The Flat Tops Wilderness is unlike any other wilderness area in Colorado. To me, it seems more remote and wild than most places. After you make your way in, it becomes very clear that you are on your own. A large part of back-country adventures is planning and preparedness. As my friends always remind me, “Safety Is No Accident”. Don’t get my wrong, backpacking is a safe way to explore the great outdoors, but you just need to make sure you have the right gear and plan.
Backpack Your backpack will be a longtime friend, so make sure you get a good one. I prefer internal frame backs because they balance well and they are easy to cover up if it rains.
Bear Bell Apparently bears are frightened of reindeer. Actually, letting wildlife know you are coming is a great way of ensuring you don’t see any. Sure, you might not see that beautiful fawn, but you also won’t see that cute little cub and his over protective mother.
Stove I rock a Jet Boil. This thing boils water in 2 minutes at 11,000 feet and weighs under a pound.
Tent Tents come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. I prefer dome tents because they are free standing (not requiring to be staked down) and can be set up in a variety of soil types. Heck, you can even stand one up on a solid rock surface. If you ever go to Moab, you will find out what I mean.
Sleeping Bag In the summer I roll with a bag rated at 25 degrees F. It is under a pound and if need be I can add a silk liner giving me an additional 10 degrees of insulation. This makes for a fairly flexible system. My bag is the one towards the back of the image. We dry them out everyday to increase their loft and insulation properties.
Boots Probably the most important part of your system. Spend the extra money on some really nice ones because you can easily have these for 10-20 years.
GPS I don’t use a GPS unless absolutely necessary. I will mark a ‘way point’ at the start of the trailhead and then turn it off to conserve battery life. Then, if I were to ever get lost, I could turn it on and breadcrumb my way back home.
Even with a GPS and Google Maps, it’s still a good (errr….great) idea to take a map along. My Magellan like 6th sense is always more comfortable with a map in the pack.
Just In Case
- Compass – Good for sanity checks.
- Matches -If your Everest rated lighter runs out, matches are easier than flint.
- Rope -You will always find something that needs to be fastened. Bring 20ft of the strong and light stuff.
- Splint -You never know when you will need to immobilize something.
- Multi-Tool – Leverage the millennia of our ancestor’s tool development and bring one.
- Whistle – You can blow a whistle a lot longer than you can yell for help.
- Space Blanket – A light weight fall back plan for staying warm.
- General First Aid – Yes, you will get cuts and scratches so keep them clean.
- OTC Pain Relievers – Altitude headaches, bumps, swelling….nip them in the bud.
- Water Purifier Tablets – Water is the single most important thing you can have. Make sure it is clean.
- Bags – Bring some extra zip-lock and garbage bags. They are very cheap ways to keep your gear dry.
Since the advent of Google Maps/Earth, I have begun to conduct aerial reconnaissance as a way to familiarize myself with the area. Remember, safety is no accident and knowing the terrain ahead of time is an incredible advantage. Here is the map I made which I could easily share with other members of the team as well as friends and family back home. It sure helps to know where to look for someone if they have to come find you.
View The Flat Tops in a larger map