I begin my 80 mile backpacking adventure along the Collegiates West Loop of the Colorado Trail next weekend. My two best friends from high school planned this reunion of sorts back in April when they thought I was dying from cancer and they might never see me again. Suckers. Whatever it takes man, I’ll play the C card if that’s what it takes to get these boys back in the saddle. The two months of planning though have been brutal. We’ve been emailing back and forth almost daily with anticipation. And praying the snow pack melts sufficiently above 11,000 feet to keep this hike from becoming a snowshoe event. Other than following snow conditions, much of our correspondence has been about gear. Karen and the girls gave me this waterproof, oilskin fedora this morning for Father’s Day. It completes my packing list.
I’ll be packing a ton of new gear. I bought this JetBoil gas burner for a mountain relay event last year that got rained out from the Great September Flood. Everything stores inside the canister for a tight fit. I’m guessing I’ll only need one fuel canister for the trip but I’ll pack an extra in the car. We will park a car half way on Cottonwood Pass to reload supplies.
Yet another cool gadget that I have yet to use is this Black Diamond Voyager Lantern. It was a Christmas gift from my brother-in-law and I’ve yet to go camping since he gave it to me. I’ll use a headlamp too of course because that works so well when setting up a tent at night. But this will work well to light up my tent when getting dressed before the sun rises.
Speaking of tents, this is my trusty one-man, Seedhouse SL1 tent from Big Agnes – an outdoor gear outfit from Steamboat. I used this tent for my Colorado Trail journey in 2011. It’s nice knowing I have some durable gear and that I don’t have to buy everything new for this trip. My sleeping bag also comes from Big Agnes.
My Gregory Baltoro 75 backpack also makes a return appearance from my first backpacking experience on the Colorado Trail. This is a massive pack. I could possibly get by with a smaller pack but I’m not that experienced at packing and don’t have ultra light gear. I’m experienced enough now though that I know how to pack this puppy. That link is to an REI video with tips for loading backpacks. Essentailly, keep heavy gear close to your spine. Consider loading your sleeping bag at the bottom. Put gear such as maps and other items you might need ready access to in a quick side pocket. I’m still trying to decide whether to load a 2 liter or 3 liter camel back water reservoir in my pack. Huge weight difference and I doubt I’ll ever drink 3 liters on the trail.
One item that will save space in my pack is my new Patagonia Nano Puff jacket. This is so light and compressed, relative to my 15 year old, bulky ski jacket. I might not need it during the day but the temperature can really drop at night. And I doubt we’ll escape rain. I also have a rain poncho to go over myself and pack that I got with my swag bag from the Durango Double Ultra last year. This jacket might have been my first purchase for the trip. I got it during REI’s annual sale at 30% off.
Another really exciting new piece of gear to my collection is this pair of Salomon Quest 4D GTX hiking boots. I’m excited because I’ve always only hiked in trail running shoes in the past. I’m hoping these relieve my feet and ankles of the expected fatigue after 12 hours on the trail. I like the freedom of running shoes. I absolutely love trail running. I don’t expect to be running though carrying a 35 pound backpack. My rationale for purchasing the boots was to be prepared for hiking across snow drifts. My experience hiking with Rob is that it’s doable without snowshoes but trekking poles are key. Crossing snow drifts is also much easier early in the day before the sun turns the snow into slush. Plus I typically let Rob lead so I can follow through his post-hole steps.
The puffie and boots are my two big purchases. Got meaningful discounts on both. Food is the last topic area. Might not qualify as gear to some but food is very important to me. I hate most sports/energy food. Porting real food though isn’t too wise backpacking. Not because of the weight so much as that it can attract bears. I began reading Bill Bryson’s Into the Woods last night and I’m suddenly fearful of bears. I discovered these EPIC natural food energy bars recently and they are awesome. Some guy in Austin, Texas makes them. You can order them online, I’ve yet to see them in stores. They offer turkey, beef and lamb along with bison and average a good 200 calories. It’s not easy replenishing calories while backpacking so high calorie foods are important. My girls liked these epic bars so much hiking last weekend that I had to order more for my trip.
I’m going high tech for water purification. Mike bought one of these too. Rob will have his water pump so we’re covered with multiple solutions if this gadget doesn’t live up to its hype. This only works well though for clear water, but I don’t expect to be wading through any murky streams at 12,000 feet. When you are hiking across the top of the Continental Divide, this early in the season with the snow melt flooding every gulch, it’s highly unlikely there will be sheep or cattle grazing above the water supply. I hope to report good results on this SteriPEN water purification tool. I suspect the way I will use it is to leverage a water bottle for collecting water. Use this UV light tool to purify the water. Then pour the water into my reservoir. Shouldn’t be too kludgy a process. I’ll report back on the success or failure of all my gear. I’m writing about it now because I’m organizing and packing this weekend. I don’t expect to be blogging from the trail but I might take notes on my iPhone’s Evergreen app to assist in recalling details.