In part one of my Colorado Trail Series, I introduced the 100-mile trip my mom, Bella, and I are planning next month and talked about our planning process. After deciding on our sections, schedules, and resupply and pick up points, the next step for me was to get my gear organized, updated, broken in and tested out. Bella and I embarked on a couple of backpacking trips this spring in warmer, desert areas to get our gear systems down and see if we needed to make changes. Keep reading to see our gear lists, and for tips on choosing the right gear for your needs.
To start, I’ve included my current packing lists for our trip. I’ve realized how important it is to create a concrete list and check through it before leaving for the trailhead. During one testing session, I forgot my sleeping pad at home (I was wondering how all of this extra space was magically existing in my pack before I left)!
Bella’s list includes the weight of her items. During our testing sessions, her pack weighed about 5.5-6 lbs total with all of her food and some water. Since Bella is about 58-60lbs, this is her ideal, day-one-on-the-trail-weight. She normally won’t carry water on the Colorado Trail, but this spring we were testing gear in desert areas with limited to no water. During one trip we had to pack in all of our water, so we only stayed for one night…water is heavy!
See Below for Full Pack Lists
Testing out the gear
After purchasing (look for sales at REI, as well as Sierra Trading Post) and also borrowing some new key items, we knew it was important to test our gear before taking on the Colorado Trail for two weeks. Because buying all new gear is expensive, I decided to borrow a tent from my dad who happens to own a wonderful, ultralight, single-person tent (Big Agnes’ Copper Spur UL 1). My husband and I only own a heavier, two-person backpacking tent, so I knew that I’d need to figure out an alternative. Setting up a new tent in the wilderness is different than setting it up in your backyard. For example, I discovered that I needed to purchase a few extra stakes to keep the rainfly from touching the sides of the tent and soaking through one particularly rainy overnight. Luckily, during this particular testing session, Bella and I were camping in the desert and we dried out quickly… but I knew that a longer trip in the high peaks would be different. I also needed to make sure Bella could fit in the smaller tent with me comfortably (she does, somewhat comfortably).
I decided to stick with my current pair of Asolo hiking boots, but there were other items that needed test out and become familiar with before a long trip. I mentioned in my last post that I purchased a new Gregory Deva pack, so I took some time figuring out how to adjust the fit and also load it up correctly and efficiently. I also upgraded my sleeping bag this year to a unique zipperless design by Sierra Designs that I had never tried before. I mentioned earlier that on one trip this spring I forgot my sleeping pad…this was especially unfortunate since my new sleeping bag is specifically designed to require a pad, in order to eliminate insulation on the bottom to save on weight and volume.
I discovered that weight adds up extremely quickly for a longer trip as compared to 1-2 nights, so I’d have to leave some luxuries behind. After researching the gear lists and suggestions of seasoned thru-hikers, it was obvious that there is an age-old conundrum for long distance backpackers who typically must choose between comfort and function vs. weight.
I spent a long time thinking about what was most important for me to have, allowing myself just a few heavier and bulkier items, such as my Melanzana pullover…I hate being cold. For Bella, her luxury items are her two coats: a rain jacket and insulating coat. If we were both cold and wet, it would be hard for us to enjoy our time on the trail, and we could potentially encounter stretches of cold, driving rain. Originally, I made Bella a modified children’s sleeping bag but determined it was just too heavy for such a long trip. I instead installed plastic snaps on a lightweight down quilt I already owned, and cut her sleeping weight in half.
As far as the weight Bella would carry, I decided to keep it to no more than 10% of her body weight….the lowest end of the recommended maximum for dogs. This means that I’d have to carry a few items for her, as well as possibly some of her food on the first day after resupply. I purchased a small scale to keep our pack weights in check, which was extremely helpful. You’d be surprised at just how heavy some items are! My mom and I will share a few items to save on weight, such as a first aid kit and stove.
At 56 Liters, my pack doesn’t have a ton of extra space, especially considering that I will be carrying some of Bella’s items. With a few items, such as Bella’s sleeping pad, I had to get creative. Even though her pad wasn’t that heavy, it took up valuable room, and I didn’t want a ton of items swinging around the outside of my pack. I swapped her special, dog-specific insulating pad for a thin foam mat from Gossamer Gear to save on some space. I also purchased some small straps to attach items such as my sleeping mat to the outside of my pack when I needed more room for food.
Another way to save on volume and weight when it came to Bella’s food was to combine quality, high-calorie kibble (saves volume) with nutrient-dense freeze dried dog food (saves weight). More on that in the next part of our series.
I was really surprised with how long it took me to figure out how to get my gear into my pack in a balanced and efficient way. The pack I chose has lots of places to organize and store gear, so I spent some time getting my system in place so I would know how to find and access everything. I also considered how conveniently I would need to access items while hiking and put those in the easiest to reach stash pouches. This will help me be a little faster when it comes to setting up and tearing down camp right out of the gate…my mom is an experienced thru-hiker, so I figured I’d need a little practice so that I wouldn’t get us too off schedule!
Full Pack Lists
|Rain/Wind Jacket||Ultimate Direction UL|
|Rain Pants||Mountain Hardwear|
|Insulating Layer||Patagonia Air Light|
|Leggings/Thermal||Fjallraven Trekking Tights|
|Base Layer||Smartwool long sleeve|
|Backpack Friendly Tank 1||Icebreaker|
|Backpack Friendly Tank 2 (Sleep)||Icebreaker 2|
|Sun Layer||Mountain Hardwear UV|
|Socks x3||Darn Tough|
|Bra x2||Smartwool Merino (1), Under Armor (1)|
|Underwear x3||Patagonia wicking|
|Warm Hat x2||Buff Merino Lightweight & Thermal|
|Gloves||Mountain Hardwear Black Windstopper|
|Sun Hat||Patagonia Trail Runner Yellow|
|Headband||Buff - Half Buff|
|Trekking Poles||Black Diamond|
The Big Four
|Sleeping Bag||Sierra Designs 20 degree|
|Tent||Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 1|
|Sleeping Mat||Thermarest ProLite Plus|
Food and Hydration
|Pack Bowl||Backpacker's Pantry (washtub)|
|Cup||Sea to Summit|
|Bowl||Sea to Summit|
|Spork||Snow Peak Titanium|
|Food for 4-5 days|
|H20 Bottle for tent/Camp||Nalgene|
|Bear Proof PM Storage||Ursack|
|Scent proof bags x2||Opsack|
|Sketchbook Kit||Moleskine, Winsor & Newton travel kit|
|Phone||iPhone 7 (for photos/emergency)|
|First Aid + Dog First Aid|
|Emergency H2O iodine tabs|
|Block charger & cord|
|Item||Brand||Weight||Who Carries It?|
|Pack||Groundbird Gear UL Rolltop size Regular||16 oz||Bella|
|Leash||Stunt Puppy Stunt Runner||8.3 oz||Bella/Human|
|Collar||Stunt Puppy Go Dog Glo Dry Collar||2.4 oz||Bella|
|Dog Buff||Buff||0.4 oz||Bella|
|Light||Ruffwear Beacon||1.76 oz||Bella|
|Rain/Wind Jacket||Ruffwear Aira||8.5 oz||Human|
|Cozy Layer||Ruffwear Powderhound w/ homemade stuff sack||7.5 oz||Bella|
|Sleeping Bag||Custom w/ homemade stuff sack||15.8 oz||Human|
|Sleeping Mat||Gossamer Gear Mat||2.4 oz||Human|
|H2O Bowl||Ruffwear Trail Runner Bowl||0.7 oz||Human (hipbelt pocket)|
|Food Bowl||Sea to Summit Bowl||2.5 oz||Bella|
|Trail Snacks||I and Love and You Super Smartie Hearties||2.5 oz||Bella|
|Food||Custom Mix... 4 Days Worth per Resupply||41.5 oz||Bella|
|Calorie supplement||Tucker's Carnibars x2 (split in half for 4 days)||7.1 oz||Bella|
|Joint Supplement||Canine Matrix MRM Mushroom Mix||0.5 oz||Bella|
|Digestive Supplement||In Clover Digestive||0.5 oz||Bella|
|First Aid Kit||Custom, Human + Canine||13 oz||Human|
|Pack Towel||Old human pack towel||1.5 oz||Bella|
|Poop Bag Roll||Earth Rated||1.1 oz||Bella|
|Water Bladder||Ruffwear||1.0 oz||Bella|
|Pack/Food Liners||OpSack Scent proof 10"x20" x2 (or freezer bags)||included with food||Bella|
|Boots||Dogbooties.com 500D Cordura x 4, w/ Freesole bottoms||1.7 oz||Bella|
|Pack cover||Ruffwear High and Dry||3.2 oz||Bella|
|Paw wax||Joshua Tree, in Goo Tube||2.4 oz||Bella|
|Trowel||(Shared with human, for burying waste)||4.5 oz||Human|
|Snood/ear warmer||Homemade||2.0 oz||Human|
|Dog Socks (to protect gear and borrowed tent from nails)||Ruffwear boot liners||0.9 oz||Bella|
|Tramadol HCL 50 mg *vet prescribed||Pain Killer||Bella|
|Carprofen Caps 100mg *vet prescribed||Anti-inflammatory||Bella|
|Alcohol Wipes||Wipe paws in case of heat stroke||Bella|
|Food-Grade 3% Hydrogen Peroxide||Induce vomiting in case of poisoning||Bella|
|Dosage cards||For Benadryl and hydrogen peroxide||Bella|
|Bandaids, assorted sizes||Small problems||Human|
|Butterfly Bandages||Small problems||Human|
|Loperamide HCl 2 mg||Anti-diarrheal||Human|
|Alka Seltzer, single pack||Antacid||Human|
|2nd Skin Blister Kit||Treat blisters||Human|
|eNZees foot soother||Prevents blisters/hot spot relief||Human|
|Duct Tape||Blisters, wrap outside of boot/bandaging to waterproof||Shared|
|Gloves||Keep wounds sterile, prevent disease transmission, wash gross things off of dog||Shared|
|Tweezers||Ticks, splinters, etc.||Shared|
|Terramycin||Antibiotic ophthalmic ointment (eyes)||Shared|
|Vet Wrap||Wrap bandages||Shared|
|Syringe||Administer hydrogen peroxide to dog, irrigate punctures||Shared|
|Similasan Saline Ampules||Eye/cut rinse||Shared|
|Sterile Saline Wipes||Clean cuts||Shared|
|Telfa Pads||Non-stick part of a Bandaid||Shared|
|Diphenhydramine HCl 25 mg||Antihistamine for allergic reactions or snake bites||Shared|
|Tick Key||Tick removal||Shared|
Follow Our Adventures
Thanks for reading part two of our Colorado Trail Series! Here is an idea of what is to come:
- March 2018
Colorado Trail Part 1: Don’t Go Wishing Your Life Away
Details about the background and inspiration behind the trip.
- August 2018
Colorado Trail Part 3: Reflections from the Trail
Read about our adventures on the trail, learn how our gear held up, and find out if all goes as planned!