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Gear Advice: Long Trail Gear Recommendation (Colorado Trail)

A group of us (men and women) are planning to do hike the Colorado Trail this summer.  Would love to get recommendation from local (Denver) on backpack, sleeping bag/pad, tent (2 man), water filtration system and shoes appropriate for backpacking the Colorado Trail.  Thank you!

7 Replies

@Telluride, thanks for the question! We'll tag a few REI employees who are in the Denver area for local advice! @REI-JasonO @REI-AndyF @REI-JessieD @REI-JonF @REI-MollyM @REI-PearlD   

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

I'm not an REI employee,  but I think more info is needed before your questions can be answered.  Are you through-hiking, section hiking, or day hiking?  How many miles per day are you planning?  Cold food or will you take a stove?  Do you want to go ultralight, or more traditional backpacking, and what base pack weight are you aiming for?  How often will you resupply?  The answers to those questions would be helpful, and might also lead to many more. 

As far as wanting help from a local, I live about five miles from the CT in a resupply town and am hiking this section quite often.  But it's not Denver.

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Hi @Telluride,

The Colorado Trail is such a great adventure. It's hard to beat summer in the Rocky Mountains!

To echo some of what @johnt mentioned, it's important that we know a little more about the journey you're making to fit you with the right gear. Some important questions are:

-How much of the trail are you planning to hike? Are you planning an entire thru-hike, or planning on hiking certain sections?

-What is your current backpacking and hiking background? Is this your first trip, or have you gone on multi-day trips before? What sort of shoes or boots are you using for hiking right now? 

-How do you plan to cook your food? If you are planning on cooking most of your meals with a stove, you'll need to plan for more water than if you're bringing only food that doesn't have to be cooked. A stove and extra water will also make your pack heavier, which is important to consider when selecting a pack. 

-If you're thru-hiking or planning on hiking multiple sections at once, how often will you resupply? If you're not resupplying much, you might need a pack with a larger volume. 

-How will you bear and critter-proof your food--will you choose a bear sack, or a bear canister? While bear canisters are not required on the Colorado Trail, if you do choose to carry one, you'll need to account for the canister shape and size when choosing your pack. 

Knowing a little more about your plans for the trip would help us choose the right items for you. Of course, once you've selected and purchased your gear, you'll want to ensure that you've tested out your setup--pack, tent, cooking, sleeping, footwear-- at least once before your trip. 

Finally, make sure you're checking out the latest news from the Colorado Trail Foundation for recommendations on any future trip adjustments you may need to make. For example, Waterton Canyon, which makes up the first six miles of the westbound trail, is currently closed to the public until further notice. 

Looking forward to hearing more about your plans so we can get you set up with the right gear!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

also maybe exactly when in the summer...some places still have snow up to 1 July, dependent upon altitude, season snow fall, etc. etc.


REI Member Since 1979

Thanks for your response.  A few more details about our CT hike.  We are planning on splitting up the 485 mile distance over 3 summers, so we are planning to start mid/late July in Durango (based on snowpack) and cover about 150 miles over 10-14 days.  We are very experienced mountain hikers, but it's been more than a decade since we did a multi-day backpacking trip.  We likely will resupply halfway in Silverton, so we need to carry about a week's worth of food which we plan to cook with a stove.  Probably just use a bear sack instead of canister.  On the gear, we want to minimize our base pack weight as much as possible, but don't want to sacrifice too much comfort (pack, sleeping bag/pad) with extreme ultralight.

Given all that, do you think a 65L pack be sufficient?  Looking for a comfortable, lightweight pack.  Thoughts on Gregory Baltoro 65 or one of the Osprey packs?

Altitude in San Juan range (Segments 21-28) is 10-13k feet, so it can get below freezing at night even in July/August.  Do you have a lightweight, low temp sleeping bag recommendation?  And what about a comfortable lightweight sleeping pad?  Willing to add ounces here for a bit more warmth and comfort!

And lastly, recommended lightweight 2 man tent?  

Thank you!


Hi @Telluride,

Thanks for sharing more information about your trip!

A 65L pack should be sufficient for a 10-14 day trip, unless you're planning on carrying more weight for someone else in your group. The Gregory Baltoro 65 is a well-reviewed pack that combines comfort and weight-saving features, coming in at under 5lbs at all sizes except L. The Osprey Aether AG 60 is another option in a similar size, and has slightly different features and fit, including a detachable daypack. Both packs come in S, M, and L sizes, which depend on the length of your torso. If you're interested in an adjustable pack that you can size on your own, you might consider the Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+10 or the Osprey Rook 65. 

For a sleeping bag, I would recommend the REI Co-Op Magma 15. The bag has a tested comfort rating of 28 degrees, and a lower limit of 16 degrees, making it ideal for just about all weather along the CT in the summer. It's incredibly warm for its weight, and compresses down to 5L. 

For a sleeping pad, I would recommend the Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra. This pad, with an r-value of 4.5, will help promote a warmer sleep. It's also very comfortable, especially for side sleepers. I've used this pad in temperatures as low as 20 degrees, and have seen no air leakage. That said, because it's a fully-inflatable pad, it may be a good idea to travel with a patch kit. I'd also recommend a pump sack, as it takes quite a few breaths to inflate (and you'll definitely have fewer of those at altitude!)

Finally, you have several options for a lightweight two-person tent. My two recommendations for tents are the REI-Co-Op Quarter Dome SL2 and the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2. Both of these tents are considered lightweight, weigh under 3lbs, and feature designs that work to maximize peak height. It's important to note that both of these tents are semi-freestanding.

For a total freestanding tent, you have other options still. The REI Co-Op Half Dome 2 Plus and the Marmot Tungsten 2P are some of our best selling backpacking tents; however, these tents are heavier than the Quarter Dome and Tiger Wall, with packaged weights of over 5lbs.

For more on tents, I'd recommend checking out our Expert Advice article on choosing a backpacking tent. Once you've selected all of your trip items, make sure you test your camp setup to ensure you're heading into the backcountry as prepared as possible.

Your local REI also has resources for helping you dial in your backpacking setup such as free personal outfitting sessions, and backpacking-focused workshops. Once our retail stores re-open, we're happy to help in-person!

I hope you have fun preparing for your trip, and we'll look forward to hearing your trip recap here on Conversations! Happy hiking!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Thank you.  That's extremely helpful and I look forward to the stores reopening!