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Snowshoes or Crampons?

My favorite trail is snowed over now but I still want to get out there. Should I use snowshoes or crampons? Or is there something in between?

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Question:

My favorite trail is snowed over now but I still want to get out there. Should I use snowshoes or crampons? Or is there something in between?

Submitted by – Michael, Clayton, NY

Answer:

For fun, casual, winter hiking, snowshoes are the way to go, for sure. (Crampons are for high altitude mountaineering and ice climbing.)

Another option is to learn backcountry skiing, but if you’re not already a skier, it would require a substantial investment to get started.

The cool thing about snowshoes is that there’s zero learning curve—just strap them on and start tromping.

So put these on your Christmas list: MSR Lightning Ascent ($290). They topped out in our snowshoe test for their light weight, superior traction and bomber bindings.

As for footwear, you can wear hiking boots that you already have or big, insulated pac boots (Sorel is a popular brand) for added warmth. But if you become hooked on snowshoeing, you’ll want to invest in a pair of insulated hiking boots like Lowa’s Khumbu Ice GTX (lowaboots.com) or The North Face’s Chilkats (thenorthface.com).

And keep your eyes open this January for Winter Trails, the snow-season hiking bash that recently moved to a month-long format. You can attend snowshoeing extravaganzas all over the country and test drive gear, take guides hikes, and meet other snowshoers. For more info, go to wintertrails.org.