Jack and I atop Saddleback. The climb was very steep in spots (and icy) so you want to make sure you have snowshoes with an aggressive, crampon-like toe fitting that can really bite into the snow. The views and picture-taking ops were all worth it.
Recently I spent several days snowshoeing in the Adirondacks with a group from our Scout troop. Nighttime temperatures dropped to -10 F and wind chills on top of several peaks we climbed were even colder–a perfect place to test a variety of gear items from the latest clothing layers to a new solar array that allows you to recharge all of your electronics. Here’s what a typical morning thermometer reading looked like. While this is pretty chilly, you warmed up surprisingly fast on the trail.
We used a variety of snowshoes from MSR on this trip. The blue models here are MSR’s Evo’s–perfect for rolling trails, the red ones are the Evo Ascents–great for climbing in steep terrain. The white pair are the new Lightning Ascents–the lightest snowshoes out there.
Keeping feet warm and dry calls for good wickable socks. I used ultra-thin synthetic liner socks on my feet followed by a medium weight and finally, a heavy outer pair of thick socks from Smartwool, which provide natural wickability, warmth and comfort. My feet stay warm and comfy our entire trip.
One of the cabins we used. These came completely stocked with cookware, bunks and propane lighting. A propane heater kept us comfortable during the cold nights.
Staying warm starts with layering from the inside out. Breathability is key. I’m sold on these UnderArmour briefs–super warm and very wickable.
My MSR Lightning Ascents have easy adjust bindings. Set them once for your boots, lock the buckle and you’re good to go.
Here’s our crew.
I wore this Icebreaker Lightweight base layer (tops and bottoms) on top of my UnderArmour briefs. They’re made of 100-percent merino wool from New Zealand but it is spun so soft, you’d swear you were wearing cotton. Difference is, this stuff keeps you super warm and really wicks away perspiration on long uphill treks. A few times I stripped down just to this top and was really comfortable.
My mid layer was this top from Smartwool–again, really soft and very breathable.
My top layer was this classic Old Stage sweater from Smartwool. Not too heavy with a full zip and zippered pockets–great for wearing on the trail or lounging around in camp.
I don’t go anywhere without this synthetic Nano Puff pullover from Patagonia. This compresses down to almost nothing yet provides an extra layer of wind-stopping warm. And it holds its warmth even when wet.
The view from atop Saddleback.
I wanted something warm and wickable on my legs so I wore these lightweight Microtex pants from Cabela’s. This fabric dries quickly, breathes well and is very warm. Best of all it retains heat (like wool) even when it’s wet.
You need a variety of headgear when snowshoeing. The balaclava was great to have on several afternoons when the wind howled. I pulled it right over the headband and kept the muffler pulled up just under my chin. Most of the time the headband was all I needed. All of these are from Smartwool.
This is the 300 lumen Stella 300, a new, rechargable headlamp from Light & Motion. This lamp is incredibly bright even on its lowest setting–by far the brightest headlamp of all the ones used by our group on this trip. And it kept shining an honest 5 hours–most of which was on the brightest setting. A very cool piece of gear that can take the cold, no problem.
To keep things like my headlamp and I-pad charged, we used the new Solaris 26 solar panel and Impel portable power unit from Brunton. This solar array is super easy to set up. It folds into a nice compact package, too. We charged several phones and I-pods off the battery and when I got home only about 1/4th of the power on the Impel battery had been used. Can’t wait to try this on my laptop.
Here ‘s a better view of the Lightning Ascents. The black models easily supported our heaviest campers (above 200 pounds) even in unpacked snow. Tail extensions can extend the length of these shoes even more though we didn’t need them on our trip.
My son, Jack, (in camo) suiting up for a day’s trek.
Gaiters are a must for keeping snow and slush out of your boot tops. These Expedition Crocodiles from Outdoor Research are extra heavy. They Velcro up the front and provide a nice, snug fit, yet they’re cut large enough to fit oversized boots like the Sorels I have on.
Water for our crew came from a nearby river. The boys had to break a layer of ice off this hole each morning to fetch water.
A Platypus filter system was kept running almost around the clock to provide ample drinking water for all. It really worked well and no one had any Giardia problems.
This insulated stainless steel bottle from Hydro Flask was fairly heavy for backpacking, but it insulates well. One day I walked off and left it in the cabin–full of hot coffee. When I returned that evening, the coffee was still hot.
Thick frost greeted us every morning on the outer door of our cabin.
Jack and I suited up for the hike out. He’s toting Osprey’s Ace 48 pack, which is a youth model built for a smaller torso size. I have the Altra 65 from Arc’teryx on my back. It’s very comfortable and has plenty of room, which came in handy for packing out all of our garbage at the end of the trip.
Halfway out with just a light layer of Smartwool and a headband on.
Bridge crossings were pretty easy, even with snowshoes on.
Snow drifted over the river looks like a modern sculpture. The trails here were very well maintained and signage was excellent.
Packing it out. The boys really hit it heading back for the parking area with the promise of lunch at McDonald’s.
Warming huts along the way could be used for three-season camping.
Jack and I atop Saddleback. The climb was very steep in spots (and icy) so you want to make sure you have snowshoes with an aggressive, crampon-like toe fitting that can really bite into the snow. The views and picture-taking ops were all worth it.

Snowshoeing in sub-zero temperatures calls for specialized gear. Here are some new items that really work.