Gear List

Gear List
There is a certain amount of gear that I carry on pretty much every hike. Because I get a lot of inquiries into what to bring on a hike I'll list the items that I usually take. The items vary depending on the length of the hike, the weather, terrain and what services might be readily available. Most of this stuff is totally unnecessary but I have my reasons for hauling it all around.

I'll start by sharing my layman's understanding of physiology as it relates to hiking. The main points being that the body requires water and energy. The body doesn't really store much extra water so you have to bring enough with you to replace what your body uses. Your body also only stores enough extra energy in your blood and liver to last you for about 1 hour of moderate exercise. After that your body will start depending on muscle and fat stores to provide the needed fuel for the furnace.

Hydration menu
The body needs fluid to carry nutrition and oxygen to the tissues where it is needed. Signs of dehydration include dizziness, headache, dark urine (sometimes smells bad) or lack of urination. It can also be the cause or worsening of muscle cramps. Simply put, if you aren't having to stop to pee every once in a while you aren't getting enough water. If your urine isn't clear looking then drink more water. Take frequent drinks. Don't wait until you are thirsty before you start drinking. When I wait too long between drinks I have a tough time getting enough fluid without making myself feel a little sick.
After sweating for a few hours it's time to start replacing more than just fluids. There are a lot of minerals that are secreted with sweat. Lick your arm and see if it doesn't taste like a 'salt lick or mineral block' that ranchers put out for their cows. After I go through the first 100 ounces of water I start drinking Gatorade. I like Gatorade because it has a high glycemic index. That means your blood glucose is going to get a quick boost and that is just what it is probably in need of. Gatorade also has potassium that is important for brain function among other things.

I have a simple formula for deciding how much water to take with me:

  • Minimum for any hike: 10 fluid ounces per mile
  • Hot weather and strenuous hikes: 20 fluid ounces per mile
I also try to pay attention to how much water people hiking with me are carrying. If they run out of water I will need to share my water with them. I don't mind sharing so if I can't talk them into carrying what I think they will need I usually put a little extra in my pack. If you are ever hiking with me don't count on me carrying enough extra water for you. I have had to make a rescue trip out to get more water for someone and bring it back in for them.

Nutrition menu
As I eluded to before you need to remember to replenish your energy at regular intervals. Nutrition is probably just as important as staying hydrated. It seems that low glucose levels bring out the worst in people when they are on a hike. The brain requires a lot of energy to function. If you are using all of your energy hiking then the brain could be suffering a deficit. Some of the signs that the brain isn't getting enough energy range from dizziness and headaches to depression and loss of function. If you are hiking and you start thinking 'this stinks; why am I doing this? I'm never going to come here again, then you are probably suffering from a low blood sugar level. When it gets that bad it's time to break out the Snicker bars and get a quick fix. Whenever we had our kids hiking with us things were always more enjoyable when they had plenty of food and snacks (and encouragement).

I usually start preparing for a hike at least a day early. If I know the hike is going to require a lot of energy I might eat something like pancakes with lots of syrup the night before. Before I begin hiking I usually eat a bagel and load up on fluids. On longer hikes I like to take bagels and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Unless I am just doing something like running up Mt. Garfield and back down I will take, as a minimum 2 or 3 20 gram protein bars. Most of the time I only eat one of the bars but it's nice to have extras.

Gear menu

Short Hikes (less than 2 hours)


  • water (20 - 80 ounces)
  • map or trail guide
  • sunscreen
  • snack

  • camera
  • cellphone
  •  GPS
Long Hikes (up to 8 hours)

  • water (100 - 160 ounces)
  • Gatorade (in addition to water 80 - 120 ounces)
  • food (bagels, PBandJ sandwiches, protein bars, energy bars, trail mix)
  • map
  •  GPS
  • sunscreen

  • SPOT
  • Toilet paper
  • cellphone
  • Jacket (water proof and wind resistant)
  • Camera
  • Binoculars
  • Chewing gum
  • Sports beans (jelly beans with extra sodium and potassium)
Mondo Hikes (8-12 hours)
Personally, if a hike is going to require more than 12 hours of effort in one day then it is time I start considering whether to turn it into a backpacking trip. Since I can't carry enough water to last more than about one day backpacking trips usually require a water source along the way like a stream where I can filter some water and refill everything.

SPOT menu

The SPOT is a Satellite Personal Tracker. This is what I use to mark the trailheads to create the Google Map links. That's not the main reason I carry the SPOT though. I could accomplish the same thing with the GPS. My primary use for the SPOT is so that I can be tracked on the internet and to summon help in the case of an emergency.
The SPOT has 3 buttons besides the ON/OFF button.

  • OK
  • HELP
  • 911
I use the OK button to send email messages, with a short message that I setup ahead of time along with my GPS location, to my sweetie at home so she can know where I am and that I am okay. An email message also goes to my email account and my SPOT account. I can add more email addresses if needed. Besides the email the SPOT also sends a text message to my cellphone. This works great for making sure that the message was received by the satellite and to verify that I have cell service. If needed I can have the SPOT automatically send and OK message every ten minutes.

The HELP button works in the same fashion as the OK button but the message can be a request for help. That is I can let someone know that I am okay but that I need some non-emergency help at this location.

The 911 button is to call out the calvary. The people at SPOT will get a hold of Search and Rescue or any other appropriate agency. I would use the 911 button if I became lost, injured or maybe stuck on a mountain. I can't always get a cellphone signal so it's nice to have the satellite system as a backup.

One thing that I have learned is to keep the SPOT attached to a lanyard that is connected to my pack. I lost my SPOT device on Mt. Yale and had a dickens of a time getting it back. Thanks to an honest hiker it was returned. Since the device is tied to my email nobody else would be able to make use of it. If they did I would know exactly where they were.

GPS menu

I carry a Garmin eTrex Legend GPS (Global Positioning Service). It's the only handheld GPS that I have ever used so I don't know how it compares to other brands or models. I find the GPS to be useful for the following reasons:

  • create maps of each hike
  • keep track of distances
  • know current elevation
  • avoid getting lost
  • confirm compass directions
  • set waypoints
  • know where I am relative to were I began.
The GPS makes a map as I hike. The map comes in handy for finding my way back to where I began. I can also tell if I am going in circles or maybe in the wrong direction by referring to the map. The maps that I add at the end of each post are made by syncing my GPS with my computer and creating an image file of the map. I can also import the track points into Google Maps to display a hike using their software. One of the advantages of using Google Maps is the ability to change the type of map to view the track on. Sometimes a terrain map is more useful than a street map or a Google Earth map.

The GPS calculates the distance traveled, overall moving time, stopped time, current speed and average speed. The distance measurement comes in handy when I am on an unfamiliar trail. If it is supposed to be 5 miles to a spot and I have traveled 6 miles then somethings not right.

Keeping track of the elevation is more for trivia purposes when I am hiking around Grand Junction. If I am hiking around the Grand Mesa or on one of Colorado's 14 thousand foot peaks then the elevation is more useful. The directions for some hikes might read 'watch for a faint trail to the right when you reach 13,200 feet'. You might be surprised how often you get directions like that.

It's harder to get lost when you have a map. With the GPS you not only have a map of where you have been but the GPS has a map loaded that will show major roads and rivers.

The GPS has a compass feature that will display your current bearing. The compass works well if you are using something like a USGS map to find your way. If you can get the the longitude and latitude from somewhere like Google Maps or the mapping software for the GPS then you can enter the coordinates into the GPS and it makes it even easier to get to that exact spot.

If I stumble upon a location, while I am hiking, that I want to keep track of I can set a waypoint to mark the spot. I can use the GPS to lead me to that waypoint on a future trip. It would be a shame to find a vein of gold or a lost Spanish treasure and not be able to find it again.

I like knowing where I am relative to where I began. If I have used half of my water and I'm less than halfway through the hike then I need to decide how much further I can safely or comfortably go. It also comes in handy when someone wants to know 'Are we there yet?'.

Maps, Books and Trail Guides menu

Maps, books and trail guides come in handy for finding and planning hikes. I bought the Grand Junction Hiking Guide at Barnes & Noble. The TOPO maps were purchased at Summit Canyon. I bought the MapSource TOPO cdroms at Sports Authority when I bought my Garmin GPS.

I've used the Grand Junction Hiking Guide to find several of the hikes that I've written about. The book lists 69 hikes in the Grand Junction area. If you don't find everything that you are looking for on this blog then consider checking out a bookstore for more ideas.

I've used several different types of maps to find trails in the area. Maps work best if you already know a little bit about the trail you want to hike. One of the reasons for creating this blog was to fill in the information that a map doesn't offer.

Topological Maps (TOPO) are a little harder to learn to use but once you get the knack they can't be beat for getting a good picture of the terrain involved.  Most all of the TOPO maps that I buy are the waterproof Trails Illustrated maps. The terrain view on Google Maps works good for a TOPO map. You can always print the map out so you have something to take with you.

Most of the trails in the Grand Junction area are well marked and don't require a lot of trail finding. I've found the hardest part for hiking in the area is finding out what trails are around and where the trailheads are. I've created a Google Map Trailheads Map that has a lot of the trailheads marked.

(I'm still working on this page so more updates to come in the future.)