Snowshoeing Education 303: All I Want for Christmas Are My Two Front Feet (Decked with Boughs of Accessories)

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.  Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave a luster of midday to objects below.  When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

Would it not have been more believable in Clement C. Moore’s “The Night before Christmas,” to see Santa on snowshoes rather than in a miniature sleigh pulled by those eight tiny reindeer?

Perhaps…but whether delivered by Santa in a sleigh or on snowshoes, be it Christmas, St. Nicholas’ Day, Hanukkah or New Year’s Day, everybody likes presents. Tradition in our family goes back to my grandmother as a child in the late 1800s when on New Year’s Eve, Mrs. Santa Clause would visit their home and leave a stocking for each little child…filled with treats like candy, fruit and a little toy. In addition to gifts and festivities at Christmas time, that New Year’s tradition still exists today in our family.

But what about presents for the snowshoe enthusiast, assuming they already have their own pair of snowshoes? Does Santa or Mrs. Clause know what to bring as gifts for them? Besides snowshoes, let’s look at snowshoeing accessories…those items that you can afford as a gift for under the tree or in the stocking.

The hiking staff – I use my single anti-shock, collapsible, aluminum hiking staff to help with momentum snowshoeing uphill, easing the pressure on my knees going downhill, and helping with balance when strolling on rolling hills. It was the gift that keeps on giving, considering I use the staff year round for snowshoeing, hiking and backpacking. Some people I know use a pair of trekking poles when snowshoeing on the trail to help with upper extremity aerobics.

There are many quality hiking staffs and trekking poles on the market to choose from. Whether you are a single-staff or double-pole user, an estimated cost range of $25 to $50 will get you a decent staff or pair. Spending $60 to $180 for high quality poles may be well worth the investment too.  Either way, this item makes an ideal gift.

Snowshoe tote bag – I carry my snowshoes in a sturdy cloth tote bag. I found the perfect bag that fits up to two pair of snowshoes and serves my purpose well.  And, it was on sale when I bought it. Snowshoe tote bags run from about $20 to $40 and are well worth the purchase. They store snowshoes well and make traveling easy.

One year, I hauled my Northern Lites snowshoes in my tote bag on a flight from Wisconsin to Colorado and back, just to snowshoe in the Rocky Mountain National Forest. You can look cool toting snowshoes in a nice tote bag I thought. I got nice looks from some young woman at the airport baggage terminal.  Or, maybe they were thinking, “Why is that old guy carrying a cool snowshoe bag?” To this day, I’m not sure what their intent was, but I think I can guess. Again, the tote bag makes a perfect snowshoer gift.

Day pack – For day snowshoe hikes, I use a quality 2,100 cubic inch daypack that has two mesh water bottle holders and a waist belt. This pack comfortably fits about eight to 10 pounds of gear that I carry when on the trails. Daypacks of this style, with capacity from 1500 ci to 3000 ci vary greatly in prices, running about $15 to $35 on the low-end, and anywhere up to $100 on the high-end.  I find many on sale throughout the year.

This gift item is most universal, in that if you give it to a young snowshoe enthusiast who attends high school or college, they can double its application by using it as a school daypack to carry their textbooks. You would be getting the most out of your money on this gift item.

A headlamp to light the way – I love my 4-LED headlamp that seems to last forever on three AAA alkaline batteries.  You can purchase a good and reliable headlamp for about $30. Quality headlamps have a wide range of prices from roughly $20 to $80, making a headlamp a reasonably affordable and versatile gift. If not lighting the way along a snowshoe trail on a very dark winter night, you can use it to check under the hood should your car break down, or for finding the keyhole at the house when coming home late at night.

A compass to find the way – Although I own a GPS, I rarely use it.  I often however, use my Silva orienteering compass. A compass is something that every snowshoer should have with them on the trail, and know how to use it.  Compasses are a reasonably priced item ranging from $10 to $25, or you can pay around $50 for a high quality one.  Although a GPS would be a nice gift too, the compass is less expensive and promotes your snowshoer to get back to the basics. A compass makes an ideal stocking stuffer, since it easily fits in a stocking.

Quality socks – Although, I recall years ago thinking a pair of socks from my kids at Christmas is a bad gift idea, I now believe an ideal gift for me is a quality pair of wool or wool-blend (not with cotton) socks. These socks cost more than dress or sports socks, and you may be spending from $10 or $20 for a quality pair. But, to know that your snowshoeing loved-one’s feet will be warm, dry and comfortable, is well worth the extra money spent on a good pair of socks.

Mittens or Gloves – Mittens keep your hands warm more so than gloves, because your fingers keep the other fingers warm. Body heat helps maintain warmth among the digits. But, there are many quality waterproof, breathable gloves on the market that serves the snowshoer well too.

When I snowshoe, my extremities become very warm. So, I use an inexpensive hand-made polyester mitten that breathes well when snowshoeing.  If the weather is inclement, or I am stopping to take a break on the trail, I use either a pair of insulated waterproof-breathable mittens or a pair of the same in gloves. I always carry extra s in my daypack with me. I contend that you can never have too many mittens or gloves. Like socks, look for quality and spend more for this snowshoeing gift.  Even if your snowshoer has a couple of pair already, they can always throw your gift in their daypack and use them on the trail at some point in time.  I have found quality mittens and gloves from $20 on up as high as $75.

The Yooper “Chook” – When I was a child, my mother or father would always say, “Put on your chook before you go out and play in the snow.”  The term “chook” (sounds like book) was used in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to refer to a winter cap. Derived from the French Canadian word “toque,” or a knitted winter cap, the word was translated by us “Yoopers” as the word “chook.” Note that a “Yooper” is someone born and/or raised in Upper Michigan.

I have seen fashionable caps, sophisticated caps, funny looking caps and very plain and cheap caps. But the best cap of all is the one that keeps the snowshoer’s head warm, dry and comfortable. Don’t crimp on spending money and don’t look to fashion when buying a cap as a gift. Buy the one that meets the snowshoer’s needs.  In fact, let them help you pick it out. Like mittens and gloves, there is a wide range of prices for winter hats, depending on the brand and quality.  I wear one cap that I picked up on sale for $5 at a 75 percent off after-season sale.

Stocking Stuffers – I find that chemical hand or body warmers and a traditional space-blanket make ideal stocking stuffers. I have given my children who work in outdoor occupations a three-pack of chemical body warmers. They take them on the job and keep them in their car as a safety measure. I take them with me on the trail for the same reason.

Any item that a snowshoer can carry in a daypack also fits nicely in a holiday stocking. For example, a pocket knife, a multi-tool, waterproof match case and matches, sunglasses, sunscreen, first aid kit, water bottle and whistle, all make great gift items for the snowshoe enthusiast. I pack a small gas stove and canister, along with a small metal cup for warming soup, hot chocolate or melting snow for water.

Decorative ornaments – And, finally, for the snowshoe enthusiast who has everything, consider picking up those little holiday tree ornaments (that go on sale for 50 percent to 75 percent off after the holiday). I have received an assortment of outdoor ornaments over the years as gifts, including miniature snowshoes, sleds and canoes. Since my spouse does not permit me to put them on our traditional tree, I decorated my large Ojibwa snowshoe each year with all of my collectibles…. along with a few white lights.

There are other gift items out there to consider. But, I just mentioned those hot items that will melt the heart of your snowshoer, just as the people in Dr. Seuss’s Whoville warmed the heart of the Grinch whose “small heart grew three sizes that day.”

But, in Clement C. Moore’s immortal words, “He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, and filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk. And laying his finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose. He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they all flew like the down of a thistle.  But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight…”

“Enjoy those snowshoe accessories, whether snowshoeing by day or by night.” Okay, Moore didn’t end the story that way. But, what if Santa was on snowshoes?

About the author

Jim Joque

Jim Joque is a Midwest writer on snowshoeing, backpacking and canoeing. He retired from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point as director of disability services and adjunct adventure education instructor, having taught snowshoeing, camping, backpacking, adventure leadership and Leave No Trace.

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