As I prepare for my trek along the AT, I find myself drawn to different blogs giving tips by actual hikers who’ve completed the trail. I found some very unique and intriguing ideas, so I decided to try them out at home. My favorite tip is found on the appalachiantrials.com site in the article “10 Tips on How to Stay Warm Winter Backpacking”. (View article here: http://www.appalachiantrials.com/10-tips-on-how-to-stay-warm-while-winter-backpacking/) The tip is to put a plastic grocery bag from a resupply over your sock before stepping into your shoe. This keeps your socks and feet dry, as your trail runners will get wet while tromping through the snow. I have tried this method out several times and I am very satisfied with the results. The plastic bag works as a vapor barrier, therefore water from the snow stays out. Likewise, this makes it harder for sweat from your feet to evaporate. Therefore, your socks will still get moist, but your feet will stay warm as you adventure.
I have tried this method in two different ways. The first was as the website suggests. Throw on a pair of socks with a bag on top and slip your feet into your shoes. With this method, my feet were comfortable for the entire time I was snowshoeing. However, my feet must have been moving around, because when I removed my shoe, there was a small hole in the bag where snow-water had leaked through. Still pretty effective at keeping the water out, but I thought I could do better.
So, I tried placing an extra pair of socks OVER the bag in order to keep it from shifting. This also provides and extra layer of warmth and protection. This method was successful at keeping the snow-water out, but I still had damp socks because I sweat from my feet. This also means that the outer sock gets pretty wet and will need to be dried out before reuse. However, I find this method successful, because my feet were warm and comfortable for the entire hike!
Since I got similar results with both methods, I’d say it a matter of preference. With the first method, your feet may shift allowing water to leak through the bag creating wet spots on your socks. With the second method, you are sacrificing an extra pair of socks to keep your feet only damp instead of wet. Both methods resulted in warm and comfortable feet. I will continue to try out both methods as I train for the Appalachian Trail. I’ll let you know if I come to a conclusion on which method is superior!
Note: The bags do make noise when you walk but the sound of trudging through the snow covers it!