Top 10 Essentials for Traveling in Colorado's Backcountry

Venturing into Colorado’s beautiful backcountry can provide a rewarding opportunity for solitude and reconnecting with nature, but it can also carry some risk. Whether you’re going for just a quick daytime hike or an overnight trip, you’ll be exposed to the elements in remote lands, making it important to plan ahead!

Updated: April 10, 2024

No matter your chosen activity, you’ll feel safer and be able to make the most out of your experience by following these guidelines for backcountry adventure.

1. Pack a first-aid kit

You never know if you or someone in your crew might get hurt on a hike. Plan ahead and bring a first-aid kit that includes foot care and insect repellent. Be sure you know how to use everything inside it.

2. Don't skimp on the water

Bring more than you think you’ll need, typically carrying at least 2 liters per person. Hydration packs, like the ones sold by Osprey, are especially handy because they can carry lots of water and fit in your backpack.

3. Have a few navigation options

It’s always good to know where you’re going ahead of time and let people know your route. Be sure to pack a paper map, compass, altimeter, personal locator beacon (PLB) and/or GPS device, in addition to your cell phone — depending on your location, you may not have service.

4. Be ready for equipment malfunctions

Bring along a multi-tool or pocket knife, and duct tape for quick repairs for unexpected trail mishaps like broken shoe laces, flat bike tires or a leaky water bottle.

5. Prepare for sun

Colorado’s sun can certainly shine bright, especially at higher elevations — you’re closer to the sun! Bring a hat, neck buff, sunscreen, protective clothing and sunglasses to make sure you're keeping things cool.

6. Light your way after dark

Light up the night sky by bringing a headlamp or two, and be sure to pack some extra batteries so you don’t get caught off guard.

7. Cozy up with a campfire

When the night falls, Colorado’s mountains can get pretty chilly. Bring a lighter or waterproof matches and an emergency tinder so the fire can keep you warm. Learn about fire safety.

8. BYO emergency shelter

In case of an emergency, be sure you can take cover. Bring an emergency bivy, blanket, small tarp or even a large, heavy-duty lawn/leaf bag so you’re not battling the elements when you could be snug instead.

9. Pack a snack (or more!)

Pack enough food for how long you plan to be out, and then bring a little extra just in case — you never know when hunger strikes.

10. Throw in some extra layers

Colorado’s weather is known to change on a dime, especially on the mountain. Be prepared and pack for the chilliest weather possible on your trek so you can stay warm.