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April and May are upon us, which means the birds are crooning a cheerful tune and the forecast promises more warm days than cold. Other parts of the world often refer to these months as “spring.” Here in Colorado, we call it “Mud Season.”
“It is the time of the year when melting snow and rainfall makes trails a particular mess,” says Phil Yates, spokesperson for City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks. “As the weather improves, we begin to see more visitation, but traffic along those muddy trails can cause pretty lasting damage to the trail surface.”
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So, when you go outside (as always), do so responsibly. Come spring, that means adhering to closures, of course, and also avoiding the muddiest trails, even if they remain open to the public. Head out in the morning, when the soil is often still hard, and choose paths at lower elevations where the snow has long since melted and the trails are dry. Always check trail conditions and closures, as well as the weather, before setting out.
If you do encounter a muddy section, suck it up and stay on the trail. It’s easier for maintenance crews to fix divots and ruts in the path than to try to re-wild sections inadvertently widened by hikers and bikers trying to keep their shoes and wheels clean.
With those words of caution in mind, here are 10 products designed to handle the mud—not to mention spring’s blustery winds and wild temperature swings—with finesse, all from brands with a Colorado connection.
Hot one minute, cold the next; a biblical tempest, then dry. Spring weather tends to be as cantankerous as a toddler in need of a snack. So if you’ll be out in the elements, make sure you’re ready for anything. Merino wool—which not only offers a delightfully soft hand if treated right, but also breathes, wicks sweat, dries fast, and doesn’t stink—always is. We’re partial to the Sprint Tee ($85), available in women’s and men’s, from new-on-the-scene outdoor brand, Artilect. Yes, it’s an investment piece, but the tech tee—or long sleeve ($100; women’s and men’s), if you prefer—is made with Nuyarn Speed-Lite, a lightweight yet super strong fabric that has more loft and dries five times faster than traditionally spun merino. Bottom line: It keeps you cool when it’s hot outside, warmer when it’s cool outside (if you have an insulating layer like the Halfmoon Bio Pullover on top) and dries quickly when it’s wet.
Fjällräven High Coast Hydratic Trail Jacket (Women’s and Men’s)
Be prepared. That mantra of Eagle Scouts and villainous lions applies just as much to general, outdoors-loving folk. So make sure your daypack houses the 10 essentials, including a waterproof layer like the High Coast Hydratic Trail Jacket (available for him and her, $275) from Fjällräven (U.S. headquarters on the Front Range). Earth-approved thanks to recycled polyester materials and PFC-free impregnation, the shell stretches when you do and features a loose, comfort fit, making it great for layering over other pieces. Want a brawnier layer? Try the Samlaren Jacket 1E (available in women’s and men’s for $250), a harder-wearing, water-resistant layer (use $10 Greenland Wax to further boost water repellency) made from repurposed G-1000 Silent fabric scraps that can be pushed into use on the ski hill, too.
Ripton & Co. Slate Jorts (Women’s and Men’s)
Jorts are timeless—at least according to Boulder’s Ripton & Co. (OK, us, too.) By that line of reasoning, these throwback-turned-comeback bottoms are in season all year long, including springtime. Just like the hairstyle most any self-respecting jorts owner proudly coifs, Ripton’s Slate Jorts (available in women’s and men’s, $65) are part business (given their über-thin, super stretchy, recycled cotton/poly makeup and above-knee, shorter inseam) and a whole lotta party, thanks to rough, cut-off hems and a “corn-fed” (their words) denim wash. Choose them for mountain biking, hiking, late-season skiing, or general rabble-rousing. Mullet optional.
Kari Traa (the person) is a mogul skier from Voss, Norway, with three Olympic medals to her name. Kari Traa (the brand), which has its U.S. headquarters on the Front Range, ranks among the fastest-growing women’s outdoor apparel companies. As you might have guessed, the former founded the latter. Yet what Traa lacks in clever naming conventions she more than makes up for in her knack for crafting performance-driven softgoods. Case in point: the Voss Pants ($150). Boasting four-way stretch, articulated knees, a gusseted crotch, and a slim, out-of-the-way silhouette perfect for sneaking inside gaiters or steering clear of pedals, crampon sharps, and rogue brambles, these bottoms make it easy to hop over mud puddles and high-step snowy or rocky slopes. A fluorine-free water-repellent treatment means the wet won’t soak through if you don’t quite reach the other bank. Ventilation zips help you cool off—or show off—your upper legs. Sorry, dudes—women’s only.
On the hierarchy of gear radness, gaiters fall somewhere between custom insoles and a bear bell. But anyone who’s ever encountered an unexpected snowfield or sandy stretch mid-hike or who runs—literally—into unavoidable mud come spring knows just how handy this unsung hero of the trail can be. Denver-based Altra’s take, the aptly named Trail Gaiter ($25), is both breathable and abrasion-resistant. That combined with its low-profile design—it’s strapless and hits just above the ankle bone—make the Trail Gaiter a good pick for runners and casual hikers who don’t need mountaineering gear just to nab some dry trail time this spring.
Be a dirtbag, if you want—just don’t be one with dirt on their bag. Instead, go for Longmont-based Deuter’s Durascent 30 ($265) and you can easily hose off any muck that collects thanks to its waterproof exterior and taped and welded seams. Designed with alpinists and mountaineers in mind, the Durascent is narrow to stay out of the way of overhead arm movements and reaches (which makes it a decent choice for mountain bikers, too) and harness-compatible. It features lash points for a rope and two ice axes. Have a shorter torso but still want to keep your stuff dry on wet spring adventures? Opt for the Durascent 28 SL ($265) instead.
If the day starts (or turns) chilly, reach for the Lena Jacket ($179) from Boulder-based, woman-powered apparel brand, Krimson Klover. Made of recycled polyester and spandex, this outer layer pairs technical features like mesh inserts, moisture-wicking fabrics, and quick-dry capabilities with flowy, dolman sleeves and a flirty silhouette. One reviewer out of Broomfield gushes, “It’s got a sporty feel and look, but also pairs well with jeans. It’s a staple for Colorado’s chilly and windy days!” Sign us up.
For the most part, Coloradans can get away with non-waterproof hiking shoes. Consider spring, when an otherwise dry route will likely have an unavoidably muddy stretch or two, the exception to the rule. Our choice for the occasion: the unisex Mutant ($165) from La Sportiva, whose recently Climate Neutral–certified North American headquarters sit in Boulder. With its deep lugs and sticky FriXion® XF 2.0 rubber outsole, the Mutant is built for wet, loose, and otherwise gnarly trails—in other words, it’s the shoe for bipedal springtime adventuring in Colorado.
When the trail gets mucky and the terrain uneven, a good pair of hiking poles like the Scree ($69.95) from Broomfield-based camping gear brand Kelty, can help save your knees and keep you vertical. Tipping the scales at just 20 ounces for a couple (about as much as that baggie of gorp you packed), the poles are made of an aluminum alloy that’s lightweight yet strong and feature hand grips made from a comfort-first EVA foam with cork for absorbency. Two lock points allow the telescoping poles to adjust up to 56 inches long or down to 35 inches, which means on-the-fly adjustments are a cinch (say, for the notorious up-down-up-down of Colorado trails) and they’ll work just as well for young, budding hikers as grown-ups.
Now that our roads on the Front Range are mostly free from ice, it’s time to get back into that healthy bike-commuting habit. Do so with the help of the Windstopper Tracker 5-Finger ($80) from Hestra, a nearly 90-year-old glove manufacturer with roots in Sweden and an American home base in Arvada. The gloves feature a water-repellent backhand, touchscreen-compatible finger pads, and a thin, microfleece lining with GORE-TEX Infinium™ Windstopper, which adds a touch of warmth while blocking any headwinds. Minimal padding on the palm means this glove works off the bike, too.