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Heading up the mountain to be a caretaker..what do I need?

So I have gotten a job as a caretaker up at Barrcamp on Pikes Peak in Colorado..I start in a couple of days and am in the process of buying a new wardrobe of warm outdoor gear. Feel nervous I will be under prepared or with the wrong gear. What are your thoughts on what the best brands to buy are for things like long underwear, a coat, snow pants, socks etc...Trying to do all of this cheap. Also any other things i could be forgetting what would be important while up there..I will be living in a cabin so not completely roughing it. 

as a southern ca dayhiker (right now), I can't really comment on brands, but I do know you won't get the brands for cheap. long underwear, expedition wieght polypropalene, is what I use for snow camping. wool socks, real wool not imitation, lots of them. smartwools or thorlos is what I use. my down coat and vest come from LLBean, although I'm not sure down would be the best thing for pike's peak in winter. Are you going to be staying thru winter or is this a short haul trip? I would imagine cold and rain/snow, maybe even freezing rain with lots of wind. proper clothing won't come cheap. I defer to others for the specifics, I just tried to give you an idea of what I use in winter. 

I would contact the current care givers which seems to be Neal & Teresa Taylor according to the Barrcamp web site:

On the left side of the page is a tab that reads Gear. Go there. This will be the minimum that people need when they are coming up to visit the camp on a temporary basis. You will likely need and or want more since you will be there on a more permanent basis.

I would call the person who hired you and talk to them about what is provided and what is not provided.

We would need a detailed list of what your duties will be so that we can further assist you in recommendations as to what gear you might need.

How long is your term of caretake at Barrcamp?

Staying till June..finding quite a bit of what seems to be great warm gear on the outlet. Thanks for the help

My duties will include:

chopping wood

hauling water

snowshoeing around for hikes and what not

talking to other campers/hikers of course 

and probably a lot more just not sure quite what to expect till I get there. 

Ive talked to Neal and Teresa quite a bit and it's up to me to get my gear except for the snow shoes.

Also I don't understand the concept of a shell to put over your winter coat are the necessary? If so how do you go about knowing what size to get and what kind?

abbeyroad said:

Also I don't understand the concept of a shell to put over your winter coat are the necessary? If so how do you go about knowing what size to get and what kind?

 Shells floor me too. I would go to REI and talk to them about showing you how to get all the way up to shell. You will want the shell over your down or the down will get wet. that is what the shell is for. But you musn't get it small enough to mash the down loft or it loses it's utility.

You lucky duck. Normally you would want articles of clothing which feel soft against the skin made from natural fibers like cotton, wool, etc., if you are indoors/inactive or low activity. Outside, I would stick with performance fabrics normally associated with the more active outdoor winter sports. They breath better and shed precip better.

Speaking purely of clothing I would bring, as I don't know which other gear is provided or not. I spent quite a few winter seasons in my youth camped for a month at a stretch at remote hunting camps. We would backpack in with pulks and set up a wall tent and stay for anywhere from 2 weeks up to a month.

So don't think of it as 'what you need to bring with you to be a caretaker', instead think of it as 'what do I need to bring for a prolonged base camping trip for the entire winter season'

I am not sure how you are getting there, vehicle, or walking, this may determine exactly how much weight you can efficiently get there.

For clothing, as a general summary, you will want three sets of baselayers, two changes of 'inside' clothes, and your clothing for venturing out into the elements. Some of these can be used together, and some cant.

Lets start with inside clothes. These are going to be items that are comfortable to wear for the majority of your stay, but wont see the outside except for short durations. These include things like sweatshirts, flannel pj pants, sweat pants, basically your favorite and most comfortable clothing that is also somewhat warm in nature. You may want to add a pair of gym shorts and a t-shirt or two.

For baselayers, these can be used in conjuction with any clothing system you bring, but should be performance in nature. I would recommend wool, polypropolene, silk, capaline, or other materials such as underarmor etc. You want two sets at least, but probably three. So this means tops, and bottoms. You will wear these anytime you venture out, when you need extra warmth inside, maybe even to sleep in. The reason I say to bring two to three sets is because you will be there for such a long period of time, this will give you the ability to get one damp/wet when working, change into a dry pair, and have one being washed etc. I assume you wont be doing laundry daily so this will give you a weeks worth or more before needing to wash.

Generally speaking when you go out into the elements, you want to be wearing a baselayer, an insulation layer, and a shell.

You only need one or two insulation layers, and only one shell. For insulation layers I would bring a nice down jacket, and either a fleece jacket, or some type of synthetic insulation layer, or a softshell. Down provides the most warmth but is succeptible to moisture, so since you are staying for a long stent I would recommend having something else along such as a fleece etc to either layer with the down under REALLY cold conditons, or to wear when you dont need as much insulation or when doing activities where you may get the down wet such as chopping wood etc from sweat. A nice fleece jacket can double in place of a sweat shirt for inside wear.

For a shell, you want a waterproof, windproof barrier to protect you and your clothing from snow/rain/moisture etc. These can be really expensive and fancy, or cheaper. There are so many options for this. But you want a shell, and not a 'winter coat'. A relatively cheap and effective shell would be to purchase a surplus ECWCS gortex parka. You can find these often for $60 or so, you can also get the ECWCS goretex pants for $40ish. Look for the old woodland pattern as these are now being replaced and can be very cheap on ebay or at surplus stores, especially used ones. Like I said there are alot of options, you can go to most any good outdoor retailer and look at a bunch and see what you like. Features that you amy like to look for, 'breathable', hood, pockets, thick enough to stand up to a little abuse. Some of them can be very thin and lightweight, and these sometimes sacrifice durability to reach these goals. The ECWCS ones i mentioned are tough as nails and what I use personally in the winter.

You will also want several pairs of wool socks, and several beanies/watch caps made of either wool, acrylic, or fleece, and you will also need at least two pairs of gloves. I also recommend a layered approach to gloves, a wool liner, a thicker fleece or wool glove, and a waterproof shell mitten.

Think in layers for everything, and in multipurpose items. You can always add or take off layers, but if you only have one super thick winter coat/shell that combines insulation and a waterproo barrier you will find yourself often too hot or too cold and sweating into it when doing outside chores.

So in summary you want to dress kind of like this, and can add or shed layers as neccesary to match the conditions.

Head: Balaclava, wool hat, the hood from your shell

Torso: wool baselayer l/s, wool sweater/fleece jacket, down jacket(hoodless is my preference), shell jacket

Legs: wool baselayer, shell pants, (some people like more warmth on the legs, if you find your legs get cold you can either get fleece pants, polypro pants, or even down pants to wear under the shell pants if needed. Fleece pants could double as good inside wear also)

Hands: wool liner glover, thicker wool or fleece glove/mitts, shell layer

For inside wear, those clothes need to either be multipurpose such as a fleece jacket and pants, or be limited to inside only.

A cheap way to get alot of these items is to go to local thrift stores. I buy alot of down vests, down jackets, fleece jackets/pants, baselayers, wool sweaters and long sleeve shirts for just a few bucks each. If on a tight budget and you cant find what you need at a thrift store, you may want to check our military surplus stores, the winter weight polypro baselayers are quite warm, comfortable, and usually a set can be had for less than $10.

Remember to think in layers, and different ways to use them. Example: Chopping wood, (i assume this will be done outside) You will get hot and sweaty because it is labor intensive. So you will probabl want your baselayers, and maybe a fleece jacket and probably not much else unless its snowing etc or brutally windy or cold. You want to avoid wearing your down jacket for example because it will get soaked with sweat and take forever to dry. Remember that things like wool and fleece will dry astronomically faster than down and also remain some of their warmth when wet or damp, whereas down when wet is pretty darn useless.

Sorry for the rambling, but hope some of this was useful. Feel free to ask as many questions as needed.


Re: Shells and Layers

My standard winter gear is a wicking layer (synthetic), a fleece with full front zipper (important for varying temperatures or ventilation), a down sweater to layer over it all if I stop, then a WP/B shell. The one I use for snow is a 3-layer Sorel jacket, relaxed fit that won't squash the sweater. Not very waterproof (just Omni-Shield) but quite adequate for snow. Glove liners, then cheap fleece gloves for a second layer, then a waterproof mitten to go over that.

I save the down parka for relaxed stuff, but it's so warm I wouldn't normally wear anything much under it except maybe a fleece. Same with snow pants. A nylon shell over fleece pants, with long-johns underneath, gives you a few options.

If you'll be wearing snowshoes, make sure you get felt-lined pac boots with extra liners. One pair is drying out while you wear the other - make sure you take them out at night and put the driest pair back in in the morning. Ensure you have lots of room for a loose fit over the top of the boot where the snowshoe straps are, otherwise you can reduce circulation in your toes and wind up with frostbite. Both Baffin and Sorel make boots with an extra lip at the heel to handle crampons or snowshoe bindings and include a top gaiter to keep the snow out.

Fleece is good, synthetics are good, merino wool is great. Stay away from cotton - if it gets wet, it has no insulating value.

You definately need a shell to go over your down jacket. mine is a waterproof breathable rain jacket, one size bigger so as not to compress  the down. If you have an REI store in your area you can get everything you need there, as well as advice on what to wear, but I think ramblers advice is spot on. have fun!

Bring what would normally bring but more of it.  For a long stay I would be more concerned about things like books magazines to read, furniture, and a place to keep a journal.  Maybe some fishing equipment, and a firearm.

Rambler and Peter covered it pretty well. I would add a couple of thoughts -

underwear-I have some Jockey synthetic briefs that are very comfortable, dry quickly and easy to wash. Leave the cotton ones at home. They make them for women too. 

Base layer-you will likely spend a lot of time in it, so get something comfortable. I have Capilene-outrageously priced, but I bought mine 25 years ago and it still is in good shape. Merino wool also works from what I have heard.

Insulation-I would put a fleece jacket at the top of my list. I have mine on in my picture and I wear it all the time, even in the city. Mine is a Columbia, a mid priced brand, nothing fancy.

Parka-down if you can afford it; LL Bean has some inexpensive ones. I also have some insulated pants-synthetic, but those are more for around camp than anything else. A pair of fleece pants (which I also have), make great hut pants.

Outerwear - I have an REI Element jacket and a pair of Marmot Precip pants (also in my picture).

Socks- good wool socks or some combo with wool.

Gloves and Mitts - a pair of fleece liner gloves then a big pair of mitts or gloves for really cold weather.

Balaclava or beanie-fleece works well, not itchy.

Gaiters- a cheap pair like I have on in my pic are fine, but get a pair for sure for snowshoeing.

Hut boots-a pair of synthetic or down booties.

Wool-for working around sharp stuff like cutting wood or fire, get a wool shirt, maybe oversized, plus wool pants (Canadian Army surplus, for example) that won't burn if you get an ember on them and are tough.

Cotton-only for warm weather; in cold weather if you sweat in it, you will never dry out and it makes it worse. I'd leave the jeans at home as well, unless you know it's going to be warm or you are just around camp.

Boots-Sorel or Baffins, whichever fits for winter then a pair of light hiking boots for the rest of the time. I don't think the liners come out of the new Sorels anymore, but check. Another choice would be mukluks but only if it's going to be really cold since they aren't usually waterproof.

Baseball hat or something like that for daytime.

Headlamp for night. I see here is no power, so I would get a small solar panel that will charge up whatever you bring, like rechargeable batteries. I have a kit made by Sanyo and haven't bought a AA or AAA battery in years.

A smartphone with a bigger screen than an Iphone with music and books loaded on it or a tablet.

First, Welcome to Trailspace! 

Second, You. Lucky. Dog. 


Truly though, that is an awesome commission you've landed. 

Others have offered a ton of awesome advice, so I won't duplicate. 

What a great thread! 

should be a fair bit of hard work but a lot of fun. 

a couple of additional thoughts:

-insulated pants are great.  i happen to prefer synthetic over down for pants, but to each their own.  if you are living at nearly 10,000 feet through the winter, you will appreciate them. 

-mitts insulated with primaloft or equivalent.  if it's really cold, fleece under a shell, by itself, won't be enough.

-some down parkas have a waterproof/breathable outer shell.  if it's cold enough to wear a big down parka, you don't need to worry about rain, and the outer shell will deflect the wind without wearing a separate outer shell.  for shoulder season weather, a shell needs to fit over the layers you would wear in those conditions - at most, baselayer plus fleece plus down sweater, probably.  the big winter down parka should be hip length and have a big, well-insulated hood.

-goggles, sunglasses, both 100% UV resistant, plus plenty of sunscreen. 

-a really warm down bag for winter.  at least -20f. 

-if you can tolerate wearing them all winter, insulated plastic boots.  not ideal for snowshoeing, but OK.  up there, I would want to be able to put on a pair of crampons if needed, and you can't do that with sorels or softer-soled boots. 

how will you be heating the cabin? if there's no electricity up there,I imagine it will be fireplace only. you'll need warm clothes for inside, too. maybe some sweatshirts and fleece pants or the like. no cotton. it's going to be alot of work to heat that place and cook, no doubt. maybe some down booties for wearing inside the cabin. you're back in the 1800's up there!

All you really need for your upcoming adventure are some self-confidence and common sense.  If you need a bunch of people to tell you what clothes to buy and and what equipment to bring, maybe you aren't ready to be on your own and rely on your own resourcefulness.

@pine: there is a diff between avid hiking & backpacking and working as a caretaker.  no matter how experienced a person is, it never hurts to ask for suggestions.  Moreover, respectfully, telling someone who is enthusiastic about a great new job "maybe you aren't ready" does not seem designed to accomplish anything productive. 





Much of the advice here focuses on dealing with cold.  The season I find most challenging, however, is "mud season." Mud season occurs twice yearly in the mountains, just before and at the end of snow season, when the weather or ground is too warm for a snow pack.  It can rain during that period; if you are there during these periods - not unusual for caretakers - make sure you have some wool or fleece articles, as they dry relatively quick.  And since it can rain during mud season, you will want rain gear.  I would not bother with Gore-Tex or other expensive rain gear; foresters and others who must endure the elements as part of the job typically use good old rubber coated bibs and jackets for this purpose.  Also consider getting a pair of rubber boots that rise half way up the shins, as the mud can get deep in places you may have to work around.  As for head cover in mud season, I found traditional cowboy hats like Stetsons work well; the felt sheds the water, and the wide brim directs it away from your collar while also affording unobstructed hearing.  

Lastly, hopefully you have a hobby or other simular diversion to keep you occupied for the duration.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!



I appreciate your comments.  Abbeyroad is headed up towards Pike's Peak for a job in September.  This is not a summer job.  I used to live in Colorado and have spent a lot of time in the mountains at all different times of the year.  It is tall country and not for the faint of heart.  Anyone contemplating going up there in the cold part of the year had better be ready.  Only Abbey can decide if he or she is up to the task.  Being up there during a blizzard with closed roads is no time to figure that out.  It is better to do some soul searching from the comfort of the house before signing up for such a challenge and responsibility.

I dire say most people would be overwhelmed by the isolation and difficulty of living in the mountains of Colorado in winter.  Most people recreate for a few days and go back to their regular routines.  This sounds like it might be a little different.


I think you're right, ppine. only she knows if she's ready for it. but from her initial post, I think she is up there already and finding out the hard way. all I can say is good luck abbey!

my advice was absolutely geared toward serving as a caretaker in the winter.  i know a couple of people who went the caretaker route in the northeast for a year, meaning winter/summer in structures that are weatherproofed but not heated.  for the adirondacks and white mountains, it also means extreme winter conditions are common.  goes with the territory.  i guided trips and have done my share of winter & summer trips, but i never found a big block of time to serve as a caretaker, hike the AT, or do something equivalent.  We all make choices; that window closed, for me, a long time ago. 

i don't know the OP's situation, but many of the caretaker jobs have days off, meaning the primary caretaker gets some relief periodically.  You're right, most people experience winter conditions for a week or two at most.  The value of being up there for long stretches is that as winter approaches gradually, for the most part, you get a sense pretty quickly if your gear is suited for the task.  if it isn't, it means trekking out and using the occasional day off upgrading. 

the most challenging aspect of serving as a caretaker, for me, would have been the mental part of it.  I'm not talking about the daily hiking, chores, and occasional SAR; rather, the downtime, when people normally spend time or talk with friends, read books, watch TV, listen to music, whatever.  I don't mind unplugging, but I would probably need a solar charger to ensure that my kindle keeps running & ipod is available for occasional use.  (winter backpacking, i have to sleep with them, and my camera, in a dry bag within my backpack to ensure they work, at least a little, in cold conditions).




In the dead of winter, it will probably not be possible to leave the property.

I just read an account of a caretaker named Sprague in Wyoming in a book called "Home Range".  He describes the necessity of killing a horse that had run onto a cattle guard and broken all 4 legs.  Hunters and trespassers needed to be run off several times.  Two months without being able to leave the property, and lots of introspection.  Unplugged, no phone, no watch, etc.  The author was a skilled writer and a person with an uncommon understanding of nature.

For those who are wondering about the conditons of and at Barr Camp here is their website:

Indian Creek Chronicles by Pete Fromm :-)

At 6.5 miles from the trailhead, you could walk or snowshoe out in all but the heaviest snow conditions or in other extreme weather. You could obviously get snowed in for a while, but in the event of a real emergency help would be available from the Forest Service. And as the winter caretaker, you'd definitely have to be prepared to help out passing hikers.

According to a cell phone works fine for most of the trail, and while it is "unreliable" at Barr camp, the isolation shouldn't be complete. Doesn't the camp have a sat phone for emergencies?

I've spent a few nights at Barr well before it was fixed up.  It had been for many years un-locked and a good place to get away from the snow or weather.

I'm assuming you winter over or at least spend most of your time there. 

Think Wisconsin winter outside and out side doing hard labor labor.  You will need work pants and shirt with outer gear that will take abuse.  If you look construction clothing suppliers you will be closer to what you will need other than back packing gear.

I've worked outside all day at -40° and we wore lined winter coveralls with a hood, hard-hat liner with balaclava, steel-toed (ouch!) winter boots, gloves with liners and gauntlets.

Speacock is right. Work clothes for the outdoors aren't the same as hiking clothes. If you're not doing heavy work you might want to look at snowmobile snowsuits and boots.

However, as trailjester noted, the OP said he/she was going up there "in a few days", and that was a couple of weeks ago. So all this discussion, while interesting, has become a bit redundant.


Mount Washington had its first snow of the year last week!

October 1, 2020
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