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Hiking, Backpacking and Snowshoeing Tips

Discover hiking in Calgary's nearby foothills and Rocky Mountains with the Calgary Outdoor Centre.

Hiking, Backpacking and Snowshoeing activites with a group are a great way to meet other like-minded people, while exploring different regions of the local area. Take the time to learn about travel skills, pacing, temperature regulation, group safety, map reading, wildflower and animal identification through any of our courses or trips.

Look for some great information here about how to pack a pack, some checklists to make your preparation easier as well as some resources about menu planning and gear selection.

What to Wear

It's All About Layers

  • Wicking Layer -  Synthetic, silk or wool layer next to your body as it wicks away moisture from your skin and dries quickly to help avoid the "chills".
  • Insulating Layer - Thin, synthetic, fleece, or wool layers provide warmth and can be removed as activity levels increase.
  • Water & Wind Layer - Breathable fabrics allow wind protection, and easy temperature regulation during intense activity.  Waterproof and water-resistant/breathable fabrics provide rain and wet snow protection, but may be too warm during more intensense activity.

How To Choose Clothing

  • Avoid cotton when the weather is inclement.  Especially avoid jeans as they absorb moisture, become very heavy and cold when they are wet, and do not allow for comfortable movement.  Quick dry nylon pants, wind pants, or tights work well, as do polyester/cotton pants.
  • Cotton or poly-cotton shorts and t-shirts are acceptable when the weather is warm... but always be prepared for quick changes in temperature.
  • Full length zippers on outer wear allow easier temperature regulation. Full length zippers on rain pants also allow them to be put on or removed without taking off your boots.
  • Always bring a toque and mitts...even in July!
  • 2 sock layers (wicking and insulating) help prevent blisters and keep your feet dry.  Avoid cotton socks which absorb moisture. 

Choosing Footwear

  • Light hiking shoes or sturdy walking shoes with ankle support and good treads are fine for most hiking on-trail or easy off-trail hiking with a day pack.
  • Your boots should be broken in and waterproofed before their first hike. 
  • Boots should be snug at the heel with little movement, yet there should be sufficient room to wiggle your toes, as your feet will expand through the hike. Select boots that provide appropriate ankle support and torsional rigidity for the type of hiking you plan to do. Consider boots with fewer seams as seams can create pressure points.
  • If purchasing new boots, size the boots with the socks you plan to be wearing.  Shop for boots later in the day when your feet are naturally larger and walk around the store in them for about twenty minutes.  Use the incline boards or stairs at the store and tap the toe of your boot into the floor to ensure enough room.  Do not buy if you feel any pinching, sliding or jamming and be sure to check the return policy at the store!

Fitting Snowshoes


  • Small - Fits up to 60kg/140lbs
  • Medium - Fits up to100kg/220lbs
  • Large - Fits up to 170kg/340lbs

The bigger you are, the more shoe  area you need to keep from sinking.  Use your fully loaded weight to determine which size is right for you.  Early season or after a big snowfall, you may wish to go with a larger size of snowshoe.  If you're going on previously packed trails or fairly hard packed trails or snow, you can down-size your shoe.

When putting on your snowshoes do up the front strap first, followed by the heel and finally the mid-strap.  Your toes should hang over the front of the foot bed.

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