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: 

  • We provide all necessary equipment that is not on the Required Clothing & Gear List. This includes 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, you will be charged for the replacement. For this reason, we ask that each student brings a credit card or prepaid card. Cash will not be accepted. 
  • 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. These items will be kept at our base camp in a locked storage area. 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 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 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 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.
  • Sleeping pads – can be ¾ to full size in length. They can be made of closed-cell foam or inflatable. Inflatable pads must have insulation and please bring a patch kit.
  • Expedition Backpacks – need to have a minimum capacity of 80 liters, should carry 45-60 lbs. comfortably. Side pockets are also a useful option.
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 Items Description




Baseball Cap

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


Warm Hat

Wool or fleece beanie that can be worn under a helmet.


Midweight Gloves

Should maintain warmth and be weather resistant. To wear in colder temps.


Face Masks

KN95s or N95 To be worn when social distancing isn't possible, and as requested by COBS staff.  



Tubular style. 


Top Layers:





Sports Bra

Sports bra should be able to provide support in physical activity.


Short Sleeve T-Shirts

Outermost shirt, must be comfortable during walking, hiking, and other course activities


Long Sleeve Base Layer

Base layers are the first layer of clothing to  provide warmth while absorbing and evaporating sweat to keep student warm and comfortable.


Long Sleeve Mid Layer  

Worn on top of baselayer for insulation. Soft, long sleeve technical fleece, (hood optional). Lightweight, compact, and moisture wicking. 


Long Sleeve Shirt

UPF materials are recommended. Loosefitting, long sleeves. Long sleeve button up shirts and sun hoodies also work to keep you warm and provide sun protection. UPF materials are recommended.


Insulated Jacket

This is a puffy, lightweight jacket with a hood to optimize warmth. Will be worn as outermost layer in dry conditions.


Rain Jacket

Should be waterproof, not water resistant. Should be helmet compatible and loosefitting as to go over all you other layers of clothes. 



Bottom Layers:






Comfortable underwear for physical activities. Cotton underwear is recommended for sleeping (bring at least one pair).



Athletic shorts that wick moisture and dry quickly.


Pant Base Layer

Base layers are the first layer of clothing to provide warmth while absorbing and evaporating sweat to keep student warm and comfortable


Hiking Pants

Medium weight, loose fitting pant; These will be your most used pants.


Insulated Pants

These pants can be down, fleece, or synthetic insulation full side zips on these pants are useful in the backcountry. For keeping warm at camp on cool days and evenings, great for layering.



Easily adjustable synthetic belt. Something that will fit smoothly under your backpack hip belt.. 


Rain Pants

Should be waterproof, not water resistant. Should be loose fitting as to go over all you other layers of pants. Lower leg zippers recommended. 


Footwear Layers:





Hiking Socks   

Basic wool hiking sock; crew to ski-length socks


Thick Hiking Socks 

Important for very cold days, sleeping, and being at camp. Make sure new boots are fitted with the thickest socks



The most essential piece of gear that you will purchase. Must be waterproof, have good tread, a sturdy non-flexible sole, and at least mid-ankle in height.

* Please read this blog on choosing boots for more information.


Running Shoes

This will be your dry, comfortable, camp shoe. It should be somewhat lightweight and sturdy. 







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

SPF 30 or greater


Insect Repellant

Must be a cream or lotion. 2-4 oz., plastic container. Products with Picaridan or DEET (10 - 35%) are most effective. 


Moisturizing Lotion

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


Toiletry Kit

Travel-size toiletries for basecamp use, if showers are an option.


Menstrual Products

Choose the method you are most familiar with and bring extra supplies. Regardless of your choice, take into consideration that you will have to pack out all waste. Menstrual cups produce less waste. If you’ve never used a menstrual cup, we recommend you try it before course. If using tampons, consider a non-applicator tampon to reduce bulk and waste.


Wet Wipes

For extra cleaning and hygiene.



For showering at basecamp.


Personal Accessories:





Duffle Bag

Large duffle bag or suitcase for travel to and from course. 


ID & Insurance Card

Bring your card if you have insurance. The actual card is preferred, but a copy of the front and the back of the card will be okay. Store in ziplock bag.



Bring extra if intended to use for backcountry hygiene including as a pee rag.


Sunglasses with keeper strap

Sunglasses with UV protection. For winter, or courses expected to travel significantly on snow, peripheral coverage and dark lenses are important to protect from the additional sun glare.


Prescription Eye Wear + Extra Glasses and/or contacts

Contacts – bring extra pairs Glasses - Ensure these are compatible with your sunglasses. Bring an extra set in case of damage or backup.


Water Bottles

Two wide-mouth 32 oz. water bottle.  A hydration bladder is not recommended for river courses or sections with freezing temperatures.



LED headlamp with extra batteries - lithium batteries recommended. 


Prescription Medications including Asthma Inhalers

THESE MUST BE DECLARED DURING THE APPLICATION PROCESS. Bring medications in original containers (name, dosage, and instruction labels should be listed). Bring a ziploc bag for storage. Bring two sets of medication in case original is lost or damaged. 



Digital and water resistant recommended.


Large Zip-Lock Plastic Bags Or Stuff Sacks

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


Travel to and From Course: 





Money &   Snacks

Extra cash and snacks are recommended for travel days and unexpected expenses such as luggage fees, bus fare, etc.


Emergency Contact Numbers for Travel Delays

Carry a copy of the COBS phone numbers to use in case of travel delays


Clean Clothes

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.