Please bring everything on the required clothing and gear list, but do not feel like you have to buy everything new. Many of these items can be found second hand at thrift stores, consignment shops, and online like eBay and Facebook Marketplace

Getting Started

Packing for backcountry travel is all about packing light and practically. Every day, you will be carrying all your gear, food, and water. So the lighter your load, the more comfortable you'll be! That's why we ask that students bring everything on the required gear list (and whatever you'd like to bring from the optional items list), but nothing more. Most experienced backcountry travelers will tell you that they bring about the same amount of gear on a three-day trip as they would on a three-week trip.

Important Packing Information

  • Pack your clothing and gear in a duffel bag or suitcase. You will keep personal items such as clean clothes for your return trip home and valuables (cell phones, electronic devices, and wallets) in this bag while you are on course. Please leave unnecessary or expensive items at home.
  • Once you arrive at base camp, your instructors will help you pack for backcountry travel. They will assess your personal gear, the group gear you will be required to carry, and help you adjust your pack as needed. 
  • We encourage you to leave the tags on any items you purchase for this course. That way, you may return these items if you do not use them on your expedition.
  • Please bring everything on the list! If you have questions or concerns, we encourage you to reach out to your course advisor.


  • All prescription medications must be listed in the applicant’s medical record, must be approved by your course advisor prior to course, and must accompany the participant on course. Participants may not be permitted to begin their course without their required medications OR with new medications not approved by your course advisor.
  • All medications (prescription, non-prescription, and OTC) must be in their original containers with the prescription label intact. The prescription label is documentation of the dosage directions. If possible, bring a double supply.

What to Wear While Travelling:

We recommend you wear course clothing and boots while travelling and bring all essentials (prescription meds, insurance card copy, cash) in a carry-on. This will minimize the inconvenience in the unlikely event your luggage is delayed in transport. Being dressed for course will also further the efficiency on your first day, especially since front country bathrooms and private changing areas are rarely available.

Equipment Provided by Outward Bound

Gear that Outward Bound Provides

Outward Bound provides all other equipment that is not included on the required packing list. There are no additional fees for the use of our equipment. If you have your own equipment and it meets the criteria below, you are welcome to bring it with you. Your instructors may ask you to use Outward Bound gear in lieu of your own if it does not meet our criteria below.

If you do wish to bring some of your own gear, here are the standards for what may be acceptable

  • Sleeping bags – need to be made from synthetic materials (down fill is not appropriate for our courses) and have a 20-degree or colder warmth rating.
  • Sleeping pads – can be ¾ to full size in length. They can be closed-cell foam or inflatable. If you bring an inflatable pad please also bring a patch kit. Remember, inflatable pads often weigh considerably more than closed-cell foam pads.
  • Backpacks – need to have a minimum capacity of 6,000 cubic inches, comfortably carry 45-60 lbs, and be an internal frame design.

If you bring your own equipment, it will be inspected by your instructor at the beginning of your course. If it does not meet our standards you can store it in a secure location during your course.

Layering Principles


  • First layer—This layer is worn next to your skin. Synthetic and wool materials are best for this layer.
  • Mid layer(s)— This is the insulation layer. Think thick tops, leggings, wool socks, and fleece jackets.
  • Outer layer— This is the layer that will protect you from the wind, snow, and rain. Outer layers are completely waterproof not just water resistant.


  • Hard Shell: Waterproof and windproof, generally worn when it’s raining, snowing, or really windy.
  • Soft Shell: Water and wind-resistant. Not waterproof but more breathable than hard-shell.
  • Fleece: Great insulator and dries quickly.
  • Wool: Natural material that, unlike cotton, keeps you warm when wet.
  • Synthetic: Almost anything else but cotton! Acceptable non-cotton options are wool, capilene, poly-propylene, polyester, fleece, acrylic, rayon, Polartec, Thinsulate, COOLMAX, and nylon.

Still confused? Check out this video about fabrics from our friends at NCOBS.

Required Clothing and Gear

Head & Hands:

Quantity Item Description
1 Warm Hat A warm hat that will be used for when things get chilly.  Can have ear flaps. No cotton.
1+ Sun Hat Should have a good brim to at a minimum cover your face like a baseball cap or can have a brim all the way around for added protection.  Should be made of softer material so it can fold easily if needed.
1+ Lightweight Gloves or Glove Liners A lightweight glove that is the first layer for hands and worn snuggly against the skin.  Rubber coated gloves work well and can be found inexpensively in hardware stores.



Quantity  Item Description
2+ Long Sleeve Sun Shirt Loose, lightweight, and light-colored for sun protection.  Instructors prefer old oxford or button down men's dress shirts from thrift stores.  A long sleeve cotton shirt is ok.
6+ Wicking Short Sleeve T- Shirts This t-shirt is made out of quick-drying fabric that moves moisture away from your skin and allows maximum airflow.  Cotton t-shirts are ok for additional shirts, but each participant should have at least 4 quick dry shirts to use in any conditions.


Inner Layers: fits next to the skin

Quantity   Item Description
1 Lightweight long underwear set

You will need a top and a bottom.  This is your base layer meaning this goes next to your skin and you will wear more layers on top.
($60+ for top and bottom)

This is a good online resource:

8+ Underwear: Quick Drying Quick drying underwear is usually a blend of Nylon and Spandex, that breathes well, moves moisture away from you and dries quickly.  4 pairs should be Quick Drying for the river and canyons, the rest can be cotton.
4+ Sports Bra Should have the proper support for athletic activity.  Can be worn as a swim top with quick drying shorts if a swimsuit is required. You do not need to bring a swimsuit if you plan on using this combination.
1 Expedition-weight/Heavyweight Long Underwear Top This top is your second or third layer depending on what is required. Needs to be a bit bigger to fit the previous layers underneath.


Outer Layers: fit over inner layers

Quantity  Item Description
1 Raincoat & Rain Pants    All rainwear must be 100% water proof, not water resistant! Rain jackets should also include a hood. Breathable fabrics highly recommended. Breathable Options include: Any Gore-Tex jacket or breathable coated fabrics like the Marmot © PreCip or Phoenix Rainwear, REI Ultra Light or Kulshan Rainwear are suitable examples.
($150+ for the pair)
1 Fleece Jacket A heavy weight fleece jacket with a full length zipper.  It has good breathability, making it a good choice when insulation is needed during vigorous, highly aerobic activity. Dries quickly when wet. 



Quantity Item Description
2+ Quick Dry Shorts

Lightweight nylon fabric wicks moisture and dries quickly.  Board shorts and running shorts can work well and double for use on the river.  Pockets are always nice.

1+ Quick Dry Pants Lightweight nylon fabric dries quickly and resists pilling, and is easy to pack away in a backpack or dry bag.  Should be loose fitting as to aid in movement. Keep in mind, our course areas can be abrasive to clothing: make sure you bring pants that are tough, or that you won’t mind getting ripped up during your course.



Quantity    Item Description
3+ pairs    Liner Socks Lightweight, flat-knit provides a close fit for a protective second skin that prevents blisters.  Should be worn under heavier socks to prevent blisters.  Need to be at least crew-height.
($5-$9 pair)
6+ pairs  Mid-weight Hiking Socks These socks are worn on top of the liner socks.  At least need to be crew-height.  A variety of midweight to heavyweight socks will suit you best to find your personal preferences in our course areas.  No cotton, wool works exceptionally well, even when wet.
($8-$25 pair)
1 pair   River Shoes River sandals such as Teva or Chaco sandals are ideal.  Vibram ‘5 finger’ shoes are also a good option   Any boating shoe must have an ankle or heel strap.  These shoes will be wet daily.  Old sneakers will also work great.  Flip-flops, Clogs, Crocs, and Aquasocks are NOT acceptable.
1 pair  Running/Approach Shoes Virtually every course requires two pairs of shoes; one to hike in (your boots), and one to wear around camp.  Camp Shoes should be lightweight sturdy running or approach shoes. Many courses have a Challenge Event at course end that may involve running so sturdy runners are preferred versus fashion or skateboarding type sneakers.  An old pair of running shoes will work.
1 pair Backpacking Boots Backpacking boots are the most popular off-trail boots sold today. This category of boots used to be known as Medium-weight Hiking Boots.  These boots have shock-absorbing composite rubber soles, innovative injection molded mid sole/shanks/plates and soft, yet supportive, leather uppers characterize this category of mountaineering/backpacking footwear. Through the use of state of-the-art materials, it is now possible to purchase a boot that is at once relatively lightweight, comfortable, supportive, and weatherproof and requires only a moderate break-in period. Medium-weight boots are offered in a wide variety of brands and models and work well for moving with full backpacks. VIBRAM (OR SIMILAR) SOLE REQUIRED. NO JUNGLE/WORK BOOTS. ($102+) These are good resources:


























Personal Items:

Quantity   Item  Description 
1 Insurance Card If you are covered under any medical insurance please bring your card.  The actual card is preferred, but a copy of the front and the back of the card will be okay.
2 Sunglasses with keeper strap Dark and sturdy, need to bring a keeper strap with them.  Essential to protecting your eyes in a highly reflective environment!  Bring 2 in case you lose, scratch, or break one.
2+ Personal Hand Sanitizer Two 3oz bottles plus a larger 16oz to refill during the course. 
1 Digital Oral Thermometer Used to check temperature.
2+ Fabric Face Masks

To be worn at course start, during social distancing, during travel days, while preparing food, while in close proximity to others, and when requested by COBS staff.  Should be washable, consist of at least 3 layers of fabric and securely cover the mouth and nose.  N95s can also be brought to supplement washable masks. Refer to mask document for more information.

20+ Disposable 3-ply surgical masks To be worn when an additional layer of protection is necessary.
1 Sarong or unfitted twin cotton sheet A sarong is a large length of fabric that is often used for sun protection while rafting.  It has many other uses as well.  If you are unable to find a sarong, an unfitted twin cotton sheet also works just as well and is typically very easy to find at a thrift store. 
1 Small headlamp and 4 extra sets of batteries.  This is a hands free flashlight.  It is either a LED or halogen headlamp that uses a minimum of three volts (two or more AA- or AAA-batteries). Bring four extra sets of batteries. Headlamps with a red setting are preferable because they preserve night-vision, save battery power, and do not attract flies.
1 Watch with alarm Inexpensive, durable, & waterproof. You will be responsible for waking yourself up on time!
2 Water Bottles Wide-mouthed and durable—Nalgene, Sigg, and Klean Kanteen make quality water bottles—NO DISPOSABLE BOTTLES.  Each should hold 32 oz. for a minimum total capacity of 64 oz. Good hydration is very important in the dry climate.  Screw top lids are better than ‘sippy-top’ lids since the bottles will frequently come into contact with river water.
2-4 Bandanas This all-purpose piece of cotton absorbs sweat, cleans off trail-grime and offers a multitude of other camp and trail uses.  Females should bring 4 bandanas.
2+ Glasses or contacts, if needed Contacts are ok, but present major challenges in the field. Please also bring 2 pairs of your eyeglasses as backups.
2 Insect Repellant Medium size, in an unbreakable bottle—no spray cans. Products with Picaridan or DEET (10 - 35%) are most effective.
  Stationary, Stamps, & 2 Pens Bring stamps and envelopes if you would like to send mail. Consider pre-stamping and pre-addressing them before course. Put in a zip-lock bag with paper and pens.
6 Large zip-lock plastic bags Heavy duty to protect things from sand and water.
2 sets Prescription Medications including Asthma Inhalers THESE MUST BE DECLARED DURING THE APPROVAL PROCESS.  Please bring these to course start even if you think they are unnecessary. Please bring in their original containers and a Ziploc bag for storage.
2 Sunscreen Waterproof, SPF 30+ (Approximately 16 oz bottles)
1 Lip Balm With SPF to protect from the sun.
1 Toiletries Kit Toothbrush, toothpaste, small biodegradable soap, comb or brush, (deodorant, shampoo, and makeup are unnecessary.)
  Feminine Supplies                                                                      Please bring an ample supply as changes in diet, altitude, & fitness level can unexpectedly bring on your period. We are a Leave No Trace organization so tampons such as OB that do not have plastic applicators are recommended as it reduces the amount of trash being carried out. A Diva Cup is also a great reusable option. You are welcome to bring pads if that is the system you are most comfortable using. If you have any questions please contact your course advisor or instructor.
1 Moisturizing Lotion Your hands and feet will thank you after weeks in arid environments (approximately 12oz bottle. )


Travel to and From Course

Quantity  Item Description
- Travel Money or Snacks The first day is often long. Have cash to buy snacks along the way or bring food with you.  There may be unexpected travel expenses such as luggage fees.
1 set Clean clothes for the trip home Please bring a set of clean clothes for your travels home.
Optional Items

Optional Items

These are NOT required and you will be fine without them. Please only buy them if you plan to use the items again after your course or you think they will be of great assistance to you while on course (you may be asked to leave these behind depending on weather and space available in your backpack or dry bag).

 Quantity Item Description
 1 Pack Wet Wipes  Unscented. All items must be packed out. 
 1 Belt Easily adjustable synthetic belt. Something that will fit smoothly under your backpack hip belt. Check to see if any of your bottom layers require a belt.
 1 Portable Chair Crazy Creek and REI are popular brands. Must be lightweight and packable/rollable. No chairs with legs can be brought.
 1 Camera Each patrol will have a COBS provided camera. If bringing your own, keep in mind the bulkiness and level of care needed to maintain the camera. 
 1 Hydration Bladder You may being a hydration bladder as long as you bring a hard sided wide-mouthed, 32 oz water bottle. Do not bring on river courses.
1 Bug shirt Good options are usually mesh with a hood for protection from bugs. **CHECK WITH COURSE ADVISOR ABOUT COURSE CONDITIONS**.
1 Neoprene Socks This will be for keeping your feet warm while canoeing and rafting to help protect against cold water injuries. If your feet get cold easy you will want these.
1 Insect Repellent Must be a cream or lotion. 2-4 oz., plastic container. Products with Picaridan or DEET (10 - 35%) are most effective. Ask Course Advisor about bug conditions.
Items Not Allowed

Items not Allowed on Course:

  • Electronics—cell phones, iPods, etc. These may be brought on the plane or bus but will need to be stored at the base before going into the field.
  • Deodorant, makeup, shampoo, conditioner, perfume, cologne, etc.
  • Illegal drugs, any CBD/THC products, alcohol, vapes, tobacco products of any kind, and nicotine. 
  • Any prescription drugs not cleared by your course advisor.
  • Weapons of any kind.
Weather During Your Course

Weather During Your Course:

Expect temperatures between 60°F -100°F during the day and 35°F -50°F at night. Weather in unpredictable in the desert, which is why it is essential to pack everything on the required gear list. Please check the weather prior to your course for Moab, Utah at to have an idea of what to expect. Once you arrive at course start, your instructors will update you on current weather patterns and advise you on what clothing will be appropriate. Pro tip: bringing light-colored clothing is a great way to stay cooler!