It’s been 10 years since the Colorado Kids’ Outdoor Bill of Rights first floated across former Lieutenant Governor Barbara O’Brien’s desk. She quickly ratified it, declaring every Colorado child deserves the opportunity to experience nights under sprawling starscapes, days exploring trails and streams, and moments of freshness in wild spaces.
The benefits of being outside are numerous: increased physical and mental health, a boost in creativity, a strengthened sense of community, more patience. With dozens of local, state, and national parks scattered throughout Colorado, opportunities for the adventures this Bill of Rights advocates are everywhere.
Getting kids equipped with the right gear is the first step toward making sure they are safe, dry, flexible, and stylish, whether at the neighborhood park or deep in the backcountry. From anatomically engineered helmets to knee-pad-reinforced pants, extendable snow-pant hems, and antimicrobial T-shirts, this is your ultimate guide to the gear every active Colorado kid needs.
Table of Contents:
- Water Sports
- A Day at the Park
- Climbing and Yoga
- Snow Sports
- Everyday Adventure
- Where the Deals Are
- Organizational Tips and Tricks
- Rain jacket
- Rain pants
- Synthetic long-sleeved shirt
- Synthetic pants
- Trail Boots
In Colorado, it’s rare that kids need a rain jacket all day, but a lightweight one is essential when it comes to staying outside during afternoon showers. Young explorers can put the Columbia Kids’ Fast and Curious II Rain Jacket through the wringer—it’s seam-sealed, waterproof, and highly adjustable. The jacket is built with an “outgrown” system; its sleeves extend 1.5 inches with a simple snip of thread. There’s a bit of magic, too: When the sleeves get wet, a graphic print is revealed, disappearing again once its dry. $50
Hiking boots help kids maneuver more easily along trails without slipping or twisting an ankle on rough terrain, and will keep more debris out of their shoes. Keen’s Big Kids’ Targhee boots combine waterproof, breathable mesh with a padded tongue and shoe collar so no one has to choose between dry feet and comfort. The sole, infused with natural anti-odor technology and a mid-height ankle guard, adds stability without clunk. The secure lace system makes taking them on and off a breeze. $70
- Sleeping bag
- Insulated synthetic jacket
- Warm hat (beanie, balaclava)
- Camp cooking utensils/plate
Kids need a bag that will keep them snug and toasty for mountain camping. Little outdoor dreamers will feel right at home in REI’s Kindercone sleeping bag. Designed with a mummy shape to maximize interior volume and warmth, the synthetic fibers protect against cold, even when conditions are damp. The bag’s stuff sack is attached to the feet, so you’ll never lose track of it in the tent. Plus, its lightweight ripstop nylon shell resists both water and abrasions. $60
When kids carry their own supplies, they learn responsible packing skills, while also getting in the habit of reusing items and reducing waste. UCO’s Four Piece Mess Kit, built with ultra-durable material, is the exact lightweight item any kid can toss in their pack without fear of banging it around or losing pieces. The leak-proof seal between the lid and bowl keeps dirt out, and the utility spork quickly attaches atop the lid. It’s dishwasher, microwave, and freezer safe. $15
- Sun hat
- Sun shirt
- SUP board
- Fishing rod
- Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
- Water shoes
- Tackle box
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends a rating of UPF 50+ to protect kids’ skin while exposed to long periods of sun. Both boy and girl versions of LL Beans’ Sun-and-Surf apparel meets this rating. The combination of materials—Lycra, nylon, polyester, and rayon—wicks away moisture quickly. The boys’ high-neck feature keeps the sun from peeking in, and the girls’ long hem and kangaroo pouch doubles as a convenient dress. $30-$35
Whether your kids are hopping across rocks, splashing in creeks, or exploring alpine lake shores, you’ll want shoes that can take them there. With Chaco Kids’ Outcross 2 shoes, there are no warm-weather geographic limits. Equipped with upgraded traction tread (made of 25 percent recycled rubber), jumping around wet rocks, sand, or trails has never been easier. The woven upper fits snugly—like a sock—and is hydrophobic, so it dries quickly. An easy toggle tightening system removes the hassle in taking them off and slipping them on. $60
- Road/pavement bike
- Mountain bike
- Camelbak/water hose backpack system
When shopping for a kids mountain bike, look for one with suspension forks to absorb bumps in the trail and help reduce hand and arm fatigue when riding. The Trailcraft Cycles’ Pineridge 24 is equipped with many of the same mechanical features and components found on adult bikes, but it’s engineered to be lighter and easier for smaller bodies to maneuver. The 24-inch bike will serve most kids around 4-feet tall for up to three years. $499-$2,199
Little is more important than protecting growing brains, so every young cyclist needs to get in the habit of wearing a helmet. Giro engineered its helmets to match the curvature of a child’s head to ensure a secure fit. The Scamp features a large, rubberized knob that’s easy for adults to adjust, perfecting tension levels and keeping the helmet snug. The added bonus is the range of kid-friendly colors and designs that will make kids want to wear their helmets. $35
A Day at the Park
- Short-sleeved active shirt
- Reusable snack bags
- Water bottle
- Active shorts
Choosing a breathable, quick-drying shirt for outdoor play means kids will stay comfortable longer, and want to stay active longer. Merino Tees for Good not only provide soft, moisture-wicking layers, but also opportunities for learning about environmental conservation and charitable giving. Ten percent of Tees’ proceeds are donated to organizations supporting outdoor initiatives. The graphic tees are constructed from 100 percent New Zealand merino wool, making them naturally antimicrobial and able to regulate body temperatures. $38
For active children, developing proper hydration habits is key, and having a water bottle that they love can help. Klean Kanteen’s durable, adventure-ready Classic 12-ounce water bottle is lightweight, reusable, supports three cap options (sippy, sport, and loop), and is formulated for human and environmental health. A chip-resistant finish surrounds food-grade stainless steel. $18
Climbing and Yoga
- Climbing shoes
- Yoga mat
- Stretchy pants
- Stretchy, comfy shirt
Having active, outdoorsy kids can mean lots of pants with holes in the knees, so durable, comfortable fabrics are key. All Land’s End boys and girls Iron Knee pants come in gendered styles, but maintain the same integrity: extra-soft fabric, with patches sewn invisibly into the knees. Not only does it prevent the formation of holes, but also adds an extra layer of protection for little adventurers. $23-$30
A good harness is essential when learning to rock climb, and Elderid’s Fraggle II harness creates a safe learning experience. As a kid-specific harness, it wraps around a child’s full body, with padded contact points, ensuring comfort doesn’t elude safety. Starting in 2020, Elderid will roll out a new environmentally-friendly Fraggle design, which will make it the first full-body kids harness to achieve the industry-respected bluesign designation, ensuring sustainable, safe, and responsible manufacturing practices. $60
- Snow jacket
- Snow boots
- Snow pants
- Snow shoes
- Skis: xc, downhill, racing, snowboards
- Ski/snowboard boots: xc, downhill, racing
- Warm headgear
- Hand warmers
Pants that provide both downhill agility and chair-lift warmth will help keep the whining away when it comes to days on the mountain with kids. Patagonia’s Snowbelle/Snowshot Snow Pants are dexterous by design, featuring articulated knees and a slick shell coating that’s waterproof, windproof, and breathable. They’re also insulated with 92-percent recycled material that stays warm even as it gets wet. The fleece-lined waistband is adjustable, as are the pant legs that extend two inches. $139
Whether it’s the sun, the cold, or the snow, kids in the winter elements need to protect their eyes and keep their vision clear for maximum safety. Around Anon’s Tracker Goggles’ perimeter are venting channels that enable a constant airflow, keeping the lenses clear and fog-free no matter the conditions. With cylindrical lenses slightly recessed, the risk of scratches is dramatically reduced. The strap, dotted with rubberized grips, keeps the goggles fixed to a helmet without slipping or sliding. $55
- Wet/dry bag
- First aid kit
- Base layers
- Mid layers
- Socks (hiking, skiing, camping)
When you’re outside, shirts can get wet, diapers soil, and extra dry socks might need protection from oncoming rain. Green Mountain Diapers’ Thirsties Wet Bags provide the ability to sequester wet things. Throw in a wet swimsuit after a day at the reservoir and keep the rest of the contents in your backpack dry, or toss in anything you want to protect on a rainy hike. The bag is easy to clean and big enough to fit eight soiled diapers. $15
Ultraviolet (UV) rays released by the sun can damage young eyes and cause vision loss. Sunski took its best-selling adult sunglasses and simply made them smaller and lighter to create Mini Dipsea shades—perfect for active, outdoor-loving kids. The contoured nose grips keep them in place despite sweat or vigorous movements. The 100-percent UV-resistant lenses keep out harmful sun rays and are polarized to reduce glare. Because scratches are inevitable, Sunski developed an easy lens-replacement kit that lets you swap out fresh lenses at home. $38
Where the Deals Are
Making use of secondhand gear shops and rental equipment for kids gear saves money. It’s also an environmentally-friendly practice that keeps growing kids’ gear in circulation and out of landfills. Here are some ways to grab great gear deals.
- Shop Secondhand It’s common for brands to resell—at a lower price—lightly used apparel and equipment that’s been returned to the store. Peruse Patagonia’s Worn Wear and REI’s Used Gear online programs for secondhand equipment still in great condition.
- Attend Gear Swaps Check local gear shops for seasonal swaps. Bring in outgrown items like skis and snowboards, bikes, and boots to trade or sell them.
- Trade Up Some outdoor equipment stores will buy back or trade up kids ski gear purchased the year before, allowing you to use the money toward gear in the next size. Look for the Epic Mountain Gear Junior Trade Program.
- Shop Where You Play Gear consignment shops abound in outdoor adventure gateway towns, and make great places for you to sell outgrown and lightly-used gear. Places like Ragged Mountain Sports in Carbondale, Mountain Equipment Recyclers in Colorado Springs, and All Sports Replay in Gunnison host a rotating fleet of used snowsport, watersport, climbing, and cycling gear, as well as apparel.
- Organize a Gear Swap Host other active families for an afternoon of swapping and trading sizes to keep everyone out on the trails, slopes, lakes, and parks for less money.
Organizational Tips and Tricks
- Good gear organization will keep your garage, basement, and/or closets from becoming an overwhelming, stressful mess. And if you know where all your gear is, it’s a lot easier to get out the door and on your way. Here are some tips to stay organized.
- Hang bike and ski helmets on wall hooks, either in the garage or by the door, for easy access and to prevent any accidental scratches.
- Use clear plastic, stackable bins for camping storage, so you can easily see inside. Or, organize each bin’s contents by activity—climbing, camping, hiking—and label them with permanent marker. You could even write a list of the exact contents of each bin on the side of the container.
- Immediately upon returning from snow adventures, hang everything to dry. Use clothespins and string to secure items like gloves and hats.
- Install horizontal wall storage to keep skis and snowboards off the floor, preventing additional knicks and scrapes.
- Use an over-the-door shoe organizer for keeping climbing shoes, trail shoes, and tennis shoes in plain view. Use it to store other small items like gloves, hats, water bottles, and first-aid kits, too.
- Install a pegboard in the garage or an extra room, and tastefully arrange backpacks, camping gear, and maintenance tools to show off the family’s adventurous spirit.