I moved to Colorado straight from Tulsa, Oklahoma. I didn’t need outdoor gear in Oklahoma, but what I did have were my beloved duck boots, which stay in my vehicle, and a fleece pullover.
I arrived in Colorado in November, 2014. It was snowing. Heavily. My clothing consisted of khakis, short-sleeved shirts, sleeveless dresses and sandals. I did have one pair of slip-on shoes.
After heading up to the mountains for a hike (word used lightly at this point,) and photos, I quickly realized I needed some “real” outdoor gear and found the REI in Ft. Collins, CO. First purchase were Tubbs snowshoes and Black Diamond trekking poles.
I was having my winter clothing and some gear shipped from Alabama, so I didn’t want to buy a lot until I looked through what was sent. I stopped at Sierra Trading Post and bought a pair of hiking boots, a pair of snow boots and a Camelbak. I then found Jax Outdoor Gear in Loveland, CO. where I bought the needed North Face snow pants and Triclimate jacket. I was now ready to go snowshoeing!
The hiking boots I purchased hurt my feet. They were the same brand of the pair that was being shipped, but they hurt. I thought they needed to be “broken-in” so, I continued to wear them. Around mile 8 on my hikes, my feet started to hurt and I wanted to throw the boots off the side of the mountain. Had I purchased them at REI, I could have taken them back and gotten a different pair, but I didn’t, I was now stuck with an expensive mistake.
I bought my first “real” backpack at REI. It was the Osprey Kyte 36. After messing with the pack for a couple of days I decided I needed something bigger, I took it back. The Osprey Aura 50 AG was what I had my eye on, so, I bought it. A friend said I would need a few different packs for the various types of hiking and the different seasons. “Yea, right!,” I thought. I live out of my vehicle, space is of the essence and I carry what I need, that is it. The Aura 50 AG did not have the straps to hold a tent or sleeping pad on the outside. I took it back also.
May, 2015, arrived, REI was having their Anniversary sale. The damage was about to begin.
REI 2-person half dome backpacking tent, Marmot Angel Fire down sleeping bag, Marmot rain jacket and pants, GoPro Hero 4, plus accessories (they couldn’t find my other one in AL,) ENO Jungle Nest Hammock, Osprey Aura 65 AG backpack, and other various odds and ends.
Then I started shopping on Amazon. Bad. Very bad.
Katadyn Pocket Microfilter for water, ACR ResQLink location device, military compass, Joby GorillaPod, JOOS Orange Portable Solar Charger, Bear Grylls hatchet, Smartwool socks, ExOfficio hiking underwear,(yes, hiking underwear,) Therm-a-Rest EvoLite sleeping pad, Emergency Mylar Thermal Survival blankets (pack of 10), ENO Atlas XL straps, ENO XL tarp, Rab Gaithers, KT Tape (LOTS of KT Tape,) Various Zip-off pants, Traverse 2-in-1 helmet.
From Jax Outdoor Gear I have purchased numerous articles of hiking clothes, Microspikes, a 7 day Medical Kit, a Tilley hat (LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!) several winter hats, gloves and mittens, Smith goggles and an insulated tube for my bladder. My all-time favorite purchase was my Zamberlan hiking boots. They were my single most expensive item, but worth every penny. I bought them on a Saturday night then hiked 17 miles in them the next morning. If you are looking for a perfect fitting pair of boots, I recommend a pair of Zamberlans.
I have also learned NOT to go into Jax with a credit card, take cash, for no other reason than to limit your purchases. This store has EVERYTHING! Need something for your horse? They have it. Need new camera gear? They have it. Birkenstocks? Yup, they have those too! What about Polish Pottery? You got it! You can even take your pet in the store. I’m telling you, this place is dangerous for someone who loves outdoor gear as much as I do! I will definitely miss this store.
For Christmas I received the BioLite Campstove Bundle. I’ve since added the Biolite NanoGrid lights. This stuff is super cool, a bit heavy for backpacking, but for what I’m about to do, it will be perfect. Not only does it produce heat for cooking, the heat produces power to charge up your electronics while in the deep forest. Did I mention this stuff is cool?!?
Now, back to the backpacks. Obviously, I favor the Osprey brand, maybe because they are made in Colorado, I’m not sure. I do know they are great packs. After purchasing the Aura 65 AG (AG stands for anti-gravity, YUMMY!) I knew I would need something smaller, so, I purchased the Mantra 28. This pack is perfect for day hikes. When a friend and I decided to summit Longs Peak, I needed something bigger than the Mantra 28, but smaller than the Aura 65. I went back and bought the Kyte 36, which is the perfect size for winter hikes. Of these three packs, I will say the Aura 65 is my favorite and was named “The Beast” on our hike through Italy and Switzerland. It fits like a glove and gives you a hug when you put it on. If you are in the market for the perfect pack, I urge you to try the AG series by Osprey.
I cannot finish this story without talking about Buff’s. A Buff is a tube of fabric that you can wear 12 different ways on your head and neck. I usually wear them as a head band. I also keep an extra one attached to my pack to dip in a cool stream on a hot days hike or to wipe my nose on a cold, winter, snowshoe hike. I love these things and I know I have at least 10 of them.
There are a few additional items I will be buying before I head north for a few months of camping and hiking, I’ll keep you posted!
Am I getting paid to talk about the gear or the places I’ve purchased from? No. I’m just sharing with you some really great gear that has worked for me. If you have any questions about any of the items I mentioned, just ask.
P.S. A shout out to the kind farmer that let me set up my gear in his field. I thank you!