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 needed that is not on the required packing list. There are no additional fees for the use of our equipment. If you have your own equipment that 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 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.

Rain Pants and Rain Jackets:

Although Colorado and Utah have a reputation for lots of sunshine, it rains frequently in the backcountry! Having high-quality waterproof gear that will keep you dry will be very important.

Please read our Guide to Picking the Right Rain Gear to make sure you pack the right waterproof gear. 

Required Clothing and Gear

Head & Hand Layers:

Quantity   Item            Description
1 Baseball Cap  

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

1 Warm Hat

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

1 Midweight Gloves

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

1 Buff To be worn when close to others during activities. 

Top Layers:

Quantity Item Description
2 Sports Bra

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

2-3 Short Sleeve T-Shirt

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

1 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.

1 Long Sleeve Mid Layer  

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

1 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.

1 Insulated Jacket

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

1 Rain Jacket

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

Bottom Layers:

Quantity Item Description
3-4 Underwear

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

1 Shorts

Athletic shorts that wick moisture and dry quickly.

1 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
1 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.
1 Hiking Pants Medium weight, loose fitting pant; These will be your most used pants.
1 Belt

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

1 Rain Pants Should be waterproof, not water resistant. Should be loosefitting as to go over all you other layers of pants. Lower leg zippers recommended.

Footwear Layers:

Quantity Item Description

Thick Hiking Socks

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

Hiking Socks

Basic wool hiking sock; crew to ski-length socks
1 Boots

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.

1 Running Shoes

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


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

SPF 30 or greater
1 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
1 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.

8-10 Wet Wipes

For extra cleaning and hygiene..

1 Towel For showering at basecamp.

Personal Accessories:

Quantity Item  Description
1 Luggage Bag

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

1 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..

2 Bandana

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

1 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.

1 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.

2 Water Bottles

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

1 Headlamp

LED headlamp with extra batteries - lithium batteries recommended.

2 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.

1 Watch

Digital and water resistant recommended.


Sealable Plastic Bags

Heavy duty to protect cameras, use as trash bags etc. Sandwich or gallon sized.

Travel to and From Course: 

Quantity Item Description
  Money & Snacks

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


Emergency Contact Numbers

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:

You can expect temperatures between 40°-80°F during the day and 15°F-40°F at night. Weather in the mountains can be unpredictable, which is why it is essential to pack everything on the required gear list. Please check the weather prior to your course for Leadville, Colorado at to have an idea of what to expect. If you tend to get cold easily, we encourage you to make sure your base layers, hat and gloves are extra warm! Once you arrive at course start, your instructors will update you on current weather patterns and advise you on what clothing will be appropriate.