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Snowshoeing in the Pacific NW
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Josh Newkirk
(Newkirk) - MLife

Locale: Australia
Snowshoeing in the Pacific NW on 10/23/2010 23:30:00 MDT Print View

When do people usually start snowshoeing in the olympics?

Also what sort of snowshoes do people recommend? Do people wear there hiking boots/shoes or winter boots?

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Snowshoeing in the Pacific NW on 10/24/2010 17:46:43 MDT Print View

"Also what sort of snowshoes do people recommend? Do people wear there hiking boots/shoes or winter boots?"


A good place to start would be with Will Rietveld's excellent 3 part series on winter footwear. Go to the BPL Advanced search function and search with the keywords rietveld and "winter footwear". Scattered trhough the results you will find the 3 articles, parts 1,2,3. Then key in Rietveld and snowshoes to find his review of Northern Lites and MSR snowshoes. These are generally considered the two best brands for snowshoeing.

Up here in the PNW, you will see more MSR snowshoes, because they are better known and because they are superior to Northern Lites on technical terrain. They are also considerably heavier. For general purpose, non technical terrain, the Northern Lites are an excellent choice. They perform superbly and are considerably lighter. I would recommend reading the articles/review mentioned above to prepare yourself to critically evaluate the responses you will get to this thread, then make your choice of gear and go out and have a ball. It's a candy shop up here.

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Good book: Snowshoe Routes Washington on 10/24/2010 18:16:58 MDT Print View

This book, by Dan A. Nelson, is offered by The Mountaineers Press and is available at most local book sellers (THe ISBN is 0-89886-8840X).

While not an exhaustive list, it does feature a number of snowshoe routes in the Olympics, primarily to the north. One of the issues you will run into, as you might imagine, is reaching these areas. The Olympics are a rather large area and there is thankfully only limited road access into most areas. I haven't done much snowshoeing in the Olympics, but I am intrigued by the possibility of tackling Mt. Townsend on snowshoes.

Having used a few brands, I find myself using MSR EVO snowshoes primarily because they are pretty good as an all-around snowshoe for playing around in the Cascades. If the snow is really light I am sure there are much better choices, but frequently, the snow here isn't all that light. The MSRs seem popular up here, probably because they are relatively inexpensive, Cascade Designs is a local brand, and they are carried by REI. You can also purchase flotation tails for the EVO, but I don't think that is often necessary.

I will be interested in hearing in what others have to say on this subject! Let us know how it works out.


Erich Langner
(eclassic) - F
snowshoes on 11/18/2010 15:36:19 MST Print View

northern lights tundras are pretty bomb. though they might be a bit clumsy for mountain climbing. id use elites but im too heavy for those. i was recommended these crazy looking snow shoes that looked like strapped up swords, the MSR Evo Ascents. their really heavy and don't offer much flotation(for me anyway) but i have heard good things.

Actually i did more research on the MSR Evo and found them to be only 2 lbs something. i thought that they were 4+. also they are on sale for the rei winter clearence. sub $100.

Edited by eclassic on 11/21/2010 09:05:26 MST.

Scott Ireland
(WinterWarlock) - MLife

Locale: Western NY
Snowshoes/Boots on 11/22/2010 05:28:49 MST Print View

I can't help with the PNW, but can offer some insight into the Adirondacks and snowshoes, where in certain areas snowshoes are required by law when there is more than 8" of snow on the ground.

First, most people I know do use MSR's...some use Lightnings, but most use the Evo's or Denali's. And if any climbing is planned, then any of these models with the "Ascent" option will help eliminate calf fatigue while ascending.

For boots, it's generally cold and wet here, so many use boots like Columbia Bugaboo or Ice Dragons, North Face Chilkats, or Sorels (yes, these are quite heavy). When it's really cold, some switch to double plastics like Koflach Degres. This coming weekend, since it's not too cold yet, I'll probably just wear my standard backpacking boots - Asolo Fugitive GTX's with extra socks, but in January when it can be below zero, they wouldn't work.

You may want to go to and search for snowshoes...this time of year there are always posts similar to yours looking for advice, and there's some good info there.

Hope this helps - good luck!


Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Boot VBLs on 11/22/2010 20:43:35 MST Print View


As good as Will R's article on winter footwear is, it is, IMHO, a bit unclear as to the importance of a VBL sock. For really cold weather and especially for overnight camping I'd still recommend ALWAYS using a Vapor Barrier Liner. The VBL will serve to keep your insulation and thicker socks dry.

But to do this you need to also prevent outside moisture from getting insulating layers wet. Either Gore-Tex boots or totally waterproof boots like Sorell feltpacks or NEOS overboots with a feltpac liner will do. The NEOS are a lot lighter.

My favorite VBL is a thin neoprene closed cell diver's sock. However WP urethane coated ripstop socks will do as well. ***Be sure all VBLs are well seam sealed.***

Josh Newkirk
(Newkirk) - MLife

Locale: Australia
boot vbl's on 01/05/2011 19:22:52 MST Print View

How cold does it need to be before vbl's come into consideration?

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: boot vbl's on 01/06/2011 08:33:56 MST Print View

Josh, I like to start using VBL socks at around 22F. Experiment with what works best with your physiology, footwear, and hiking style/terrain.

Edited by AndyF on 01/06/2011 08:34:49 MST.

Scott Ireland
(WinterWarlock) - MLife

Locale: Western NY
Re: Re: boot vbl's on 01/06/2011 10:33:52 MST Print View

I think everyone will be different, of course...I'm not sure I could ever wear them, and have been in -20F without needing them (wearing my Koflach boots, though).

I sat in on a winter backpacking workshop the ADK did a few years ago, and they said that -20F was the point where they recommended them...YMMV.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Snowshoeing in the Pacific NW on 01/06/2011 12:33:15 MST Print View

You might ask the same question on I do a lot of snowshoeing, but even more cross country skiing. I tend to just wear my hiking boots for snowshoeing, unless it is really cold. One of the big reasons is that I tend to hike for a while, then put on snowshoes. There are exceptions, of course (and Hurricane Ridge would be one of them). If it is really cold, I switch to snow boots. These are roomy, so I can put two pairs of socks on and still not be tight (the bigger pair is a couple sizes bigger). My feet are plenty warm.

For snowshoes, I agree with Tom. I use Northern Lights, although I've used MSR ones, too. MSR is cheaper and have better grip, but Northern Lights are lighter. Flotation is rarely a problem, as the snow around here is almost always wet. You just aren't going to sink in enough to make getting a really big pair worth it.

When do people start? Whenever there is enough snow. This year, I think it was November or late October.