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
Backcountry travel means you can and, for your comfort, should carry a lot less than you do in the regular world; 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.

Your COBS Packing List: 

  • Colorado Outward Bound School provides other necessary equipment not on this list, including stoves, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, backpacks, cookware, sleeping tarps, ropes, drybags, & personal flotation devices. 
  • There are no additional fees for the use of our equipment, but if our equipment is lost or damaged beyond normal wear and tear, you will be charged for the replacement.
  • 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 your luggage while you are on course. These items are kept at our base camp facility in a locked storage area while you are on course. Please leave unnecessary or expensive items at home.
  • Once on the course, your instructors will help you select from your luggage the best combination of items for you. They will assess your personal gear, the group gear you will be required to carry, and then balance it against your pack weight, physical size, and temperature for the time of year.
  • Since this list must accommodate ALL the weather conditions you may encounter and consider the wide range of individual preferences and body temperatures of our students, it is very likely you will not use every single item on this list. One option is to leave the tags on any items you purchase for this course in the event they were not used on the trip and you would like to return them but please note your retailers’ return policies!
  • Please bring everything on the list! If there are items not mentioned on this list you feel you will need, or you have concerns about cost and want help strategizing for less expensive options, call and ask 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 

Please note Outward Bound provides all other equipment including but not limited to sleeping bags & pads, backpacks, camp gear. There are no additional fees for the use of our equipment. If you have your own equipment and it meets the below criteria, you are welcome to bring it with you. Please be aware that your instructors will assess it for appropriateness and may ask you to use Outward Bound gear in lieu of your own if they do not find your gear adequate for your particular course.

If you DO wish to bring some of your own gear, here are our minimum standards for what MAY be acceptable for few common items

If you DO wish to bring some of your own gear:

Here are our minimum standards for what MAY be acceptable for a few common items.

  • Sleeping bags – need to be made from synthetic materials (down fill is not appropriate for our purposes) and have a 20-degree or colder warmth rating.
  • Sleeping pads – can be ¾ to full size in length. They can be made of closed-cell foam (Ridge-Rest or Z-Rest) or be inflatable (Therma-Rest®).  If you bring an inflatable pad you must bring a patch kit as well. Remember, inflatable pads usually weigh considerably more than closed-cell foam pads.
  • Backpacks – need to have a minimum capacity of 6,000 cubic inches, should carry 45-60 lbs. comfortably and be an internal frame design. Side pockets are also a useful option.

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 pull moisture away from your body so your sweat won’t cool you down too much and make you cold.
  • Mid layer(s)— the insulation layer (warm tops, socks, fleece pants). This should be thick fluffy sweaters and jackets that will trap and store the heat your body is producing to keep you warm.
  • Outer layer—the shell layer (jackets, pants, rain gear). Adding an outer wind and/or waterproof layer makes sure that the wind does not steal all that built up heat and all your insulating layers do not get soaked.


  • Hard Shell: These are materials that are waterproof, windproof, and breathable and generally worn when it’s raining, snowing, or really windy.
  • Soft Shell: These are materials that are water and wind resistant, but not always waterproof. They are more breathable than hard shell materials.
  • Fleece: Great insulator and dries quickly, but not always wind proof. In windy conditions, you’ll often wear your hard shell over your fleece to combine the wind-resistance and insulation.
  • Wool: Natural material that, unlike cotton, keeps you warm when wet. It’s a bit heavier than some of the synthetic fabric. As a bonus, wool is naturally odor and bacteria resistant.
  • Synthetic: Most items listed here should not be cotton, because cotton absorbs water, dries slowly, and steals your warmth when wet. Acceptable non-cotton options are wool, capilene, poly-propylene, polyester, fleece, acrylic, rayon, Polartec, Thinsulate, COOLMAX, and nylon.
Required Clothing and Gear

Top Layers

  • 2+ Short Sleeve Shirts. This T-shirt is made out of quick-drying synthetic (not cotton) fabric that moves moisture away from your skin and allows maximum airflow. ($10-$30)
  • 1+ 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. ($2-$40)
  • 1 Expedition-weight/Heavyweight Long Underwear Top. This top is your second or third layer depending on what is required. Needs to a bit bigger to fit the previous layers underneath. ($30+)

Bottom Layers

  • 2 pairs 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. ($20-$50)
  • 1 pair 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. ($30-$60) 

Inner Layers

  • 4+ Underwear: Cotton or Synthetic. Bring at least one pair of synthetic underwear for on the river. Otherwise cotton is okay for underwear. Bring from home.
  • 3+ Sport bras. Should have the proper support for athletic activity. ($20+)
  • 1 Mid-weight 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+)
    This is a good online resource: 

Outer Layers: must fit over all other layers

  • 1 Fleece Jacket. A mid to 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. ($50-$100)
  • 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. ($120 + for the pair)
  • 1 Synthetic Insulated Jacket (Puffy) or heavy Fleece. For the mountains. Synthetics are water-resistant and will dry quicker than down and retain warmth even when damp. When choosing a synthetic “Puffy”, a jacket between 13oz.- 19oz. is a great choice for this time of year (packable, yet warm). (70-$200)

Head and Hands

  • 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. ($8-$20)
  • 1 Warm Hat. For chilly mornings or to warm up after swimming. ($3-$10)
  • 1 Pair of 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. These can keep your hands warm on rainy days in the mountains or protect against bugs at some of the camps on the river. They also provide great sun protection while out on the river. ($5-$20)
    Examples here: 
  • 2+ Face Masks - Fabric Style. 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 2 layers of fabric and securely cover the mouth and nose. ($10-$20)
  • 1 Buff - Tubular Style. For wind and weather protection. ($5-$20)


  • 3 pair 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-$15 pair)
  • 4+ pair Medium-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 also work great. Flip-flops, Clogs, Crocs, and Aquasocks are NOT acceptable. ($60+)
  • 1 Pair Running Shoes. 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. ($0-$100)
  • 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.  ($100+)  This is a good resource:

Personal Items

  • 1 Watch. Inexpensive, durable, waterproof, with an alarm. You will be responsible for waking up on time!
  • 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 suffices.
  • 2 Pairs Sunglasses with Keeper Strap and Hard Case. 100% UV protection. Dark and sturdy, need to bring a keeper strap with them. Essential to protecting your eyes in a highly reflective environment! TWO PAIRS in case you lose or break one pair.
  • 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. NO Camelbak/backpack hydration devices because these are difficult and dangerous to rig on the rafts for rapids. Screw top lids are better than ‘sippy-top’ lids since the bottles will frequently come into contact with river water.
  • 1 Sunscreen. Waterproof and SPF 30+ (approx 6 oz bottle).
  • 1+ Lip Balm. With SPF to protect from the sun.
  • 1 Moisturizing Lotion. 10 oz. bottle. The desert is awfully dry. Unscented ONLY.
  • 1 Insect Repellant. Small to medium sized, in an unbreakable bottle—no spray cans. Products with Picaridan or DEET are most effective.
  • 2 Bandana. This all-purpose piece of cotton absorbs sweat, cleans off trail-grime and offers a multitude of other camp and trail uses.
  • 1 Toiletry Kit. Toothbrush, small toothpaste, 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 that do not have plastic applicators are recommended as it reduces the amount of trash being carried out. A Diva Cup is 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.
  • 1 Headlamp with Extra 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 two extra set of batteries. Headlamps with a red setting are ideal to preserve batteries and night-vision as well as keep flies away.
  • 2 Sets Prescription Medications Including 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 Sets Glasses or Contacts. Contacts are ok w/ glasses as your backup (contacts can occasionally be difficult to put in due to the sandy environment). Bring extra glasses and a hard case if applicable.
  • 2 Pens and/or Pencils. Regular pens work great to record memories/thoughts.
  • 1 Personal Hand Sanitizer. Minimum of 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer contained in 3 oz bottles. Plus a larger 16oz to refill if your course is 15-days or longer.  
  • 1 Digital Oral Thermometer w/Battery. Small and lightweight for daily temperature checks. 

Travel to and From Course

  • 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. ($80)
  • 1 Set Clean clothes for the trip home. Please bring a set of clean clothes for your travels home.
Optional Items

Optional Items:

Quantity Items Description
1 Travel Insurance COBS strongly recommends purchasing travel insurance to protect you in the event of an emergency cancellation or early medical departure. 
1 Stationary/
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.
1 Camera Most people bring small, digital cameras or disposable 35mm cameras.  Large cameras (SLRs, for example) are heavy, bulky and difficult to protect in the backcountry. Bring multiple cameras if disposable. If bringing a non- disposable camera, consider taking extra precautions like putting it in a Ziploc bag or Pelican hard case to keep out dirt and sand.
2+ Ear Plugs

Recommended if you are a light sleeper.

1 Crazy Creek Chair  

Crazy Creek and REI are popular brands. No chairs with legs can be brought! Must be lightweight and packable/rollable

1 Water Filter     COBS disinfects all wilderness water with iodine, bleach, or by boiling. Not all of these methods are effective against cryptosporidium. Immunocompromised people may wish to obtain an appropriate water filter for their course.
1 Straw Sunhat Great while on the river.
1 Sarong 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 will also work.
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 summer daytime temperatures in the mountains ranging from 60-85 degrees with nighttime temperatures ranging from 35-50 degrees.  On the river, daytime highs will generally range from 80-100 degrees (pro-tip: avoid dark colors since they absorb more heat) with nighttime lows ranging from 50-60 degrees.  Despite these recommendations of what is “normal weather,” our course environments are characterized by unpredictable weather—snow and freezing weather as well as 105 degree heat are all within the realm of possible weather during the summer, although rare.  Please bring everything on this list since weather patterns can change quickly, especially over the course of 50 days through varying elevationsOnce you arrive at course start, your instructors will update you on current weather patterns and what clothing will be appropriate.