Whether you’re taking a weekend road trip just an hour or two away, or hitting the highway for a full-fledged summer-long adventure, the right essentials will make all the difference. Pack these 10 items, all from Colorado-based companies, and you’ll be ready for a roadside picnic, a dip in an alpine lake, or a hike with your dog.
If you’re sleeping in your van or setting up a picnic in a park, a durable outdoor blanket comes in handy. The new-for-this-year Galactic Down ($100) from Broomfield-based Kelty is big enough for two to stargaze from neighboring camp chairs. Stuffed with toasty 550-fill duck down insulation, this blanket packs a lot of warmth considering it stuffs down to a minuscule 1.79 pounds and seven-by-12 inches.
The Duffel Bag
Designed and tested in Cortez, Colorado, Osprey’s newly updated Transporter Duffel 65 ($140) is rugged enough for international expeditions but versatile enough for a road trip through the national parks. A tough nylon fabric on the outside deflects rain and sharp objects, while interior dividers help separate dirty laundry from stuff that’s still clean. Wear it like a backpack, or toss it over your arm like a duffel.
The Face Mask
Knotty Tie is known for its unique bow ties and neckties, but during the pandemic, the Denver-based company got into the face mask market, too. Their reusable, machine-washable Colorado Face Masks (from $15) are made in Denver and feature Colorado-centric graphics (think the Flatirons, Denver skyline, or Colorado flag). Masks comes in three sizes with adjustable, elastic ear loops and two layers of breathable, lightweight fabric.
The Fly Rod
Pack a fly rod, and you’ll be far more likely to catch a fish than if you don’t pack one at all. The latest release from Yampa Rod Company, the Mustang fly rod ($455), is built fast, light, and streamlined for catching trout from farther away. Handmade in a garage in Denver by Paul W. Boals and DJ Loerzel, a couple of guys in between fishing trips, the Mustang is sleek and packable, and won’t take up much room in the car.
The Dog Bowl
Your pup will appreciate the Grrowler ($19) as much as you will. This convertible dog collar and emergency leash from Breckenridge’s Rocky Mountain Underground has a built-in water bowl that zips out whenever your furry pal needs a sip on the road or the trail. Two sizes fit nearly all dogs. You can pick this handy item up at RMU’s Breckenridge shop, which also sells skis, backpacks, and craft beer on tap at the in-store bar. (The Grrowler is also available through RMU’s website.)
Boulder’s Zeal Optics debuted the Cam Sunglasses ($149) this year. They’re sporty enough for a bike ride or a run but casual enough to wear in the driver’s seat while cruising I-70 out of town. Designed to be supremely lightweight, thanks to tiny air bubbles injected into a plant-based frame, the Cam weighs in at under an ounce, so they feel almost unnoticeable on your face. Polarized lenses make them ideal for water-bound exploits, be it fishing or floating the river.
The nice thing about the Rollr 45 ($400) from cooler company Rovr, headquartered in Boulder, is that it’s small enough to fit in the back of your trunk but still spacious enough to keep all your perishables cool for days on the road. Plus, it has burly wheels so you can roll it to camp or the lake without throwing out your back by hauling an overloaded cooler. Small storage bins inside this bear-safe cooler separate your drinks from your veggies, and it comes in new colors this summer.
The Quick-Drying Towel
You likely didn’t know your old travel towel was actually doing damage to the environment, but some polyester towels shed microplastics into the watershed when laundered. Not the Classic Travel Towel ($98) from Boulder’s own Lava Linens. It’s made with responsibly sourced natural fibers from the flax plant that absorbs 50 percent more water than its microfiber counterparts, making this packable towel perfect for life on the road. Use it to dry off after a lake swim or to wash your feet in a stream.
The Camp Chair
New for 2021, the Big Six Arm Chair ($200) from Steamboat Springs-based Big Agnes is the perfect lounger for any roadside pit stops. It comes with two cup holders, a tall back, and fun prints inspired by terrain along the Continental Divide. Better yet, a portion of the profits from the sale of this chair benefit the Continental Divide Trail Coalition and the Yampa River Fund. The chair packs down shockingly small (22-by-five-by-six inches) considering how comfy it is.
When you head out for the day, you need a sturdy pack to carry your essentials, whether you’re going for a hike or wandering around town. The new Daypack Heritage Canvas ($229) from Topo Designs, located in Denver, gets the job done with style. Made from a water-resistant cotton canvas, it’s got a laptop sleeve for those remote work days and an exterior pocket for your water bottle.