Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Kids Snowshoeing Gear: It All Starts with the Right Winter Boots

Stand up! You're going to get snow in your boots.
The only thing worse than cold wet feet are cold frozen feet. A successful kids snowshoe trip starts with the kids wearing the right foot wear. While I've suggested in a past post on kids hiking gear that kids don't necessarily need hiking boots, equipping them with the right boots on a snowshoe trip can make the difference between a fun winter outing and a painful, cry-filled experience or worse—a trip to emergency for frostbitten toes.

If preventing kids from crying isn't enough, think of boots like sunscreen. Just like a bad sun burn early in life increases your chances of skin cancer later on, getting frostbite once increases the likelihood of getting frostbite in the future. Long-term effects of even a single case of frostbite include heightened sensitivity to the cold, numbness, stiffness, chronic pain and amputation. It doesn't get any longer term than having your toes cut off when you're a kid.

Didn't you hear what I told your brother about lying in the snow?
Here are some tips on how to choose a boot that's appropriate for snowshoeing, as well as shoveling snow, and playing king of the snow pile at school:

Temperature rating—If the boots don't have a temperature rating, don't buy them. No rating can be a sign that the boots aren't intended for extended forays into the cold. Look for a boot rated to -20 C/-5 F or lower. It's best to err on the side of too warm than too cold. Everyone's different, and what will keep some kids' toes toasty at -20 C will let others' toes freeze at -10 C.

I thought I told you to get up!
No hiking boots—On warmer days, an adult can get moving fast enough to keep his/her feet warm enough in hiking boots. Kids on the other hand generally move slower and stop more. This means their bodies aren't producing as much heat, and their blood isn't circulating that heat to their hands and feet as efficiently. (The stopping can also keep parents from moving enough to stay warm, so you might want to forgo the winter hiking boots, too.) Hiking boots also have low cuffs, but more about that below.

High cuffs—The higher the boot goes up your kid's legs, the better. Snow up to your ankles will go halfway up the calf of 6-year-olds and right down the cuffs of their boots. Once their socks are wet, the fun is over and the clock is ticking on how quickly you can get back to the car.

Are any of you even listening to me? So help me, if you get cold feet...
Drawstrings on the cuffs—These are far from perfect, but they'll keep some snow out of your kids' boots. Just remember to tighten them before you hit the deep stuff. And make sure snow pants are pulled over the boots, not tucked in.

Waterproof—You'd think it would go without saying, but make sure the boot is waterproof. Many winter boots are made of materials that will actually soak up water. Or they're made with waterproof material, but leak through the seams.

Finally, don't over-tighten your kid's snowshoe harnesses. They can be wearing the warmest boots you could find, but their feet will still freeze if the harness is cutting off the circulation to their toes. Also, bring extra socks and dry footwear for the drive home. There's nothing in the backcountry as ornery as a bored kid with wet feet.

Field Tests:

Mack and Michael have field tested a lot of boots. Three brands that have consistently kept their feet warm and dry are Baffin, Sorel and Kamik. Unfortunately, the Schmaltz family gear suppliers are too cheap to shell out for those fancy new neoprene boots like Bogs, so the boys can't comment on how warm they are. But my guess is that the big pull holes on either side and lack of drawstrings would soon let in the snow.

Need help picking out kids snowshoes? Read this post:

Kids Snowshoeing Gear: Picking out Kids Snowshoes

Wondering where to go snowshoeing with kids? Read these posts:

Snowshoeing with Kids in Kananaskis: River View Trail
Snowshoeing with Kids in Banff: Lake Minnewanka
Snowshoeing with Kids in Kananaskis: Hogarth Lakes
Heli-snowshoeing with Kids in Kananaskis
Snowshoeing with Kids in Kananaskis: Canyon Creek
Snowshoeing with Kids in Kananaskis: West Bragg Creek

Anatomy of a good boot by Baffin: -60°C/-76°F Rating (for the family that vacations in Antarctica), high cuff, drawstring, waterproof.

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