Outdoor Studies Program Equipment List

Leadville Campus (Outdoor Education and Outdoor Recreation Leadership)

Download Equipment list (PDF) or read below.

Personal Equipment/Clothing List

This personal equipment/clothing list is meant to help guide you in selecting appropriate gear for your CMC program. Before anything else is discussed, please consider the two following considerations on life as an outdoor professional:

1. Gear is an essential part of life for the outdoors-person, but you don’t need to break the bank acquiring it. Explore attics and definitely seek out your local thrift and consignment shops for good deals to get you started. Pretty soon you’ll know exactly what layers you want and can save up for them. Borrow from experienced (and willing) friends as warranted.

2. There is no right or wrong gear – it is simply a matter of determining your personal preferences and “systems” for layering and packing. Your experience at CMC will allow you to constantly modify your approach, so don’t fret finding the perfect layer – we each have our own…and it varies per course, year, mood, etc. Your experiences at CMC will allow you to reflect on what works best for you.

The Outdoor Studies (OS) program at CMC Leadville will provide you will all of the course-specific technical gear you will need. This includes:

Shelters, stoves, cookware, ropes, helmets, harnesses, all climbing gear (rock & ice), crampons, ice tools/axes, boating equipment (wetsuits, booties, splash tops), avalanche beacons, shovels, probe poles, first aid kits, trekking poles, water jugs, snow study kits, rescue sleds, dromedaries, extra sleeping pads (for winter trips), sleds for winter trips, kayaks (river and sea), rafts and associated equipment, snowshoes, limited supplies of AT, Tele Skis, and Split Boards.

If it’s specific to the course, we’ll have it. Personal items like clothing, backpack(s), and a sleeping system (bag and pad) are your responsibility. You may bring personal technical gear for your courses (helmets, etc), but they will need to be checked by the instructors. Please make sure they are UIAA approved.

The idea behind this list is to offer guidance since only future experience will enable you to make the most informed decisions. Ideally, an individual will begin with hand-me-downs and thrift/consignment store used gear for their first several trips. Once you have an idea of what works for you, then you can set out to procure specific items. “Required” clothing is hard to specify, but the layers noted will be necessary for the program.

One fact is that you need to be prepared for any weather condition. Do not rely on cotton to keep you warm. It absorbs much moisture, takes very long to dry and does not insulate when wet. Synthetic materials such as polypropylene, polyethylene, fleece, and synthetic “puffy” items, or some natural fibers such as silk and wool, are the only suitable inner layer since they do not absorb water and wick moisture away from the skin keeping you dryer and therefore warmer.

You are expected to make arrangements for your own equipment and clothing for participation in the Outdoor Studies Programs at Colorado Mountain College. A version of this checklist (specific to the course type) will be used before each trip for group equipment “shakedown,” and you should be prepared to have all of this equipment with you.

When selecting gear or clothing, find a knowledgeable salesperson (one that has had extensive experience in the outdoors) at your local outdoor or mountaineering store. They should be able to answer most of your questions. Try on several different boots, backpacks, sleeping bags, etc., so you feel comfortable with the equipment as well as your investment. If you take care of your investment, it should last you for many years and take care of you during that time.

*Consider exploring Allen & Mike’s Really Cool Backpackin’ Book, by Allen O’Bannon and Mike Clelland (ISBN# 1-56044-912-8), to answer some of your equipment related questions. This book is a primary resource for our foundational field courses (so you’ll need it anyway) and can be extremely helpful explaining in further detail (and humor) what gear is appropriate for what course types.

You can always call or email the Outdoor Studies offices for more help, even if you’re in the store!

Cooper Mallozzi, 719-486-4272, cmallozzi@coloradomtn.edu

Kent Clement, 719-486-4270, kclement@coloradomtn.edu

Trey Shelton 719-486-4253, tshelton@coloradomtn.edu



Synthetic Sleeping Bag Rated at least 0 to 20 degrees F. A 5 to 15 degree bag is the most versatile and can be used for both Fall and Spring trips, thus saving you having to purchase two sleeping bags. Down bags are unacceptable for all but winter trips because they lose most of their insulating qualities when damp. REI, Western Mountaineering, MontBell, Marmot, Mountain Hardware, & North Face are some of the recommended brands. A “compression” stuff sack is recommended to compress this bag small enough to fit into your pack and still have room for other things–however, always store your bag in a large king size pillow case when not in use

Sleeping pad i.e. Thermarest, Ensolite, or Ridge Rest are some of the popular brands–just make sure it is closed cell foam unless it is covered by a waterproof layer (such as Thermarest). You will either need a full-length pad OR a ¾ length pad and then a “shortie” foam pad (good for sitting on around camp).

Large Backpack (min. 5000 cu. in.) Lowe Alpine, Deuter, Marmot, Arcteryx, MontBell, and Gregory are all good brand names. For more selection and fitting details, see the attached Equipment Notes section. A waterproof cover is optional (we line our packs with trash bags…).

Water bottles – Two 1 qt. Wide-mouth water bottles are ideal. Perhaps a “baby nalgene” (1/2 Liter) for hot drinks too. Bladder systems (Camelbak, Playpus, MSR, etc…) also work, although they need extra monitoring and can quickly freeze on colder trips. Look for “BPA free” products.

Head Lamp – Not just a flashlight…a headlamp allows you to be “hands-free.”

Spoon (and maybe a Fork) – Single utensils made of wood, lexan, or metal.

Unbreakable Bowl, preferably with a tight-fitting lid – Lightweight Lexan is good, as are Tupperware containers. Leftovers and lunch can be stored in sealable bowls!

Knife or Leatherman tool – No fixed-blade sheath knives

Sun Block – minimum SPF 25

Chap Stick – minimum SPF 25

Toiletries – Toothbrush, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products (minimize all…)

Top Layers No Cotton!

Synthetic or Silk Long Underwear Top – Polypropylene or Capilene because it wicks away moisture and dries quickly keeping you more comfortable and safe. T-shirt style is good. Also consider finding a silk, poly, or rayon Hawaiian style shirt at a thrift store for $5 (cheap and stylish with built in neck protection from the sun).

Lightweight Synthetic Long Sleeved Shirt – Polypropylene or Capilene.

Medium-weight Synthetic Long Sleeved Shirt or Vest – Fleece, puffy, or lined windshirt…

Wind Shirt or Vest – This layer blocks the wind and has a bit of insulation. Nylon outer with some type of brushed or fleece lining.

“Puffy” or Fleece Jacket – Puffy is the new Fleece. It has a greater insulation to weight ratio and packs super small. Down is ok on winter trips, but synthetic will keep you warm even when it’s wet…and we do camp in the rain. One thick or 2 thin layers is the way to go. More layers mean more versatility.

Waterproof Shell Jacket – With attached hood–Rain gear may double as a wind breaker. Coated nylon is suitable if trying to avoid the high cost of waterproof/breathable fabrics such as Gore-Tex — avoid cheap plastic ponchos or old, no longer waterproof jackets and “parkas” with insulation AND waterproofing.

Bottom Layers No Cotton! (Except for underwear)

Swim Trunks or Athletic Shorts – To hike or climb in. Longer leg length and preferably with no elastic waistband (a la board shorts).

Regular underwear – 1 to 2 pair max – we’ll show you how to wash them responsibly. Polypro underwear is also available and quite warm.

Synthetic or Silk Long Underwear Bottoms – Polypropylene or Capilene.

Wind Pants – These can be softshell, nylon, or the “convertible” style which zip off the lower portion. Try to find a pair that will be easy to pull on over boots. No Jeans!

Puffy or Fleece Pants – These can go under your windpants for extra insulation. Full side zips can enable you to put on/take off without removing your boots…

Waterproof Pants (same criteria as waterproof shell/jacket)

Hand and Head Layers

Sun Hat – Baseball hat or otherwise to keep the sun off your face

Wool or Fleece Ski Hat

Wool Mittens or Gloves – Lightweight work gloves can be nice. Dexterity is good.

Gaiters (Heavy-duty & large enough to fit around hiking boots)

Waterproof Overmitts

Ski Gloves or Mittens for winter courses

Scarf, Buff, or Balaclava for colder trips

Foot Protection and Support

Hiking Boots – Good hiking boots are perhaps one of the most important purchases you’ll make. You need medium to heavy weight “over the ankle” boots designed for hiking. It is also extremely important that your boots fit properly. For more selection and fitting details, see the attached Equipment Notes section.

Liner SocksOptional. Polypropylene, silk or wool

Synthetic Socks – At least 4 pair of merino wool or synthetic material. No Cotton!

Sneakers – AKA “closed-toed shoes” for around the campsite – light-weight is best! Crocs, flip-flops, or sandals are unacceptable for any backpacking course.

Fleece Socks – For sleeping in! (Optional)



Sunglasses – With close to 100% UVA and UVB protection. A strap to keep from losing them can be helpful.


Compass – One priced in the $8.00 to $10.00 range will do. Be sure to get one of the clear plastic plate models instead of the lensatic sighting engineering variety.

Day Pack – To pack lunch, water, jacket and rain gear on day hikes–book bags work fine, but lighter-weight models are better.

Ground Cloth – A 3′ x 6′ piece of coated nylon or thicker plastic sheeting works, as does old Tyvek.

Notebook and pen – For taking notes, journals, thoughts, sketches, etc.

Watch with alarm – this is college after all and you have to be in class on time even in the field.


Bandannas 2-3 to serve a variety of functions.

Insect Repellent – Rarely needed during the fall/spring in Colorado.

Rugged non-cotton pants – To wear around base camp on rock/ice trips

Booties – Synthetic insulated–to wear around camp during chilly evenings.

Large Duffel Bag – To store extra things in that are not needed or left in van.

Candles 1-2 will do–these serve many purposes such as to help get a fire started.

Mountaineering Boots – (Optional) If you plan to take our mountaineering or ice climbing courses, these would be a good idea. They are quite expensive (Sometimes you can get by with some good leather ¾-shank mountaineering boots) and a reference sheet of available retails in the area is available upon request. CMC has some basic mountaineering boots that you can rent.

Camera and Film

Back Country/Telemark Skis, Boots, Avalanche Probe Poles, Climbing Skins if you would like to take a backcountry ski or avalanche level 1 course CMC does rent snowshoes through the student outing club (Outdoor Pursuits). If you would like to try some skis first before you purchase them, we have a few pair to rent for a reasonable fee. Sawatch Backcountry, our local gear store, also has equipment for rent. We also have snowshoes here on campus.

The following items are not allowed on trips — Alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, un-prescribed drugs, jewelry, blow dryers, cosmetics, iPods, or pets.


Getting the right Hiking Boots: Boots are a big deal to the Outdoor Leader. They can be considered, along with your feet, to be your only form of transportation on CMC’s land-based field courses and should therefore be given a great deal of consideration. General hiking boots should be of good construction (full-grain smooth-out leather uppers with a minimum number of seams – one up the back and protected with a leather cover being the best), ¾-shank (a shank is a piece of metal or fiberglass inside the sole that makes the boot stiff except for the area where your foot is supposed to bend on the ball of your foot), they should cover your ankle but no higher, they should have either an injected or a sewn-in sole with good non-slip lugs. In general, hunting boots are not adequate since they tend not to have the ¾ shank and they are usually higher topped than hiking boots. Specialized plastic double boots are generally best for mountaineering and for ice climbing but they are rarely good for hiking to the climbing area. Most mountaineers use an “approach shoe” to get up the trail and then put on their plastic boots to do the climbing. If you plan to take CMC’s mountaineering and/or ice climbing series, plastic boots would be a good idea but they are not required for participation.

Fitting your Boots: The fit of your boots is of utmost importance to your outdoor experience and safety. Bad blisters can result from ill-fitting boots every time you wear them. These boot fitting instructions come from Paul Petzoldt (Founder of the National Outdoor Leadership School and The Wilderness Education Association) who used to guarantee that boots would fit.

First, place your bare foot in boot. Without lacing the boot, slide your foot as far forward as possible and stand up putting all or your weight on your feet and bend your knees slightly forward. In this position there should be enough room between the back of the boot and your heal to insert one finger (two for boot sizes of 12 or higher) without forcing them. If you cannot, then the boot is too short and you should move to a larger size. If the boot is too short for your feet, when descending a slope your toes will hit the front of the boot causing great discomfort and occasionally the loss of toenails.

Second, try on the boots with a pair of heavy wool socks (or any combination of socks in which you plan to hike – usually it is a wicking layer of light synthetic and an absorbing layer of wool/synthetic blend). Stand in unlaced boots with full weight on feet. The sides of your toes or the sides of your feet may slightly touch the insides of the boots but it should be only a slight pressure. If your feet tend to push against the sides of the boots so as to push the sides of the boots outward, the boots are too narrow and your should try another wider boot.

Third, if the above two tests are passed then lace the boot comfortably and tap the toe of the boot against a solid object. You should feel a dull thud throughout the boot. If your toes hit the front of the boot, you need to lace the boot tighter across the instep. If that does not fix the problem, you should try on a longer size. If the last test is passed, you are ready for the ultimate test of fit – walking around the store for at least one hour and preferably two. With all of your socks on and the boots comfortably laced, walk around the store and feel for any discomfort, especially on the sides of the boot. If there is any discomfort in the store it will in most cases just become magnified on a hiking trip. Some will tell you that the boots will eventually stretch out and feel better. Do not listen to them. Modern boots stretch very little and if they are too narrow in the store, chances are they will be too narrow in the field. If your feet are comfortable after an hour or two in the store, they are probably a good fit. Remember that your feet swell throughout the day, especially while hiking so you might want to wear them at home for longer than two hours for the final test. Most stores will allow you to return the boots after a couple of days if you do not wear them outside.

Lastly, all boots must be fully broken in BEFORE they are worn for a CMC trip. To break them in, all you have to do is to wear them – a lot. It is better to treat them with a good boot seam sealer or stitch welder and then treat them with the manufacturer’s suggested waterproofing material. Then you have to wear them all the time to work, on short hikes, watching TV, or whatever just wear them. Some have suggested that after the boots are seam sealed and waterproofed, the best way to break them in is to fill them with bath-temperature water, let stand for a few minutes and then pour the water out and wear them with your regular socks as outlined above. Never use a hair dryer or put your boots next to a fire or put your boots in the oven for any reason. They may delaminate because the glue used in their manufacturing process is heat-sensitive. A few last words of wisdom: Boots that are too tight have caused more blisters than have boots that are too loose.

Getting the Right Backpack: Your pack can make or break a trip. Students typically carry up to one third of their body weight, so having a good quality and comfortable pack is essential. An internal frame pack is the best option for CMC trips since they vary from skiing to canyoneering to backpacking to mountaineering and an external frame pack would not allow the arm movement needed. The pack you choose should have a capacity that ranges between 4500 and 6000 cubic inches – the larger you are the larger your pack should be because your clothes and equipment tend to be larger as well. It should have a floating top compartment and a storm or extension sleeve on the top of the main compartment to allow for maximum versatility. You do not NEED a pack cover (we’ll line our packs with a beefy garbage bag), but you are welcome to bring one.

Fitting your pack: An internal frame pack is difficult to fit correctly and it takes some time to make adjustments. It should be fit in the store by a trained pack fitter and should be done WITH THE FULL EXPECTED WEIGHT YOU PLAN TO BE CARRYING. This is very important since packs fit differently with different weights. The frame should be taken out of the pack and fit to your back once you establish where the pack will sit when it is fully loaded. Our instructors will help with the strap adjustment and the final pack fitting in the field.

Here is a list of good links for finding deals on outdoor equipment via the internet: