I have to admit that selecting gear for the Colorado Trail (CT) has been a bit of a Challenge. I’m away from home for eight weeks so am packing not only for the trail, but the time that I’ll spend either end and in towns along the way. The weather in the Colorado Rockies is notoriously unpredictable, a different proposition from say the High Sierra. In the lower elevations at the start of the trail temperatures are currently in the low to mid thirties centigrade. As I climb higher they should be much more manageable and in the low twenties centigrade. I will be spending most of my time above 10,000ft which means that nights can be on the chilly side, perhaps as low as freezing in some areas. I’ll be finishing in mid September which is definitely Fall (the Aspens are meant to be spectacular) which means the possibility of the odd snow fall at elevation. The main weather pattern however will be almost daily thunderstorms as August is the Monsoon season. These can be potentially life threatening if in the wrong place at the wrong time due to frequent lightning strikes. Temperatures can also plummet very quickly with large volumes of rain or hail and strong winds.
Basically I need to be able to cope with pretty much any and every weather condition!
I don’t, never have, and never will consider myself a lightweight backpacker. This trip is as much about enjoying camp each night as well as the actual walking. If I can comfortably carry my pack I’m happy! I was reading a CT trail journal last night where a young lad with a tiny base weight said that he would not talk to three other hikers on the trail as they were ‘traditional’ backpackers………….
Anyway, this is what I will be taking:
Montane Grand Tour 55 – This is probably the most comfortable pack that I have ever owned. It fits my back well, is reasonably light and has enough capacity to hold a weeks worth of food on top of my kit.
I like to keep everything organised so I have a selection of waterproof stuff sacks, plus a pack cover to keep the rain off. I’m a new convert to pack covers as it stops my rucksack gradually getting heavier during prolonged rain. Possibly overkill but I’m happy to carry that extra 100 grammes.
It is important that all my food and toiletries are bear proof whilst I am sleeping, I plan to ensure that these are not kept inside my tent. I have purchased a bear proof bag (Ursack) that will be tied to a tree a short distance from camp. Inside everything will be in odour proof Opsaks which I will purchase from REI in Denver. I don’t want to be losing my food a few days walk from town!
Hilleberg Enan – This is my current favourite tent for use outside of the winter months. It’s light, can be pitched in a couple of minutes and has a small footprint. I much prefer a full tent with inner to a tarp or mid. I have made a footprint out of Tyvek as I suspect that many of my pitches will be on bare earth, especially at established camping spots.
PHD Minx + MLD Spirit Quilt – The PHD Minix is a hybrid bag with a synthetic base and down upper, it has no zip. It’s very warm and comfortable for its weight. It won’t however be suitable for temps close to freezing as I tend to sleep cold. Therefore to boost it I will be taking along the lightest MLD Spirit Quilt. As I am only taking light insulated clothing this can also double as camp wear if worn cape style. It will also keep condensation off my down bag when camping in cold and damp forests.
Thermarest X-therm – Warm and very comfortable for the weight, as long as I don’t get a puncture!
Clothing packed and worn:
All the clothes that I am taking with me are designed so that they can all be worn together if the temperature really dips. I don’t have a main insulation piece as such, the quilt will serve that purpose in camp.
My sleep wear is head to toe Merino, both for its warmth and also for its anti-stink properties. There is nothing better than having a set of clean and dry clothes to change into for camp and sleeping.
During the day I will either wear a lightweight pair of shorts or the Montane Terra Pack Pants, which are the lightest in the range. The long-sleeved Rab Aeon t-shirt is very light and comfortable in the heat and dries quickly if I need to wash it between towns.
X-socks weigh next to nothing and I feel are the best things to wear in trail shoes. Their light weight means that I can wear one pair and carry two. They get a bit crunchy after a couple of days so will need a rinse between towns.
Those trail shoes are Salomon XA Pro’s, a good compromise between a flimsy trail runner and a stiff walking shoe. They are the beefiest shoes that I have worn for a while so I hope that they last the distance. I recently did a 50 mile backpack in them and remained blister free, I hope that remains the case! I am taking a couple of pairs of spare insoles to mix and match due to different thickness and cushioning. When its hot I have a thin 3mm pair to give extra room in the shoes.
Tilley Outback – I am a new convert to Tilley hats. It’s really comfy, keeps the sun off my head and neck and means I don’t need to put my hood up in light rain.
A bog standard 100 weight micro fleece is about as versatile as it gets, warm when wet and easy to wash. A very light down gillet pairs well with it.
When in Sarek I found that my Rab Cirrus windproof was a lifesaver to keep the mozzies off me. I’m not a fan of insect repellant and I found that it prevented my arms, neck and back being bitten, especially when sitting in camp. Apparently there are some big horseflies this year on some sections of the CT!
Underwear is always Merino for me, it keeps smelling fresher for longer than any other material!
Cooking and drinking:
I had been intending to take the Flatcat Gear Bobcat alcohol stove which is very light and with fuel being readily available in the States. However there are lots of fire bans in place in Colorado which means that any stove without a shut off valve is illegal. These fire bans come and go and it can be difficult to know if you are about to head into an area with a ban. Therefore I am going to go with My Jetboil Minimo. This is much heavier but is a joy to use with water brought to a boil in a couple of minutes. It will roughly be a week between resupply points which means that it will use less fuel than the Bobcat over that time. Therefore weight wise they pretty much cancel each other out. It just means that I will have to be on the ball with regards to purchasing fuel.
For water I will have a couple of fizzy pop bottles for water attached to the shoulder straps of my pack. The rest will be carried in 2x 2lt Platypus’ in my pack. I think the longest stretch without water is about twenty miles. During the day I will filter using the Sawyer Mini, whilst in the evening I will bulk purify using Aqua Mira. All water MUST be either filtered or chemically treated!
It has taken a while to decide what to take in terms of guidebooks and maps for navigation on the trail. Some people say that the trail is easy to follow and you don’t really need to take anything. I do however like a good map and like to see where I am in relation to the landscape around me. Therefore I will be taking four paper maps that include all but the first three days of the trail. As a backup I have the Guthook iPhone app which has mapping and will show where I am on the trail via GPS. Most importantly I have the Colorado Trail Data book which tells me where water sources are located, resupply points etc. All this paper weighs nearly half a kilo but I feel that it will enhance my hike.
My first aid kit is pretty comprehensive and put together myself. It should be sufficient to deal with the usual cuts, burns and blisters.
I’m taking along a Spot2, both to let my wife know that I am OK each day but also incase I need to call for rescue. It will also be used to track my location on a map which I will set up through Social Hiking.
When hiking for days in hot weather it is important to keep certain parts of your body as clean as possible, otherwise chaffing can really spoil your day. It can be much more painful than blisters. The plan is to have a wash each day so I am taking a cloth and a small travel towel. Dr Bonners liquid soap goes a long way so I will take a small bottle along. It’s also good for washing clothes. Lanacane anti-chaffing gel keeps everything gliding along smoothly!
My iphone will be my lifeline for keeping in touch with home and the outside world, although a signal will be unlikely in the mountains. It’s unlocked so I will purchase a SIM card once I arrive in Denver. I can phone home through WhatsApp when I get Wifi in towns. It will also be my back up camera as it takes pretty decent photos.
Sony RX100 iii – This is a cracking little camera which takes good quality photos whilst remaining small and light enough to fit in a hip belt pocket in my pack. I’ll be shooting in RAW as this will give me more control over how to process the photos when I get home. I’m taking a spare battery which will hopefully mean that I’ll have enough juice between towns.
Kindle – The joy of backpacking is spending lazy afternoons and evenings reading!
Powergen 12000 – This small power pack will enable the iPhone 6s plus to be charged about three times. I can also use it to charge the kindle if needs be. When in towns I have a folding Mubi plug with both UK and US adaptors, plus cables to charge everything.
The only thing to add to all this lot once in the US is up to a weeks food at a time, a canister of gas and a couple of litres of water…………