Playing Santa for the outdoor set 

click to enlarge A well-used set of Kahtoola Microspikes in their natural environment. - TIM BERGSTEN
  • Tim Bergsten
  • A well-used set of Kahtoola Microspikes in their natural environment.

The drive that pushes us to enjoy an outdoor lifestyle can go a long way in guiding us through this holiday ultra run otherwise known as Christmas shopping.

We drag ourselves out of bed to play in single-digit temperatures because it's good for our minds and souls. And so it is with the holiday season. The magic happens when we eschew the commercial noise that buries us in feelings of guilt and inadequacy. We find relief when we focus our attention on the people, events and institutions closest to us. And when it comes to buying gifts — something I like to do — it helps to think locally. Forget the big-box chain stores. Think about your community. What do you like to do? The Incline, fat biking, ice fishing? Answer that question and then get your friends involved.

Creativity often blossoms with more voices in the mix. Last week I challenged my outdoor-loving companions for their ideas — and they delivered. I ran with their suggestions, hitting as many local stores as I could on a snowy day last week.

Here is what I found.

At the top of the list, and a favorite of Incline climbers/hikers/runners Tonia Smith and Anita Ortiz, is the Kahtoola Microspikes traction system. Colorado's winter sunshine melts the snow, the night temperatures freeze it, and our favorite trails soon resemble a bobsled course. Microspikes offer a great solution. Several area stores carry the Kahtoolas. I found 'em for $75 at Boulder Running Company. Ultra runner Steve Bremner says they'll last three or four years — and he logs big miles.

While there, I looked for the Nathan Hipster ($25) and the FlipBelt ($30) that Rachel Moline, Katie Benzel and Nora Duane swear by. We're talking a wide elastic belt — really for women only, I think — that will hold keys, a cell phone, gloves, snacks.

"And it all stays in place," Moline says.

Keeping it affordable, Jeff Mohrmann won't leave the house without his Buff ($15-$25), which is a simple but versatile scarf that keeps his face warm, provides ultraviolet protection and works great as a beanie or snot rag, though not all at the same time, he says.

It's always a challenge to get a good night's sleep outside. Phil Goulding, a runner and hunter who spends lots of time in the woods, said he loves his inflatable pillow and sleeping bag liner. It's the little things, you know? I hit up Mountain Chalet and found both made by Sea to Summit. The liner ($60) will increase the warmth of your sleeping bag by 14 degrees. The pillow costs $43. They're light and fit easily into a pack.

Cyclists Rob Lucas and Jim Heidelberg insist that warm shoe covers for winter riding are the way to go. I bounced over to Old Town Bike Shop where Brian Schott showed me a boot-like cover made by Bontrager. Cost is $65 and they're great for fat bike riders who have discovered the thrill of snowy trails. Road cyclists, meanwhile, may get by with a simple pair of Pearl Izumi toe covers, $18.

David Adair suggested a multi-tool for biking. I found it at Café Velo ($44). Made by Crank Brothers, it'll help ya fix most problems, plus there is a patch kit included. While there, store manager Mike Creed showed me bike lights by Cygolite. "The thing is, everybody thinks that lights are just for night riding, but they'll help keep you safe in the daytime, too," Creed says. The Cygolite system comes with a headlight and a second light that will clip to your frame and acts as a taillight. They're extremely bright and USB rechargeable, which is cool. Buy 'em both for $100.

Cyclist Dave McIntosh said he never thought he'd want a "dropper post" for his mountain bike, but now he "can't imagine not having one." The dropper will allow you to lower your seat, for safer — and faster — riding on technical descents, and return the seat to its proper position, all on the fly. You control the seat height from your handlebars. Criterium Bike Shop sells a variety, $170 to $500.

From there I hit Colorado Running Company. Stephanie Fuller keeps a canister of pepper spray handy. Good idea, because it's better to be safe. But CRC is selling a safety system from Wearsafe ($30.) Press a button on the clip-on tag, and your friends will be alerted by cell phone, and they'll know your location. The Pikes Peak region is generally a safe place for runners and hikers, but it'll work if you fall and break something, or when you're fighting a bear.

click to enlarge Linda Staines at Runners Roost can keep you warm with the Mizuno Breath Thermo top. - TIM BERGSTEN
  • Tim Bergsten
  • Linda Staines at Runners Roost can keep you warm with the Mizuno Breath Thermo top.

Last stop, Runners Roost. Several folks suggested the ol' standby base layer for these winter mornings. Who can argue? Linda Staines brought out the Breath Thermo by Mizuno, which generates its own heat to keep you warm on the coldest of days. The top sells for $75. And for you purists who must have wool, hit Mountain Chalet.

If none of this works, perhaps that athletic somebody on your list will appreciate lessons at Pure Bouldering Gym, City Rock, the Sport Climbing Center, or a day on local rock with Front Range Climbing Co.

Looking for a great deal? Check out Mountain Equipment Recyclers. Owner Mike Mazzola keeps the coffee pot on, and a portion of your purchase will go toward local nonprofits.

Be creative and think locally. After all, there is no place like home for the holidays.


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