Whether you’re new to snowshoeing or a bona fide winter hiker, it’s important to have a solid check list of gear and supplies for the day. What you choose to pack will depend on where you’re headed, as well as the weather and how long you’ll be out—whether that’s just a few hours, the whole day, or overnight. We’ve previously covered winter camping gear. So here, we’ll look at the items you need for a successful day hike in the winter mountains.
First things first, your flotation devices. Whether you’re walking along your flat local trails or hiking in backcountry terrain, snowshoes make snow travel easier and more efficient. All MSR snowshoes offer advanced traction for enhanced safety and grip, as well as secure, comfortable bindings. Choosing the right size and model depends on your weight, the snow conditions and the type of terrain you’ll be in. Use our guide to find the perfect pair.
Poles increase your stability and efficiency on uneven terrain, which saves you precious energy. On long hikes, comfortable pole grips go a long way. MSR’s Ascent and Explore pole models feature extended foam grips that allow you to “choke down” when sidehilling in steeper terrain. All MSR poles feature our easy DynaLock adjustment locking mechanism, which offers tool-free tensioning—meaning you can tighten its clamping force on the fly to ensure your poles stay locked and rock-solid beneath you.
Finding the right clothing strategy may take several outings to master, as you learn which types of layers work for you. Make sure to check the day’s forecast and always err on the side of packing an extra layer of warmth. Here are the basics to dressing for a winter adventure.
- Warm, wicking socks (ski socks)
- Top and bottom baselayers (wool or synthetic)
- Mid insulating layers (fleece or micro puffy)
- Top and bottom soft shells (for drier/warmer days)
- Top and bottom waterproof layers (for wet forecasts)
- Warm beanie
- Sun hat
- Liner gloves for hiking/ascending
- Insulated waterproof gloves/mittens
- Waterproof boots
Even a short hike benefits from a pack, for stashing your extra layers and food. If you’re starting from scratch with all this gear, consider MSR’s All-in-One Snowshoe Kits. An excellent value, it sets up you with high-quality snowshoes, poles and a fully featured pack—which includes a removeable foam seat, an internal zippered pocket and hydration compatibility.
Food and hot drinks
On a cold day, your internal furnace needs more calories to keep burning. That’s when an insulated bottle of something hot and delicious offers salvation. To help fuel you all afternoon, check out our list of warm, hearty trailside snack ideas.
Also remember, on icy days the water in your hydration drink tube can freeze, so water bottles are a better choice in sub-freezing temps.
The Ten Essentials
Any time you head into the backcountry, the Ten Essentials should be in your pack. Think of them as a mandatory safety toolkit for adventures, preparing you for all types of scenarios.
- Navigation (map, compass, GPS system)
- First Aid Kit
- Fire starter
- Insulating clothes
- Emergency shelter/bivy
4 Extras that enhance the day
Insurance against frozen fingers and toes, handwarmers can save the day. As you hike, your body generates heat, making it easy sweat inside your gloves. When you stop to rest, that sweat cools, creating an icebox for your hands. Pack a set of handwarmers and hike through the day with confidence.
Sitting on snow is a surefire way to lose body heat. That’s why an ultralight foam cushion is a smart choice. Therm-A-Rest’s Z-Sol Lite features a reflective lining for warmth and its added length is perfect for prepping snacks.
3. Small stove
The ability to whip up a warm, steaming trailside snack is a game-changer. The ultralight PocketRocket Deluxe stove features a built-in pressure regulator for cold-weather performance, or pack a rapid-boiling system like the WindBurner Duo.
4. Outdoor apps + small battery pack
These days, outdoor apps do it all—from identifying the surrounding peaks to ensuring you’re still on-route. Keep in mind cold affects your phone’s battery, so if you plan to use apps, bring a small battery pack. Here’s our list of the Ten Best Outdoor Apps for 2019.
Will you be in avalanche terrain? Pack the right safety gear.
Before you head out, it’s important to know whether your snowshoe trails will take you through avalanche-prone areas. Not sure? Read our beginners guide to avalanche safety.
Now that you’re ready to get out there for early season adventures, download our gear checklist and pack like a pro: