traction for snow travel

Share your advice and personal experiences, post a gear review or ask any questions you may have pertaining to outdoor gear and equipment.
Post Reply
User avatar
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 72
Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2017 6:40 am
Experience: Level 2 Backpacker

traction for snow travel

Post by mckee80 » Mon Apr 22, 2019 12:53 pm


The only hiking I've done on snow is a couple inches when it has snowed during a backpacking trip. I'll be backpacking in Yosemite for 3 or 4 nights the second half of May. I don't completely understand when to use microspikes / crampons / snowshoes. This is what I have gathered from looking stuff up on-the-line.

In general:
1. Snowshoes are for floating on soft snow (although some or most have traction also) and areas that don't have significant tracks through them.
2. Crampons are for high angle snow and ice and climbing.
3. Microspikes are for low angle ice and packed snow.

Since I'll be on trails I fully expect to have been trodden many times by then (Yosemite Falls to Snow Creek or LYV to Merced Lake), I'm thinking microspikes. I know from reading on here to travel early in the day when the snow is still hard. The question I have is about snow depth. Should I do anything differently if the snow depth is 10 feet vs 2 feet? I don't know much about how snow consolidates. Is there a general rule of thumb?


User avatar
Topix Fanatic
Posts: 1054
Joined: Thu Mar 08, 2007 11:03 am
Experience: N/A
Location: South Lake Tahoe

Re: traction for snow travel

Post by TahoeJeff » Mon Apr 22, 2019 1:42 pm

I do a lot of stomping around in the snow here in Tahoe. I wholeheartedly recommend microspikes. I've owned a few pairs over the years. As long as the snow is hard pack or icy, I really don't think it matters if it's 2" or 12' thick. As your thread title says, it's all about traction.
“Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have either one.”

Benjamin Franklin

User avatar
Topix Expert
Posts: 544
Joined: Tue Sep 18, 2018 1:19 pm
Experience: Level 1 Hiker
Location: San Mateo, CA

Re: traction for snow travel

Post by c9h13no3 » Mon Apr 22, 2019 4:24 pm

Trekking poles. Snow is slippery, and the extra points of contact help out a ton. With poles and boots that have good tread, you can get over the vast majority of snow you'll encounter in the late spring & summer.

And yeah, you've got the 3 pieces of gear matched with their uses. The snow should be consolidated & melted enough that you don't need snowshoes at that elevation. But learning the areas of snow that you might punch through while hiking is an acquired skill. Rock moats, snow bridges over streams, and snow sitting on top of brush can give way and cause you to posthole to your crotch. Did it this weekend hiking out after a ski tour when the snow became too patchy to ski, and banged my knee pretty good.
"Adventure is just bad planning." - Roald Amundsen
Also, I have a blog no one reads. Please do not click here.

User avatar
Topix Newbie
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Apr 28, 2014 12:23 pm
Experience: N/A

Re: traction for snow travel

Post by ChapATL » Wed Apr 24, 2019 4:59 am

Agree with all that has been said. I went up LYV to Merced in April 2018 and broke trail from switchbacks on and never used traction devices but trekking poles were vital.

Both of your routes should be well traveled by second half of May and you may only need microspikes for early morning travel when snow is frozen.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest