winter kayak camping trip. The rapids on this trip were at most class 1 or 2 minus, so there was no chance of flipping over. This jacket, like my base layer, also has the Omni-Heat liner, so it is like you are wearing two thermal blankets. What’s truly great about the jacket, though, it that it is very lightweight and can be “squished” down to fit in your luggage or your kayak. I wanted to wear a light jacket on the plane, so I stuffed the Shreddin’ jacket into my luggage. When I got to Portland, I took it out and put my light jacket in the luggage. Very handy.
My gloves were ancient – the Gordini Promo Gauntlet Gore-Tex Gloves. But, they kept my hands warm. I thought they might have been a bit bulky for the snowshoe poles, but that was not an issue. You can still buy them! Below is an Amazon link to those gloves.
You can get what seems to be an updated version on Next Adventure’s website.
Lower Inner Layer
My inner, lower layer was a pair of NRS H2Core lightweight pants. These are lightweight and thin enough to be worn under a dry suit or dry pants. They are also very, very comfortable. In addition to wearing them kayaking, I wear them when I hike in cold weather.
Lower Outer Layer
My lower outer layer was also ancient, probably about twenty years old and something that was stored above the garage in Florida – a pair of North Face Dryzzle Full Zip Pants. Amazingly, you can still buy these which, if I go snowboarding again, I might have to do. Because they were stored in the garage the elastic waist band had apparently disintegrated, something I did not know until I started wearing them. Until I stuffed my two upper layers into the waist band, they had a tendency to slide down. These are waterproof, breathable, lightweight GORE-TEX® shell pants that I have used, in the past, when I am flat-water kayaking in the winter.
I do not own any snow boots, just work boots, so I wore my Astral TR1 Merge Outdoor Boot. I LOVE these boots – -they are so comfortable. When paired with the FITS socks I purchased they are even more comfortable. I wasn’t sure that they would be appropriate for snowshoeing, but they worked just fine. My feet did not get cold. I wore plain old ski socks over my feet but, in case that did not work, I also brought along a pair of NRS HydroSkin Socks. These are something you can wear whitewater kayaking or hiking.
Astral TR1 Merge Outdoor Boot
NRS HydroSkin Socks
Now THIS is an oldie but a goodie. I got this at Heavenly Valley about 30 years ago and it is still in great shape. I looked and looked and looked but, except perhaps on eBay, you cannot find it anywhere. Too bad. Yeah, I know, it’s goofy but it is warm.
Since we are new to this sport, if you more experienced folks have any suggestions, please leave some comments.
Finally, here is a link to the Next Adventure home page.
Next Adventure Home Page