The ORL Program supplies all of the necessary safety equipment such as ropes, harnesses, and helmets.  We also supply general camping gear such as tents and cooking gear.  You are responsible for supplying the gear you wear, pack things in, and sleep in.  Following is the gear list we give to our students:




Required Personal Equipment/Clothing List

This personal equipment/clothing list is divided into three categories: The first category of mandatory items is essential to your safety and comfort. It is your only defense against whatever nature may throw at you. 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 and pile 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.  The second category is a list of strongly recommended items, things you may find will make your outings more pleasant but are not absolutely mandatory. The third category is a list of optional items, things you might enjoy having with you but are not necessary and do add some additional weight to your pack.

You are expected to make arrangements for your own equipment and clothing for participation in the Outdoor Recreation Leadership Program at Colorado Mountain College.  This checklist will be used before each trip for group equipment "shakedown," and you will be required to have every item in the mandatory category in order to participate on any trip.  Group equipment such as tents, cook stoves, stove fuel, group cookware, etc. and the necessary technical safety gear such as ropes, helmets, harnesses, rock shoes, ice climbing tools, etc. are provided by the ORL Program and are included in the course fees.

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.



____ Synthetic Sleeping Bag (Rated to at least -10 to -20 degrees F (below zero) for the winter trips--Since Fall nights can also get cold, this bag can be used in the Fall and Spring trips also, 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, Wilderness Experience, Moonstone, Marmot, Kelty, and North Face are some of the recommended brands.  A "compressor" 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.. Therma-rest, Ensolite, or Ridge Rest are some of the popular brands--just make sure it is a full length closed cell foam unless it is covered by a waterproof layer)

____ Large "Internal Frame" Backpack and Waterproof Pack Cover  (min. 5000 cu. in.  Lowe Alpine Systems, Madden, Mountainsmith and Gregory are all good brand names. For more selection and fitting details, see the attached Equipment Notes section.)

____ Water bottles (Two 1 qt. Wide-mouth water bottles are ideal)

____ Flashlight or Head Lamp (headlamp being the best choice either way, they should have extra batteries and bulbs)

____ Spoon and maybe a Fork

____ Unbreakable Bowl, Plate, and Cup (Lightweight Lexan is good)

____ Knife (Swiss Army type preferred - no fixed-blade sheath knives)

____ Sun Block (minimum SPF 25)

____ Chap Stick (minimum SPF 25)

____ Toiletries (Toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, tampons, etc. soap should be biodegradable)

____ Personal First Aid Kit (Moleskin, mole foam, small scissors, tweezers, band aids, aspirin, personal prescriptions, and other common first aid needs)

____ Large Garbage Bags, and Small Plastic Bags (Used for waterproofing and for storage)

Clothing - Wicking Layer

____ Synthetic or Silk Long Underwear Top (Polypropylene or Capilene because it wicks away moisture and dries quickly keeping you more comfortable and safe ) No Cotton!

____ Synthetic or Silk Long Underwear Bottoms (Polypropylene or Capilene because it wicks away moisture and dries quickly keeping you more comfortable.) No Cotton!

____ Regular underwear (1 to 2 pair depending on the length of the trip)

 Insulation Layer

____ Lightweight Wool or Synthetic Long Sleeved Shirt

____ Heavy Wool or Pile or Fleece Sweater/Jacket (Pile is a thick coarsely napped fabric and fleece is much more finely napped both fabrics have great insulating value and especially work well when layering your clothing)

____ Heavyweight Parka or Winter Coat (To wear around camp in the winter--a down coat compresses very small and is light weight, however, it is important to keep down dry or it will lose its insulating ability)

____ Lightweight Wool or Pile Pants (For Fall and Spring trips, jeans will not work)

____ Heavyweight Wool or Pile Pants (For Winter trips)

____ Wool or Pile Hat with Face Mask

____ Wool Mittens or Gloves

 Shell Layer

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

____ Parka/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)

____ Waterproof Pants (same criteria as parka)

____ Wind Pants (Rain pants can double as wind pants)

____ Waterproof Overmitts


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--you'll need the support of a "full leather" boot.  It is also extremely important that your boots fit properly, allowing for two thick layers of wool socks, and are broken in. For more selection and fitting details, see the attached Equipment Notes section.

____ Liner Socks (At least 2 pair—polypropylene, silk or wool)

____ Wool or Synthetic Socks (At least 4 pair--wearing two pair of socks can help prevent blisters)

____ Tennis Shoes (For around the campsite)



____ Bathing Suit or Shorts, or Both

____ Sun Hat (baseball or brim hats are best)

____ Lighter

____ Candles (1-2 will do--these serve many purposes such as to help get a fire started)

____ Sunglasses (With close to 100% UVA and UVB protection)

____ Whistle

____ 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)

____ Nylon Straps (To tie things down or strap things to packs--At least 4)

____ Stuff Sacks (A variety of sizes to help keep gear organized inside and outside of your pack.)

____ Ground Cloth (A 3' x 6' piece of coated nylon or thicker plastic sheeting)

____ Personal Repair Kit (A small bag containing such things as extra buckles for your pack, small sewing kit, tape, "Leatherman Tool" or pliers, wire, string, and anything else you feel might come in handy when making repairs out in the field)

____ 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)



 ____ T-Shirts

____ Bandannas (2-3 to use as towels since they are compact and dry quickly)

____ Insect Repellent (No pressurized cans)

____ Parachute Cord (50' - 100' – 1/8th inch diameter)

____ Rugged non-cotton pants (To wear around camp)

____ Booties (Synthetic insulated--to wear around camp in the winter)

____ Large Duffel Bag (To store extra things in that are not needed or left in van)

____ Double Plastic Mountaineering  Boots (If you plan to take our advanced mountaineering or ice climbing courses these would be a good idea.   They are quite expensive at around $250.  You can get by with some good leather ¾-shank mountaineering boots)



 ____ Camera and Film

____ Book for personal reading (don’t go big here since there is rarely time for it)

____ Back Country/Telemark Skis, Boots, Avalanche Probe Poles, Climbing Skins if you would like to take a telemark or backcountry ski course (This will perhaps be your most expensive purchase in outdoor gear.  However, as an outdoor leader wishing to do winter ski courses, it is recommended that you own a ski package.  ORL does rent snowshoes through the student outing club (SOAR) or if you would like to try some skis first before you purchase them, ORL has arranged with the local ski area (Ski Cooper) to rent them for a reasonable fee.

_____Snowshoes (Great for getting around on terrain too steep or rugged for skis or if you plan to snowboard down.) 

The following items are not allowed on trips — Alcoholic beverages, un-prescribed drugs, jewelry, blow dryers, cosmetics, “walkmans” or pets.  The use of tobacco in any form is discouraged out of respect for other campers and the wilderness environment.



 We want you to spend as little as possible on your clothes and equipment.  We encourage you to search attics, thrift shops, army surplus stores, garage sales, etc. for old wool, synthetic, or pile clothes and other types of used gear.

 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.  Hiking boots with fabric uppers even if they are reinforced with leather and waterproofed with Gore-Tex are not adequate since they also usually lack the shank and they do not give enough support to your feet for the heavy loads we carry in the field.  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 (which will be quite often in the ORL program).  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 two fingers (three 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 two 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 or two of wool/synthetic blend - I prefer just two layers of wool).  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 an ORL 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.  Good Luck!

Getting the Right Backpack:  Your pack can make or break a trip.  ORL students typically carry between one third and one half of their body weight on some trips so having a good quality and comfortable pack is essential.  An internal frame pack is the best option for ORL 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 5000 and 7000 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.

Fitting your pack:  An internal frame pack is difficult to fit well and it takes some time.  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.  ORL instructors will help with the strap adjustment and the final pack fitting in the field.  


Equipment deals on the Internet

Here is a list of good places for find deals on outdoor equipment on the internet:

Mountain Woman

(Outdoor equipment for women)


(Outdoor equipment/Free shipping)


(Outdoor equipment/Free shipping/No sales tax)


(Closeouts on outdoor equipment)


(Closeouts/Blemished/used gear)


(Outdoor gear swap)

Northern Mountain Supply

(Outdoor equipment closeouts)


(Closeouts on outdoor gear) 


(Online retail equipment)


(Online retail equipment)


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Last modified: May 04, 2007