Cycling Events Near Colorado Springs – Spring/Summer 2023

As the weather warms up again, you are going to be looking for new and exciting ways to get outside. For avid cyclists and those new to biking, there are plenty of upcoming Colorado cycling events to get you back in the saddle. Check out some of the most interesting bike events in Colorado this spring and summer of 2023, and get started training for a bike tour today.

Photo by Lech Naumovich on Unsplash

Front Range Cycling Classic 

When: Sunday, March 19, 2023

Where: Parking Lot, Pinion Dr, Air Force Academy, CO 80840

More Information Here

Hosted by the US Air Force Academy Falcons Cycling Team, this bike race event is a 13.6 mile hilly ride around the Academy’s training complex in northwest Colorado Springs. In addition to collegiate time trials, the road race is open to everyone, with cash prizes for riders. The field is limited every year to 75 riders, so make sure you stay on top of this event and register as soon as you can.

Groove Fountain Festival

When: Saturday, April 15 & Sunday, April 16, 2023

Where: Kirk Hanna Park, 17050 S Peyton Hwy, Colorado Springs, CO 80928

Register Here

Located in the southeast district of Hanover, this cycling event is now in its third year. The time trial is on Saturday the 15th, and the road race is on Sunday the 16th. The two race options are 39 or 78 miles on a large loop that takes you between the park and Fountain, Colorado. The elevation gain is minimal, around 300 feet, making this a great opportunity for folks looking for a less rigorous ride.

Tour de Victory

When: Saturday, May 20, 2023

Where: YMCA of Northern Colorado, 2800 Dagny Way, Lafayette, CO 80026

Register Here

The Tour de Victory bike event is a bit of a drive from Colorado Springs, but it is a very popular Colorado cycling event and for good reason. This non-competitive race is a fundraising event for Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s. Riders can choose between four courses, a 20k, a 50k, a 100k, and a Gravel Course that is about 87 kilometers. The routes travel west of Lafayette, with the 100k going all the way up to Longmont. The 20k reaches about 400 feet of elevation, and the 100k over 2,000. These fun cycling events are for a good cause, and riders with Parkinson’s get free registration. 

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Race the Sun

When: Saturday, June 4, 2023

Where: 1375 W Plum Creek Pkwy, Castle Rock, CO 80109

Registration Opens February 1

This 6.5 mile mountain biking course is described as playful and flowy. It offers 90% singletrack and has 647 feet elevation gain. The course travels counterclockwise around Philip S. Miller Park in Castle Rock, which is less than an hour’s drive from downtown Colorado Springs. The race goes from 7 am to 7 pm, and walk-on registration is available the day before and early that morning. Elephant Rock is a popular destination for cyclists, and you will surely enjoy checking it out during this rewarding mountain biking event. 

719 Ride

When: Saturday, July 15, 2023

Where: Chipeta Elementary School, 2340 Ramsgate Terrace, Colorado Springs, CO 80919

Registration Opens March 12

Now in its eighth year, the 719 Ride is a locally organized road race that is a crowd favorite and one of the best Colorado cycling events. The “Course that Cannot Be Defeated” is a celebration of the elevation around Colorado Springs. You are invited to try to complete five laps of the course, for a total of 71.9 miles and 9,190 feet of elevation gain. For the same registration fee, however, you can do as many (or as few) laps as you wish. The top tier at a punishing 14 laps is called the Himalayan 719 as it covers the 25,700 feet elevation gain that it would take to reach a Himalayan peak. This is a great opportunity to challenge yourself and enjoy some beautiful views around Ute Valley Park and Blodgett Open Space. 

Cycle to the Summit

When: Saturday, August 12, 2023

Where: Pikes Peak Toll Rd, Woodland Park, CO 80863 (Parking lots near the start line and Crystal Creek Reservoir.)

Register Here

This difficult ride is not for the faint of heart. But if you want to join the Summit Society, there is only one way to do it. The race to the summit of Pikes Peak is 12.4 miles and over 4,700 feet of elevation gain. You will have to navigate 156 turns along the windy road as well as an average grade increase of 7%. But it is all worth it for the amazing views. The ride down is a spectacular journey, and there is a shuttle available for those who prefer it. The event was started in 2010, and summiters get exclusive deals and promotions from participating sponsors. Biking Pikes Peak is a rite of passage for cyclists in Colorado Springs, so don’t miss out on your chance to join the fun.

Golden Gran Fondo

When: Sunday, August 27, 2023

Where: Event Parking located at Ford Street and 10th Street, Golden, CO 80401

Registration Not Yet Open

This cycling event is part of the Suarez Gran Fondo National Series and starts in historic Golden, Colorado. There are three course options at 18, 63, and 91 miles. The Piccolo, 18.3 mile race, has an elevation gain of 1,962 feet, and the Gran Route has an intense elevation gain of 10,860 feet. It is a challenging route, with elevation gains lasting more than thirty minutes, but that also means the descents are substantial and rewarding. The Gran Route travels slightly south of Golden and north all the way to Nederland, giving you excellent views of Golden Gate Canyon State Park and Thorodin Mountain along the way.

Final Thoughts

Now that you are excited to get back on your bike and check out these Colorado cycling events, there’s one more thing. Before you get going, make sure your bike is in good condition after being stored for the winter. Get some tips on how to clean your bike, maintain it, and ensure it will last you this cycling season. And if you are looking to warm up before one of the big days, a bike tour around Colorado Springs is a great way to do it. A three-hour bike tour around Garden of the Gods is the perfect start to the new year and a surefire way to get you motivated to ride again.  

How to Train for a Bike Tour

Are you wishing you could go on an epic bike tour of Colorado Springs’ best attractions? Or maybe you want to prepare for one of Colorado’s annual cycling events. It doesn’t take much to train for a bike tour. With just a little preparation, you can feel confident in your riding abilities and enjoy your time in the saddle exploring the sites.

Training for a bike tour consists mainly of cardio workouts and strengthening for the legs, back, and core. You should also include flexibility training to ensure your muscles do not tighten in response to the strength training. We’ll go over what a typical week of bike training looks like so you can get riding in no time.

Strength Training for a Bike Tour

If you’re not used to riding a bicycle, your legs will struggle to keep up on a bike tour. Strengthening your leg muscles, back, and core will keep you comfortable as you sit and work your leg muscles for hours on end on a bike tour. 

Leg Workouts for Biking

To prepare for a bike tour, you will need to build strength in the quadriceps, hamstring, and gluteus muscles. You can do goblet squats and lunges (or split squats which are static). Start with no weight and progress to doing them with a dumbbell. These will help strengthen the leg muscles that interact with the knee and keep your knees happy and healthy during your bike tour. 

Glute bridges are a great way to work out the butt muscles and the hip flexors making sure that you will be able to tolerate so much leg exercise in the sitting position. If you are not used to biking, you will notice your quads and hips getting tired first. That is why exercises like these are key for improving bicycle endurance.

Other leg exercises for biking include calf raises for the lower legs and side kicks for the outer quad muscles. Finally, you can use a stationary bike to practice one-leg pedaling. This is a strenuous but effective exercise because it forces your hips to work harder. When you pedal with both legs, it is common to push down more than pull up, so one-leg pedaling strengthens those pulling-up muscles. 

Back and Core Strength Training for a Bike Tour

Moving up the body, back and core workouts are also crucial to get you in bike-tour shape. Legs are not the only muscles that you will use when spending a day or more in the saddle. You also need to strengthen the muscles that keep you sitting upright on the bike. Romanian deadlifts are one of the best exercises to train the lower back. These exercises will help prevent discomfort when sitting for long periods of time. Unlike traditional deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts work the core more than the legs because you do not lower the weight to the ground and squat. When doing these, be sure to have the proper form and avoid rounding your back.

While deadlifts work the lower back and core muscles, you will also need to strengthen the erector spinae muscles, which travel the length of your back from the neck to the pelvis on either side of the spine. These muscles are important for posture and keeping upright on the bicycle. One great exercise for these back muscles is a quadruped, or bird dog, exercise. Start with your hands and knees on the ground and raise one arm and the opposite leg while keeping your core tight. This is a great way to strengthen your core for bicycling.

One final muscle group not to forget is the arm muscles. It is easy to overlook upper body workouts when thinking about bike riding, but you would be surprised at how tired your arms can get. When you think about the proper positioning on a bicycle, you actually use your arms a lot. Typically, bicyclists push against the handlebars for leverage, especially when biking uphill. And boy, are there a lot of hills involved in a Colorado Springs bike tour. Training your arms for a bike tour might consist of push-ups, planks, and side planks.

Cardio Training for Endurance Biking

You do not need to bike every day to train for biking. In fact, your cardio workouts can be anything. You can cross-train on a treadmill, with a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout, in a pool, or on a rowing machine. You can go jogging or hiking, or play a cardio-heavy sport like soccer or boxing. Cross-training is a great way to keep your schedule exciting and work out different muscle groups at the same time.

An ideal schedule for training for a bike tour is five or six days a week, alternating cardio and strength training days. You can plan to include one or two cross-training days per week, and make sure you are getting on the bike twice a week. Due to time constraints, you may plan a shorter ride of an hour during the week and a longer endurance ride for the weekend. You can plan for a two or three-hour weekend ride to start, and one great option is a guided bike tour. The distance you plan to achieve will determine the endurance rides. You can build up to it gradually over a few months or longer.

Pack Training for a Bike Tour

One essential step of training for a bike tour is pack training. Do not forget that a multi-day bike tour will necessarily include you carrying a backpack on your back or at least on the bike. This added weight will be quite a shock when you start if you have not introduced it during training. You can build up to it by starting with no weight and adding five pounds at a time. Once you have completed a month of training, including core and back exercises, you will find this added weight is no problem.

Best Stretches for Bicycling

Anytime you work out, either strength training or cardio, you need to stretch, too. Bicycling can easily cause joint pain and sore muscles if you are tight. Flexibility is essential for comfort and muscle endurance. That is why you should stretch every day, even on off days. 

Focusing on leg stretches, you will want to include hamstring (touch your toes), IT band and hip (figure 4), groin (butterfly), and quad (bring your foot to your butt). Key hip flexor and core stretches include reaching for the ceiling and the yoga cobra pose. Finally, keep your spine muscles flexible with neck and back stretches.

Final Thoughts

Training for a bike tour is a fantastic goal to keep you motivated to work out every day. You can also see some beautiful places in Colorado Springs as you train for the big event. Choose one of these six best mountain biking spots for an endurance ride, and you will surely come to love your biking training. Please always wear a helmet, follow bike safety guidelines, and have fun. Happy riding!

12 Terms Rock Climbers Love: An Intro to Climbing Lingo

If you are getting into rock climbing, one important thing to learn is the vocabulary. When you are hanging around other climbers and working on similar bouldering problems, you are likely to strike up a conversation that includes some odd rock climbing terms. We’ll go over some of the most popular lingo so you can fit right in as you start your climbing journey.

Beta

Getting beta on a climb means receiving advice. It could be a hint about the route, the starting position, the quality of a handhold, or anything. It could even be watching another climber complete the route so you can see what works. There is no shame in getting beta on a hard climb that you are projecting.

Before you ask someone for beta, make sure you know the names of climbing holds. That way, when someone tries to point out the route to you, you will be able to follow which holds they are talking about.

Crux

The crux of a climb is the hardest move or section. When you look at the rating of a climb, it is most likely based on the crux. This is especially true for bouldering routes. For more help figuring out how climbing route ratings work, be sure to check out our beginner’s guide to climbing techniques.

The difficulty of the crux can be hard to pinpoint. It can be due to a mixture of things including the type of hold, the distance between them, and the wall. For example, many overhung climbs have a crux at the overhang since transitioning from below the overhang to the wall above it is a particularly strenuous and difficult move. Another crux might be due to a particularly tough handhold and the next handhold being far away.

Projecting

Working on a climb as a project is known as projecting. This can be a climb above your skill level that takes many days and many tries until you can successfully climb it in one try without falling. It is always good to have a project when you climb so you can keep pushing yourself to improve. Typically climbers may have a couple projects going at the same time.

Sending

Sending a route means getting to the top in one go without falling. This can be done with or without practice, with or without beta. It is meant to be a catch-all term to describe getting to the top of a climb. Other terms used are more specific, like on-sighting, which is successfully climbing a route the first term you try it with no beta, no prior knowledge, no watching someone else do it. 

Slack and Take

These are two important terms and the most common ways for climbers to direct their belayer. Slack means that you want more slack in the rope. Take means that you want the belayer to take slack and make the rope tighter. As a belayer, you may hear a climber yell ‘take’ if they think they will fall or when they need a rest so they do not lose height on the route. To learn more belay terms, you can check out a guided climbing tour. In addition to enjoying a unique outdoor climbing experience, you will learn climbing safety, belay techniques, and more. 

Spotter

Spotting someone on a climb is very important. This is common at the beginning of lead climbs before the climber gets to the first anchor and on outdoor bouldering routes. The goal of a spotter is to make sure that if the climber falls, they do not hit their head. You are not standing directly under the climber trying to catch them if they fall. In this case, you will end up getting hurt yourself. Instead, a spotter stands back with their arms outstretched, elbows slightly bent, and thumbs in. If your climber falls, your main goal is to keep them upright, protect the head and neck, and make sure they fall safely onto the crash pads.

In outdoor bouldering, the role of a spotter or multiple spotters is essential. You may reposition crash pads as the climber moves, so they can land safely on it if they fall. You also may direct the climber as they fall to make sure they get on the crash pad and do not bounce off. If your climber is smaller than you, you can catch them around the waist and ease their fall. If the climber is bigger than you, you will more likely direct them with your hands on their butt to ensure they fall onto the crash pad. 

Types of Walls

Face and Slab

While a perfectly vertical wall, sometimes called a face, is the easiest to climb, many walls are not so simple. Especially if you are climbing outdoors, you are likely to encounter walls at different angles, even ones that change angle throughout the climb. A wall that tilts back away from you, and is thus less steep than vertical, is called a slab. 

Climbing a slab requires balance and confidence in your footholds. It can be scary for beginners to climb slabs because you may feel like if you fall, you’ll fall into the wall. To avoid scraping yourself on the wall, be sure to hop backward when you feel like you are going to fall. 

Overhangs, Roofs, and Caves

The opposite of a slab is an overhang. An overhang is any section of a wall that is more than vertical. Overhung walls tend to be a little more challenging because they require more strength to stay on the wall. 

If an overhung route is so angled that it juts out over your head and forces you to climb nearly horizontally, it is called a roof. A large section of this might be called a cave, and these are generally found in bouldering or lead climbing areas. With gravity working directly against you, climbing a roof requires a lot of strength and endurance. 

Final Thoughts

There are unlimited slang terms that different people use in different types of climbing. What is most important is that you are able to pick up enough to communicate effectively with other climbers when sharing route information. When climbing outdoors, another important safety tip is to establish non-verbal communication solutions with your group members. Over time, you will surely pick up more and more terms, so be patient and happy climbing!

How to Train to Hike a Colorado Fourteener

Are you hoping to summit one of Colorado’s famed 14ers but don’t know if you’ve got what it takes? It is actually a lot easier than you think to get in shape for a hike, and you can train to go from couch to 14er in a matter of months. Following a consistent and well-rounded exercise plan will prepare you to hike your first 14er and make sure you have a great time doing it. 

There are a few important elements to remember when training for a big hike. They are cardio, strength, and flexibility. In this article, we will go over how to train for all three and what a typical week should look like as you prepare for a hike in Colorado.

Cardio Training for Elevation Hikes

Cardio is important not just for long-distance hiking, but in this case, also for hiking at elevation. As you climb up a mountain, the amount of oxygen in the air decreases. At sea level, the air is about 21% oxygen. At 8,000 feet, it is 15%, and by 14,000 feet, it is 12.3%. This means that you will fatigue faster and get muscle cramps more easily. If you are not prepared physically for the elevation, you will be more susceptible to symptoms of altitude sickness.

Doing cardio training helps combat these symptoms by conditioning your body to use oxygen more efficiently and adapt better to vigorous exercise. When training to hike a 14er, it is best to do cardio every other day. You can strength train in between and of course, have an active rest day (or weekend). Your cardio exercise should last at least an hour and focus on consistent exercise, often called steady-state cardio. This means working hard with minimal rests, to the point where you are breaking a sweat but not risking injury. 

Good cardio exercises for preparing to hike a 14er can be anything from rowing to running or biking to swimming. It is helpful to focus on low-impact exercises so you do not injure or over-stress joints when training.

Strength Workouts for Hiking Training 

Strength training may not be top of mind when you consider hiking a 14er, but it is just as important as training for cardio. Mountain climbing requires endurance from many muscles in your legs, back, and core. Between hiking at an incline (or decline on the way down) and some large steps in a scramble, you will certainly find your legs tested on a Colorado 14er.

Your strength workouts should take at least half an hour. I like to complete three sets of eight to ten exercises on strength training days. A good strength training routine will include full-body and core exercises. You want to focus on building stability and endurance in the ankles, knees, and hips. There is a multitude of different movements you can choose from to work on these areas. For legs, you’ve got squats, lunges, step-ups, step-downs, and heel raises. Hip flexor and lower core strengthening exercises include deadlifts, hip thrusts, and various sit-up workouts. If you have had problems with your feet in the past, be sure to include towel curls (or towel scrunches) to help strengthen your arch and prevent injury.

Pack and Elevation Training

One more important part of strength and cardio training is hiking with weight. When you are hiking a 14er, you will need to bring a day pack with water, food, extra layers, and first aid gear. No matter how light you keep it, your body and your back will notice this extra weight. That is why it is essential to build pack training days into your cardio routines.

My preferred schedule is to work out every day of the week, with cardio Tuesdays and Thursdays. Then, plan Saturdays for practice hikes with pack and elevation training and Sundays as your rest day. When you organize your schedule like this, you will find it takes only a few months to go from couch to 14er.

You should start your training hikes with two or three-hour hikes that have a minimal elevation gain of a couple of thousand feet. There are plenty of great moderate hikes near Colorado Springs to choose from, including the Columbine Trail. Once you build up to six to eight-hour hikes with at least 4,000 feet of elevation gain, you will surely be ready for your first 14er. 

Flexibility Training for Hiking 14ers

The final part of hiking training, one certainly not to be overlooked, is stretching. When training to hike a 14er, you should stretch every single day, even on your rest days. If you do not stretch daily, you will find your muscles tighter, more injury-prone, and sorer. 

It is best to stretch during and after workouts. It is a myth that you should stretch before you start exercising. Stretching when your body is cold can cause microtears in your muscles. Instead, take five minutes to warm up or start light exercises before you get into a deep stretch. 

You should, at the very minimum, stretch your calves, hamstrings, quads, IT bands, hip flexors, and back (by touching your toes). I also like to stretch my feet by extending my toes and my ankles by kneeling and sitting (gently) on my heels. You should hold each stretch for twenty seconds and repeat any that feel tight. While these stretches do take time, your body will thank you, and you will feel more relaxed and able to endure longer workouts. 

Hiking Your First 14er

Don’t feel defeated at the prospect of training for a 14er. You do not actually need to hike 14,000 feet in elevation gain to summit one of Colorado’s peaks. There are many hikes to peaks that are only a few thousand feet of elevation gain, depending on the parking lot and trail you choose. With a few months of hard work and training, you can begin using 14ers to train for other, more strenuous 14ers.

So where should you start? Many people consider Pikes Peak to be the easiest 14er near Colorado Springs. If you are hoping for a little professional guidance before you tackle your first 14er, be sure to check out a guided hiking tour. With 58 peaks over 14,000 feet, Colorado has no shortage of inspiring hikes to add to your bucket list. Be safe, and happy hiking!

Rock Climbing Holds: A Beginner’s Guide

When you are just getting started rock climbing, it can be hard to get on the wall and stay there. Some aspects of rock climbing are not intuitive, and if your only previous climbing exposure is with ladders, there are sure to be types of rock climbing holds you haven’t encountered before.

In this article, we will go over the various indoor climbing holds, how to approach and hold on to them, and what you should know about your center of gravity while rock climbing. Once you learn how to grip different rock climbing holds, you will be much more comfortable on the wall and easily move past beginner rock climbs into early intermediate routes.

Although this article will focus on indoor rock climbing holds, these skills are transferable to outdoor climbing as well. Once you know how to recognize and respond to different holds, you will be prepared for many different types of climbing, including sport climbing, bouldering, and top rock climbing, indoors and out.

The Five Main Types of Rock Climbing Holds

Jugs

The easiest rock climbing hold for beginners to use is the jug. These holds have large, ergonomic shapes that you can grip with your whole hand. They will typically look like a large pocket at the top, big enough to put all four fingers in. For extra stability, I hold these with my thumb out to the side, as pictured below, although you can also keep it flush against your forefinger.

With jugs, as well as the rest of the basic climbing holds in this first list, it is easiest to hold on when your center of gravity is below the hold. Pulling yourself up to the hold employs the bicep and tricep, and you can continue to use the hold once your center of mass changes. Pulling on the hold will keep your weight close to the wall and help you stand up, and pushing off the hold from above (in a move called a “mantle”) provides extra height for reaching the next hold.

Photo by Bastien Plu on Unsplash

Crimps (and Edges and Chips)

The next most common rock climbing hold is the crimp. Crimps are small holds that have a thin ledge only big enough for the pads of your fingers. Edges are similar holds with less-defined lips to keep your fingers in place. Chips are even tinier holds that you see used mostly as foot holds and in advanced climbing routes. These are also easily the most common holds you will find outdoors on a guided rock climbing tour.

These tiny holds are hard for beginner climbers because they require a lot of finger and hand muscles that, prior to climbing, I hadn’t developed. Sometimes you will only be able to fit a couple of fingers on these holds, and this will stress your tendons. Crimps are the reason it is important to stretch your fingers and wrists before climbing. With these holds, they are almost exclusively usable from below. When reaching for a crimp, remember to move your hips and adjust your body weight accordingly. Keep your wrist straight to avoid injury and use your shoulder and elbow to maneuver into the necessary position.

There are three different ways to grip a crimp. An open hand position, in which the tips of your fingers stay above the other knuckles is the safest to avoid injury. It is also often weaker until you develop these muscles. This is primarily useful for the sloper, another rock climbing hold we’ll get to soon. A closed crimp (shown below) tends to be the strongest position, but it is also the most stressful for the joints. Imagine making a fist, but uncurling the last knuckle. In this hand position, your fingertips are almost touching the top of your palm, and this can cause tendonitis if you are not careful. The most common hand position is the half-open hand, where your fingers wrap around an imaginary circular ladder rung.

Photo by Bastien Plu on Unsplash

Pinches

With a similar hand position as the crimp, pinches require you to keep your fingers mostly straight. Pinches can be horizontal, vertical, or somewhere in between. These are hard for beginner rock climbers, as they require hand and thumb strength that take time to develop.

Photo by Bastien Plu on Unsplash

Slopers (and Guppies)

Slopers are large rounded holds that, at first encounter, appear impossible to grab. These tricky rock climbing holds rely on friction more than strength. They also tend to make beginner climbers nervous because it is impossible to feel secure on a sloper. You grab a sloper with an open-hand grip similar to crimps, though you can spread your fingers and thumb out for better coverage. 

Slopers are one of the most important holds to consider body position and center of gravity. They are simply impossible to hold onto if you are in the wrong place. Read more about managing your center of gravity in our beginner’s rock climbing technique guide. Consider where your fingers are as a horizontal line, and keep your wrist and elbow perpendicular to that line. This will protect your tendons and joints from injury and provide the best opposite force to keep you on the climbing hold.

A guppy is similar to a sloper, except it works best when you grip it on the side. Whereas slopers have your palm facing the wall, guppies require you to turn your hand ninety degrees. It is easy to grab wrong at first, but you’ll find a sideways grip necessary to get the best friction.

Photo by Bastien Plu on Unsplash

Pockets

Pocket holds are sort of like jugs, but with the pocket facing forward. They also tend to be smaller, only big enough for a couple of fingers. Both of these factors make them a lot tougher for beginner climbers to manage.

Be sure to have a slow approach to a pocket. This is not a rock climbing hold you should grab from a dyno, as that is likely to cause jammed fingers. It is also important not to push yourself too much on a pocket. If you feel like you are injuring yourself trying to hold weight on two fingers, you probably are.

Photo by Bastien Plu on Unsplash

Top Three Secondary Climbing Movements

The Sidepull

There are three more basic climbing holds that you will likely encounter. These are distinguished by the movements required to use them. The first, the sidepull, is any hold out to the side of the route that is turned vertically. To hold a sidepull, put your arm parallel to the ground and employ core and tricep muscles to pull the arm toward you.

If you try to hold a sidepull from below, you will slip off the wall. Instead, rotate your hips and feet in order to turn toward the sidepull and create more opposite action. It is this tension that keeps you on the wall. You’ll see this is true for the last two holds as well. Because it is more about the movement, sidepulls can technically be any hold, but they are most likely either edges or pinches.

Photo by Bastien Plu on Unsplash

The Gaston

Now that you can visualize a sidepull, the gaston is this in reverse. It is again most likely to be a crimp, pinch, or sloper-type hold. You will have the same sideways-facing hold but positioned closer to the center of the route, where your body is. As a result, the gaston requires climbers to push down or outward away from the body with a fully bent elbow. Similar to the sidepull, it is essential to manage your center of gravity and align your arm perpendicular to the climbing hold.

This is one of the hardest rock climbing holds because it is one of the few that relies on pushing away rather than pulling toward. Depending on the angle, this mechanism can stress the shoulder. The gaston is the most common cause of a shoulder injury, specifically rotor cuff injury, among climbers.

Photo by Bastien Plu on Unsplash

The Undercling

The final rock climbing hold you need to know is the undercling. This will look like a jug but upside down. Underclings are most often found as starting holds and at the base of overhangs. Underclings are another not-particularly intuitive hold for beginner rock climbers. To use one, you need to balance on your foot holds and use the undercling to pull up and keep yourself close to the wall. If you find an undercling in the middle of a route, you will need to lean away from the wall (as shown below) in order to get a good grip on it and not slip off.

Photo by Bastien Plu on Unsplash

Now that you know the different types of indoor rock climbing holds, you can head to the gym and get some hands-on experience. Before you jump on the wall, stretch your arms and look at the route. Examining the holds and envisioning how you will approach them will help you spend less time on the wall getting tired. Be sure to check out our overview of the beginner rock climbing gear you will need, and you will be all set. Happy climbing!

How to Recognize Early Signs of Altitude Sickness

Are you hoping to hike one of Colorado’s famous fourteeners? There are quite a few beautiful and rewarding 14ers around Colorado Springs, and for beginners, we’ve got a list of the easiest 14ers in Colorado to help you start your mountaineering journey. Before you get on the trail, though, you should learn how to recognize altitude sickness in order to stay safe on the mountain.

Photo by Manish Baral on Unsplash

What Is Altitude Sickness?

What causes altitude sickness? 

At higher altitudes, the pressure in the atmosphere is lower, meaning every breath contains less oxygen. At sea level, the air is about 21% oxygen. But at 8,000 feet, it’s about 15%. As a result, you will experience less oxygenation throughout your body, which is called hypoxia. While lowered oxygenation happens to everyone (who doesn’t carry an oxygen tank), some people experience symptoms more quickly and more severely than others.

How high do you have to hike to get altitude sickness? 

There is no one number that applies to everyone, and it can also depend on environmental factors like humidity and temperature. However, it is possible to get altitude sickness as low as 8,000 feet above sea level. Colorado residents will surely have an easier time, as Colorado Springs is around 6,000 feet. However, you can still be susceptible to altitude sickness at high elevations and over longer periods of time.

How quickly can you get hypoxia?

The likelihood of developing symptoms depends on elevation, rate of ascent, and duration of exposure. It is much easier on the body to hike to elevation for only a day trip. If you sleep at altitude and stay for extended amounts of time, the potential for symptoms gets much higher. It is also dangerous to ascend too quickly. If you are flying into Colorado to hike a 14er, you should wait a couple of days to acclimate to the elevation before beginning your trip.

Photo by Mael BALLAND on Unsplash

What are the symptoms of altitude sickness?

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)

AMS is the most common and mildest form of altitude sickness. The most recognizable symptoms of hypoxia are dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, headaches, extreme fatigue and weakness, mental confusion, and cyanosis (blue lips). More severe symptoms include loss of balance and coordination, vomiting, persistent cough, and rapid pulse.

Some of these early symptoms of altitude sickness, like shortness of breath and fatigue, can be hard to notice. After all, you are hiking a mountain. It is best to take frequent water breaks and see if you can catch your breath. Hopefully, this is not your first extended hike, and you will know when you are tired from exercising versus experiencing something more severe. 

Severe Altitude Sickness

The two more serious varieties of altitude sickness, High-Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) and High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), are very severe and can be fatal. Early symptoms of cerebral edema, or swelling of the brain, are fever, altered mental state, confusion, loss of consciousness, and ataxia (poor muscle control). Early signs of pulmonary edema (where the air sacs in the lungs fill with fluid) include chest tightness, cyanosis, persistent cough, and difficulty breathing even when resting.

One thing to keep in mind with altitude sickness generally is that a symptom like mental confusion can make it hard for someone to properly identify their own condition. HACE can develop within a matter of hours, and someone might say they are okay even when they are clearly not. It is important to be able to recognize these symptoms in your fellow hikers when they may not recognize them in themselves. If you are wondering if it is safe to hike a 14er alone, it is for this reason that it is not recommended.

Can you prevent altitude sickness?

Stay Hydrated and Eat Carbs

Drink a ton of water. In addition to less oxygen at elevation, the air is also drier. Some symptoms of dehydration can seem like altitude sickness, so do yourself a favor and stay well hydrated. You will also want to have a high-carb diet while you acclimate. This will give your body the energy it needs for exercise so you do not exacerbate symptoms. 

Pace yourself

Remember to start gradually and let your body dictate the speed. Hiking a 14er is a marathon, not a sprint. If possible, you should train at altitude. Spend a few days on shorter hikes in the area before attempting the big fourteener. This training will help immensely for you to get used to the lower oxygen level.

Plan to Acclimate Properly

As noted, you should not ascend too rapidly. If you are a resident of Colorful Colorado planning a day hike of a fourteener, you should be good to go. If you are visiting from out of state, do not attempt a hike to altitude on your first or second day. Make sure you acclimate to the elevation and feel healthy before you hit the trail.

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How can you treat altitude sickness?

If someone is experiencing mild symptoms of acute mountain sickness, you should set camp for the day and wait at least 24 hours before increasing elevation. At this time, it is important to avoid drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. Make sure you drink enough water and limit exercise and activity. With AMS, your body will be able to recover if given enough time (12-48 hours). If you ignore symptoms, though, and keep gaining elevation, you can make symptoms much worse.

If you think someone is experiencing more serious signs of altitude sickness, especially signs of HAPE or HACE, you need to descend to a lower elevation immediately. It is recommended to go at least 500 meters (1,600 feet) lower and then reassess. If available, treat the person with bottled oxygen and bring them to a hospital as soon as possible.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to prevent, recognize, and treat early signs of altitude sickness, you can feel confident getting on the trail. Hiking, especially around Colorado Springs, is an amazing way to see panoramic views of the mountain, spot interesting wildlife, and connect with nature. If you are looking for a little more tutelage as you get started, consider a guided hiking tour with a professional instructor.

Free (and Cheap) Events in Colorado Springs – Winter 2022-23

Looking for some fun events this winter? There’s always plenty to do in and around Colorado Springs. From outdoor recreation to holiday celebrations to arts and crafts, we have activities for everyone. Before it gets too cold to enjoy the outdoors, be sure to check out some of these exciting free events near Colorado Springs.

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Winter Races Near Colorado Springs

Timeless Turkey Trot Prediction Run

Where: Iron Horse Park, 6151 Elwell Street, Fort Carson

When: Saturday, November 5, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM 

Reserve your free spot: Eventbrite

Just south of Colorado Springs in the spacious Iron Horse Park, this race is a fun variation of a standard 5k. The course is not revealed until the day of the race, and when you arrive to register, you have the opportunity to predict your time. The top ten racers who come closest to their predictions will win a prize.

The race starts at 9:30 am, and prize winners are announced at 11:40 am. While you are waiting for the announcement, you can enjoy local vendors selling merch, food, and beverages. Strollers and leashed dogs are allowed, so be sure to bring the whole family. 

Veterans Day 5k

Where: Goat Patch Brewing Company, 2727 North Cascade Avenue, Colorado Springs

When: Saturday, November 12, 10:00 AM 

Buy your ticket: $35, Eventbrite

Offered by the Colorado Brewing Running Series, this 5k starts and ends at Goat Patch Brewing. No matter whether you walk or run the course, you will get a free craft beer at the finish line. And you don’t need to be 21 to participate: underage runners will receive a free non-alcoholic beverage at the end of the race. 

Your ticket gets you into the event where you can enjoy live music, food trucks, and local vendors. You are also supporting a good cause as 10% of all proceeds go to local Colorado nonprofits that support the community.

Free Arts and Crafts Fairs

Black Forest Arts and Crafts Guild Fall Show and Sale

Where: 12530 Black Forest Rd, Black Forest

When: Wednesday, November 2, 4:00 – 7:00 PM; Thursday – Saturday 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM; Sunday, November 6, 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM  

No tickets needed.

Entry is free into this arts and crafts show. This Northwest Colorado Springs neighborhood event offers an amazing array of beautiful, handcrafted goods. The guild is open to all Black Forest residents and promotes fine arts, decorative arts and crafts, and culinary arts. This free Colorado Springs event is a great place to appreciate the local art scene and find holiday presents sure to amaze your loved ones.

Holiday Craft Fair

Where: Cheyenne Mountain High School, 1200 Cresta Road, Colorado Springs

When: Saturday, December 3, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Reserve your free spot: Eventbrite

This holiday craft fair is an event not to be missed. It has free admission, free parking, and a free shuttle from the parking lot to the venue. There are 140 vendors all selling handmade crafts and delicious goodies as part of a “Taste of the Holidays” bake sale. This conveniently located Southwest Colorado Springs event will give you ample opportunities to get holiday presents for your loved one and enjoy the atmosphere of a community fair.

Winter Events for Families and Kids

10th Annual Noche de los Muertos

Where: Rockledge Lodge/SunMountain Center, 328 El Paso Blvd, Manitou Springs

When: Wednesday, November 2, 5:00 PM

Get tickets: $35, Eventbrite

This unique cultural event includes live music and dance performances, an authentic Mexican dinner (included in the ticket price), and a Dia de Los Muertos-inspired altar (called an ofrenda) to honor loved ones who have passed on. This event also supports a good cause, as it is held by the Smokebrush Foundation for the Arts. This is a great place to bring the kids for a night of entertainment and exposure to Mexican culture.

Junior Ranger Walk Garden of the Gods

Where: Red Rocks Room, Garden of the Gods, 1805 N. 30th St., Colorado Springs

When: Tuesday, November 8, 3:00 – 4:00 pm

Register here.

If you are searching for a family-friendly idea for the little ones, Garden of the Gods regularly offers Junior Ranger Walks at the park. Get the kids excited about wildlife and nature on this one or two-mile hike around the park. Tickets are $5 per child and free for accompanying adults. Get the kids off the couch to see one of the most beautiful sites Colorado Springs has to offer.

Skate in Acadia Park

Where: Acacia Park, 115 E Platte Ave, Colorado Springs

When: Opening Day is Friday, November 11, 4:00 pm 

Tickets ($10 includes skates) are available only at the rink.

This event is not quite free, but it’s such a great opportunity for the kids that we couldn’t skip it. The beautiful Acadia Park in downtown Colorado Springs has an ice rink available from November 11 through January 31. If your little one has a birthday in the winter, the Acadia Park ice rink makes for one of the best party ideas in Colorado Springs.

There are also tons of events through the winter including Skating with the Air Force Falcons Men’s Hockey Team (Sat, Dec 10, 4:00 – 6:00 pm) and Learning to Skate with US Figure Skating (Sat, Dec 17, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm). Another great event for teens is Glow Night (Friday, December 16, 7:00 – 9:00 pm). Check their website for more event information.

Annual Christmas Tree Lighting

Where: Outlets at Castle Rock, 5050 Factory Shops Boulevard, Suite 340, Castle Rock

When: Saturday, November 12, 4:00 PM

Get tickets: Eventbrite

Who doesn’t love a tree-lighting ceremony? Ring in the holiday with a joyous celebration and display of a sparkling Christmas tree. There will be a Santa available for photo opportunities with the little ones and a performance by the Denver Broncos cheerleaders that the whole family will enjoy. Beer, wine, and hot chocolate are for sale, as well as plenty of holiday shopping at the outlets.

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Free Events to Explore Colorado Springs 

First Friday ArtWalk

Where: See the stops here.

When: Friday, November 4 (offered the first Friday of each month April through December)

No tickets needed.

Offered the first Friday of each month, the Colorado Springs ArtWalk is a great way to explore your neighborhood and see the incredible diversity of our local art scene. This free walk spans downtown Colorado Springs, Old Colorado City, and Manitou Springs. There are live demonstrations and a shuttle to help you get around to the stops more easily. You will see public street art, exquisite sculptures, and architecture, and get to walk through some of the city’s best art galleries. 

CONO Winter Block Party

Where: Sunshine Studios Live, 3970 Clear View Frontage Road, Colorado Springs

When: Tuesday, December 6, 5:30 – 8:00 PM 

Reserve your free spot: Eventbrite

If you are looking to make connections with friendly neighbors, you should check out all the block parties hosted by the Colorado Springs Council of Neighbors and Organizations. This Tuesday night event in Southeast Colorado Springs offers free entry, a cash bar, live music, and a cocktail social hour.

Colorado Springs has so much to offer. It’s no wonder it is a popular tourist destination and an up-and-coming city bringing new residents. While adventuring around town, be sure to check out the accessible public transportation options to make your travel easier. Once you have explored some of these fun free events in Colorado Springs, you will likely want to add some outdoor recreation to your plans. Before it gets too cold, enjoy a guided tour of some of the best hiking spots Colorado has to offer.

Rock Climbing Techniques: A Beginner’s Guide

If you are wondering how to get into rock climbing, there is no wrong way to go about it. You can take a class at your local gym, try a guided rock climbing tour, or try it out with a friend and get some hands-on experience. 

It is admirable to learn something new, and rock climbing is a rewarding activity. It builds self-esteem, provides instant gratification, and exercises your full body. Still, it is always hard to get used to new movements, so we’ve prepared some helpful rock climbing techniques for beginners just starting out with the sport.

Photo by Tommy Lisbin on Unsplash

Before You Climb

Stretch

The most important thing to do, both before and after rock climbing, is to stretch. Be sure to stretch your fingers, wrists, and shoulders. You want to stay loose to avoid over-gripping the wall and tiring out quickly. I often stretch between climbs, too, once my muscles are warmed up and again when I am starting to feel tense. Keep your muscles relaxed as much as possible, and you will have an easier climb.

Plan Your Route

When rock climbing in an indoor gym, there will be color-coded routes to guide you. You can find beginner routes around 5.5 – 5.9 for top rope or V0 – V3 for bouldering. Before you jump right on the wall, take a moment to look at the route. You can climb with your eyes, and you should continue this practice as you move up the wall. Look at each hold and the movements between holds. Is that a right hand or a left? Is there a foothold to help boost you up?

Rock climbing routes are placed with intention. There may be multiple ways to do it, but there is likely one way the route setter intended. Understanding their plan will help you complete the route more efficiently and save time and energy. Plan out the climb before you start so you can go in with confidence. As for transitioning to outdoor climbing, there will not be set holds, but it is still important to look at the route before you begin and try to plan your movements.

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On the Wall – Rock Climbing Technique Tips

Move Your Feet As Much As Your Hands

Beginner rock climbers tend to think climbing is a sport of upper body strength. They forget that they can (and need to) move their feet, too. A good way to use your arm muscles less is to remember that you have other options!

Imagine climbing a ladder. You can stretch your arms to their full extension to reach the highest possible rung, or you can move your feet up and reach that same rung much more easily.

My rule is that you should move your feet just as often as your hands. Alternate hand, foot, hand, foot, if the climb allows for it. This will keep you from overusing your arms and getting tired more quickly.

Hang on Your Skeleton

Another way to avoid burning your arms out too quickly is to use your skeleton more. You can hang with straight arms to give your biceps a rest on the wall. You should pay attention to how your body feels on the wall. Maybe there are spots you can balance and don’t need to use too much upper body strength at all.

Control Your Center of Gravity

When you are on a climb, play around with where your body weight is. Pull your body closer to the wall, or relax your weight lower on bent knees. You will notice that it makes a big difference. When you are farther away from the wall, you will feel that it requires more arm strength to stay on the holds. Learning to recognize where your center of gravity is and how it affects your grip and endurance on a route will help massively while rock climbing.

Rotate Your Hips

In the same vein, be sure to move your hips while climbing. You can redirect your weight in order to reach the next handhold more easily. Sometimes you will want your hips facing the wall. Other times, your will need to put one hip into the wall in order to bend your knees and reach a higher foothold.

Take a Rest

Sometimes there are nice handholds or balance-dependent footholds that make for good break spots. There is no shame in taking a rest on the wall, and when you find a place to do it, take it. You can shake your arms out, stretch, or chalk up. A small, minute-long break can give you that extra ounce of energy to get you to the end.

Photo by Tommy Lisbin on Unsplash

After Your Climb

Review What You Did

The best way to learn to be a better climber is to take a moment after each climb to go over what you did. Were there parts where you had to backtrack or switch hands? It’s possible that you did not complete the route as efficiently as possible. Was there a move that felt too hard or too much of a stretch? It’s possible that you missed a small foothold or a handhold around the corner of the route.

Practice the Same Route

You do not necessarily need to forget about a route the second you send it (“ascend,” or climb without falling). You can climb the same route again and again until you feel confident on each hold and smooth and precise in each movement. As you become accustomed to the most efficient route, you will be able to focus more on your center of gravity, breathing, proper positioning of your feet, and moving with intention between holds.

Stretch Again

For the first few weeks after you begin rock climbing, your forearms will hurt. Everyone goes through this. Continuing to stretch daily will protect you from injuries like tendonitis and make sure your muscles develop in a healthy way.

These beginner rock climbing tips apply equally to bouldering or top rope climbing and indoor or outdoor climbing. If you are looking to get into bouldering, it will also be important to learn to fall safely. In order to be safe while bouldering outdoors, be sure to use a crash pad and have a spotter. If you are planning to head outdoors, make sure you have the proper outdoor climbing safety equipment.

How to Keep Your Feet Warm While Hiking

If you are hoping to hit the trails this winter, you will need to know how to keep your feet warm while hiking. With treacherous temperatures and feet of snowfall not uncommon in the area, warm boots and warm socks are essential pieces of hiking gear here in Colorado. 


We’ve got some of the best fall hikes near Colorado Springs, so let’s dive into the proper gear for your feet and tips for keeping warm so you can get out there and enjoy.

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Gear Necessities for Staying Warm on a Hike

Sock Strategy for Cold-Weather Hiking

In order to keep your feet happy and warm on a hike, you need to wear multiple layers and consider all factors. The first and most important way to keep your feet warm is to keep them dry. Therefore, a moisture-wicking base layer needs to be the first thing you put on your feet. These thin moisture-wicking socks will keep your feet dry no matter how sweaty they get. 

The second layer is insulation. You can wear thick wool socks, which come in different weights (lightweight, midweight, or heavyweight) depending on how cold you are anticipating temperatures will go. If you own insulated hiking boots, these can be worn with just a thinner lightweight wool sock. 

When you are purchasing insulating socks for hiking, there are a few things to keep in mind. In terms of comfort, you want to find socks that fit a little looser. This will help them fit well over your moisture-wicking layer and make sure that your feet are not being squeezed at all. In terms of value, investing in quality socks will definitely make your life easier in the long run. Wool socks tend to be expensive, but they are the best option here as cotton holds moisture and does not insulate as well for the same thickness. 

The Best Boots for Cold-Weather Hiking

The final layer is the boot, and its main job is protection. A good hiking boot protects you from all sorts of injuries, rolling an ankle, stepping on something sharp, and hopefully, preventing frostbite. As noted, insulated hiking boots are a great option for folks who often hike in colder weather or find themselves standing around a lot while on a hike. 

Another must for Colorado hikers is waterproof hiking boots. Many people do not like their boots to be waterproof because it limits breathability. However, if you are hiking in winter or changing elevation substantially, there is a good chance you will come across snow. There is nothing worse than getting your boots wet, from rainy weather or a water crossing, when you are on a hike. If your feet do not have time to dry, you will be risking frostbite, blisters, and surely general discomfort. Even having snow land on your boot can be dangerous, as your body heat will melt it and allow the water to seep in through the tongue. On a very cold day, you could watch your boots freeze up, thus ending your hike.

You may wonder how to fit multiple pairs of thick socks in your hiking boots. When hiking in cold weather, you need to size up on boots. This will allow room for the socks without compressing your feet. You should aim to be able to wiggle your toes in the boots. If you do go for insulated hiking boots, the sizing will understandably vary as well, so it is helpful to go to a physical store to figure out what size will work for you. 

Tips and Tricks for Keeping Your Feet Warm While Hiking

Be Prepared: Watch the Weather

Before you head out on your cold-weather hike, be sure to check the weather and trail conditions. It is easy to learn how to check trail conditions for hiking safety, and it will save you a disappointing and potentially dangerous hike. 

What to Pack to Keep Your Feet Warm

In addition to the warm socks and warm hiking boots already discussed, there are a few specific items that should go in your daypack for your feet. It is always a good practice to have a first aid kit, a blister kit, and in winter weather, chemical warmers for your hands and feet. These will allow you to warm back up in an emergency. You could also consider getting thermal insoles to redirect your body heat back up if you do not have insulated boots. Finally, you should always pack an extra pair of socks: you never know when you will need them, and at the very least, putting on clean socks at the end of the day will be a great reward for your hard work.

Don’t Put Your Boots On Too Early


It is always good to have a second pair of shoes, in case of emergency and for comfort in the car or at the campsite. When you are getting ready for your hike, changing into your boots should be one of the last things you do. This way, your feet will not get sweaty in those waterproof boots before you even get going. 

Don’t Lace Your Hiking Boots Too Tight

The reason that it is so important to have enough wiggle room in your shoes, literally, is because compressing your feet can lead to frostbite. When you are cold, the blood vessels closest to the skin and out in your limbs constrict in order to keep your core at the proper temperature. If you were to tie your shoes too tight, you are only further cutting off blood flow. This will make your feet feel colder sooner, and it can worsen symptoms of frostbite. 

Keep Your Core Warm

This feels obvious, but because your body prioritizes core temperature, your feet will be the first to get cold if you aren’t dressed warmly enough. Therefore, one of the best ways to ensure your feet stay warm while hiking is to make sure the rest of you stays warm, too.  

Get Your Feet off the Ground

The cold, hard ground is going to be one of the coldest places you can step. Even in the snow, the reflection of the sun’s rays makes the ground slightly warmer. When you take a water break or rest on your hike, try to stand on a rock or a tree trunk instead of the ground below. You will find the ground saps the heat from your idle feet faster than anything else.

Always Be Willing to Turn Around

One of the best winter hiking tips (that I believe is applicable year-round) is to always be willing to turn around. If you feel yourself getting too cold, if the trail conditions have changed, or if the weather is taking a turn for the worse, you should head back. The risk of frostbite or other injuries is not worth it.

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How to Warm Your Feet Back Up After Hiking

Get Dry

As keeping your feet dry is one of the most important tips for staying warm, it should be obvious that drying your feet off would be the first step for warming back up if your feet do get cold while hiking. Let your feet air dry for twenty minutes before putting warm socks on. This will make sure your skin is thoroughly dry to prevent blisters. This is especially true if you got your feet wet from something more than sweat, say wading through a river or hiking in a rainstorm.

It can be hard to let your feet dry out properly if it is cold outside. You can dry them off with a towel and then cover them loosely in a blanket or sit inside your tent. This will give them a little space to dry off without getting too cold in the process. 

Go Slow

One thing people often do is try to warm up too quickly. It is tempting to jump in a hot bath when you are cold, but if your toes are cold to the bone, it is not a good idea to try to warm up too quickly. If you’ve done it before, you know it is very painful. The transition from very cold to even tepid can be painful and actually harmful to your vascular system, sending cold blood to the heart.

Rather than shock your system with a quick transition, you can reacclimate to the warmth slowly. If you are camping and building a fire, take a seat far away and get closer as you warm up. Let your feet tell you if you get too close too fast. If you want to warm up with water, make sure you start with colder water and warm it up slowly with your feet.

Skin-to-Skin Contact

The best way to warm up cold feet is with skin-to-skin contact. Use your hands or thighs (sitting cross-legged) to warm your ankles and feet. If your skin is truly frozen, you should not massage or rub it as you can break the skin, but just hold it there to let heat transfer. Or, even better, if there is someone with you who can help, warm breath and skin-to-skin contact with someone else’s warmer body areas like the torso, thighs, and armpits are quick ways to safely warm skin.

If you are looking for some fun and rewarding hiking destinations this season, check out our Guided Hikes near Colorado Springs. You will get expert advice from a certified guide and plenty more real-world experience hiking in the great outdoors in colder weather. 

How to Clean Your Sleeping Bag

A sleeping bag is a vital piece of equipment for anyone who ventures into the outdoors, especially since it’s part of the essential gear you need for camping. But it can also be a spendy investment. Maintaining, storing, and washing your sleeping bag is essential to get the most use out of it. We’ve compiled all the information you need below to help you clean your sleeping bag. 

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General Care

Sleeping bags should not need washing for many years when properly tended to. The best way to prolong the time between washes is to take good care of your sleeping bag in the first place. Some tips to help maintain cleanliness include:

  • You get what you put in: Keep a clean pair of clothes to sleep in. Try to keep yourself clean as well. That means removing oil, dirt, sunscreen, and bug spray that can permeate into the bag. The cleaner the items are in the bag (you), the greater likelihood your sleeping bag will stay clean too.
  • Liner: A sleeping bag liner is a single-layer enclosed sheet you sleep in inside your bag. The liner serves as a barrier between your body and the bag. It should be easy to remove and should be washed regularly. Liners are slipped inside a bag, not attached.
  • Off the floor: Keeping your bag off of the ground will help keep dirt, pine needles, and other debris out and off of your bag. This does not include your sleeping pad which serves as a barrier between your bag and the ground.
  • Dry it out: Lay your sleeping bag to dry the day after every use. Our bodies produce moisture that gets trapped in our bags from our breathing, sweat, or the environment’s humidity. When camping, try to find a dry spot on a tarp or maybe over a clean log and give the material a chance to dry and breathe. Laying out your sleeping bag prevents mold from forming in your bag.

Be Gentle

Treat your bag with care. Take your time with zippers, gently put the sleeping bag away, and mind where you place them. Most bags are best stored loosely in a well-vented bag or hanging environment. Compression stuff sacs are helpful for compact travel but are not recommended for long-term storage as they compress the material and wear down the fill. Over time, this compression ultimately impacts your bag’s warmth and comfort. Additionally, tight storage can trap smells and moisture, leaving you with a pleasant experience the next time you use it!

Washing

The first factor to consider when cleaning your sleeping bag is how much of your sleeping bag needs cleaning. The second factor to consider is whether you have a down or synthetic bag. The third is whether you have access to a machine wash or if you will need to hand wash. Consider a total wash if you notice a general browning color, overall grime, or an overall smell. For smaller messes or stains, simple spot treatment of the impacted area is fast and effective. 

Spot Cleaning

Often, only a few areas of a sleeping bag need cleaning. To spot clean, use a gentle soap mixed with water and lightly brush or rub the dirty area with the cleaning solution. Do your best to keep the cleaning solution on the exterior material only and not saturate the bag’s fill. Once you have spent some time cleaning, wipe the spot with a wet cloth and leave it to dry.

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Full Wash

Most new sleeping bags come with wash instructions which you can find on the tag. This is the best method to follow when cleaning your bag. If there are no instructions, consider the following techniques and remember that no matter the form, cleaning your sleeping bag takes time and patience:

Machine Wash

  • Device: The best way to machine wash a sleeping bag is to use a front-loading washing machine. Do not use a top loader, as the bag may become damaged and tangled around the center bar. If you do not have access to such as machine, consider going to a laundromat.
  • Soap: If you are machine washing a down sleeping bag, use special soap that is friendly on down material. If your fill is synthetic, you can use a regular detergent, but a technical gear-specific detergent will be best. Nikwax makes different detergents for both down and synthetic fill.
  • Means: Some suggest fully unzipping your bag before loading it into the washing machine, so the upper doesn’t pull apart or catch in the wash. Another option is to turn your bag inside out with the zipper fully closed. Wash your sleeping bag in warm water on a gentle cycle. The sleeping bag may need two or more rinse cycles. It is ready to dry if the bag is wet but not holding large amounts of water. Then be sure to gently squeeze any excess moisture out of the bag as you remove it from the wash.
  • Drying: Use a large dryer if possible; the more room in the dryer, the better the fill can expand when drying. Synthetics will often dry faster. Bags with down fill may take several drying cycles. Set the dryer to tumble on a low heat setting. Consider using tennis balls or other dryer aids to break up condensed pockets of fill towards the end of the cycle or when it is mostly dry.

Hand Wash

  • Device: Fill your bathtub or a similarly large tub with warm or cool water.
  • Soap: Use the same material-specific soap listed above and read the instructions for the recommended amount. When hand washing, it can be more difficult to rinse the soap out, so starting with a smaller amount than recommended may be beneficial, and slowly adding more as you go.
  • Means: Lay the bag in the water and gently rub and massage the bag. Next, soak the bag for around thirty minutes or until it is fully saturated. Rinse your bag with clean water (you may do this multiple times) until the soap is out. Before hanging to dry, gently squeeze excess water out of the bag. It can be helpful to work from one end to the other squeezing section by section.
  • Drying: Follow the directions above. If a dryer is unavailable, lay the sleeping bag on a clean surface or hang it up to dry. Use a location out of direct sunlight and with low humidity. Once it has started to dry, you may need to manually unclump or fluff the fill in your bag to ensure it dries thoroughly.

Final Thoughts

Have a new sleeping bag that you are excited to test out? Autumn is the ideal time to hike and then cozy up in your sleeping bag under the stars! For some spectacular colors and views, check out the best fall hikes near Colorado Springs. While it is safe to hike alone, if you are looking for some expertise, guided hikes through Broadmoor Outfitters are a perfect way to learn about and get familiar with a new area or trail.