Colorado's great outdoors are matched by a manufacturing sector that makes cutting-edge gear of all kinds for the trails, rivers, campgrounds, and peaks. The business plan typically revolves around quality over quantity, and direct-to-consumer models have changed the game for craft manufacturers. As the snowpack drips downhill, here are 10 of the state's standout gear manufacturers to help you get into the wild.
The Denver-based bicycle manufacturer uses carbon and titanium for its highly engineered frames. The company, founded by Ryan Cannizzaro in 2008, moved from Austin to Denver because of Colorado's cycling culture.
On the Mancos River in southwestern Colorado, Alpacka Raft is a first mover in the packraft space. The company makes boats that can handle varying degrees of whitewater, roll down to the size of a tent, and fit in a backpack -- and weigh less than six pounds.
Founder Aaron Martray started making ultralight backpacking gear for himself on his own backpacking expeditions, then started selling his Lakewood company's innovative sleeping bags, packs, and bivvys online to like-minded hikers all over the planet.
The venerable Steamboat Springs bicycle manufacturer was a first mover with titanium frames, and now is leading the pack with its rugged gravel bikes. Almost everything is done in-house: The company manufactures frames, dropouts, eyelets, and even the tools it uses to make the bikes.
For those who need a cooler tough enough to withstand pretty much anything the wilderness can throw at it, Boulder-based RovR makes premium products built to survive, with inflatable wheels and a wide range of options to make campsite cooking less of a chore.
In Montrose, Ross Reels is part of the Mayfly Group's triumvirate of fishing brands (along with Abel Reels and Charlton Reels) and a linchpin of the local manufacturing community since the 1970s. The company is continuing to lead the way with the Colorado Outdoors Project, a manufacturing hub and residential project Mayfly is building on the Uncompahgre River.
It's a familiar story: Husband-and-wife co-founders Kevin and Angela Timm started making tents for themselves, then went into the manufacturing business. Their Grand Junction company has since leveraged innovative designs and a deep local labor pool to make backpacks, tents, and camping stoves for the hunting and backpacking markets.
The handcrafted teardrop trailers made by the Grand Junction manufacturers are postcard-worthy, but their form is matched by function: Standard features include solar panels, LED lighting, memory-foam mattresses, and slick metalcraft and woodwork inside and out.
Brandon Waddy's Evergreen manufacturer has taken the market by storm with camping hammocks, an increasingly popular alternative to sleeping on the ground in a tent, and has since moved into related accessories like tarps and underquilts.
The Grand Junction-based company makes sleeping bags with trademarked Lamilite insulation developed by founder Jerry Wigutow. For those who need to keep warm in seriously frigid weather, this is just the stuff: Customers include police departments in Alaska and crew stationed at McMurdo Station in Antarctica.