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snow travel footwear system
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Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
snow travel footwear system on 09/24/2013 16:26:33 MDT Print View

I want to try doing some snow hiking this winter. I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to do for footwear.
I plan on using rocky mountain gortex socks over regular weight wool socks in a pair of minimalist shoes, probably the merrel trail gloves or nb minimus. I would use them in temps around 15-35 degrees in dry and wet snow.

Is this a good setup? Will it be warm enough? I'm wondering if the thinner soles on minimal shoes will chill my feet.

Also, how necessary are gaiters when using goretex socks? Will keeping snow out my shoes keep them warmer even with the goretex socks?

I had a painful experience hiking in snow with neoprene socks that I don't want to repeat. It was winter up on a 4k foot ridge in big sur. I figured that the neoprene socks would do double duty in the water and in snow (i wore wool socks under the neoprene socks when in snow). The neoprene socks actually made my feet colder when they were on. I took the neoprene socks off and just hiked in wool socks which was still very painful but much less so.

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Re: snow travel footwear system on 09/24/2013 17:28:37 MDT Print View


Edited by rmjapan on 06/19/2015 15:45:37 MDT.

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
not too tight... on 09/24/2013 17:28:51 MDT Print View

whatever setup you end up with one very important thing is that it not be too tight on your feet... you don't want socks that are too tight and you don't want shoes that are tight and you don't want to lace or buckle your shoes up too tight...

tight foot ware will restrict the blood flow to your feet = cold cold cold...

Perhaps that was the cause of the problems you had with the neoprene booties...
Bill D

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: snow travel footwear system on 09/24/2013 17:34:45 MDT Print View

Hi Justin

I suggest the minimalist shoes might be a bit light for snow, especially if you are planning on using snowshoes.

We use GTX joggers, thick wool socks and Goretex gaiters. Not very low cut ones either - helps keep the snow out.


Edited by rcaffin on 09/25/2013 15:37:40 MDT.

Valerie E
(Wildtowner) - M

Locale: Grand Canyon State
RE: snow travel footwear system on 09/24/2013 17:56:00 MDT Print View

I used to go winter backpacking in the White Mts of NH every year. The first year I wore regular hiking boots, and my feet were uncomfortably icy. Then I switched to boots made for snow/cold, and never looked back -- plus I could attach my snowshoes/crampons easily and quickly.

On the other hand, I routinely went running on ice/snow in the winter in regular 'ol running shoes, and my feet were usually hot.

So the point is -- if you're doing a high-output activity in the cold where you never stop, anything will work; but if you're staying out all day, the right footwear can make the difference between a great time and a suffer-fest.

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: snow travel footwear system on 09/24/2013 20:29:19 MDT Print View

There are a few good BPL articles on winter footwear systems:

For me, once it gets cold and snowy I switch to Gore-Tex boots. This doesn't mean you have to go back to your old boat anchors- I have a pair of mid-height GTX Inov-8's which are 12oz/shoe. They have a softshell-like exterior which keeps them from getting packed with snow like the mesh in my trail runners, which keeps my feet much warmer. The boots get used in conjunction with knee-high softshell gaiters and thick socks for snowshoeing and most anything involving postholing or crampon work.

I suspect your feet will be cold in the minimalist shoes. I often put a 2nd pair of insoles in the boots for added warmth. Also, walking on snow can be hard on your feet, between the uneven surface and the possibility of having to kick steps, and I am usually thankful for the more substantial sole of my boots. The boots also protect my feet from the snowshoe and crampon bindings which can be quite uncomfortable otherwise.

Once the snow starts to melt in April and everything gets wet I switch back to trail runners with neoprene socks.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
snow travel footwear system on 09/24/2013 20:56:32 MDT Print View

A local magazine just published this shot :
Winter boots
Vinnie , a park ranger, snapped this shot with me in the foreground getting ready for a day walk .
My boots are Salomon Beluha.
Kind of heavy for BPL standards (1.3kg/2.8lbs for the pair) but they do keep me warm and dry.
They work well with snowshoes.
My mate Yair has the same or maybe was wearing something very similar on the day..
I just use a pair of light or medium weight wool mix socks, the boots are insulated.
We get wet snow around here.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: snow travel footwear system on 09/24/2013 23:15:09 MDT Print View

I would probably go with boots if I was snowshoeing the entire time, but if I had to walk on bare ground in boots I would be very miserable. I've been hiking in minimal shoes for years and in boots I would have some serious leg pain and hurt my ankles stumbling around in them. It's just not happening - ever.

I like the idea of modular footwear systems. I can put on neoprene socks for walking through a stream, wear regular socks for dry ground, and switch to goretex socks for snow. And if they all get wet I can take everything apart and dry it by the fire.

The kind of conditions I will go into are more like shoulder season, a mix of bare ground, sloppy snow, and dry snow when climbing in elevation. Unfortunately I don't have the gear, funds, or experience to get into serious winter, cold weather, deep snow stuff.

I'll consider a beefier shoe for insulation against the ground. Maybe a good zero drop shoe, like the altra's would be enough.

I read those BPL articles and they give a wealth of information, thanks for posting those.

Edited by justin_baker on 09/24/2013 23:17:26 MDT.

just Justin Whitson
Re: Re: Re: snow travel footwear system on 09/24/2013 23:45:01 MDT Print View

I like your system in so much that if you get your shoes wet, as you most likely will at some point, since you are using lighter weight, more minimalist stuff without a membrane, the shoes will dry out faster than heavy boots, goretex hikers, or the like. I haven't tried goretex socks so no comment, except that i'm interested to try it myself.

A couple of things that i'm going to try this winter myself. A thinner/lighter weight wool sock on my feet, with a thicker polypro sock over in combo with my eVent Teva hiking shoes or also try that sock combo with some of my minimalist shoes. (in both cases, most likely with some gaiters too).

But i'm curious in learning more about the goretex socks. Do they make eVent socks?

Edited by ArcturusBear on 09/24/2013 23:46:35 MDT.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: Re: Re: snow travel footwear system on 09/25/2013 00:06:34 MDT Print View

I've heard very good things about the rocky goretex socks. I was concerned about durability but apparently they hold up well.
Here is a review on them

They are one of the only waterproof breathable membrane socks on the market right now. For a while it seemed like they were being discontinued.

just Justin Whitson
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: snow travel footwear system on 09/25/2013 00:21:57 MDT Print View

Thanks, quite promising! Wish they were cheaper though.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: snow travel footwear system on 09/25/2013 00:42:04 MDT Print View

"Wish they were cheaper though."

That's why I was concerned about durability.

I considered using bread bags as a cheap/light method for occasional snow. But they were so slippery. Walking uphill on a gradual slope, my feet would literally go flying out of my shoes.

just Justin Whitson
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: snow travel footwear system on 09/25/2013 01:02:28 MDT Print View

At least they are having a sale now where one of their goretex socks is about half off. Still, 37 is still quite a bit for a pair of socks.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: snow travel footwear system on 09/25/2013 08:02:59 MDT Print View

Bread bags work well. I saw a lady on the Wonderland using gallon sized ziplock bags.

Edit: Missed your comment two up and the two sock solution has been provided below.

Edited by IDBLOOM on 09/25/2013 10:41:52 MDT.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Stern Warning. on 09/25/2013 08:54:20 MDT Print View


Don't put heat packs under your feet inside your boots. Two friends did it on Camel's Hump and both got a chemical burn. The heat from their feet and the constant pressure of walking accelerated the reaction and burned through their socks, and a bit of skin too.

Don't! Just don't!

Bogs and Bergs
(Islandized) - F

Locale: Newfoundland
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: snow travel footwear syste on 09/25/2013 09:23:18 MDT Print View

Justin: If you put the bread bags between two layers of socks, this should solve your slipping-out problem. Thin sock inside (will get sweaty), thicker wool sock outside (will get wet but stay warm).

The bags specifically for freezing food are much tougher than the average bread bag and work very well.

Edit to add: I carry a couple of those bags just-in-case and in shoulder seasons, but in true winter, I wear a full-on calf-height supersoft rubber boot with a wool liner and lace-up snow collar, made by Baffin. Best thing I've ever found for our very deep, often wet snow.

Edited by Islandized on 09/25/2013 09:28:58 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
winter minimalist shoes on 09/25/2013 09:29:10 MDT Print View

Justin, I'd consider sizing your minimal shoes up a half or full size, to give more room with thicker socks, and to accomodate a thicker or double insole. For what you have in mind that ought to be warm enough.

Gaiters will make a big difference in warmth, as they'll keep melting snow out of your shoes. Some sort of underfoot strap is a good idea in snow, but given the non-existent instep on most minimal shoes, you'll run into issues. Not so much with the strap creating a pressure point, but with it snagging on sticks, rocks, etc as you go.

Howell Moffett
(hmoffett) - F

Locale: Northeast US
traction issues on 09/25/2013 09:47:35 MDT Print View

My experience with the trail gloves is that they have zero traction in snow, and can't be used effectively with microspikes. Since you're going to have to buy a new oversized pair of shoes to fit the sock system, you might want to conser something with more significant tread- look at something like the c-lite or innov8 bare grip.

Maris L
(Ablaut) - M
Borah Gear socks on 09/25/2013 11:38:39 MDT Print View

I haven't seen any word on these, what the material is, what the fit is like, etc, but here is another option for $33 wp/b socks:

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Footwear on 09/25/2013 11:52:04 MDT Print View

I like where you're headed with this. I've used trail runners + average socks + Rock GoreTex socks a fair bit.

I really like this system for hiking in the moderately cold (20-35F range), but you want to have some sort of a plan for if things get colder. Wet shoes tend to lead to cold feet pretty quickly when you stop hiking (even if your feet are dry). So having the ability to toss in an extra pair of socks (without getting things too tight) is one option. Another (warmer) option is the NEOS overboots, which you can get to go over a pair of trail runners when things dip really cold (see Skurka's book). Alternatively, you can grab some light down booties from Goosefeet and just call it a day if your feet are getting darn cold.

Regarding the durability of the Rocky socks, they seem to be okay. Last winter I damaged a pair pretty quick snowshoeing. The heel strap of my MSR Shift shoeshoes would ride up above the heel of my shoe, so the strap was on Goretex socks which led to some damage in the socks (internal membrane seams splitting) and rubbing on my heal. I could largely see this coming, but chose to make do with the setup. I suggest trying to find away to keep the snowshoe heel strap on the heel of your shoe if you can.