Backcountry K-9 is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more
Colorado Trail Part Two
Hiking and Backpacking How to Guides

Colorado Trail Part 2: Release the Gear Hounds

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.

Gear lists

Colorado Trail Part TwoTo 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

Colorado Trail Part TwoAfter 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.


Colorado Trail Part TwoI 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.


Colorado Trail Part TwoAt 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.

Packing Efficiently

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 JacketUltimate Direction UL
Rain PantsMountain Hardwear
Insulating LayerPatagonia Air Light
CozyMelanzana Hoodie
Leggings/ThermalFjallraven Trekking Tights
Base LayerSmartwool long sleeve
Backpack Friendly Tank 1Icebreaker
Backpack Friendly Tank 2 (Sleep)Icebreaker 2
Sun LayerMountain Hardwear UV
Socks x3Darn Tough
Bra x2Smartwool Merino (1), Under Armor (1)
Underwear x3Patagonia wicking
Warm Hat x2Buff Merino Lightweight & Thermal
GlovesMountain Hardwear Black Windstopper
Sun HatPatagonia Trail Runner Yellow
Camp shoesCrocs
HeadbandBuff - Half Buff
Trekking PolesBlack Diamond
Hiking Boots Asolo

The Big Four

PackGregory Deva
Sleeping BagSierra Designs 20 degree
TentBig Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 1
Sleeping MatThermarest ProLite Plus

Food and Hydration

Pack Bowl Backpacker's Pantry (washtub)
CupSea to Summit
BowlSea to Summit
SporkSnow Peak Titanium
StoveJetboil MiniMo
Water PumpKatadyn
Food for 4-5 days
H20 Bottle for tent/CampNalgene
Hydration systemPlatypus
Bear Proof PM StorageUrsack
Scent proof bags x2Opsack


Sketchbook KitMoleskine, Winsor & Newton travel kit
PhoneiPhone 7 (for photos/emergency)
Camp PillowHomemade


Bug Spray
Sunscreen stick
Camp Soap
Facial Sunscreen
SPF Chapstick
Pack Towel
Small Brush/Comb


First Aid + Dog First Aid
GPS Radios
Repair Kit(s)
Emergency H2O iodine tabs
Backup fuel
Pepper Spray
Block charger & cord
Small microtool


ItemBrandWeightWho Carries It?
PackGroundbird Gear UL Rolltop size Regular16 oz Bella
LeashStunt Puppy Stunt Runner8.3 ozBella/Human
CollarStunt Puppy Go Dog Glo Dry Collar2.4 ozBella
Dog BuffBuff 0.4 ozBella
LightRuffwear Beacon1.76 ozBella
Rain/Wind JacketRuffwear Aira8.5 ozHuman
Cozy LayerRuffwear Powderhound w/ homemade stuff sack7.5 ozBella
Sleeping BagCustom w/ homemade stuff sack15.8 oz Human
Sleeping MatGossamer Gear Mat2.4 ozHuman
H2O BowlRuffwear Trail Runner Bowl0.7 ozHuman (hipbelt pocket)
Food BowlSea to Summit Bowl2.5 ozBella
Trail SnacksI and Love and You Super Smartie Hearties2.5 ozBella
FoodCustom Mix... 4 Days Worth per Resupply41.5 ozBella
Calorie supplement Tucker's Carnibars x2 (split in half for 4 days)7.1 ozBella
Joint SupplementCanine Matrix MRM Mushroom Mix 0.5 ozBella
Digestive SupplementIn Clover Digestive0.5 ozBella
First Aid KitCustom, Human + Canine13 ozHuman
Pack TowelOld human pack towel1.5 ozBella
Poop Bag RollEarth Rated1.1 ozBella
Water BladderRuffwear1.0 ozBella
Pack/Food LinersOpSack Scent proof 10"x20" x2 (or freezer bags)included with foodBella 500D Cordura x 4, w/ Freesole bottoms1.7 ozBella
Pack coverRuffwear High and Dry3.2 ozBella
Paw wax Joshua Tree, in Goo Tube2.4 ozBella
Trowel (Shared with human, for burying waste)4.5 ozHuman
Snood/ear warmerHomemade 2.0 oz Human
Dog Socks (to protect gear and borrowed tent from nails)Ruffwear boot liners0.9 ozBella

First Aid

Tramadol HCL 50 mg *vet prescribedPain KillerBella
Carprofen Caps 100mg *vet prescribedAnti-inflammatoryBella
Alcohol WipesWipe paws in case of heat strokeBella
Food-Grade 3% Hydrogen Peroxide Induce vomiting in case of poisoningBella
Dosage cardsFor Benadryl and hydrogen peroxideBella
Ibuprofen Anti-inflammatoryHuman
Bandaids, assorted sizesSmall problemsHuman
Butterfly BandagesSmall problemsHuman
Loperamide HCl 2 mg Anti-diarrhealHuman
Alka Seltzer, single packAntacid Human
Salt TabletsDehydration Human
2nd Skin Blister KitTreat blisters Human
eNZees foot sootherPrevents blisters/hot spot relief Human
Duct TapeBlisters, wrap outside of boot/bandaging to waterproofShared
Gloves Keep wounds sterile, prevent disease transmission, wash gross things off of dog Shared
TweezersTicks, splinters, etc.Shared
Terramycin Antibiotic ophthalmic ointment (eyes)Shared
Vet WrapWrap bandagesShared
Syringe Administer hydrogen peroxide to dog, irrigate punctures Shared
Similasan Saline Ampules Eye/cut rinseShared
Gauze PadsBleeding/bandagingShared
Sterile Saline Wipes Clean cuts Shared
Telfa PadsNon-stick part of a BandaidShared
Bacitracin Ointment Anti-bacterialShared
Diphenhydramine HCl 25 mg Antihistamine for allergic reactions or snake bitesShared
Tick KeyTick 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!

Interested in backpacking with your dog? Check out our pack list and crash course!