fueled by one foot at a time

An ancient mode of transportation is becoming one of the fastest growing sports in the world.

An ancient mode of transportation is becoming one of the fastest growing sports in the world.

The oldest snowshoe ever discovered — in Italy’s Dolomite mountains — is believed to have been handcrafted some 5,700 years ago. We’ve come a long way since the twine and birchwood they used back in 3,700 BCE. As far as design, it’s really not so different than the top-of-the-line snowshoes you can buy today. But when it comes to weight, durability, ergonomics, comfort and performance, there’s no question we have evolved quite a bit. Snowshoeing is rapidly growing among outdoor enthusiasts and endurance athletes. If you’re looking for a new hobby — and trying to keep that New Year’s promise to shed some pounds by spring — let’s take a look at the petro products that you’ll need to get started. Go forth and have fun! Just remember — one foot at a time.

Snowshoes. Obviously, you’ll need a pair of these. No, not the wooden pair your uncle bought in the ’80s that hang in the back of his garage. If you took up jogging, would you wear his old sneakers? Exactly. There are three kinds of snowshoes that you’ll find today at an array of price points — recreational, athletic and hiking. Some are made from hard polyresins and plastics. But the lightest and strongest will be made from petroleum-based carbon fiber.

Gloves. While the focus is on your feet, you’re also going to be using your hands quite a bit while gripping hiking sticks to help you balance and propel yourself through the snow. Look for something made from nylon and PVC — lightweight but well padded, flexible, warm and water resistant.

Hiking Poles. You can either use your regular hiking poles — or even ski poles — and switch out the plastic baskets at the bottom with larger snow baskets, which will help you navigate deep snow. Whether you’re buying carbon fiber or aluminum poles, look for a durable rubber grip that matches the size of your hands.

Thermal Socks. You want warmth, which means wool. That should absolutely account for most of the material that makes-up your snowshoe sock. But you also need them to be light, flexible, cushioned and moisture-wicking. Thanks to a number of petroleum-based materials — nylon, polypropylene, polyester, olefin, spandex, elastane and Lycra — the perfect sock does exist. Do your research.

Base Layer. Dress in layers. And always start with a polyester base layer. When worn with basic winter gear, they’ll keep you warm in temperatures as low as negative ten degrees. Avoid cotton — as you sweat, it will only make you feel cold.

Head Cover. Any decent fleece-lined toque that’s made from an acrylic-wool blend should do just fine. If super cold, don’t hesitate to buy a performance nylon balaclava.

Goggles/Sunglasses. If you’re wearing sunglasses, make sure they’re polarized and can handle the extreme brightness of sun-on-snow. And remember — metal frames are going to be cold. It would be best to go with plastic anti-fogging frames. Speaking of fogging, if you’re rocking goggles, look for a pair with decent vents to prevent it from happening. Also look for solid rubbing padding along the forehead and nose, as well as durable nylon straps and hard plastic strap adjusters