My 3 Favorite and Least Favorite Pieces of Gear on the Colorado Trail

During 2020, I was laid off both my jobs. I was angry, lost, and completely clueless. As spring melted away and unemployment continued to loom over me, I planned a thru-hike of the Colorado Trail. This trail had been one of my dreams for years, and the year of COVID seemed like the perfect time to attempt it.

I first sat down and planned out my mileage, zero days, resupply points, and camp spots. Ultimately I did not stick to the plan I made, but it was good to have an itinerary to go off of.

I then took a look at all my gear. I had acquired quite a bit over the years! I decided to buy a few new items such as a new pot, stove, and some socks. Most of these items were purchased via the REI Outlet, where there are normally great deals! However, the real test of my gear happened on trail. Below, I am listing my 3 favorite pieces of gear and my 3 least favorite pieces.

Keep in mind that everyone prefers different things when they are on trail, so what worked for me may not work for you. My hope is that these lists will inspire you to try new things!

Ok, Let me start with my favorites!

1 – MY TENT!

I have the most amazing ultra light tent. It is a GoLite, and unfortunately they are not made anymore! But I have to brag on it. I got a lot of flack from fellow hikers because it is a 2 person, and they thought it was wayyy too big or whatever, but here’s the thing: it’s not! It literally weighs 2.5 lbs, and it is a SNUG 2 person tent. I love it. It holds up well in the wind and rain and packs nicely. Not to mention it dries quickly, too. I kept my backpack inside each night and considered this orange tent my home.

My perfect GoLite tent

2 – My Spot GPS

I used a Spot Gen 3 device for the CT. This option was perfect for the trail! I had the CT Databook and Guthooks downloaded on my phone, so I was always able to make sure I was on the trail, was able to check where water sources were located, and get updates on trail conditions. My Spot Gen 3 was then used to send out my location each night when I made it to camp. I bought a flex plan, so I only had to pay a $25 start up fee and an additional $15/month. This allows me to turn on and off payments based of when I need to use the Spot. Not only was the price excellent, but I was also able to set up my messages ahead of time and set up the numbers they would go out to. This helped my family and friends track my progress while on trail, and it let them know I was safe.

Cheesin with safety

3 – My Solomon X Ultra 3 Low Aero Hiking Shoes

I know what you may be thinking “You didn’t use Alta running shoes?? Are you even a thru-hiker??” To which I say, “Yeah, no, I didn’t use those. Get over it.”

The truth is, a lot of people I saw didn’t wear Altas! Everyone has different preferences, so don’t judge the feet of others! I chose these Salmons because they were on sale by like $100 on the REI Outlet, and the pull laces are magical. They offered a lot of support and traction, both of which I need in a hiking shoe (especially when hiking 20+ miles each day). These puppies aren’t waterproof, but I liked that they let my feet breathe. I wore them on a couple of hikes to break them in before the start of the CT, but I didn’t experience any blisters during the whole trail! Well, besides the weird exception of a blister that formed underneath my toenail, but that’s a story for another day. Bottom line, these shoes are great!

Also in this picture you can see my trekking poles. They weigh a pound and are the $60 REI brand, but hot dang, they were sturdy and useful. Highly recommend if you’re hiking on a budget!

Bridge pic. Classic.

Ok, now it’s time to talk about my LEAST favorite gear I hauled for 486 miles! This was my first thru-hike and I just sorta sucked up a lot of pain during the 23 days I spent hiking cause it was a short amount of time, but in the future, I’ll definitely switch up my gear.

So here are my 3 LEAST FAVORITE items of gear from the CT:

1 – My Freakin’ Bear Barrel

That’s right, I hauled a bear barrel for 486 miles. In a normal camping world, I love the practicality of my bear barrel. I own a “Backpackers Cache – Bear Proof Container” which is easy to open and holds enough food for a week! It’s honestly not a bad item at all, it’s just not ideal for long distance hiking due to the weight.

If I were to retrace my steps while planning, I’d consider getting an odor-proof bear bag, and would have hung my food. It is very important for hikers to have a bear-proof food storage system while hiking, especially in Colorado (our black bears love human food). I know some hikers had their bear hangs broken into, so it is a risk you have to be willing to take. I never had a problem with bears trying to break into my bear canister, but it was not my favorite item to carry.

Do you see it??

2 – Books

With each resupply, I would glance at my book and think “hm, maybe this next segment I’ll read” but alas, I never got further than a few pages in. I was too exhausted to read at the end of a hiking day, so I should’ve just stuck to audiobooks (which I still did). Bottom line, don’t carry the extra weight unless you know for sure you’ll be Reading McQueen.

This was night 1. I read 1 story.

3 – My Backpacking Pack

As much as it pains me to say it, I really wasn’t a fan of my pack. I used my 65 L GoLite bag that I bought in high school. It held everything I needed (and more), but it also was awkward and too big. I am looking forward to buying a new pack, and would love your ultra light suggestions in the comments!

The green beast. The best love/hate relationship.

Annnnddd there you have it! My three favorite and least favorite pieces of gear I used on the Colorado Trail.

Remember, you’re the one who will carry all of your gear! When I started the trail, I was so insecure when I saw the folks with tiny backpacks and weird looking tents. But as I went on, I realized that 1) I was hiking faster than them and 2) I could carry everything I had! Screw other people, if you can carry everything you have and it’s not killing you, don’t worry about it.

Anyways, I hope this inspires you to get out there in your own way! You can do it!

What are some of your favorite pieces of gear?? I’d love to hear below!

Michelle

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