The crowds in Rocky Mountain’s campgrounds can be fierce-sites often sell out months in advance-and the best way to experience the grandeur of those mountains piercing the skyline is to spend a night (or several) in the park’s less-traveled backcountry. There, amongst the serrated peaks and pristine alpine ponds, you’ll really understand what inspires so many people to pack up and move to Colorado (including the editors of BACKPACKER!). Pack the same items you’d carry for a dayhike, plus food, cooking gear, and these Rocky-specific recommendations from the editors of BACKPACKER
Unless you’re planning a two-week expedition or lavish five-course meals, you should be able to pack everything you need for a few nights in a midsize pack built for weekends. BACKPACKER testers raved about the Osprey Exos 58 this year; at just over 2 pounds, it carried 40 pounds comfortably, and it’s trampoline back panel provides excellent ventilation. If you’re looking for a pack that’s still light but has enough room for weeklong trips back home, check out the REI Flash 65, which earned one of BACKPACKER’s 2009 Editors’ Choice Awards. Read reviews of these and other packs here. (Photos by www.sethhughes.com and courtesy)
Prolonged rainstorms are uncommon in the Rockies, and even when they hit, the sound is usually greater than the fury (lots of lightning and thunder, but no multiday deluges). That means you can go with a lightweight tent built for living space, ventilation, and bug protection more than hardcore mountaineering. The Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2 gets our vote for its minimal weight-only 3 lbs. 4 oz.-and full-mesh ceiling, which keeps breezes moving. (Photos by www.sethhughes.com)
emperatures may drop 20ºF in RockyMountain’s high country, which is wonderful for sleeping but can make evenings feel colder than you’d expect. BACKPACKER field testers gave high marks to the Sierra Designs Nitro 30, a high-quality down mummy with elastic stitching that stretches with your body as you sleep for maximum comfort. It’s a good choice for most RockyMountain overnights, but you might want a warmer bag like The North Face’s Chrysalis (a 15ºF down mummy) if you’re a cold sleeper or visiting in a shoulder season. Check out our sleeping bag reviews here. (Photos by www.sethhughes.com)
RockyMountain’s black bears are the craftiest food thieves in the national parks-they even teach their young to crawl out on thin tree branches to claw through ropes that backpackers have used to hang food sacks. These days, the only certain protection is a hard-sided food canister, which are for rent in and around the park. The large-size canisters will hold 5-6 days of food if you pack ‘em tight. Learn how to use a bear canister with BACKPACKER’S video tutorial.
Purifying your drinking water is a good idea no matter where you camp in RockyMountain, due to the high amount of human traffic. BACKPACKER editors often use Aquamira (chlorine dioxide drops), which is a light and expensive. They also like pump filters like MSR’s Hyperflow, which come in handy when you have to collect water from shallow streams and pools that aren’t good for dipping water bottles. Read reviews, learn how to use a hydration unit, and how to clean one with BACKPACKER’s video tutorials. (Photos by courtesy)