6 things you need in your pack for Colorado hiking trips in the fall


This article was first published in The Denver Post on Oct. 24, 2018

There’s more than a touch ‘o fall in the air as we slide toward winter and prepare our packs accordingly. Temperatures swing wildly as you walk in the woods in Colorado in October and November, and being prepared means having a few essential items on hand at all times.

1. Shell: The first thing at the top of your pack should be a lightweight shell for protection against cold, rain and wind. The unisex Cotopaxi Teca Windbreaker ($80), made of repurposed polyester taffeta with a DWR finish and a back panel vent, is one of many possible perfect choices. It comes in full- and half-zip styles and has an interior chest pocket that doubles as a stuff sack.


3. Traction: Kahtoola MICROspikes ($69.95) are made of stainless steel spikes and welded chains. They cancel out icy or snowy trails, opening up a world of fall-flavored trails to explore. They slip onto any shoe or boot and can be the difference between an epic and epically miserable day.

4. Quilt: Outdoor blankets are all the rage these days, for wrapping up when you get chilly, or throwing on the ground when it’s time to rest or snack. Rumpl’s Down Puffy Blanket ($159) packs down pretty small in its own compression sack and weighs only a pound. It has a DWR ripstop nylon shell filled with water-repellent, 600-fill duck down.

5. Binocs: The Maven C.2 Binocular($200) is not just for birders, but for anyone who is curious about the land around them. They fit perfectly in any breast or side pocket (4.6 inches by 4.5 inches, weighs under 13 ounces) and have a waterproof, fog-proof, and scratch-resistant lens coatings and dielectric-coated Schmidt-Pechan prism system.

6. Map App: An important tool for hunters, hikers and campers alike, download the onX mapping app to your phone ($30 per state per year or $100 per year for all 50 states) for access to tons of mapping data. Combined with your smartphone’s GPS, onX tracks your progress even without cell reception. You can customize it to feature wilderness areas, national forests, trails, streams and more.

Expert advice:

Melanie Radzicki McManus, author of “Thousand-Miler: Adventures Hiking the Ice Age Trail,” has hiked thousands of miles. She writes, “My top item is a pair of compression sleeves for your arms. They’re great at keeping you warm, yet aren’t bulky like a coat. If the day starts chilly and warms up, you simply roll them down to your wrists or remove them; they’re lightweight and packable. You can put them back on later if it cools down.”

Tips from friends on the Camping / Hiking / Backpacking – in Colorado group on Facebook:

Terrie Callahan-Huang: Love my Kahtoola microspikes! And my new favorite thing is coconut water to replenish electrolytes.

Nicole Brookes: Collapsible cup, nalgene bottle with hot water (and a cosy to keep it warm) and hot chocolate mix.

Matt Sutherland: Brandy.

Denise Nelson: My favorite layering piece of clothing for any fall hike is a fleece vest. Core stays warm, arms stay cool and my overall body temp remains comfy thru a range of temps … early morning chill, mid-day warmth.

Andrew Pearson: For me it’s my camera! I always hike with it, but fall is just such a beautiful time of year.

Jenny Hanlon Zichterman: I agree with Andrew, but for me it’s my camera on my Peak Designs camera mount. It attaches onto my backpack strap and holds the camera securely while I hike so I’m ready to take a photo at any time!

Jim Riccio: Dryer lint, to start a fire when conditions quickly change!

M David Rodriguez: A sharp knife and a little flashlight.

Karl Schwartz: Summit beer [i.e. beer you drink atop the summit of the mountain – it’s a Colorado thing]


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