I received an email from a reader with some great questions! I’d started a post on snowshoeing and never finished, so I had a great excuse to finish it. Here is Eryn’s question:
“I’m writing today, because as a fellow Portlander and lover of the great outdoors, I’m looking forward to winter and trying somethings that have previously been WAY outside of my comfort zone. Specifically show-shoeing. This might be too simple of a question for you to take the time to answer, but what does one WEAR!?! I’ve figured out my hiking uniform, but could you walk through exactly the garb and gear you typically use for such an adventure? Even a breakdown of your day pack would be helpful! Any recommendations on EASY, fun trails in the area? :)”
Such great questions. Let’s talk about the clothes first.
What I wear when I go snowshoeing greatly depends on the temperatures. The coldest I’ve ever gone out in the snow was 11 degrees and that was slightly unpleasant. I felt it most in my feet and hands, even though I had decent gloves on.
The first layer is long underwear from REI. I wear the pants and long sleeved shirt. Over that I sometimes wear sweatpants and then my snow pants. I wear the sweat pants if it’s super cold, but most of the time it’s not needed. The snow pants are lined but not too thickly.
I wear a thick, light-weight sweater over my long underwear shirt and depending on the temperature I wear my jacket or just a vest. I tend to get really hot when I snowshoe, even if it’s cold out. Being able to take off layers is crucial. Sometimes I will take off the sweater half-way through a trek and just wear the long underwear shirt.
I have snowshoe goggles and sometimes I wear them but usually not. The situations in which I have worn the goggles were when we were snowshoeing in the rain or it was mixed with snow. It was just more comfortable to wear the goggles. The only downside is that they can fog up sometimes.
I also wear gloves (sometimes thin fabric ones and sometimes the thicker, insulated ones) and my hat. Usually that’s sufficient. Michael and I both have a face gator and have worn it a few times, but it’s usually not cold enough to wear it.
Rent or buy snowshoes? My suggestion is to buy them. A decent pair of snowshoes runs around $150. With everything you can spend a lot of money or you can search for the cheapest pair. I wouldn’t recommend the cheapest pair simply because you get what you paid for. I’ve rented enough crappy snowshoes that buying them made sense and we spent the money to get GOOD ones. Nothing sucks more than being out in the snow and a strap on your snowshoe breaks.
I wear my hiking boots when I snowshoe. They are waterproof, comfortable and go up to my ankles. I will wear gators over the hiking boots which I LOVE. They keep the snow out of your shoes, especially if you’re walking in deep snow.
Preparing for a snowshoe trip is something that should be taken seriously. Even if it’s just a short day trip, you MUST be prepared for everything. That means packing supplies.
The stuff I pack are things like a mini first aid kit, water pills for purifying water, foil blankets, flashlight, compass, snacks, Advil, matches, the Hotties warmers, a knife, and of course, maps/books/guides:
I’ve shared some safety tips before. You can read them here in this post about snowshoeing. It’s important to be prepared because you never know what might happen. There have been a few times where we went out for a hike or to snowshoe and got lost or ended up on the wrong trail and we were out there for a lot longer than we planned on.
WHERE TO GO
I’ve snowshoed in a bunch of different places. Bend is my favorite but it’s a bit of a drive from Portland. If you are in the Bend/Sisters area, I definitely recommend the Virginia Meissner Snow-Park. Love this place! It’s groomed, it’s got trails for all levels of shoers and skiers. There’s also really cute shelters with fireplaces out on the trail.
The closer places are on Mount Hood. There a ton of different trails you can check out within a 90 minute drive. Here are some of my favorites:
Trillium Lake – This is my favorite place to go on Mount Hood. There’s tons of parking, it’s groomed and the trails are clearly marked and easy to follow. It’s also gorgeous! This one is good for beginners but it’s still a challenging hike if you do the full loop.
Glacier View – This is another good one because it’s usually empty. I think we’ve done this a few times and have seen only a few other people on there with us. It’s fairly easy and flat.
White River Trail– This trail is a new one for us. We went to it on New Year’s Day this year and had a great time! It’s on the other side of Mount Hood so the drive is a little longer. It’s super popular too because there’s a huge sledding area. There are a few trails and gorgeous views of Mount Hood. This one is great!
Frog Lake – I’ve tried to do this one a few times and it’s just okay. The times I’ve gone there wasn’t really enough snow for snowshoeing. We did find a different part of the trail that had more snow and it was better.
There are so many other trails on Mount Hood that are really popular. I would like to try them someday. Unfortunately a lot of them are either backcountry (no marked trails) or super steep. With my knee issues, flat is much better. But someday.
Hope this post helped!