- Jul 15, 2019 at 7:19 pm #3602032
I began lurking this site a couple years ago and have finally decided to join. I’m beginning to prep for a Colorado Trail thru hike next summer (Collegiate West Route). I’d like to travel a little lighter than I normally do, but was concerned I might be going a little too far. Please critique my gear list. Thanks!!
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Some specific concerns since I’ve never been on a thru hike before and I don’t know how much consistent rain monsoon season brings.
Jul 16, 2019 at 1:16 am #3602093Matt SmithMember
- Should I bring a light dedicated sleep shirt? I’m currently not bringing one because I figure worst case scenario I could just wring out my baselayer, wear it and dry out inside my puffy or bag (or both). For now, my top layers are: long sleeve very light weight base layer, very light weight fleece, wind shirt or puffy, rain jacket.
- Considering that my favorite trail runners are not as breathable as most trail runners, I was considering dedicated sleep socks. For now, I don’t have them on the list.
- I normally use a bear can but it seems that it is unnecessary on CT. I plan to use OPSak and sleep with food.
- I normally don’t use gaiters in the east, where trails aren’t as dusty. I’ve been out west and not used gaiters but only for trips no longer than a week. Would I be in the minority not using gaiters? I’ve considered dirty girl gaiters.
- If I’m not carrying a bear can, I might switch to 1.5 liter SmartWater bottles to load up on water in the dry sections. With my 1L BeFree, that’s 4 liter of total capacity.
- I don’t have a new phone yet but was considering the Moto G7 Power so I can avoid an external backup power. I think it should be fine for light use in airplane mode for 5 days. I plan on downloading Guthook and also using the CT Databook.
- I have Zpacks rain mitts, just don’t like the fit much. I don’t have them on the list currently. I don’t see many CT gear lists with rain mitts/gloves. For sustained rain and use with trekking poles they might be nice. Small weight penalty. The gloves currently on my list are very light fleece.
- I’ve never gone stoveless, but think I would be fine. I’m not a picky eater.
list doesn’t look too bad. I hiked the CT in monsoon season with a wind shirt, wind pants, poncho, and fleece as my only layers.
I’d carry a rain jacket and ditch the wind shirt/poncho if I did it again. I probably wouldn’t carry both the puffy and the fleece either, but that depends on your hiking style.
I wouldn’t carry long underwear, and think rain pants would work well as the only lower body packed clothing.
Sleep socks sound good! Ditch the sleep shirt
i bougt rubber gloves in Salida after getting cold hands in a storm on a section of the collegiate west. I find rain mitts more valuable than rain pants.
I carried 2 liter capacity and rarely carried more than .5 liter. I think the biggest dry stretch was under 20 miles for me.
Its a great trail and you have time to dial things inJul 16, 2019 at 2:20 am #3602099
Hey Jimmy Legs, you’re going to love the CT! After completing 6 thru-hikes of the trail, I’d thought I’d share my experiences for your considered digestion:
- Bring a dedicated sleep shirt! Even a really light one – I use the Patagonia Capilene Mock turtleneck. Rainstorms and evenings can be freezing. You do not want climb inside your sleeping bag with a damp shirt. Recipe for disaster.
- Same for dedicated sleep socks. Helps with warmth and also keeps filthy socks (which dusty western trails guarantee) from mucking up the effectiveness of your bag.
- A bear can is unnecessary. But understand that hanging is also not a reasonable option in most sections. Make peace with sleeping with your food. After 6 thrus, I’ve only seen 2 bears (but who knows how many have seen me). Marmots and mice are your more likely adversaries.
- Gaiters are a staple and for good reason. Dirty Girls are especially nice. They provide good coverage and durability (Altras stink in both regards). Consider adding some ultra-thin stretch cord with a tiny pinch lock around the top (or a rubberband) to keep the top securely closed. I also suggest sizing down if you are on the borderline to ensure a taut fit.
- 4 liters of water capacity should be fine in an average moisture season. Just plan your day to end after filling up at nearby’ish water source (but don’t camp right next to it – cold and damp).
- Not much cell phone reception on the trail (or in towns after Salida) so little need for a huge battery. The trail is well marked. Guthook and the Data Book will easily get you to Durango. GPS will just be a nice bonus when you’re dead tired, hangry, and just want to know exactly how far the next road or campsite is.
- Definitely carry gloves, but I just let mine get wet during a storm. They still keep my hands warm. Another alternative to dedicated rain mitts are simple ziplocks. Again, when it does rain, it is FREEZING! Your hands will become useless paddles without some sort of protection.
- Stoveless is awesome! You wouldn’t believe the risk of fire out here most years. You don’t want to be that guy. And if peanut butter or salami or cold-soaked beans doesn’t do it for you at the end of the day, hike further the next day until it does!
Happy Trails! The entire CT is incredible, but the western route … WOW. Hope to see you there.Jul 16, 2019 at 10:20 pm #3602185
I agree with Matt, above, on almost everything.
I’d definitely carry some plan B for navigation in case your phone battery fails for whatever reason. Paper maps or a separate dedicated GPS or something.
I like lightweight rain mitts with spare socks or lightweight gloves for liners.Jul 17, 2019 at 4:14 pm #3602280
Thanks guys, this is good feedback. I’ll add sleep socks and rain mitts. I don’t have the experience hiking in high altitude Colorado rain. Would I be able to hike in the cold rain, wearing only lightweight long sleeve baselayer + 2.5layer rain jacket? Or would I be too cold? If it is not too cold then I could keep my fleece in my drybag, reserved only for in camp, sleeping or dry weather. If I don’t need to wear it in the rain then I would not need a separate sleep shirt as it could serve that purpose. Thoughts? @mhr ?
@colter i will be purchasing the databook which i believe has maps (I don’t have one yet, waiting for next year to see if there is a new edition). I plan on splitting up the databook and putting only the applicable sections in my resupply box. I currently have the latest guidebook which weighs a ton. If i don’t end up using the databook, i’ll have printed maps.
@mt-smithers i forgot to mention, my 35F sleeping bag is baffled up top but sewn through construction at the legs. I’ve used it in upper 20s wearing long johns + rain pants and a puffy and been fine but i consider the long johns part of my sleep system and a luxury camp item. Based on what I’ve read, i probably need them to sleep comfortably on colder nights at high elevation. My hiking pants typically serve as my pillow inside my fleece lined dry bag.Jul 17, 2019 at 6:45 pm #3602310
I hiked the CDT which, as you know, overlaps most of the Colorado Trail.
For most people a 35 degree bag will be marginal at altitude, certainly without boosting it with dedicated dry sleep wear.
I wore my down jacket during the day many times in Colorado, often under my raincoat. I would err on the side of an extra layer.Jul 17, 2019 at 9:10 pm #3602336
@colter thanks for the advice. i’m going to add a dedicated long sleeve sleep shirt. I think i’ll be good in my bag wearing my puffy. I’ve had it below freezing several times when i elected not to bring my heavier bag and been fine.
btw, i just skimmed your website and plan to read it in a bit more detail. you’ve had some amazing adventures!Jul 17, 2019 at 10:31 pm #3602369
When it rains, I always get by with just a light hiking shirt, Patagonia Houdini, and a poncho over my pack and body. I’d be too cold without all three during extended, real storms (as opposed to brief showers which are the usual culprit).
The databook does not provide navigable maps.
Best trick for extending the range off your sleeping bag? Campsite location. Avoid bodies of water (humidity), depressions and valleys (Katabatic air flow), and open sky (dew). That beautiful campsite in the valley meadow, next to the creek is gorgeous at the end of a long day … and MISERABLE in the morning!Aug 30, 2019 at 6:45 pm #3608267Mina LoomisMember
@elmvineLocale: Central Texas
I am guessing the OP hike is already complete and I expect it was wonderful!
But. Re: bears. We thru-hiked the CT last year (2018). At the eastern end at Bear Creek (yeah) the night before we were there and also the night we were camped near there but further on, campers at the creek had their food eaten by a bear. The camper we talked to had hung her food in OP sacks. The other one, I don’t know but the report was of a giant food mess in the morning.
So for folks reading this preparing for future trips, please don’t discount the bears-and-food risk.
We had our Bearikade Weekenders.
(In Colorado it is black bears, no grizzlies in CO.)Sep 7, 2019 at 3:16 pm #3609317
Thanks for the advice Mina. My trip wont be unti l next year. What are your thoughts and experiences sleeping with food on CT? Heard of any problems? It seems that sleeping with food on the ct would be better than a bad hang. I dont want the fuss of hanging and would prefer to not bring my can, but would bring it begrudgingly.Sep 7, 2019 at 5:29 pm #3609337Ron DMember
I did the CT a few years ago and would not sleep with my food. Colorado isn’t grizzly country but black bears are still a problem if they’ve been habituated. Over the 500m you will sometimes camp in areas with heavy long term camping usage that the local bears know as a potential source of food. People certainly sleep with their food and the odds are in you favor if you decide to go that way, but it’s still a real risk to both you and the bear. I used an Ursack and it’s a reasonable level of food security while still being comparatively lightweight. I also slept better than I would have using my food bag as a pillow.
RonSep 7, 2019 at 8:18 pm #3609351
I respectfully think that if you are killed by a black bear in Colorado because you have food in your tent you will be the first such victim in state history. Considering the tens of millions of nights people have slept with their food, I think that’s meaningful.
Personally, unless I knew there were problem bears in a specific place I would sleep with my food on the CT, as I do almost everywhere. But that’s just me.Sep 7, 2019 at 11:57 pm #3609368Ron DMember
Hi Buck – I’m aware of your background and your in depth knowledge and extensive experience with bears and certainly respect that. I’ve followed your adventure on your website for years. But black bears do target backpacker food and my threshold for using something minimal like an Ursack is significantly lower than a full on attack. Everyone has to make a personal decision on how to deal with bear country and there is a reasonable range in approaches.
RonSep 8, 2019 at 2:27 pm #3609420
“Over the 500m you will sometimes camp in areas with heavy long term camping usage that the local bears know as a potential source of food.”
Ron’s point about habituated bears is true. But I can only think of a handful of campsites along the CT that I would characterize as experiencing anything close to heavy, long-term usage. And they are all easily avoided.Oct 8, 2019 at 3:00 pm #3613047Michael SMember
I am considering hiking the CT next summer. Are you looking for a hiking partner?Feb 15, 2020 at 9:43 am #3631390
@msifford i apologize for not responding before – i didn’t see this post until now. I’m not looking for a hiking partner for the entire duration (I don’t know what my pace will be or when i might take a ‘zero’ or ‘nero’ in town) and I’m not exactly sure when I’m starting yet either due to emerging work commitments. I do look forward to meeting folks on the trail and hiking sections with those I meet so perhaps we will cross paths. Have you determined your start date?
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