Out of Bounds

Colorado escape: The backcountry hut trip.

November 2013

Pack It In

Always check the detailed list (usually available online) for your specific hut, but typically you should bring the following items: 
•    Sleeping bag
•    Pillowcase
•    Food (include some that you don’t need to cook)
•    Water
• Water-filtration system
•    Headlamp and extra batteries
•    Topographic maps
•    Compass
•    Avalanche safety gear
•    Matches/lighter
•    First-aid kit
•    Pocket knife
•    Sunglasses and goggles
•    Sunscreen
•    Slippers
•    Clothing (layer-ables, socks, jacket, ski clothes, pajamas)
•    Watch
•    Hygiene items
•    Duct tape
•    Earplugs

Hut system cabins generally come equipped with:
•    Wood- or propane-burning stoves
•    Chopped wood
•    Lighting
•    Cooking and eating utensils 
•    Cleaning supplies
•    Toilet paper
•    Mattresses
•    Pillows


Downward Slide
How to prep for the backcountry.

Many backcountry mountain huts are located near avalanche terrain. Even if the cabin stands a mere half-mile from the road, getting there may put you in the danger zone. Fifty-eight avalanche fatalities have occurred in this country over the past two years—18 of them in Colorado. Any foray outside the boundaries should be undertaken with the appropriate safety equipment, including a beacon, shovel, and probe. Backcountry travelers should also have enough knowledge to identify avalanche risk, make decisions about terrain and routes, and properly use the equipment. Ethan Greene, director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC), offers his top three avalanche awareness tips. 

Study the conditions: Besides a general weather forecast, you should know the danger level (low through extreme) for your terrain and be aware of any avalanche warnings issued. Find this and other information at CAIC’s website, colorado.gov/avalanche.

Get educated: Providers around the state (we like Aspen Expeditions and Colorado Mountain School) offer varying levels of avalanche awareness courses. Check CAIC or the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) for class listings that include AIARE 1 (three-day introduction) and AIARE 2 (four-day advanced) courses. Or, visit the Forest Service National Avalanche Center (fsavalanche.com) for a basic online tutorial.

Have proper gear: It can save your life.

1. Confluence Kayaks, 2373 15th St., 303-433-3676, confluencekayaks.com
2. Bent Gate Mountaineering, 1313 Washington Ave., Golden, 303-271-9382, bentgate.com
3. Neptune Mountaineering, 633 S. Broadway, Boulder, 303-499-8866,neptunemountaineering.com