Sixth, Seventh, Eighth Fall - Aspen Country Day School

BACKPACKING IN Mixed-grade Teams

What is Middle School Outdoor Ed like in the fall?
We’re backpacking, in small groups, in the surrounding wilderness. Each group of 10 to 14 students travels on a route chosen specifically for hikers of this age.

Why backpacking?
Backpacking is a passport to the some of the best locations and experiences in the natural world. We’ll be learning some essential skills to foster confidence and competence in the backcountry: setting up tarps, cooking, digging a backcountry latrine, caring for waste and food, route finding, and general self-care in the wilderness. A trip like this also deepens understanding of the five core values of our school: character, respect, responsibility, community, and perseverance.

Who goes in each group?

How can I get ready?
All trips will be physically demanding, as we’ll be carrying heavy packs, often uphill, for a couple miles. We encourage all Middle Schoolers to get out and hike as conditioning for the trip. Get a couple of friends together and make it fun!

What should I bring?
All gear will be carried in a backpack. See the packing list below. If you need to borrow a school backpack, please email


  1. Hike uphill
    Even better, carry a pack while doing this essential training.
  2. Find your pack
    We recommend a pack with a capacity of 60-70 litres. For an example of the type of pack we recommend, please click here. If you are looking for more advice on finding a pack, click here.
  3. Decide if you want to borrow a school pack
    If you would like to borrow a pack from ACDS, email us right away: A pack will be reserved for you and issued on Tuesday, the first day of school. You should bring your gear to school in a duffle or big plastic bag that morning.
  4. Consider the weather
    The weather in the mountains is variable. It could rain, sleet, or even snow in the high country. Many of the groups will be traveling above tree line so the temps will be cooler than in town. Be prepared!  Pack warm clothes, even if the day is warm and sunny the evening temperatures may drop into the 30’s.  You MUST bring rain gear and warm layers for cold evenings.
  5. Pack intelligently
    Students: pack your own pack! (Core value: responsibility) Parents can help make wise clothing choices, but you should be able to put it all in the packs by yourself, including stuffing the sleeping bag into a stuff sack. There must be additional room in your pack to carry some group gear. (Core value: community) We will be doing a pack check on the first day of school.

Packing List

Backpack – big enough to fit your own gear & some group gear (50-60 litre)
Optional: pack cover, important if it is rainy (or a big trash bag)
Small compressible daypack
2 Nalgene (water bottles) full of water
Hiking boots or trail running shoes that support the ankle
Sleeping bag
Sleeping pad
Camping bowl
Camping spoon/fork
Camping cup
Headlamp with extra batteries
Hat or visor
Winter hat
Winter gloves
2 pairs of socks: smartwool-type or non-cotton only
Warm coat (down jacket)
Fleece coat
Long underwear (top and bottom)
Non-cotton t-shirt
Non-cotton shorts
Rain pant
Rain jacket
Toothbrush/paste (SMALL size)
Face masks for each day
THREE LUNCHES – updated, now lunches are required for each day. (Keep in mind that you will need to carry your snacks and pack out the trash.)
SNACKS for THREE DAYS (Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday). ideas for snacks: G.O.R.P., salami, cheese slices, apples, dried fruit, nutrition bars
Optional: pack cover

All students MUST come with their backpack packed and ready for the pack check the first day of school.  

NO ELECTRONICS, please, except a headlamp or flashlight: this means no cell phones, no iPods or iPads, games, etc. NO sunglasses or glasses with video capabilities, NO smart watches. Only regular or Rx sunglasses and regular watches. “Radio silence” and a chance to unplug are important aspects of the Outdoor Ed experience. Photos from the trips will be posted shortly after return for parents and children to share.  

Complete instructions, packing lists, and staffing details arrive via ParentSquare shortly before each trip. At least one certified Wilderness First Responder accompanies every expedition. NOLS Risk Services of the National Outdoor Leadership School has recently completed a comprehensive analysis of policies and procedures for the Outdoor Education program at Aspen Country Day School. This program operates under special use permit from the USDA Forest Service, White River National Forest.