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Backpacking 101

As the William McCann story reminds us, heading up into the backcountry can sometimes turn dangerous. But it’s also one of the most rewarding experiences available in Eagle County.

Being prepared can go a long way toward having a safe and comfortable experience. Here’s a checklist to help you get ready for your next trip:

– Toothpaste (Since toothpaste is heavy, bring only the amount needed)



– Foil and/or frying pan

– Bathroom tissue (it’s best to pack out used tissue)

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– Ziplock bags (imperative for packing out smelly trash and waste)

– Folding kitchenware (Pots and a detachable handle fold into themselves, and spatulas and serving spoons that fold up are available as well)

– Campfires (If a fire is necessary, use an existing ring. And gather wood from heavily forested areas well below tree line)



– Propane/butane mixed gas stove or white gas stove

– Hiking boots (Don’t try to backpack in tennis shoes or trail shoes: your arches will never forgive you. And take a few day hikes in your boots first to break them in)

– Tent (Don’t skimp here. A good rain fly is key in the high country, where rain comes almost every day. And be sure you are familiar with how to set up your tent – struggling with complicated designs on a dark, rainy night is not a lot of fun.)

– Headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries

– Bug spray

– Sunscreen

– Sunglasses

– Extra socks

– Hat with brim

– Matches (strike anywhere are the only way to go. Keep them in a waterproof medicine bottle or ziplock bag)

– First aid kit

– Multi-tool and/or knife

– Scrub pad (dishes should be done in a pot and food particles should be strained, packed in a Ziplock and packed out)

Clothes: Remember, cotton is rotten and polypropylene is supreme. Polypropylene underwear and wool or fleece garments, not cotton, should be the staple in the high country. Dress for potential snow and also 80-degree weather all in the same day. Remember to bring light, shell-style rain gear, light gloves, and a wool or fleece hat.

Other gear: Don’t forget any and all topographical maps of the area, and think about bringing a compass, too. Along with the tent, bring a Therm-a-rest or other inflatable mattress, a synthetic (not down or cotton) sleeping bag, a ski pole or walking stick, a water bottle (with attached filter and/or a pump water filter), Lexon or metal cup, bowl, fork, spoon, and plate (no paper plates).

Suggested food list: Fresh fruit, meats, and other perishables make a nice treat for the first night out. Otherwise stick to dehydrated foods: canned or dried milk, dried fruit, cooking oil, cheese, tortillas, powdered noodle and or rice mixes, chocolate, high-protien lunch snack, (protein bars) coffee, tea, dried soup, salt and pepper (or other seasonings). Plan in terms of meals, and bring only what is needed.

Fun extras: On rainy days a few things can cheer up the group: Try cards, s’mores, books, magazines, and a folding chess or checkers board. A lightweight pair of slippers or tennis shoes is an added comfort – especially on wet, rainy days. And think about bringing a lightweight cook shelter – much easier to cook under than a tent vestibule during a rainstorm.


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