get in gear!

Like most visitors to Boulder you'll find that while there is much to do outdoors in this town and surrounding county, there are environmental factors to consider.  First and most important, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  The air that comes over the Continental Divide to Boulder has dried in the process of rising up the western slopes of the Rockies, cooling, and dumping all it’s moisture as it drops down the eastern side of the divide.  This dry air dries up everything, including our bodies.  Drink lots of water to avoid headaches, dehydration, and even urinary tract infections.  Yuk!  Drink more water than you do normally, especially when exercising.  And since Boulder is such a hippie, green place, bring or buy reusable water bottles for your hike or for strolling around town.  Keep them full.  You’ll look so hip and chic!  

Take home a piece of Boulder with a Polar Bottle

Many people, including myself, are now sporting hydration packs on the trail.  These are backpacks that typically have some varying size storage areas for your kit, and a water bladder with hose that integrates into the back of the pack.  You suck water out of a mouth piece on the hose that is attached to a 70-100 ounce reservoir.  These ‘camel backs’ eliminate the need to carry multiple water bottles on the trail.  If you don't have a hydration pack, a normal day or hike pack that can hold energy snacks, a rain poncho, two or more water bottles and other gear will work just fine.

You’ll also want to keep a tube of lip balm or chap stick handy along with hand and body lotion.  You won’t necessarily want to haul body lotion around on a hike, but chap stick is a good idea.  

Probably one of the most popular attractions of Boulder is that it can claim an average of 300 days of sunshine a year. Dry air equals few clouds.  However, while all that sun is wonderful, it can also be dangerous.  At almost 5500’ the sun is much stronger than at sea level.  Sunburn, sometimes serious, is a common side effect especially when hiking in higher alpine areas.  Because the sun is so plentiful and so hot in the Front Range it’s a very good idea to bring a full brimmed, or ‘floppy’ hat, along with a good sunblock, for extended time in the sun .  You might want to cover sensitive shoulders with a short sleeve shirt instead of spaghetti strap tops.  Don’t worry about the fashion statement of the hat, many other wise people will be wearing them out on the trails, including me.  And besides, Boulder was not long ago voted the worst dressed city by GQ magazine.  You’ll fit right in.  

Sturdy, grippy soles are best for 'baby heads'

Sturdy, grippy soles are best for 'baby heads'

Let’s talk footwear.  Boots, tennis shoes, sandals, flip-flops.  I’ve seen them all on the trail.  Just the other day I was out scouting the Ranger trail again and saw an older gentleman running the trail with strap sandals.  And we wonder why GQ thinks we dress funny!  However, if hiking or running over rocks is not something you do on a daily or weekly basis, stick to good hiking shoes or boots.  I make the distinction because shoe technology has improved greatly and you can now get hiking footwear that is much lighter and much less bulky than traditional 'lumberjack' boots.  Whether you want the sturdier sole of a hiking shoe, or higher ankle support of a full boot, or even cute strap sandals is a matter of personal preference and up to you.  However, you will encounter rocks on any trail in Boulder County.  They don’t call them the Rockies for nuttin’.  Most of the rocks on the trails are affectionately termed ‘baby heads’, impacted or loose rocks about the size of a football, volleyball, or larger.  I highly recommend a good pair of hiking shoes or boots with a firm or hard sole.  I once hiked in tennis shoes and stepped on a rather pointed baby head and thought I’d torn something serious in the arch of my foot.  I limped the rest of the hike.  

Ski goggles can come in handy during winter months to protect against wind and snow.

Ski goggles can come in handy during winter months to protect against wind and snow.

Some people, including my better half Linda, prefer to use hiking poles for added stability on the trail.  I take them on longer hikes where I will be descending steeper areas, such as when I hike to the divide or higher, where the alpine areas can be quite rocky.  Whether you will want to take advantage of poles depends on how you feel about uneven surfaces.  I try to point out any hikes in this guide where you will encounter excessively rocky, steep, or challenging surfaces.  Trails that don’t have this identification should be easily hiked without poles, although you can run into occasional rock gardens on any trail in the Front Range.  Today’s poles are lighter, adjustable, and relatively affordable, and they can give any hiker a greater sense of confidence and stability on the trail.  Consider them if you feel they could help you navigate the terrain.

If you find yourself in Boulder and in need of gear, you don't have to walk far to find an outfitter.  They are all exceptional, but two of my favorites are the Boulder Army Store on Pearl and REI at 28th St and Walnut.  (Sadly, the Boulder Army Store closed its doors in January of 2015 after 66 great years in Boulder.  RIP BAS!  You will be missed.)  REI has a great list of items to pack for day hiking, including what to carry for First Aid.  Of course it's over the top, but certainly a good reference and can be found here.

Kit all packed and ready to go?  Great!  Almost ready.  Let's look at Maps & GPS...