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Backpacking Information

This page has information for less experienced and experienced backpackers. You will also find additional links and information on our Geek Advice page including advice for camping, food and water, and Outdoors Geek rental FAQs.

How to backpack?

In some ways this is a simple question. Take everything you need, plus a few things you want, and you are well on your way to a successful backpacking trip. But, the fact is that backpacking is a lot more intimidating. Especially if you’re anything like me…..a girl from the Midwest.

The big time devil is in “everything that you need”. Exactly what is needed anyway? Well, for starters, a heck of a lot less than you might think when you have to carry it all on your back. For instance, a little lotion is a yes, but make up is mostly a no. If that makes you nervous the best advice I can give you is don’t take a mirror. And if you’re worried about what the guy with you thinks, give me a break. You’ll be lucky if he even brings deodorant. He’ll be thinking “it’s so cool this girl will backpack with me and she even smells good” (the lotion).

So, here is what you need:

  • Backpack
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad - I like inflatable pads. In my experience even "self inflating" pads need to be blown up to make sure my hip bone is not touching the ground when I sleep on my side (call me a deva). Bottom line is this: inflatable pads are smaller and lighter than self inflating pads and they are very comfortable.
  • Pillow (ok, maybe not a need for everyone, but it is for me...and now a days the inflating pillows are nice)
  • Single burner stove (and something to light it with) (we cannot ship any kind of gas so be sure to pick this up yourself if your renting from Outdoors Geek)
  • Matches or a lighter - I always take a lighter and at least two matchbooks stored in separate water proof areas
  • Camp Cookware (we have cookware for 2 or 4)
  • Food (think freeze dried)
  • Trail snacks – take a few granola bars or energy bars
  • Candy – we love to have a few jolly ranchers on the trail and they can boost your blood sugar level at critical times
  • Hydration - a 2 liter water bladder is good and a 96 oz canteen is light and nice to have around camp
  • Filtration (so you can filter water along the way)
  • First Aid Kit (we sell three basic kits)
  • Sun Screen - and please make it high quality sun screen like we carry at Outdoors Geek.
  • Bug spray (we have a nice 6 oz size)
  • Rain Gear - Minimally a poncho, but I recommend a light weight rain coat and pants. If you end up hiking in the rain you will learn quickly that a poncho will leave your lower body soaking wet and cold
  • Bear Canister (also consider a carrying case to make it easier to strap on your pack)
  • Nylon Cord  - 25 feet is a good idea and 50 feet is even better
  • Multi-tool (serves as your knife and general helpful tool)
  • A Bright Smiley face and go-getter attitude! (We do not sell these, sorry...but don't you dare forget them :)
  • Clothing (three season clothing, winter is a whole different ball game)
  1. Short Sleeved shirt - two or three
  2. Long sleeved shirt poly (one or two)
  3. Long sleeved heavier material possibly fleece (1)
  4. One pair of shorts
  5. Wool Socks -Take only wool socks. We sell top quality Alpaca wool socks.
  6. Do I need to include under wear on this list…..
  7. One or two pair of some kind of leg covering (I usually take lined wind pants and light weight zip off pants).
  8. Rain pants - Rain pants double as another layer of protection when needed or a second pair of pants if needed.
  9. Rain coat - a rain poncho is not enough to keep you dry unless it doesn't rain....

Backpacking and Hiking trip ideas

There is a ton of information available on the web for whatever area you plan on visiting in the United States. Below are a few links to trip that we recommend and other camping links that may help. We are based in Denver, CO so we know more about Colorado, but we are happy to help any way we can.

How can I make sure the backpack I rent will fit me?

Go to our backpack fitting guide and/or give us a call.

Geek Tip: Men often want backpacks that are too big for them. This is because backpacks are not measured by your girth (or testosterone level). Backpacks are measured by a special measurement of your spine which is quick and easy to do. See our backpack fitting guide for a quick how to guide.

Here is a great Nationwide Hiking Link.

What kind of clothing should I take?

With the obvious caveat that the gear you need will depend on the time of year and potential weather conditions in the area you are camping, here are some tips and ideas on what to take with you.

  • Rain Gear - The best way to get rained on is to not take rain gear. At least buy a cheap poncho from us. It will give you some level of protection, but if your legs will get cold and wet if you need to hike in the rain. A poncho is light and will keep your critical upper body dry. It can also be used to sit on wet ground or snow if your climbing 14ers.

  • T-shirts - I love the poly or hi tech shirts sold by Under Armor and others. They are light and do not retain smells like cotton. Take at least two so you always have a dry one.

  • Long Sleeves - again, think poly material and think layers. I love to have one of my long sleeve shirts to have thumb holes to help keep my wrist warm.

  • Shorts and pants - same as above. No jeans. Take poly pants or wind pants. I like a pair with zip off legs and a pair of lined wind pants.

  • Long underwear bottoms - they are light and can really come in handy....seriously, don't leave home without them. In the high country, I sleep in long underwear every single night.

  • Hat & gloves- I like something that covers my ears...especially at altitude and especially at night when I'm sleeping. Why? Because I don't have any hair and my head gets cold and wakes me up. So, there's always a stocking cap in my pack! I also take a hat with a brim to keep sun off my face. High country sun will burn your face in a heart beat.

    As for gloves, your hands will feel cold when the temperatures drop into the 40's. Take a light weight pair of gloves and you will be happy you did.

Beginners start here

If you’re just getting started, we are excited to help you any way we can! I love it when people get involved in spending time outdoors. Give us a call at (303) 699-6944 or email us at We will do everything possible to help make your trip great.

Why do I want a rain cover for my backpack?

The number one reason is that if you get into a really bad weather pattern, you can keep things dry. Honestly, this doesn't happen too often and it almost never happens in the Rocky Mountains. However, you will be glad to have one if it does. We had a group that did a 4-day high country fishing trip in 2012 that had rain almost continually and a total of 10 inches. Again this is rare, but safe back country travel is about being prepared for the unexpected.

Do I really need a bear canister?

It’s a good idea and they are pretty cheap to rent. Hit this link for more information on dealing with backcountry food

Bear Canisters and back country Food

Bear canisters are now required in Rocky Mountain National Park and other Western US national parks.

If you are in bear country, rent or buy a bear canister. If you are not sure, you should rent or buy a bear canister. There is actually a good alternative that won’t cost you much money, but it will take more time and may be pretty inconvenient.

The old school way to deal with food in the backcountry is by hanging it in a tree. The ideal place to hang food is 10 feet up a tree, 6 to 10 feet out from the tree trunk, and 200 feet from your camp. This gets the good stuff plenty high and it’s far enough away from the tree trunk so as to make it difficult for animals to get into. We use a plastic garbage bag that we tie or knot shut and we protect that bag with a nylon bag (always take at least one extra plastic bag just in case you put a hole in your plastic bag). The plastic bag is used simply to hide the smell of your yummy food.

To make this technique work well, you will need 25 feet of nylon cord, the food bags I mentioned above, and a small preferably odd shaped rock.

Geek Tip:

  • Securely tie 25 feet of cord around a rock that is 1/3 to ½ the size of your fist (oblong rocks work best)
  • Throw the cord with rock attached over a suitable branch. This could injure you or another camper is you are not careful. Have anyone else move back a safe distance. If you are on a hillside, always throw from the uphill side.
  •  After the rock is around the branch of choice, allow it to lower to the ground. Untie the rock and tie the bag to the nylon cord.
  • Use the other end of the rope to pull your food back up toward the branch. Securely tie your cord to the tree or a nearby tree. Admire your work and your old school skills.
There is a problem with this technique in much of the back country in the Western US. Most or all of the trees in many high country areas are pine trees that do not have branches suitable for this type of food hanging technique.