Colorado Trail Bikepacking Gear List

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Bikepacking the Colorado Trail is a huge undertaking and one you’ll want to have adequately prepared for. Outside of planning your itinerary, how and what you plan to bring is one of the most important decisions for your ride. Whether your riding all 500+ miles between Denver and Durango or simply completing an overnighter on the trail, you’ll need to be sure you gear is up to the task.

To help you narrow down that list we’ve created this Colorado Trail Bikepacking Gear List to highlight all the essentials. We’ve included all the critical items you’ll want on your ride along with some nice-to-haves and highlighted a few specific considerations you’ll want to keep in mind.

Let’s jump in!

In This Post

Colorado Trail Bikepacking Gear Basics

Once you’ve planned out your Colorado Trail bikepacking route it’s time to turn to packing your bike for the 500 mile trip. This section walks you through some of the high-level considerations that should be top of mind when starting your packing list.

These include:

  1. Optimizing Your Seat Pack for a dropper post
  2. Deciding between flat and clipless pedals
  3. Coming prepared for variable weather conditions

In the following sections, we’ll break down each of these and share our best advice.

Bike with gear on the Colorado Trail.

1. Dropper Posts & Seat Packs

Given the technical nature of the trail the ability to ride with a fully functioning dropper post is a game changer. This is often limited by seat packs, so we highly recommend considering a minimalist rack or other solution that allows for full dropper actuation.

For those who are set on a seat pack, you’ll definitely want to consider picking up a Wolf Tooth Valais adapter for your seat post. This handy attachment prevents damage to your dropper from a weighed down seat pack. While it does limit dropper travel a bit, it is overall worth it for a well functioning dropper.

However, our preferred method for carrying stuff on the back of our bike on a technical ride like the Colorado Trail is either a lightweight rack, or something like the well-reviewed but very pricey Tailfin AeroRack and our recommended solution, the Aeroe Spider Rear Rack.

The Aeroe Rack clamps onto your bike’s seat stays and works with both hardtail and full-suspension bikes. It can hold a dry bag both on the top of the rack and can also accommodate dry bags on the sides via the rack cradle attachment. We think this is a great solution to allow you to ride a full-suspension bike with full use of your dropper on the Colorado Trail.

2. Flat or clipless?

Pedal selection is a personal decision and it seems like the mountain biking community split 50/50 on whether flats or clipless pedals are better. Obviously, whatever you are most comfortable with makes a good choice for the Colorado Trail, but we’re here to give you a slight nod towards a flat pedal set-up.

The significant amount of hike-a-bike on the Colorado Trail as well as the technical nature of the route means that you’ll be getting on and off your bike a lot. Flat pedals make that much easier, and flat shoes are far superior for hiking compared to clipless. Our favorite are the classic Race Face Chester Pedals and we really like the Specialized Rime Flat shoe, which is designed for bikepacking expeditions like the Colorado Trail.

If you do opt to go clipless, you’ll want to invest in some shoes that have a good sole for hiking. For us, that’s the PEARL iZUMi X-Alp Summit.

3. Be Prepared for all Weather conditions

Colorado is known for its sunny and dry climate, but don’t let that fool you on the Colorado Trail. Afternoon thunderstorms are legendary here and you should be prepared for weather extremes on the Colorado Trail, especially if you’re tackling the entire distance.

The first few segments of the ride starting from Waterton Canyon can be VERY hot depending on the time of year. Expect temperatures to get into the high 90s, with very little shade in some areas. As you venture further into the mountains you can expect temperatures to cool off, but you’ll contend with heavy storms that occur on high mountain passes, hail, the possibility of snow, and very cold nights.

Given all those weather extremes you are likely to experience, it is imperative you come prepared for all types of weather. Here are a few key considerations to keep in mind when packing your bike for the Colorado Trail:

  • Good, lightweight rain gear is a must.
  • Waterproof bags on your bike are essential. We like the ones from Ortlieb, with specific picks in the next section.
  • A sun hoodie is a very good idea that will help reduce your exposure to Colorado’s very intense sun.
  • A good down sleeping bag and down jacket are highly recommend for cold mornings and nights.
  • Layering is essential!
Bike in front of a cabin.

Bike Gear + Setup

As the saying going, the best bike to go bikepacking with is the bike you already own. That generally rings true for the Colorado Trail, although there are a few key considerations you’ll want to keep in mind when selecting and setting up your bike for the trip:

  • Full Suspension vs Hardtail: Hardtails are typically incredibly capable bikepacking rigs and they will do just fine on the Colorado Trail. However, if there was ever a route where it made sense to bikepack on a full-suspension, the Colorado Trail is it. If you have both options available, you should strongly consider bringing your full squish.
  • Dropper Post: Given the technical nature of the trail the ability to ride with a fully functioning dropper post is a game changer. This is often limited by seat packs, so we highly recommend considering a minimalist rack or other solution (see more on that in the next section) that allows for full dropper actuation.
  • Chainring/Gearing: Basically, you want the lowest gears you can possibly get. That means you should consider swapping out your chainring for a 28T option and making sure you’ve got a 51 or 52 tooth cog on your cassette.
  • Pedals/Shoes: You’ll be getting on and off your bike A LOT on the Colorado Trail so be sure you have a shoe/pedal combo that facilitates that. For this reason we prefer flats, but there are some good SPD shoes for hiking these days that you should definitely consider if riding clipless.
  • Contact points: One area to consider upgrading your rig for the Colorado Trail is the contact points of your bike. By that we mean your saddle and grips. Long days on the bike mean that any improvements in comfort will have an outsize impact. For grips, we recommend the Ergon GA3 and for a saddle upgrade consider the Ergon SM Enduro Comp.

The following sections contain additional detail on setting up your bike for the Colorado Trail.

Mountain bikes leaned against snow

Bike Bags

Your bike bags are the core of your set-up on the Colorado Trail and you’ll want to be sure you’ve invested in good, weather-proof bags here. The list below is comprehensive, so you may not need every item on the list. Most importantly, you want your bags to be high-quality and easy to use.

ItemRecommendedNotes
Handlebar BagOrtlieb Handlebar Pack – 15 Liters
A good handlebar bag will be waterproof and not bounce around while you’re riding.
Frame BagOrtlieb RC Frame Pack – 6 LitersYou’ll want a good frame bag that is easy to access and holds up to the weather and trail. Outside of custom options, we really like the 6L Ortlieb frame bag.
Seat Pack (or alternative)Aeroe Spider Rear Rack or Ortlieb Seat-Pack Saddle BagAs we’ve discussed in this guide, you should consider a seat pack alternative on the Colorado Trail. Check out the Aeroe, but if that doesn’t work for you a good seat pack is a must.
Top tube bagRevelate Designs Gas Tank Top Tube BagNice to hold snacks, phone, etc.
Stem Bag/Feed BagRevelate Designs Mountain FeedbagGood for additional water bottles.
Down tube cageTopeak VersaCageIf your bike has mounting bolts on the downtube, this is a great place to carry a large water bottle.
Hip PackOsprey Savu 5We love wearing hip packs on bikepacking trips. They add some carrying capacity without the hassle of a backpack.

Most Valuable Bike Bag: Aeroe Spider Rear Rack

The Aeroe Rack clamps onto your bike’s seat stays and works with both hardtail and full-suspension bikes. It can hold a dry bag both on the top of the rack and can also accommodate dry bags on the sides via the rack cradle attachment. We think this is a great solution to allow you to ride a full-suspension bike with full use of your dropper on the Colorado Trail.

Our Top Pick

Aeroe Spider Rear Rack

The Aeroe Spider Rear Rack lets you carry gear on the back of your bike without interfering with your dropper post. Compatible with full-suspension bikes, it is the ideal solution for a technical bikepacking trip.

Bike Tools/Supplies

A well thought out repair kit is a critical piece of bikepacking gear to bring along. We’ve done our best to provide an exhaustive list below, but of course double check your bike set-up to be sure you’ve got the tools you’ll need for any trail-side repairs.

ItemRecommendedNotes
Chain lubeBoeshield T-9Bring a travel container with lube to ensure your bike continues shifting smoothly throughout the ride.
Brake PadsBrake specificWe recommend bringing at least one extra pair. You will almost certainly wear them out!
Tubeless KitLezyne Tubeless KitA good tubeless repair kit along with plenty of bacon stips.
Chain link + extra linksSRAM PowerLockA few extra links of chain along with a master link are essential.
Extra derailleur cableAny will doThis can get you out of a bad situation!
Tire leversPedro’s Tire Levers or Wolf Tooth Pack PliersWe like the Wolf Tooth Pack Plier since they integrate a tire lever, master link tool, and valve core remover.
Tire bootPark Tool Emergency Tire BootGood for emergency tubeless repairs.
Tubeless valveStan’s NoTubesAn extra tubeless valve is a good idea.
Patch kitPark Tool VP-1C Tire Patch KitA good backup in case your tube fails, but a patch kit can also be helpful in fixing a tubeless leak.
Extra tubeAny will workEven if you’re running a tubeless set-up, a spare tube is a must.
Tubeless sealantStan’s NoTubes Tire Sealant, Liquid Sealant, 2ozFor topping up your tires along the route.
Bike Multi-toolcrankbrothers M20 Multi-ToolA bike multi-tool with lots of attachments is a good idea for the Colorado Trail. We also recommend one with a chain breaker.
Multi-toolGerber Suspension NXT Multi-Tool
A good multi-tool is a campsite essential. Plan on bringing a set with needle nose pliers which can be a big help in bike repairs.
Hand PumpSilca Tattico Mini PumpYou want quality here and the Silca has been known to reseat a tubeless tire.
Spare cleats/boltsShimano SH-56 Multi-Directional Release SPD CleatsIf you’re riding clipless.
Zip tiesDoesn’t matter, just be sure they are heavy duty.These can come in handy for any number of repairs to bike or gear. Just be sure you get good ones.

Most Valuable Bike Gear: crankbrothers M20 Multi-Tool

A good multi-tool is your best trail companion on the Colorado Trail. You’ll likely end up using this almost daily to make small tweaks to your bike. You want to balance weight with functionality here, and for that we prefer the crankbrothers M20. You get all the tools you need here along with a handy storage case for tire plugs or master links.

Our Top Pick

crankbrothers M20 Multi-Tool

A highly functional multi-tool, the crankbrothers M20 multi-tool comes with a removable case to store tire plugs and quick links and features an integrated plug tool.

Camping Gear & Sleep System

The heaviest and most crucial part of your gear will be you camping equipment and sleeping system. This is a high-value place to spend a bit more money to get quality, lightweight gear.

We’ve included our top recommended camping/sleep gear below along with some notes for specific items.

ItemRecommendedNotes
Tent/BivvyBig Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Bikepack Tent
Whatever you choose, you’ll just want it to be light and easy to set-up. The Big Agnes Bikepacking specific tents have good reviews and come with some great features.
Sleeping BagSea to Summit Spark Ultralight 18FYou’ll need to be prepared for very cold temperatures on the Colorado Trail and this is a place you definitely want to invest in some lightweight gear.
Sleeping PadNemo Astro Insulated Sleeping PadThis is one of the most lightweight and comfortable sleeping pads out there. Plus, the genius pump sack makes inflating it so easy!
StoveJetboil Flash SystemThe Jetboil system is tried and true and boils a pot of water in under 100 seconds. The integrated windscreen is also a lifesaver when you’re camped out in the open.
Titanium MugSnow Peak Titanium Trek 700 Mug
For those looking to avoid bringing the full cookset described below, a titanium mug is the perfect way to save weight. Pair it with a titanium spork and your Jetboil and you’ll have a super lightweight cook system.
Backpacking PotGSI HaluliteIf you want to go a bit less minimal, a complete cookset can make camp dinners much more enjoyable. This set from GSI is a great kit.
UtensilsHumangear SporkEven if you don’t plan on self-catering, this is handy to have with you for on-the-go meals and snacks while hiking and traveling.
Plate/Bowl/Mug
MSR 2-person mess kit

We find this bowl and mug combo to be light, durable, and perfect for camp dinners.

Most Valuable Camping Gear: Nemo Astro Insulated Sleeping Pad

This is by far our favorite piece of sleep gear for bikepacking. After a long day on the bike, there’s no better feeling than lying down in a cozy tent. Our Nemo sleeping pads are reliable, comfortable, and easy to pack. Getting a good night’s sleep is so important on the Colorado Trail, and a comfortable sleeping pad is THE key ingredient in our opinion.

Tent at night on the Colorado Trail

Food on the Trail

One of the great things about bikepacking the Colorado Trail is that resupply is relatively straightforward. The wilderness detours tend to bring riders through towns with well-stocked grocery stores, restaurants, and bike shops, making it likely you’ll only need to carry a few days worth of food at any given time.

Given that, lightweight backpacker meals are a good option since the weight savings will be appreciated. You can then of course splurge in town on a good burger, while enjoying the freeze-dried stuff while camping on the trail.

Check out some of our favorites below:

ItemRecommendedNotes
BreakfastInstant Oats / Good To Go GranolaWe like something quick and warming in the morning. Instant oats are the classic budget pick, while the Good To Go Granola has all the calories & protein you need.
Morning trail snacksClif bar / Nuts
LunchTrail mix
Afternoon trail snacksClif bar + energy gelWe find that an energy gel late in the day helps us finish strong and not tire out on those last few miles.
DinnerBackpacker meal We like the Good To Go Thai Curry.
DessertSnickers
Additional food itemsHoney Stinger waffles
Instant coffee
A Honey Stinger stroopwafel and fancy instant coffee can provide a much needed boost for those times when you’re feeling especially worn out!
Nutrition MixTailwind Nutrition MixThis is a popular way to get some calories throughout the day while also hydrating.

Pot cooking at a campsite

Personal Gear

The gear in this section is a meant to provide a starting place for some of the essentials you’ll want that don’t fall into a specific category. This includes how you plan to carry water, basic first-aid supplies, and some toiletries you won’t want to forget to bring.

Although we’ve included some toiletries that are absolutely essential for this trek, we’ve left it up to you to determine your personal list of additional self care items (comb, toothbrush, prescription medication, etc).

ItemRecommendedNotes
First-Aid KitAdventure Medical KitsA good first aid kit is a must bring. You hope to never have to use it, but will be glad you have it when you need it.
Hydration Bladder or Water Bottles2L bladder + 1L Nalgene.Water management on the Colorado Trail is generally fairly easy. We like to use a 1.5L bladder tucked into our frame bag combined with a large Nalgene on the down tube. You won’t need to keep all of those full throughout the trip, but it gives you enough capacity when you need it.
Water Filter Sawyer Squeeze or Sawyer MiniIt’s a good idea to filter water before drinking from streams that you pass on the trail.
HeadlampBlack Diamond Storm HeadlampGreat headlamp with long battery life and adjustable brightness.
SunscreenBlue Lizard SPF 50We recommend a waterproof sport version with SPF 30 or higher.
Toilet PaperCoghlan’s Packable Camp TissueIt’s always good to have a backup. Be sure to pack it out!
Hand SanitizerDr. Bronner’s SprayThis can come in handy on the trail and while traveling.
Extra BatteriesIt’s a good idea to have a few spare batteries for your headlamp and GPS device.

Miscellaneous Gear

These odds and ends are the unsung heroes of the Colorado Trail gear list. From getting your stinky shirt clean to keeping your phone charged, these items help your bikepacking trip run smoothly.

ItemRecommendedNotes
Guidebook/Data book/MapsColorado Trail Guide Book
Colorado Trail Data Book
Colorado Trail Map Book
We recommend bringing the official Databook and Map Book published by the Colorado Trail Foundation. Use the Guide Book to help plan your trip.
GPS AppGaia GPSIn addition to the physical map book, we highly recommend utilizing an offline GPS app. Gaia GPS is our top pick and you can get 20% off here.
Cycling GPS Wahoo Element RoamPreload the Colorado Trail GPX and have all your stats for the day clearly displayed.
Digital WatchCasio digital watchWe recommend a simple digital watch to keep track of riding times. Unlike smart watches, you don’t need to worry about charging this.
CameraSony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital CameraOptional item for the photography lovers. Consider using your phone to save weight.
Battery BackupAnker PowerCore 10000Great for charging electronics when you don’t have access to an outlet.
Biodegradable SoapSierra Dawn Campsuds Outdoor SoapThis is a great all-purpose cleaner for your body, your clothing, your gear, and everything else.
Insect RepellentBen’s 30% DEETInsect repellent is a very necessary item for the CT. It’s a good idea to get one that works well against both ticks and mosquitos.
TrowelVargo Titanium Dig Dig ToolAlways be sure you are properly burying your waste!
Bear bag or rope for hanging foodBe sure you are properly storing food well away from your camp and high enough off the ground.
Plastic Bags- quart, gallon, and garbage bags.We used these constantly for everything from storing trail mix to packing out our trash.

Most Valuable Personal Gear: Gaia GPS Premium

Don’t get us wrong, the official Colorado Trail Map Book is an essential resource to help you navigate. However, with Gaia GPS you get access to tons of different base maps (Nat Geo, USGS, & Gaia Topo are among our favorites) and can see you exact location on the trail. This is invaluable for finding your way, planning detours to restock supplies, and more.

Get 20% off an annual Gaia GPS subscription here.

Men’s Clothing

When you’re riding in the same clothes for days on end, it is imperative that those clothes are comfortable and high quality.  Although your individual preferences may look a little different, this list is an excellent starting point to ensure you’ve got all the essentials.

Our preferred base layer material has evolved over the years and we are now firm proponents of merino wool. The natural odor repelling properties combined with how comfortable these items are and the fact that they aren’t made from plastic make them well worth the investment.

ItemRecommendedNotes
UnderwearExOfficio Men’s Give-N-Go Boxer BriefHighly recommended! 1-2 pairs is all you need as they are super easy to wash out and dry.
ChamoisPersonal preference, we like Club Ride.You might consider ditching the chamois and simply wearing the underwear mentioned above. You’ll be hiking enough on the CT that a chamois isn’t completely necessary!
SocksDarn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion SocksWe like Darn Tough for the lifetime guarantee, but anything merino will work well.
Long Sleeve Base LayerSmartwool Men’s NTS Mid 250 Crew or REI Co-op Sahara Shade HoodieFor the long sleeve base layer we like either a midweight merino shirt or a sun hoodie. We’ve been using the sun hoodie a lot lately as it gives great protections from Colorado’s intense sun.
Short Sleeve Base LayerSmartwool Classic All-Season Merino Base Layer T-ShirtMerino wool is perfect for bikepacking. Lightweight, quick drying, and odor resistant.
Riding ShortsprAna Brion Shorts IIAwesome shorts that are great for mountain biking.
Down JacketPatagonia Down Sweater HoodySuper warm, and super packable.
Rain JacketOutdoor Research Men’s Helium II JacketA good rain jacket is a must! This one packs up small and light
Long base layer (pants)Icebreaker 260 Tech Base Layer LeggingsA pair of merino leggings are perfect for riding on chilly mornings and can be nice to sleep in on cold nights.
Rain pants Outdoor Research Helium Rain PantsRain pants are definitely optional, but if the forecast looks gloomy you might want them. Consider cutting them off at the ankle to make riding a bit easier.
Bike ShoesSpecialized Rime Flat Shoes or PEARL iZUMi X-Alp SummitIf you’ve decided to ride flats, we like the Specialized Rime. If you’re riding clipless, consider a shoe with good traction like the the Pearl Izumi X-Alp.
SunglassesRun what ya brung!Good quality sunglasses are essential when you’re in the mountains all day.
Buff/BandanaBuff CoolNet UV+These are great for wiping away sweat, keeping hair out of your face, or protecting your neck from the sun.
GlovesSmartwool Merino 150 glovesTrust us, you’re going to want gloves on cold morning around camp. These are in addition to your riding gloves.
HelmetPOC Tectal Race Mips Bike HelmetGotta protect your noggin.
Warm hatSmartwool NTS Merino 150 BeanieA lightweight beanie that fits under your helmet comes in handy on freezing mornings above treeline.
Camp ShoesCrocs Classic ClogsOptional, but recommended

Most Valuable Men’s Clothing: Smartwool Men’s Merino Short Sleeve Shirt

When it comes to hiking and biking shirts, we much prefer merino wool over synthetic materials. This shirt stays fresh after multiple days of mountain biking, and it dries super quickly after getting washed. The fabric is soft, comfortable, and very breathable.

Women’s Clothing

No surprises here, but it’s worth repeating that when you’re mountain biking in the same clothes for over a week, it is imperative that those clothes are comfortable and high quality.  The list below is a good starting place for your clothing kit on the Colorado Trail.

ItemRecommendedNotes
UnderwearExOfficio Give-N-Go Sport 2.0 Bikini BriefsHighly recommended! 1-2 pairs is all you need as they are super easy to wash out and dry.
ChamoisPersonal preference, we like Club Ride.You might consider ditching the chamois and simply wearing the underwear mentioned above. You’ll be hiking enough on the CT that a chamois isn’t completely necessary!
SocksDarn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion SocksWe like Darn Tough for the lifetime guarantee, but anything merino will work well.
Long Sleeve Base LayerSmartwool Classic Thermal Merino Crew Base Layer or REI Co-op Sahara Shade HoodieFor the long sleeve base layer we like either a midweight merino shirt or a sun hoodie. We’ve been using the sun hoodie a lot lately as it gives great protections from Colorado’s intense sun.
Short Sleeve Base LayerSmartwool Classic All-Season Merino Base Layer T-ShirtMerino wool is perfect for bikepacking. Lightweight, quick drying, and odor resistant.
Riding ShortsprAna Koen Flat Front ShortsAwesome shorts that are great for mountain biking.
Down JacketPatagonia Down Sweater HoodySuper warm, and super packable.
Rain JacketOutdoor Research Women’s Helium II JacketA good rain jacket is a must! This one packs up small and light
Long base layer (pants)Icebreaker 260 Tech Base Layer LeggingsA pair of merino leggings are perfect for chilly mornings riding and can be nice to sleep in on cold nights.
Rain pants Outdoor Research Helium Rain PantsRain pants are definitely optional, but if the forecast looks gloomy you might want them. Consider cutting them off at the ankle to make riding a bit easier.
Bike ShoesFive Ten Trailcross XT or PEARL iZUMi X-Alp SummitIf you’ve decided to ride flats, we like the Five Ten Trailcross. If you’re riding clipless, consider a shoe with good traction like the the Pearl Izumi X-Alp.
SunglassesRun what ya brung!Good quality sunglasses are essential when you’re in the mountains all day.
Buff/BandanaBuff CoolNet UV+These are great for wiping away sweat, keeping hair out of your face, or protecting your neck from the sun.
GlovesSmartwool Merino 150 glovesTrust us, you’re going to want gloves on cold morning around camp. These are in addition to your riding gloves.
HelmetPOC Tectal Race Mips Bike HelmetGotta protect your noggin.
Warm hatSmartwool NTS Merino 150 BeanieA lightweight beanie that fits under your helmet comes in handy on freezing mornings above treeline.
Camp ShoesCrocs Classic ClogsOptional, but recommended
Sports BraPatagonia Barely Bra

Most Valuable Women’s Clothing: Icebreaker 260 Tech Base Layer Leggings

Chilly mornings and cold nights make a good pair of leggings essential for riding the Colorado Trail. The 260 weight version from Icebreaker have just enough warmth while also drying quickly. The fact that they’re made from merino wool makes a huge difference in comfort!

Have a Great Trip!

We hope by now you’re well on your way to putting together the perfect kit for your Colorado Trail adventure. Be sure to check out our other Colorado Trail resources below:

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