Monday, December 15, 2008

Snowshoes perform well in first test, and VBL issues

I took the snowshoes out for their first test hike today. I strolled around a local park a few blocks from my apartment. The park is settled in a bowl and is protected on three sides by moderately steep slopes that rise 30 vertical feet or so.

The snow conditions were all over the place. We had freezing rain at 37 degree temps Saturday morning which shifted to snow that night. Temps plummeted for the next 48 hours and are hovering around -5 today. It snowed Saturday and most of Sunday. Some of the hills were coated with ice, others had snow. The base of the hills had snow on top of gelatinous sludge, and some places had drifts of ultra-light powder.

I went out with all of the clothes I am taking for SHT - I had on everything but my big dumb mitts, puffy pants, VBL pants and down jacket. I carried a small backpack that I put these extra clothes in, in which I also carried a bottle of water nestled inside a jacket sleeve. The pack, and its contents, may have weighed 5 lbs. The temp was about -5(F) and the wind was a consistent 15 mph with gusts to 30 mph.

Overall, I was very pleased. The snowshoes held to my mukluks very, very well. I spent a considerable amount of time going up and down hills, and adjusted the straps once to move my feet backward on the snowshoes. I intended to test the Televator bar, but I was unsuccessful. The soles of the mukluks just barely reached the bar, and they were too soft to hold onto to the bar. Problem? Not really. There are only a few places that have long, steep hills that would require such a bar, and it would be terribly inconvenient to have to bend down at the bottom and top of every short, steep hill.

My soft shell clothing performed very well, and it blocked the wind very, very well. I only wore my Jetstream gloves while hiking and kept my mitts in my backpack. As soon as I stopped and dropped my hands to carry the snowshoes and poles home, my hands got cold. Lesson learned.

One issue did arise - I wore a baselayer, VBL and softshell jacket on my torso, and the VBL was damp when I got home. I think it was either because I was working too hard and/or I was wearing too much clothes. I think it was the latter. I was not working too hard, even when I went up and down that set of hills 15 or so times. Lesson learned? Just wear the VBL and not the softshell when moving. The trees will not care.

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