My husband and I would like to purchase snowshoes for some exercise and fun, but we have no idea where to begin. What brand, size, and so forth do we look for? Carol Frisco, Colorado
Really, all you need is a good set of all-purpose snowshoes, not the more exotic ones designed for mountaineering or extreme backcountry use. The good folks at L.L. Bean, for instance, sell a snowshoe called the Pathfinder that probably would be just right. It sells for $99 to $129 per pair, depending on size (www.llbean.com). And it's easy to figure what size you need—snowshoe makers rate their shoes for their weight-bearing ability, so add together your bodyweight and how much you're apt to have in your pack, and buy the shoe that matches.
Another good snowshoe is the Tubbs Adventure snowshoe, which has slightly better decking (the stuff that stretches inside the frame and keeps you above snow level) and bindings. The Adventure 25, which is designed for loads of 125 to 200 pounds, sells for $169 (www.tubbssnowshoes.com). You might also like the Redfeather Pace snowshoes, which have a little more taper for easier walking. The 21-inch women's model—for a load of around 125 pounds—goes for $139 (www.redfeather.com). Yet another reliable choice is the Atlas 825, very similar to the Tubbs shoe—same price, too ($169; www.atlassnowshoe.com).
For boots, any good midweight hiking boot works pretty well provided it's not too cold. These days, you can also choose from several winter boots that are specifically designed for snowshoeing and similar activities. A good example: Columbia Sportswear's Ice Crushers ($100; www.columbia.com), which are insulated and designed to accommodate snowshoe bindings. The Lowa Whistler GTX Mid ($125; www.lowaboots.com) has a Gore-Tex liner for extra waterproofness.
Finally, you'll need a pair of telescoping poles with snow baskets. REI's Adjustable Snowshoe Poles ($65; www.rei.com) will fit the bill nicely, as will Komperdell's Contour DuoLock Trekking Poles ($100, plus $5 for snow baskets; www.rei.com).
So there you go. That should have you covered for pretty much every eventuality. Now, just let it snow.