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New here and have some questions for you pro's
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Scott Gustafson
(Scott_Gus) - F

Locale: Northern California
New here and have some questions for you pro's on 04/18/2011 13:05:22 MDT Print View

Hey all,

I just wanted to say hello as I am new here and I wanted to get a couple questions answered. I am on a quest like most of you to lower the weight of our packs. This is my second year of backpacking and I think for my first year I did a pretty good job with packing gear/food, etc. My packs were around 40lbs and seemed to get lighter as I learned and listened to other people. Last 4th of July I went on my first trip which was suppose to be a 4 day 40 miler around the lake emigrant loop in emigrant wilderness in the northern Sierra's, but because of so much snow still around we almost killed ourselves trying to find the trail and travel over the deep slippery snow pack. We ended up shortening our route because it was taking to much time going around or through the snow fields. Anyway had I had micro spikes it would have been a cake walk.

So that leads to my first question.. with all the snow in the sierra's this year should I just bring some micro spikes along just in case? I nearly killed myself several times last year because I was the only one who would go first to kick steps in the snow so the others could cross. I probably would not need anything later in the summer so this just pertains from now through August.

My second question involves snow shoes... next winter I really want to start snowshoeing so does anyone have any advice about starting out? What brand is good or how do I even choose a size?

Sorry for my verbose post.. ;)


Scott Gustafson
(Scott_Gus) - F

Locale: Northern California
advice.. on 04/22/2011 10:07:01 MDT Print View

Well for whatever reason no one seems to have input, so I went ahead on my own and bought some microspikes... I have however been unable to find showshoes as everyone has moved the winter stock out. I just need to know how to size a snowshoe so maybe I can go ahead and buy a pair online.

I am really interested in some advice if anyone has the time.



Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
New here and have some questions for you pro's on 04/22/2011 11:04:44 MDT Print View

Scott, I was afraid to answer because you specifically asked for advice from "you pros" in the subject line. I didn't want to come off sounding smug by assuming I was a pro. ; )

Just kidding, sorry I didn't see your post until just now. I think you'll be happy with the micro spikes, they are pretty well proven by people like PCT thruhikers who know their stuff. In terms of snowshoes I'm a proponent of the Northern Lights Backcountry model.

Scott Gustafson
(Scott_Gus) - F

Locale: Northern California
No worries.. on 04/22/2011 11:15:31 MDT Print View

Hi Sam,

No worries I was just feeding everyone's ego's since from what I read on here most of you are uber backpackers, and since I consider myself a work in progress any advice from you guys is helpful. I will look into those snowshoes I just need to learn how to judge size... does it go by shoe size? or similar to sizing for ski's? Sorry if these are lame quetsions.. ;)

David Lutz

Locale: Bay Area
"New here and have some questions for you pro's" on 04/22/2011 11:15:41 MDT Print View

Scott - It's unusual for a post like yours to not attract a bunch of replies, don't let that deter you from future posts.

Regarding snowshoes, I personally have a pair of cheap Atlas snowshoes that have worked fine for my use. But if memory serves, people seem to like MSR snowshoes.

The BPL internal search function is ineffective. From Google, search "Backpacking Light Snowshoe Review". You should get some good hits.

Try snowshoes for a while, then you'll want to go to skis.....

Snowshoes are sized by weight. Don't forget to include your clothing-worn and pack weight, like I did.

Edited by davidlutz on 04/22/2011 11:17:11 MDT.

Scott Gustafson
(Scott_Gus) - F

Locale: Northern California
snowshoes on 04/22/2011 11:23:15 MDT Print View

Hey David,

Thanks for the information! Unfortunately I think my skiing days are done, but I want to get back into the snow season. I feel so cheated by just backpacking in the spring/summer/fall, but not in the winter. Anyway it seems snowshoe sizing it pretty easy! I was hoping to catch the out of season sales so I will do some looking around.



Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: New here and have some questions for you pro's on 04/22/2011 19:18:24 MDT Print View

I'm not a pro, especially with snow.

> So that leads to my first question.. with all the snow in the sierra's this year should I just bring some micro spikes along just in case?

In my experience, bringing some microspikes on my hike along the PCT, the spikes only work when the snow is icy. Once it is soft you may as well not be wearing them.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
New here and have some questions for you pro's on 04/22/2011 19:34:59 MDT Print View

I'm scheduled to hike the JMT solo starting June 23rd. Given the snow this year and how relatively early I'm going, I expect to see a lot. I'll likely carry my microspikes and CAMP XLA210 axe.
Piper is right though; in my experience they're really only needed in the morning before the snow softens. I wouldn't carry them at all were it not for trying to keep a good pace and not wanting to worry about when in the day I reach snow covered passes.

Scott Gustafson
(Scott_Gus) - F

Locale: Northern California
Sorry for the minunderstanding on 04/22/2011 19:38:11 MDT Print View

Hi all - I meant "pro" as a generalization, and that I wanted some advice from those more experienced that I. So sorry for the misunderstanding and it is a good thing because it just means people here are level headed and down to earth.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Sorry for the minunderstanding on 04/22/2011 19:48:33 MDT Print View

"it just means people here are level headed and down to earth."

If you want to hang on to that perception I suggest you stay out of chaff...... ;-)

Scott Gustafson
(Scott_Gus) - F

Locale: Northern California
Chaff on 04/23/2011 01:44:13 MDT Print View

Well there are many things I have not discovered yet here at BPL. Now I have to say Chaff is not one of those things... Do not go there my son... he goes there anyway.

Thanks for the help folks - Did some research and I think i will be ordering some Northern Lites snowshoes. ;)


Charles Henry

Locale: Arizona and British Columbia
1 on 04/27/2011 09:55:20 MDT Print View

I've used microspikes, yaktracks and UL crampons in the summer. The first two are only really good for hard icy trails. Since I climb steep slopes ~45 degrees, I much prefer my camp XLC 490 crampons, which don't really weigh more than the microspikes. Consider just getting actual crampons.

I don't know much about snowshoeing in winter. I use some MSR lightning or the newer models.

Scott Gustafson
(Scott_Gus) - F

Locale: Northern California
2 on 04/27/2011 10:02:34 MDT Print View

Thanks Chuan,

I actually ordered some Northernlites so I am good to go now. I returned the micro spikes and am going to do some research on crampons. I don't want to go overboard and get something I won't like. I really want to move into winter backpacking because I really disliked waiting around for the spring melts to start before I could pull out my summer gear. I think I have a good start with all the information pooled into this site.



Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: 2 on 04/27/2011 10:39:38 MDT Print View

Scott a few things here. Firstly, during early season in the Sierra's there can be many hikes that are done at or just below the snowline where you can have a fun hike. By mid July you will be suprised how fast the snow is melting. If you plan on purchasing an ice ax...please learn how to use it first. On snow travel, micro spikes work well as does hiking poles. Heck even poles help a little in self arrest if you slip. You mentioned Emmigrant Wilderness, try some hikes out of Crabtree Meadows which is around 7000 feet. There are plenty of loops that can be done out of that trailhead. Also, the east side of the Sierras, especially further south on 395 has the snow melt a little earlier and offers some good hiking. Snowshoes? I use MSR's and love them! Oh and I just saw that you mentioned looking into crampons. Again, this is something that you will need to learn to use. They are not too difficulty but they need to be used correctly.

On another note, many of us in Northern California meet up for hikes each year. Join us on these please. We all have varying degrees of experience, and a lot of interesting gear that we like to show off. Each year we have a BPL California hike that is around Jan. to Feb. Keep your eyes open for it on the Trip Announcement section.

Also there are many non Sierra hikes that you can do along the coast. From The Lost Coast to Ventana Wilderness

Scott Gustafson
(Scott_Gus) - F

Locale: Northern California
re: Ken on 04/27/2011 11:29:04 MDT Print View

Hey Ken,

I appreciate the reply! We actually left via the Crabtree trail head last July and it was pretty dry until we hit 8000+ and then we had to change course from our Emigrant lake plans to wrap around back over to Gem lake. I think it is common sense to learn how to use an ice axe or crampons before you head out. I am not the kind of person who just wanders out without learning a few things first specially self arresting with the ice axe. I purposefully went out on my first trip last year with an experienced group so I can pick their brains on gear, trails, or whatever else came up. I always have a pair of Black Diamond poles that I take with me so I can see your point. Last year I spent most of my time off of the 395 in the Eastern Sierra's so I agree with you that the snow melt tends to happen earlier! I went up to Peeler lake for one trip and then a end of the season trip to the Palisades Glacier and Sam Mack meadow/10 lakes which was fun.

I'll keep a look out for any meet ups and will certainly come along.

On another note... I need to look around in WA because I will be there for a week in mid July and I want to find some nice people to go on a 3-4 day trip possibly near Rainer or one or more of the Enchantment zones.