When to Wear Snowshoes vs Micro Spikes on a Hike!

Snowshoes or microspikes? Who’s going to win?! Winter will be here before we know it, does that mean you need to run out and spend over $100 on snowshoes before you can hit the trails? It depends on the conditions. Snowshoes are not necessary to hike in the winter unless you are going to be hiking in higher elevations (think Catskills or NH) through several inches of fresh snow. Let’s review and compare snowshoes and microspikes and talk about when you will need each one. (To see which ones I use click here.)

Here are a couple ways you can decide:

1st Check online: Try to find a message board or Facebook Group where hikers post trip reports or share trail conditions information with one another. Check here for NH, VT, MA, Maine, CT, or RI trail conditions. For snow depth information check here. If it is more than 4 inches of snow you may just want to use snowshoes to be safe.

When in doubt, bring both! Bring both snowshoes and microspikes in the car and when you get to the trail take a look and see – has the trail been packed down (walked on) at all or are you looking at several inches of fresh snow? As people walk through and in the snow, the snow gets packed down and a little trail is made! Even after just a couple people have been on it. Just note that again, in higher elevations, the trail may be broken out at first (nicely packed down) but as you continue the hike you might encounter snow that requires snowshoes as maybe people turned around and/or the snow just gets deeper as you go up! My friend, Dave @pandemichiker, hikes in NH often and suggests using zip ties to carry your snowshoes along with you in case the conditions change as you go!

Walk and see how it feels: 🥾Take a few steps in the snow and if as you do, it splashes up to and, especially, past the top of your boots then you might want the snowshoes since they will allow you to walk on top of the snow versus through it. Walking on top of the snow with the snowshoes will be less work versus plowing thru it with microspikes on. Plus you don’t want to posthole.

In summary: Microspikes are great for trails that have been walked in, packed down, and snow under 4 inches. They also are great for maybe just a couple inches of snow with ice on top. On trails that are shallow in terms of snow but have an icy layer with microspikes you can step without worrying about slipping. Snowshoes allow you to almost float on top of the snow so no matter how many inches there are you will be walking on top of the snowy surface rather than through it.

Remember: If you are hiking through even just a few inches of snow you will want to wear gaiters to prevent snow from getting in your boot as you walk, not fun! Click here and scroll down to the last section for gaiters.

Challenge! If you want a great workout in a little amount of time, get out there with your snowshoes on a trail that hasn’t been walked on yet. I love bringing them to a golf course even and walking all around (dogs love it too). You can bring your snowshoes and make a trail anywhere! Walking through the snow is an amazing and invigorating workout! I hope you get out there this winter!

Purchase: If you want to see the spikes or snowshoes I use, click here!

Also, pink hat in pic is from KariTraa, enter code Earlybird25 at checkout to receive 25% off your order on karitraa.com! They have the best patterns and colors!

Have fun out there!! 💗❄️

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    1. it’s the time of year to start thinking about it!! they are definitely heavy duty and more technical. great brand but not something you need unless snow is super packed and you’re walking up cliff of ice. I’ve gotten away with microspikes for years but I also dont do anything too technical in the winter!

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