Winter is Approaching!

1:11 a.m. on October 18, 2010 (EDT)
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Well it's taken a while ... but I finally ordered some snow shoes based on the feedback you'all provided me nearly 2 years ago in this thread:

http://www.trailspace.com/forums/gear-selection/topics/49503.html

I used my 20% REI discount a couple hours before it expired and ordered the Atlas 1235's.

I am tempted but can't quite bring myself to say, "bring on the snow" :) :)...

Hopefully this purchase will encourage me to get out and play in the snow more than I might otherwise.

I still need to decide what to do about boots though...

4:26 p.m. on October 18, 2010 (EDT)
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For snowshoeing, I find that Sorel's Caribou boots work great. They have high insulated tops to help keep your calves warm in deep powder. The soles and main part of the boot are rubberized, so you don't have to keep waterproofing them.

http://www.sorel.com/CARIBOU%E2%84%A2-%28Mens%29-%7C-281-%7C-7/803298141482,default,pd.html

Not much snowshoeing here around Flagstaff, but back in Jackson Hole it one of the best ways to go hiking I know of in midwinter!

And REI has them. too!

7:40 p.m. on October 18, 2010 (EDT)
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For a lot of the snowshoeing I do (including leading hikes), I often use my Sorel Caribous as well. Mine are about 25 years old and going strong. However, there are some places where the Sorels are too soft (like when you have to really tighten the binding down for a lot of steep ascents and descents) which can cut off the circulation in your feet. For those, I use my double plastic climbing boots or double plastic telemark ski boots. Like the Sorels, these are double boots with a removeable liner, so you get lots of insulation against the cold, but being relatively stiff plastic for the outer shell, do not clamp down against your feet to cut off the circulation.

So it depends on what sort of snowshoeing you plan on doing. Just starting out, a good pair of all-leather (non-goretex) hiking boots that allow you to wear a pair of wicking liner socks under a medium to heavy pair of merino wool socks (such as SmartWools) will do just fine. Be sure to treat the all-leather boots with a good waterproofing compound as recommended by the boot manufacturer (what they recommend depends on how the leather was tanned - silicone-tanned calls for a silicone waterproofing usually, oil-tanned calls for something like Obenauf's. There are a variety of products, some of which are favorites of some Trailspace regulars, and some favored by some are recommended against by others. Best bet in the long run is to use whatever the boot maker recommends (even if it isn't your favorite or your best buddy's favorite - my favorite is no longer available ... boooo!).

10:28 p.m. on October 18, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks for the suggestions. As you can see by my purchase yesterday I take your opinions and experience seriously :).

I'll check out the boot options. My big problem with winter in general is that my feet (and hands) get very cold, especially when I'm standing still, like in camp. I'm generally OK when hiking (actually the opposite problem, I get too warm, and end up with this awkward balance of keeping my body cool enough, yet also feeling the cold air). I've never had a pair of boots that could truly keep my feet warm. And same with my hands ... I get by with a pair of MH fleece-type glove liners their their matching outer shells. But take the gloves off to (for example) make a meal, and my fingers quickly resemble icicles. My Asolo Fugitive GTX boots (I know, Goretex... :) are actually the warmest I've had so far.

Then the second issue is it's almost impossible for me to hike, especially with a pack, without getting sweaty, no matter what layering system I use. So I end up with wet clothes by the end of the day. And backpacking, I'd have to carry a ton of spare (dry) clothes.

These are really the main reasons I've done so little winter hiking, and only one winter backpacking trip I can recall (about 30 years ago to the Ethan Pond Shelter ... which, regretably turned out to be one of the coldest weekends of that year... And that was long before I was able to even contemplate purchasing any "technical" gear)... so no wonder I haven't tried again since then, except for a few car camping trips, where I could have campfires, had running (or pump) water available, had the safety-valve of a warm car nearby if needed, etc, etc.

Aside from personal comfort, then there's the issue of water freezing. I guess I need to get over my dislike of the idea of keeping my cold water bladder and water bottles in my sleeping bag with me when I sleep.

Sorry, I guess I sound like I'm whining. I'm not, really. I actually would like to enjoy the peace and beauty of winter in the wilderness, yet have some real comfort (and even safety) concerns.

Here I am in early 2007 while car-camping at Lodgepole CG in Sequoia NP, with fingers freezing while ungloved to handle the camera.

Do I look like a happy camper? :)

10:43 p.m. on October 18, 2010 (EDT)
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OGBO, you said, "starting out... leather boots", ... what if I want to buy with a more long-term view? I honestly don't know for sure what kind of snowshoeing I'll do. So far it's all been pretty simple ... sticking mainly to trails (though they haven't always been packed, but usually were). And none of it involved backpacking, just day hikes (the Ethan Pond trip was on hard packed snow, no snowshoes required).

The reason I paid more to get the Atlas 12-series, rather than the less expensive 10-series, is that the 10-series are claimed to be for "walking", whereas the 12-series seem to be suitable for more "advanced" uses. Even if I only walk on easy trails right away, I don't want my gear to be a limiting factor in what I decide (or learn) to do. And I expect purchases like this to last me for a number of years.

1:48 a.m. on October 19, 2010 (EDT)
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I figured you probably already have a good pair of leather hiking boots. So my suggestion is to use the boots you already have. This would save you a bit of money until you can look at the alternatives at more length.
The 12 series are better for the long run - better binding and more flotation for eventually carrying a full pack for extended treks.

1:55 a.m. on October 19, 2010 (EDT)
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Sorels will be great for what you're doing. They're really good for snowshoeing and general kicking around in the snow. I like the removable liners so you can dry them out quickly and carry on in dry boots. If you're getting into some more technical ascents and sustained traverses that's when plastic boots come into their own with a lot more support among other things.

You'll know when you need stiffer boots, but you can't go wrong with Sorels regardless, and you'll have them forever. Might even get the bug and go for an AT ski rig soon enough, been known to happen.... a lot.

As far as the layering goes, give Icebreaker base layer gear a go. They are made from high quality merino but not cheap and I really struggled handing over the coin for my first lot but they are sooo worth it. Like they say, good gear ain't cheap and cheap gear ain't good.

5:57 a.m. on October 19, 2010 (EDT)
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I use my double plastic climbing boots or double plastic telemark ski boots...

What tele boots do you use? How are they comfort-wise, on long approaches over barren ground?

Might even get the bug and go for an AT ski rig soon enough, been known to happen.... a lot.

I prefer three pinning to snowshoeing myself. Skin up, and can climb anything I would consider shoeing up.

Alas most of my current hiking buds do not tele. I don't mind going solo on occasion or with strangers, but it is more enjoyable with familiar faces. So although the progression is typically shoes to skis, I am considering going in reverse - converting to shoes, so I an entice them on four season trips. Shoeshoes are a gateway substance to tele skis. I'll hook'em yet!

Ed

12:38 p.m. on October 19, 2010 (EDT)
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Shoeshoes?

9:48 p.m. on October 19, 2010 (EDT)
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Shoeshoes?

Is this a reply to my question?

Ed

8:12 a.m. on October 20, 2010 (EDT)
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i'll join the chorus urging you to get an insulated boot for snowshoeing.  The Fugitive is a nice boot, but no insulation.  for insulated boots, the sorel mentioned above is a good boot - rubber bottom, leather top, felt insulated liner.  having a removable liner is very important if you overnight in the winter - so you can remove the liner and put it in your sleeping bag to dry it out.  if your feet get cold, consider an additional layer of insulation (flat felt or synthetic) beneath your foot, inserted into the boot underneath the felt liner.  double plastic boots are definitely warm too if they have an insulated liner, but cumbersome unless you plan to use crampons as well.

another route you might consider is the hunting boot category.  cabela's sells dozens of insulated gore tex boots for winter hunting.  my brother in law swears by this kind of boot and uses them for winter hiking in the upper northeast.  they are somewhat harder to dry out overnight, but if you bring a section of newspaper and crumple newspaper in the boot overnight, that should take care of a lot of the moisture.

in addition, get a few pair of really good winter socks and a baselayer that helps transport moisture away from you.  smartwool and bridgedale make both heavyweight and expedition-weight merino wool blend socks that are tremendously warm, even if you sweat a lot.  there is probably a split in preference among many people for baselayers.  merino wool is a very good material for long johns; synthetic long johns do a somewhat better job for people who sweat a lot at wicking moisture away.  i happen to like patagonia's baselayers, but i acknowledge they are expensive, and places like REI have more reasonable alternatives.  

if your hands get cold, one strategy is to always have a glove liner on.  i like patagonia's expedition-weight synthetic glove liners, the provide a measure of warmth and wick moisture.  over that, get a mitten, not a glove.  ideally a waterproof-breathable shell with a removable liner - preferably thick synthetic fleece or primaloft.  also, think about using the little 8 or 12 hour handwarmers, which work quite well.  

finally, if you sweat a lot carrying a pack, it's possible you are overdressing and not shedding layers when it would make sense to do that.  

11:44 a.m. on October 20, 2010 (EDT)
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Shoeshoes?

Is this a reply to my question?

Ed

Just a question. Somehow in my years in the woods and hills, I haven't come across shoeshoes. Are they a new high tech product? Will they keep my feet or hands or head warm and dry? You said they are a gateway to tele skis. So how do they compare to snowshoes, snowboards, split snowboards, tele skis, and randonee? Lighter, more flotation, more compact, easier to carry in your pack, less expensive ... ???

Learning new things and new approaches to the outdoors keeps me young and active. So my enquiring mind wants to know about these shoeshoes.

7:13 p.m. on October 20, 2010 (EDT)
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Shoeshoes?

Is this a reply to my question?

Ed

Just a question. Somehow in my years in the woods and hills, I haven't come across shoeshoes. Are they a new high tech product?

Me dumb!  And dyslexic. Snowshoes is what I meant.  Sometimes I even misspell my own name (groan).

Ed

7:27 p.m. on October 20, 2010 (EDT)
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bheiser: I've heard a good argument made for using Steger Mukluks in these capacities. Though I haven't worn them, a Forester colleague of mine in the U.P. of Michigan swears by them. Apparently, the non-constricting nature of these Mukluks equates to warmer feet when compared to even the burliest Sorels. Look into their Ojibwa or Arctic models for your purposes.

He's snowshoeing for the majority of the year up there, as 200"+ of annual snowfall is not uncommon in the area he lives/works, and Steger's are his winter boot of choice.

1:48 a.m. on October 21, 2010 (EDT)
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Maybe these shoeshoes are like shortshorts but for your feet. Or maybe they're super hardcore shoes.....so hardcore you need to hear it twice.

I want some shoeshoes now dammit. 

6:07 a.m. on October 21, 2010 (EDT)
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Maybe these shoeshoes are like shortshorts but for your feet. Or maybe they're super hardcore shoes.....so hardcore you need to hear it twice.

I want some shoeshoes now dammit. 

As long as you have two left foots...

Ed

9:28 p.m. on October 21, 2010 (EDT)
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Ooooohh!!!   Ahhhhhh!!!!   my 1235's arrived today.  They're really nice!  The binding assembly is wayyy nicer, and the crampons wayyy more substantial than I recall on others (e.g. 10-series, and others) I've rented in the past.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm looking forward to some snow to try 'em out :).

It's supposed to rain in Tahoe this weekend.  Cold+Damp=Ugh.

Anyway, as for boots ... OGBO, you said you assumed I had a good pair of leather boots.  Hmmm ... well... ummm...  I have three pairs of boots:

1.  Asolo Fugitive GTX:  they're really rugged boots, and keep my feet warmer than some other boots I've worn (though clearly they're not winter boots).  But they make my feet hurt so badly I stopped wearing them.  And they're heavy.  But I could use them snow shoeing on day trips where I don't need to worry about having liners to remove at night.

2. Salomon mid-height something-or-others ... these are reasonably comfortable except they're too short, so my toes get munged on downhills ... so I stopped using them.  These have GoreTex.

3. Keen Targhee ... these are the most comfortable boots I have.  They're not Gore Tex but use "Keendry" (a gtx knockoff?).  I bought them this summer.  After the second backpacking trip (an overnighter, then a 2-nighter) the sole started separating from the boot.  Apparently (as I found out later in reviews) this has happened to others with this boot.  I decided since I have so much trouble finding a comfortable boot, I'd keep these anyway and glue the sole back to the boot (I haven't tried this, or used the boots again, since then).  I just haven't had the patience to go boot shopping again (NOT one of my favorite shopping trips).   Anyway, aside from the shoddy construction, they actually worked out well for me on these two trips this summer, in terms of comfort, relatively little foot sweat, decent grip, etc.

None of these are the traditional all-leather boot.  It's been years since I had those.  Actually, concident with my starting to wear goretex boots (summer) I noticed a significant decrease in foot sweat.  I mostly wore leather boots in New England.  Since being in CA I've worn the Goretex ones, typically with some combination of leather/synthetic outer.  Maybe the drier feet now is not because of the boots, but because of the dry sierra summer air? :)

Anyway, I saw some Sorels at a local store the other day ... they look pretty nice, and I like what I've read here about having removable liners.  I can see myself putting the liners in my sleeping bag at night, but have trouble envisioning putting my cold/wet/muddy/icy boots in there.  So I'll wait a bit to see if they go on sale before there's enough snow to go snowshoeing :).

... apologies for this thread btw, I should have started it in the Gear Selection forum...

7:35 a.m. on October 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Hi bheiser 1,

I get really cold feet as well and I use a pair of vapour barrier socks for this purpose.  Usually when I am snowshoeing my -40 boots are great and keep my feet warm enough but around camp is another story.  I usually wear a light pair of wool socks then the vapour barrier socks then another heavier pair of wool socks and this does the trick!  Since the vapour barrier socks don't breathe you need to check your feet regularly so they are not continually wet but you only need to change the inner socks most times since the moisture is contained within the vapour barrier socks.  The glory about wool socks is that your feet stay warm even when damp so I enjoy this very much!  I usually only need to change socks before bed ( I am not a real foot sweater) and I take the damp ones in my bag to dry out overnight.  I also use vapour barrier socks in the other three seasons of the year to keep my feet dry, they work great in real wet areas.  There is a saturation point for most waterproof boots unless your talking rubber and I would rather deal with damp feet and change my socks a few times a day then slosh around with soaked socks.  In the rain and wet areas I use light wool socks and just the vapour barrier socks inside my boots.  Just some thoughts.

Jacqueline

10:58 a.m. on October 22, 2010 (EDT)
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All this snow talk has me wondering: should we have a separate forum category for winter sports?

6:31 p.m. on October 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Hi tommangan,

I think that would be an excellent idea!

Jacqueline

5:34 p.m. on October 24, 2010 (EDT)
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HI Wilderness Gal,  thanks for the suggestion about using vapor barrier socks for cold feet.  That's an interesting idea.  I think my only concern would be sweating while active.  But it could work well while in camp, which is where getting cold is more of an issue anyway. 

Thanks for the suggestion!

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