We love to snowshoe! It’s especially fun when you can head off right into the forest, make your own trails, and have a secret adventure.
You don’t need to be athletic or particularly nimble. If you can walk, you can snowshoe!
Plus, they fit into cars much easier than skis!
See the bottom of this article for suggestions on what to look for in selecting snowshoes for kids
Layering is key! We find we quickly get hot, and take off layers (though kids loose heat more quickly than adults)
Jacket: Depending on where you live, a lightweight, water and wind-resistant shell jacket are all they need (worn over a long-sleeved top base layer) Insulated jackets are usually too warm, as once you get moving you will actually sweat a lot! TIP: Bring an insulated jacked in a backpack though, for snack breaks, stops, or if you decide to pull them in a sled on the way back if they get tired.
Pants: Option 1: Synthetic or wool material brushed on the inside (fuzzy), and water-repelling (soft shell) on the outside Option 2: Long underwear under lightweight, waterproof/breathable shell pants or Option 3: Lightly insulated ski pants, though these may get too hot on long adventures. Avoid jeans or other such cotton pants (cotton gets cold when wet). Choose pants that are loose enough to allow movement but not too baggy.
Long underwear (top and bottoms): For chilly days, wear a lightweight base layer under an outer jacket and pants. Choose wool or synthetic fabrics that wick moisture and dry quickly (never cotton). Choose close-fitting but not constricting.
Footwear: Most snowshoe bindings work with any footwear. But for the most comfort, choose lightweight, insulated winter boots with good ankle flex. Even hiking boots work if they are waterproof.
Gaiters: Wet socks are the worst. I love my gaiters! Gaiters provide a waterproof seal between the top of the boot and bottom of the pants, covering from the bottom of boot laces to your calf or knee. Good gaiters prevent snow from creeping in and soaking your boots or pant legs.
Socks, Mitts, Scarves & Toques
Socks: select wool or synthetic fibers (again, no cotton). Hiking, ski, or snowboard socks work well, as does any light padding for cushioning feet and ankles.
Toques: There’s that Canadian word again! A lightweight wool or synthetic close-fitting hat is best for chilly weather and snack breaks, especially if it’s a little windy make sure it covers the ears and fits well.
Gloves: again, select synthetic or wool gloves. For colder days, mittens are warmer than gloves. If it’s very cold or wet outside, you can always add an insulated, waterproof/breathable outer shell to a pair of mitts.
Eye Protection (Optional)
Ski goggles or kid-specific sport sunglasses (with a string retainer for when not in use) are options for added comfort and eye safety
Bring some snacks for some breaks, which add some fun but also provides a little more energy on cold days.
Bring with you a thermos, or save for a reward when you return home. Hot chocolate and marshmallows are undoubtedly the kid-voted favorites!
If your kids get too tired, you can pull them back instead of carrying their poles, gear, or kids themselves! This way the trip back can be fun too. And adults get in extra exercise 😛
10 minutes in the yard: A good start is getting all the gear on, and going out into your own yard. This first quick experience will keep it fun, while introducing the gear to kids and and getting the kinks out.
The next time, you could go somewhere a little more exciting:
- Choose a well-marked, well-traveled trail. It’s easier to use a ready-made trail rather than make your own (or, just send one adult first to cut a trail the kids can follow)
- Flat trail is best (no hills)
- Short duration: for newbies, or with young kids, set expectations low and prepare for lots of breaks
- Bring snacks for lots of snack breaks, hot drinks. Stop frequently for breaks and play to break the trip up.
- Future trips: make it more fun with scavenger hunts, animal spotting or animal tracking – see this article for some suggestions and free downloads
- TIP: Snowshoes don’t go in reverse: If you step back, the pointy tail goes into the snow which usually means a fall, Instead of backing up, make a U–turn.
INTO THE BUSHES
We love just heading into the bush. But, this probably isn’t the best option for beginners.
Getting tangled in brush, stuck in between fallen trees, or being whacked in the face by branches is generally no fun – but can particularly douse any enthusiasm for learning this sport! But as expertise and age increase, you can see so many creatures in the forest and it’s so peacefully quiet and beautiful!
Kids’ snowshoes are sized small so they fit smaller feet and legs which have smaller strides and straddles, and are usually one size fits all, easy to adjust for multiple years of growth.
The size is more dependent on weight than foot size (weight is combined with child weight and any gear they may carry). Bindings are easily adjustable and accommodate numerous types of footwear and growing feet!
Once a kid reaches over 80 or 90 pounds, move to a snowshoe designed for women, as they are lighter, narrower, and shorter than standard unisex snowshoes.
Tip: When fitting the binding on the shoe or boot, make sure the straps are snug, but not too tight that they hinder circulation.
Examples for what to look for:
MSR Tyker series fit up to 80 lbs/36kg, have bindings designed for smaller hands that resist freezing, fit almost any footwear, have molded plastic traction bars instead of steel for parent-friendly traction, have 3-point crampons a the toe for extra traction, and fit kids shoe sized 7.5-13.5 (or adult 1-4.5)
MSR Shift Youth: for kids ages 7–12, a fully adjustable binding system that resists freezing, are easy to get in and out of with gloves, suitable for a wide range of footwear and quickly growing feet, tapered tips and tails for easy, natural gait, metal traction points for excellent edge-to-edge traction which are molded into the deck to reduce weight. Fits kids’ shoe sizes 1–7, and up to size 7 men’s shoe size.
The Lil Sis