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

  • Sleeping bags – need to have a 15-degree warmth rating or warmer. Synthetic filled bags have the advantage of being warm even when wet. Down-fill sleeping bags are not appropriate for this course due to the wet conditions found in the backcountry. Should weigh less than 5 lbs. Big Agnes is a recommended brand.
  • Sleeping pads – can be ¾ to full size in length. They can be made of closed-cell foam or be inflatable. If you bring an inflatable pad you must bring a patch kit as well. Inflatable pads MUST have insulation. Big Agnes is a recommended brand.
  • Expedition Backpacks – need to have a minimum capacity of 80 liters, should carry 45-60 lbs. comfortably. Side pockets are also a useful option. Osprey is a recommended brand.
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.

Information on Rain Pants and Jackets**

After footwear, rainwear is the most critical part of your clothing system. It can make or break your experience. If you have to cut costs elsewhere to invest more in rainwear, we recommend doing that. In general, you get what you pay for in rain gear.

All rainwear should be a WATERPROOF AND BREATHABLE fabric, not merely water resistant. It must have a hood. Gore- Tex, a brand name fabric that many manufacturers use, comes in differing layer amounts, from 1 to 3-layer. 3-layer is the waterproof version, and the most expensive. For this course, 2.5 layers or 3 layers are recommended. Many companies make their own version of this waterproof, breathable fabric that is of high quality. For example, REI uses
eVent; Patagonia uses H2no; and The North Face has Hy Vent. Please call your course advisors if you have any questions regarding proper rainwear for your course.

Here are some examples of acceptable rain jackets, and approximate retail prices.

• Patagonia Torrentshell - $129
• REI Rhyolite Jacket - $189
• Outdoor Research Foray Jacket - $215
• Outdoor Research Clairvoyant Jacket - $325
• Marmot Knife Edge Rain Jacket - $225

Here are some examples of acceptable pants, and approximate retail prices. 

• Marmot Precip Pants - $100
• Patagonia Torrentshell Pants - $99

For more rainwear info: 

Required Clothing and Gear

Head & Hand Layers:

Quantity   Item            Description
1 Baseball Cap  or Visor

Necessary for sun protection; full brimmed hats do not work well with backpacks. 

1 Warm Hat

Wool or fleece – no tassels or brims as it must be able to fit under a helmet.

1 Midweight Gloves

Should be insulated and weather resistant. To wear when the temps are a little colder when hiking and in camp.

3+ 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 2 layers of fabric and securely cover the mouth and nose.

1 Buff Tubular style. 


Top Layers:

Quantity Item Description
3 Sports Bra

Synthetic or Merino wool materials recommended. Camisoles with built-in bra are a great cold-weather option. 

3-4 T-Shirts - Synthetic & Cotton

Merino wool or synthetic t-shirt for use as a base layer during physical activity. Synthetic and/or cotton tees for travel and basecamp days. 


Long Sleeve Base Layer

Thin, skin layer, synthetic or merino wool shirt.
1 Long Sleeve Mid Layer  

Medium weight wool or expedition weight Capilene®/ 100 weight fleece, etc. (REI=$) (Patagonia=$$)

1 Long Sleeve Shirt (Sun Hoody)

Loose, light colored for sun protection. Sun hoodies are optimal for the additional head protection, but long sleeve button up shirts also work; cotton or nylon materials are ok. UPF materials are suggested for individuals more prone to sunburns.(Thrift Shop=$) (Black Diamond/Patagonia=$$)

1 Fleece/Softshell/Thin Puffy Jacket

200 or 300-weight fleece; or a thin synthetic puffy jacket. Options for this layer provide a variety of warmth-to-weight ratios, durability, and costs. A hood is recommended. (REI Hyperaxis Fleece=$) (Patagonia Nano Puff=$$)

1 Puffy Jacket

700 or 800-fill expedition weight, synthetic or down, thick puffy jacket with a hood. (Rab/Outdoor Research=$) (Patagonia/Black Diamond=$$)

1 Waterproof, Breathable   Rain Jacket

This layer should have a Gore-Tex or other waterproof coating that stops outside moisture from entering; must fit over all your other layers including a helmet. **See more detailed notes on rain gear (REI or Outdoor Research=$) (Patagonia/Black Diamond=$$)
























Bottom Layers:

Quantity Item Description
4-5 Underwear

For males, we recommend briefs or boxer briefs. For females, we recommend at least one pair of cotton nighttime underwear for breathability. Synthetic, quick drying  underwear for daytime activities and cotton for sleeping. (Nylon/Spandex=$) (Wool=$$)

1 Shorts

Quick-drying, athletic shorts; for potential swimming days, and river sections. Lightweight nylon fabric wicks moisture and dries quickly. Board shorts or running shorts work well. Pockets are always nice. (What you have already or Thrift Store=$) (REI=$$)

1 Base Layer Bottoms Thin, skin layer, synthetic or merino wool pants.
1 Quick Dry Pants

Lightweight, quick-drying, nylon fabric that packs easily. These are loose fitting for ease of movement. Course environment can be rough on clothing. We recommend pants that are semi-durable, or that you won't mind getting torn. (Thrift Store or REI=$) (KUHL or Patagonia=$$)

1 Medium Weight Pants  Mid-weight wool or fleece pants – for keeping warm at camp on cool days and evenings. (REI=$) (Smartwool=$$)
1 Rain-Shell Pants Similar to your rain jacket, this layer should have a breathable, waterproof coating that stops outside moisture from entering; must fit over other pant layers and ideally has lower leg zips for easy on/off without removing boots. **See more detailed notes on rain gear. (REI or Marmot=$) (Patagonia=$$)


Footwear Layers:

Quantity Item Description

Medium-weight Hiking or Ski Socks   

Wool or Synthetic - base hiking sock; ski socks are nice because they pull up to the knees and provide extra warmth
1 Boots

The most essential piece of clothing or gear that you will purchase.   

* Please see the additional boot document for more guidance.

1 Running Shoes

This will be your dry, comfortable, camp shoe. It should be somewhat lightweight and sturdy. (old pair of running shoes=$)



Quantity Item Description
1 Waterproof Sunscreen

SPF 30 or greater.  For courses 15 days or longer, consider bringing a small bottle to carry and a larger bottle to resupply from. 


Lip Balm or Chap Stick

SPF 30 or greater
1 Insect Repellant

2-4 oz., plastic container. Products with Picaridan or DEET (10 - 35%) are most effective. *No sprays or aerosols. 


Moisturizing Lotion

4-6 oz. per week for dry feet and hands
1 Toiletry Kit

Travel-size toiletries for basecamp use. 

  Menstrual Products

Choose the method you are most comfortable with such as pads, menstrual cups, or tampons and include extra/supplemental supplies.  Many of our staff love a reusable menstrual cup (MeLuna, DivaCup or Lena), because it reduces the amount of waste that will need to be carried.  If you’ve never used a menstrual cup, we recommend you research and trial it before course. If using tampons, consider a non-applicator tampon to reduce bulk and waste that needs to be carried. Feel free to contact your course advisor with any questions. Regardless of your choice, we are able to share practices for managing periods and supplies in the backcountry and provide all the supplies to manage waste. 

10-15 Wet Wipes

For extra cleaning and hygiene.

1 Towel For showering at basecamp.


Personal Accessories:

Quantity Item  Description
1 Duffle Bag

Large duffle bag or suitcase for travel to and from course with. Bag should be big enough to contain all of your personal items. 

1 ID & 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. Store in ziplock bag.

2 Bandana

This all-purpose piece of cotton absorbs sweat, cleans off trail-grime and offers a multitude of other camp and trail uses. 1-2 extra for female students on longer courses.

1 Sunglasses with keeper strap

Sturdy & dark wrap-around sunglasses for adequate protection from sun and wind.  We recommend a higher quality pair for backpacking in the mountains and river travel, and a cheaper pair for daily use in the canyons and at rock camp.

1 Prescription Eye Wear + Extra Glasses and/or contacts

Contacts – bring extra pairs, as well as a backup pair of glasses. Glasses - Ensure these are compatible with your sunglasses, or bring prescription sunglasses. Bring an extra set in case of loss or damage

2 Water Bottles

Wide-mouth 32 oz. water bottle.  A hydration bladder is not recommended for river courses or sections with freezing temperatures.  Please come hydrated to course start! (Nalgene=$) (Klean Kanteen=$$)

1 Headlamp w/ Batteries

LED headlamp with extra batteries - lithium batteries recommended. (Black Diamond or Petzl=$$)

2 Prescription Medications including Asthma Inhalers

THESE MUST BE DECLARED DURING THE APPLICATION PROCESS. Bring 2 sets in their original containers and a ziploc bag for storage on the trail - Please bring these to course start even if you feel they are unnecessary.

1 Watch

Must have alarm. Water resistant recommended.


Large Zip-Lock Plastic Bags

Heavy duty to protect cameras, etc. from sand and water


Travel to and From Course: 

Quantity Item Description
  Travel Money &   Snacks

For longer courses and when traveling from afar, extra cash and snacks are recommended for first and last days of course, as well as transition days. Consider unexpected travel expenses such as luggage fees, bus fare, etc.


Emergency Contact Numbers for Travel Delays

Carry a copy of the phone numbers to use in case of travel delays (from the travel and itinerary document)
  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 Vest To be worn as an extra layer for core body warmth.
  Stamps and Envelopes   If you would like to send mail, bring your own stamps and envelopes. Store it in a ziplock bag.
1 pair Gaiters COBS provides a basic pair of gaiters. Higher end gaiters may provide more coverage and may be easier to use.
1 pair Hiking Poles COBS provides basic poles. You may bring your own pair if you prefer.
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 Insulated cup ½ liter size, maximum. Nice for hot drinks.
1 Toys, Instruments,    Books

You are welcome to bring hacky sacks, frisbees, musical instruments, and other fun stuff. You will only have access to these items for certain, limited times.

1 Cell Phone & Charger

You will have a chance to use your phone at course start and end.

2+ Ear Plugs

Recommended if you are a light sleeper.

1 Inflatable Sleeping Pad

COBS provides an insulated foam pad. If bringing an inflatable pad, it must be lightweight, and have appropriate R-value for the cold. Patch kits required if bringing an inflatable pad.

1 Portable Chair Crazy Creek and REI are popular brands. Must be lightweight and packable/rollable. No chairs with legs can be brought.
1 Backpacking Water Filter COBS treats water with Aquamira, bleach, or by boiling. If you prefer a water backpacking filter you must bring your own.
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 ranging from 40-80 degrees (Colorado) with nighttime temperatures ranging from 15-40 degrees. Despite these recommendations of what is “normal weather,” our course environments are characterized by unpredictable weather. Please check the weather prior to your course for Leadville, Colorado at to have an idea of what to expect, but please bring everything on this list since weather patterns can change quickly.