I admit it, I kind of love organizing and packing for a trip. I like getting my bag out and making a list of all the stuff I want to take. There’s satisfaction in not overpacking and bringing just the right amount.
Packing for the Colorado Trail has been a whole new game. I’ve been on a supported backpacking trip in Peru, where I only had to carry a day pack and porters carried everything else. I’ve also done lots of day hikes with a day pack. The Colorado Trail is the first time I’ve had to carry everything on my back. The only backpacking gear I already owned was my sleeping bag. I bought everything else on this list.
For my base pack weight, my priority was to go as light as possible. I did weeks of research on what “ultralight” meant in the backpacking world, trying to decide what to buy. How light can you go? What is my own personal balance between carrying as light a backpack as possible without sacrificing a minimum level of comfort?
Gear choice is completely personal. My best advice is to test out all of your gear, and your full pack weight, with as many practice hikes as possible before attempting your first backpacking trip. I learned this the hard way. I did practice hikes before I started the Colorado Trail but not with my full pack weight. Borrow and rent gear, or if you buy gear, make sure it’s from a store with a generous return policy.
This blog includes every piece of gear I started with plus the weight, why I picked each item, and what I ditched with a friend on day 3 to lighten my pack.
See my Colorado Trail Planning Guide for complete details about planning your own trip!
|Wearing or In Pockets||4 pounds|
|Basic Backpacking Gear||8.6 pounds|
|Kitchen Gear (with 2L water)||6.4 pounds|
|Gadgets and Tools||0.9 pounds|
Wearing or in Pockets – 4 Pounds
Shorts. Patagonia Happy Hike Shorts – Women’s, 9.4 ounces – I typically like to hike with stuff in my pockets including my cell phone. The plus about these shorts is that the front pockets are deep enough for my cell phone, AND they have a zipped rear pocket that also fits my cell phone. But while it’s great that these shorts are light and breathable, that also meant my cell phone was closer to my body. The touch screen and camera lens got sweaty. Next time, I’ll save the money on nifty hiking shorts, wear just some lightweight running shorts, and put my cell phone and other items in a shoulder pouch. That will keep my cell phone dry and camera-ready.
Tank top. Old Active Go-Dry Sports Tank, 2.8 ounces. Lightweight and comfortable.
Sports bra. 2.4 ounces – From Target.
Underwear. 1 ounce – From Target.
Socks. 1.3 ounces – From Target, like SmartWool.
Trail runners. The North Face Ultra 110 GTX Trail-Running Shoes – Women’s, 1.12 pounds – I don’t know why but I have a hard time finding a hiking boot that works for me. I wore Vasque hiking boots over a 24-mile, 3-day hike in Peru. My big toes got bruised and I lost the toenails. Since then, I’ve worn Adidas trail runners on day hikes because they’re so darn comfy. I wanted something sturdier for the Colorado Trail and bought these North Face trail runners. They were very comfortable, but over the course of 4 days and 40 miles, my right ankle and foot swelled (I didn’t twist it or injure it) and I was in a lot of pain. I had to bail out of my hike 3 days early. I suspect that trail runners didn’t provide enough support for the pack I was carrying. The search for the perfect hiking shoe continues!
Baseball cap. 3.3 ounces – From Target.
Knee wrap. 1.9 ounces – From Wal-Mart.
Knife. Gerber Paraframe I Knife, 4.8 ounces
Camera. GoPro HERO5 Black, 4.1 ounces – Ah, GoPro. Just about every other travel and outdoor blogger I’ve read uses the GoPro. I enthusiastically bounced out to my local REI and bought one for the Colorado Trail. In the midst of preparing for the trail, I didn’t take the time to learn how to use my it. I’ve used my smart phone as a camera for years and I love how easy it is to use. For a beginning blogger, unless you’re already a photography enthusiast and know how to use a digital camera, I recommend starting simple and using your smart phone for pictures on the trail.
Cell phone. Google Nexus 5x plus case, 5.6 ounces – As usual, my Nexus 5x is the best multi-purpose tool I carry on a hike (if you can keep it charged). Even without cell service, you can use your smart phone for GPS. In Google Maps, I downloaded a map of Colorado to my phone and enabled GPS, and the app worked for navigation without cell service. I also downloaded the Colorado Trail Hiker app before the hike, which also works without cell service. My Nexus 5x also ended up being my primary camera. A couple of nights at camp, I used the Kindle app to read a book.
Buff. 1.3 ounces – Another awesome multi-purpose item. I used my buff as a washcloth, a handkerchief, an eye mask for sleeping, and a hat.
Lip balm. Banana Boat SPF 45 Lip Balm, 0.4 ounces
Sunglasses. 0.8 ounces – Cheap ones from Target.
Basic Backpacking Gear – 8.6 Pounds
Backpack. Granite Gear Crown VC 60 Ki Pack – Women’s, 2 pounds – The first backpack I tested before the Colorado Trail was the Gregory Maven 55 Pack for women. My Gregory day pack is very comfortable. The Gregory Maven was also comfortable but felt a little bulky. The Maven weighs 4 pounds and has lots of compartments, including hip pouches. I returned the Maven and bought the Crown. The pro of the Crown is it only weighs 2 pounds, doesn’t feel bulky, and is very comfortable. What you gain in lightness, you lose in organization. The pack has no hip pouches or internal compartments. No matter what pack you choose, make sure you test the pack with the full weight you plan to carry before your backpacking trip.
Pack rain cover. REI Duck’s Back Rain Cover 60L, 6.1 ounces – Some packs come with a rain cover but the Crown didn’t. You can expect rain in the Rockies and this cover worked great with my Crown pack.
Tent. NEMO Hornet 1P Tent, 2 pounds – I bought and returned both the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 3 mtnGLO Tent and the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 Tent because they were bigger than I needed. The Hornet was just big enough for one person with room for my pack inside. I could sit up inside of the tent and it was incredibly easy to set up.
Sleeping pad. NEMO Tensor Field Insulated Sleeping Pad, 1 pound – This pad is easy to blow up and deflate. I’m a side sleeper and the Tensor Field provided just enough cushion for my hips.
Sleeping bag. REI Co-op Joule Sleeping Bag – Women’s, 2.2 pounds – The Joule has kept me warm in Peru and Colorado. I’m not crazy about mummy bags because they feel too constricting. I’m considering trying out a sleeping quilt instead which is roomier but still low in weight.
Hiking poles. Black Diamond Distance FLZ Women’s Trekking Poles – Pair, 15.5 ounces – I love these poles, particularly for descents. They also keep your hands elevated which helps prevent swelling.
Kitchen Gear – 6.4 Pounds
Utensil. Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spork – Long, .4 ounces – This spork works great for eating right out of your dehydrated food pouches. It comes with a carabiner and I hooked it to the outside of my pack.
Mug. GSI Outdoors Infinity Backpacker Mug, 3.5 ounces – I ended up ditching my camp stove, but not my coffee! I hung this mug outside of my pack.
Water filter. Sawyer Mini Water Filter, 2 ounces – This is a great filter with multiple options, particularly if you’re filtering water for one person. You can fill the squeeze pouch and filter water directly into your water bladder, or you can drink directly from the filter. You can also attach a straw to the filter and drink directly from a stream. The downside is that using the squeeze pouch to fill up a water bladder is more labor intensive than something like a gravity filter, which you can just hang up while you’re doing something else.
Water purification tablets. Potable Aqua Chlorine Dioxide Tablets, .7 ounces – It’s a good idea to bring some purification tablets in case something happens to your water filter.
Bear bags. Ursack S29.3 AllWhite Bear Bag and LOKSAK OPSAK Odor-Proof Barrier Bags – 12″” x 20″” – Package of 2, 9.4 ounces – I chose the Ursack and LOKSAK system because this seemed less bulky than a bear canister. I also wanted something more secure than hanging my food in a sack from a tree. The Ursack is the “bear proof” part of the system. LOKSAKs are odor-proof bags. I used one LOKSAK for my food and another LOKSAK for my toiletries and trash, and then put both bags inside of the Ursack at night. I still put the Ursack on a tree branch away from my camp by 10 feet or more. Each morning, the Ursack was right where I left it.
Water bladder. CamelBak 2 liter bladder (with water), 78 ounces – I’ve had this bladder for several years, and it chose day 3 of my Colorado Trail hike to spring a leak all over my backpack. Next time, I might put a bladder just inside the top of my pack instead of in the bladder sleeve, to reduce the risk of the bladder getting squished and leaking.
Water bottle. Nalgene Canteen 48 oz, 8 ounces (empty) – This is a space-saving, collapsible canteen that I filled up each night for camp.
Toiletries – 3.5 Pounds
Travel-sized tooth brush, tooth paste, and floss. 1.5 ounces
Trowel. GSI Outdoors Cathole Sanitation Trowel, 3.1 ounces
Toilet paper. 4.1 ounces – Don’t run out of toilet paper! I brought a whole roll.
Plastic bags. 2 ounces – For trowel and toilet paper.
First aid. Adventure Medical Kits UltraLight / Watertight .7 First-Aid Kit, Adventure Medical Kits Blister Medic II, KTape, extra Ibuprofen, mini tweezers, 13.1. ounces
Waterless body wash. No Rinse Body Wash, 5 ounces
Hand sanitizer. 2.2 ounces
Sunscreen. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen 100+ SPF, 7 ounces
Bug spray. Repel 100 Insect Repellent, 1.7 ounces – Travel sized.
Prescription glasses and sunglasses (with cases) and contacts (dailies, one pair each day). 13.1 ounces
Inhaler. 1.2 ounces – Just in case, as I used to have asthma.
Micro fiber towel. 4.2 ounces – For all of those luxurious soaks in the ice-cold Colorado rivers that I planned on taking but didn’t!
Clothes – 4.8 Pounds
Hiking pants. prAna Halle Pants, 12 ounces – These pants are water-resistant and convert to capri-length. I mostly used them in camp at night.
Rain jacket. REI Co-op Talusphere Rain Jacket – Women’s, 1.6 pounds – Lightweight and easy to stuff into your pack or in a pack side pocket.
Fleece. REI Co-op Activator Fleece Jacket – Women’s, 1.3 pounds – Fits nicely under my rain jacket.
Camp shoes. Crocs, 8 ounces – I doubt that I’ll ever go without some kind of sandal while backpacking. These Crocs worked great for walking through water and for shedding the heavier hiking shoes each night at camp.
Handkerchief. 0.5 ounces
Underwear. 1 pair, 1 ounce – From Target.
Socks. 1 pair, 1.3 ounces – From Target, like SmartWool.
Tank top. Old Active Go-Dry Sports Tank, 2.8 ounces
Compression stuff sack. 3 ounces
Packing cube. 2 ounces – I put clothes in my packing cube at night and used it as a sleep pillow.
Gadgets and Tools – 0.9 Pounds
Headlamp. Super Bright LED Headlamp, 4.5 ounces – With 3 AAA batteries. This was all the light I needed in camp at night.
Extra batteries. 1.5 ounces – For headlamp.
Whistle. Whistles for LIFE Tri-Power Whistle, 0.7 ounces – Hooked to the outside of my pack for easy access.
Notebook and pen. 3.4 ounces – I didn’t journal as much as I’d planned to. Next time, I’m thinking of ditching the notebook and pen, getting a folding mini-keyboard, and blogging from the trail.
Trail guide. Colorado Trail Databook, 3.7 ounces – I brought the whole book. Many hikers tear out the pages for just the segments they’re hiking. I chose not to do that because I thought it’d be too easy to lose the loose pages.
Straps. Redpoint Sport Wrap – Package of 2, 0.4 ounces – I used these velcro straps to hang my Crocs outside of my pack.
Electronics – 1.7 Pounds
Solar panel. Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus Solar Panel, 12.8 ounces – I relied heavily on my cell phone for navigation and as a camera, and needed a reliable way to recharge it. I wish I could say that the Nomad 7 worked out great, but it didn’t. I kept it hung it from my backpack while I hiked and left my cell phone plugged into it. When I stopped for breaks, I put the panel in full, direct sun but it did not charge at full power. I plan to return the Nomad 7 and try out another panel or charger.
Extra battery. GoPro Rechargeable Battery – HERO5 Black, 0.9 ounces
Tripod. AVAWO Mini Flexible Tripod, 13.2 ounces – The AVAWO has attachments for both the GoPro and a cell phone. The down side is it is a little tall and bulky. I had big plans to use this tripod with my GoPro for amazing shots, like I’ve seen in other blogs. I ended up using the tripod with my GoPro once, and not at all with my cell phone. Next time, I’ll either ditch a tripod altogether or find a smaller, more compact one that works with my cell phone.
Charging cables. 0.9 ounces – For my GoPro and cell phone.
Food – 5 Pounds
The most food I carried at one time is around 1 pound per day for 5 days. See Colorado Trail Food List.
Ditched – 11.7 Pounds
Charge pack. Goal Zero Venture 30 Recharger, 8.8 ounces – I fully charged the Venture 30 before my trip. But it seemed to lose its charge very quickly. I also had a hard time understanding what the light panel and different light combinations meant.
Footprint. NEMO Hornet 1P Footprint, 5.3 ounces – I didn’t use the footprint and personally don’t think you need one if you place your tent on high ground.
Cook system. Jetboil MiniMo Cooking System and Jetboil Jetpower 4-Season Fuel Blend, 230 Gram, 30 ounces – When it came to shedding weight, I had no qualms about discarding my cook system. I had only planned to use it for boiling water. I instead used cold water to rehydrate my oatmeal and dehydrated food packs, which worked just fine. I just poured cold water directly into my food bag and let it sit for about 30 minutes while I did something else around camp. I learned to love iced coffee!
Bear spray. Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Spray – 10.2 fl. oz, 15 ounces – Gear for self-defense and animals is a personal decision. I imagine I would have been really glad to have bear spray if I ran into a bear. On the other hand, the canister is one use only and heavy.
Counter Assault Bear Bell. 0.4 ounces – Does a bell ringing in the woods really keep a bear away? You decide!
Pepper spray. SABRE 3-IN-1 Pepper Spray, 0.8 ounces – Compact size with a clip, but the clip didn’t work great and kept falling off of my pocket. I decided my Gerber knife was all the protection I wanted to carry.
Wipes. Stall Mates (7 packets), 1.9 ounces – Do I really need waterless body wash AND antibacterial gel AND wipes? I decided the wipes weren’t necessary.
Mini nail clippers. 0.7 ounces – If you’re going on a shorter backpacking trip, just clip your nails before you go. Otherwise, I’d keep these for a longer thru-hike.
Down jacket, wool beanie, gloves, base layer top and bottom, camp socks. 2.7 pounds – Keeping extra layers for warmth really depends on the temperatures you’ll encounter and personal preference. I was plenty warm with the clothes I kept. If you get too cold, you can always just crawl into your sleeping bag.
Lighter. 0.8 ounces
Toothpicks. 0.1 ounces – Grass and twigs make great toothpicks. Besides, my toothpick kept getting lost in my pocket and poking holes in my shorts or me.
Shoulder pouch. Granite GearShoulder Strap Pocket, 9.6 ounces – I bought this strap pocket to compensate for the lack of hip pockets on my backpack. I felt like it got in the way more than anything.
Tent lantern. MPOWERD Luci EMRG Inflatable Solar Lantern, 2.8 ounces – I already had a headlamp and by the time it was fully dark at night, I was already asleep.
Stuff sack for clothes. REI Co-op Lightweight Compression Stuff Sack, 3 ounces – I didn’t need this stuff sack since I discarded a bunch of clothes.
Food. 4 pounds – I originally estimated 1.5 pounds of food per day, but ended up not needing nearly that much. See Colorado Trail Food List.
So that’s my complete Colorado Trail backpacking list for segments 1-5. I went as light as I possibly could for a week-long backpacking trip. I’m looking forward to seeing how I feel about this list the next time I head out.