I get this question all the time, and for a good reason. No one wants to spend another hefty lump sum on a second pair of hiking boots for the snow unless you absolutely have to.
Hiking boots can be used in light snow. However, they must provide insulation, traction, and be waterproof. If the boots fail to meet the three requirements or the snow is too deep, investing in a second pair of boots for the snow will be necessary.
Hold on right there! Before you go buy a second pair of hiking boots for the snow, I’d like to teach you a few hiking hacks that will work exceptionally well in case your boots don’t meet the 3 requirements. They’ve worked for me and I know they will work for you. Let’s get started.
How to Determine if Your Hiking Boots Will do Well in the Snow
First and foremost you need to find out how much snow you’re going to be hiking in. For the sake of this article I’m going to define light snow as roughly 2 inches or less of snowfall. You can easily determine this by checking the weather forecast.
If you see anything above 2 inches of snowfall you’re more than likely going to need hiking boots specifically designed for the snow. Anything above 6 inches will require snow shoes, and exposed and steep conditions (regardless of snowfall inches) where snow may turn into ice will require crampons.
However, if you determined your hiking location received light snow, your hiking boots should be sufficient. Just check for the following 3 general guidelines.
1. Ensure Your Boots Are Waterproof
Many hiking boots nowadays come waterproofed straight out of the box regardless of what season they were designed for. If you are unsure whether your boots are waterproof or not, simply do a quick google search for your specific brand and model. However….
Heed this warning: Many hiking boots, which claim to be waterproof, WILL leave you with soaked feet in the snow such as my Moab Merrel 2 boots.
They’re amazing boots, until you hike in the snow or one of your feet goes straight into the creek on your last creek crossing just before you get to the car….you know what I’m talking about.
If your boots aren’t waterproof or even if they are but you want to take extra precaution, here are two of those hacks I was talking about which will help MINIMIZE the amount of water getting into your boots.
Waterproof Your Boots with A Spray
Remember, there is no magic spray that will completely waterproof your boots. If you’re hiking in the snow, your feet will get wet. I’m emphasizing it so you are completely aware of the situation before you go out on your hike.
As far as which product I’ve used, I’ve found The Art of Crep Protect Spray to be the best at minimizing the amount of water seeping into your boots.
I like to use multiple coats on my boots (at least 3 for each boot) before heading out into the snow. Spray your boots from about 7-10 inches away for best results.
I don’t like to spray the inside of the boots because I feel it’s unnecessary, and I’d like to avoid as many chemicals as possible near my skin, but I’ll leave that one completely up to you!
It takes about 8 hours for each coat to dry, so make sure to begin the process a few days before you go on a hike.
Use Hiking Gaiters
Hack #2 includes using gaiters to keep snow, water, dirt, and rocks from creeping into your boots especially around the ankle. There are three different types of gaiters: hiking, trail running, and mountaineering gaiters.
Although we’re talking about hiking in this post, I’ve found the following all-around-use gaiters to be sufficient, and the best part is they don’t break the bank! They are lightweight, ACTUALLY waterproof, and breathable.
They’re called Azarxis Hiking Gaiters.
I love these gaiters. They’ll do a great job at stopping snow from getting in through the ankle area, but keep in mind the front of your boot and the sides will still be exposed.
To sum things up, if you’ve done everything you can to waterproof your feet and you’re okay with getting your feet somewhat wet in the snow, you can mark this section as a pass for your boots.
2. Your Boots Must Have Traction
Most hiking boots do an amazing job at providing sufficient traction in all weather conditions, which is great because there’s not much we can do to increase their traction other than using microspikes in very icy conditions.
You could technically apply a salt and glue mixture to the bottom of your boots if you really wanted to, but I wouldn’t advise it for the snow. If you find that you’re slipping frequently in dry conditions you’re better off investing in a new pair of hiking boots that will also suit you well in the snow.
What I do HIGHLY recommend is using your trekking poles to increase your traction. My girlfriend and I learned this the hard way at Big Bear, CA. Most poles come with different adapters for different conditions including mud, snow, and dry conditions.
Trekking poles are godsent in snowy conditions.
3. Your Hiking Boots Must Be Insulated
Most all-season hiking boots will not provide the necessary insulation for snowy conditions. Your toes will get numb from the cold. Luckily for us, there’s more hiking hacks we can use to compensate for the lack of insulation.
Wear 2 Pairs of Socks
Yup it’s that simple. Want to keep your feet warmer? Simply use two pairs. You should have bought your hiking boots at least an extra half size bigger therefore, you should have enough room to double up on socks.
Use Snow Socks
If you didn’t go up a half size when you bought your boots, you can use socks specifically designed for the snow. I recommend cushioned high socks for hiking in snowy conditions, preferably made of wool, polyester, and/or nylon. Trust me, you’ll thank me later for this one.
So what are my favorite hiking socks for the snow you ask? Believe it or not I used Stance Star Wars Snowboarding Socks for the longest time and they worked like a charm. It was a night and day difference from regular socks.
Unfortunately, those socks are no longer around. However, you can find very similar ones right here:
Musan Wool Ski Socks Unisex
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