That's more rhetorical than anything else because who really wants to slip on icy trails?
The possibility of icy conditions on a recent hike we did shortly before Christmas reminded me that it might be time to start toting my Stabilicer traction aids in my backpack JIC (Just In Case). I also invested in a pair of the Kahtoola microspikes last year due to the prolonged snow/ice cover we had for months. These bad boys are better for deeper and more crusted ice while the Stabilicers are more 'general' winter-trail-condition aids.
That prolonged snow cover was terrific for snowshoeing, but if I'm not wearing the old Tubbs, then navigating a Slip-N-Slide trail w/o some traction aid is not something I prefer to attempt.
Wondering when (and if) folks start toting around similar aids; or do you just depend upon your tried and true hiking shoes; or do you switch to more heavy-duty-lugged-ice & snow handlers?
I used YakTraxx for a long time with mixed results (had the originals and w/o the strap and they tend to come off). Last year I picked up a pair of the Kahtoolas - what a huge difference they make for winter hiking. The extra stability/confidence on icy trails is worth every dime. Once there is snowfall, in the pack they go. I don't switch footwear per season, though I probably should since I prefer low-cut waterproof hiking shoes.
I have been carrying my Kahtoolas in my backpack for a while now because it can be icy early in the mornings but I have not had to put them on yet. Like Dawn, I got the Kahtoolas last year and they are way better than Yak Trax. Problem with Yak Trax is they get clogged up with snow and then you are walking with no tread because your sole is a block of heavy packed snow. I have fallen because of that. Haven't had the Kahtoolas clog up at all. The only negative I found with Kahtoolas is if you say, have to cross a road that has been plowed, it is really awkard to walk on those spikes when there is nothing for them to grip and I'm too lazy to take them off and put them back on again. When it snows I haul the snowshoes around in the car, JIC, but didn't use them a single time last year because when I did use them the year before, I ended up throwing them back in the car and post-holing my way around without them. I did not like the snow shoes at all! I really do need to give it another try. Someday.
I really hope you give the snowshoes another try, Daniela. Right now I'm suffering "extreme snowshoe deprivation". :( By this time last year, I'd already been out with them at least a couple or three dozen times.
As long as there's sufficient snow cover, even the rockiest of trails (i.e. AT-like) are manageable. I can see however where they might be cumbersome if there's any significant amount of bouldering or climbing involved on a trail or even certain creek crossings.
If for nothing else at all, when it was near impossible to drive any appreciable distance to hike last year, the shoes allowed me to walk/exercise closer to home, like near & around the Manasquan Reservoir, in the woods behind my house, or on streets & general areas that weren't plowed.
Contrary to popular belief, you never really "float" on the surface of the snow and do sink several inches or so depending on the condition of the snow (ice, powder, etc.), which enables a great workout. IMO, the ratio of energy output when snowshoeing compared to regular walking/hiking is at least 2:1. I personally felt twice the physical benefits after a good snowshoe hike/walk.
But even more importantly, snowshoeing afforded me a whole new perspective on hiking, and that alone was more than enough of a benefit in my book.
Do give them another chance. That is, if we ever get enough snow to warrant using them.
Linda - what kind of snowshoes do you use? Are they women-specific? I probably asked you this last year... :)
We bought really basic ones on a whim a long time ago and while I like it, I find it hard on my hips sometimes. I keep toying with buying new, women-specific ones but you know the rule... if you buy snow-gear it practically guarantees you will not get any snow the rest of the season. I was amazed we got any snow after I got the Kahtoolas.
Daniela - I am also too lazy to take off the Kahtoolas to cross roads or walk down a plowed gravel park path. But I feel stupid tap-tap-tapping down the road though, and wonder how much i am bending/dulling the spikes...
My snowshoes are TUBBS Women-Specific "Mountaineer" . They were rated #1 last year by many snow-gear venues and had features that appealed to me like the heel lift you can easily engage when going up steep inclines. Practically keeps your feet level and makes for easier ascents while taking pressure off your calf muscles. I shopped around quite a bit and got them at a cheaper price than what's listed in that link.
Not all women-specific shoes are created equal IMO. I initially had a pair of LLBean's. While good, I found myself clacking together too much. Because a woman's gait is different than a man's due to hip & pelvis alignment & width, as you know, there's a tendency to roll our feet inwards and put more pressure on our knees as well. If your snowshoes are showing signs of scraping together or (like me) you're clacking them together too much as you stride, then they may not be right for you. LLBean is wonderful at returns. Even though I'd worn them several times, they took them back and refunded. You really have to see the shoes either in person or get a really good comparative computer view of different brands and models. I'd go w/ones that are more tapered at the front end. I haven't 'clacked' half as much w/the Tubbs.
Yes, you do feel it in your hips. You engage a lot more muscles in that area while shoeing than nearly any other sport I'm aware of. But the more times I shoed, the less it would bother me. Even so, after some longer-distance snowshoe hikes, my hips did feel it afterward.
Most aspects of snowshoeing are pretty basic and simple w/the exceptions of:
- Backing up. You have to learn to lift your leg, turn it in the direction you want to go and pivot your body on the standing foot.
- Crossing plowed roads w/no snow cover. Much like not wanting to take off the Kahtoolas when we come upon a paved, un-snow covered road, it's even more of a nuisance to remove snowshoes for the same reason. If, however, the distance we'd have to walk on such a road warranted it, then we'd have to remove them to lessen wear & tear on the shoes' teeth. Even though they're supposed to never need sharpening, why risk possible premature damage? But if we saw that there were enough little "islands" of ice or snow on the road, we'd "rock hop" from island to island much like you'd do when regular hiking & crossing a stream or creek - but doing so in what amounts to clown shoes. We've been known to put on quite a show for some onlookers. Always glad to entertain. :)
Linda - Thanks, lots of good advice and tips there. Still mulling over whether to pop for new snowshoes or not. If we got more consistently good snowfall in this state it would be a no-brainer. That, and if we had a AWD vehicle that could better get us out of our infrequently plowed street and to the trailhead...
Just an fyi about one of the few (if not "the only") place in NJ I'm aware of w/designated snowshoe trails that are maintained w/man-made snow if there's no/limited snow cover. As long as the temps cooperate, High Point X-Country Ski Center @ High Point, NJ maintains something like 2, 4 or 6 (not sure exactly) miles of snowshoe/x-country trails out of their 25km trail network. They also have limited snowshoe & x-country equipment to rent so you don't necessarily have to invest in buying your own if you just want to go for a weekend or a day if you're close enough.
I check their website frequently to see how conditions are and as of this morning, things are looking good compliments of Mother Nature. It's a bit of a drive for us, but as long as the major roads are clear, it's doable for us as an overnight.
As a matter of fact, I'm looking out my window now and note that the woods are looking all white and beckoning. This morning's white stuff has finally covered all the remaining leaves on the ground, and hopefully the rain & schmutz holds off long enough for me strap on my shoes to at least have time enough to romp around outside and amuse my neighbors w/my first "Happy, Happy SnowShoe Dance" of the year!