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Visitors flock to the Centennial state for skiing in the winter. But locals know that summer is the season when the state really shines. Colorado is all about the outdoors, even in the urban areas. But the weather can turn on a dime.
My first year in Colorado, I embarked on a hike one day in shorts and a T-shirt. On the route home the weather quickly turned to snow. Ever since, I’ve been prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws my way.
The secret is layers. And, layers, fortunately, don’t have to be bulky or take up too much suitcase space. With our complete Colorado packing list, you can be prepared too!
Packing for Colorado
There are a few things you need in Colorado year round. The sun is always near and the air is always dry. Therefore sun protection and hydration are always important. And we’re an outdoor state, so you will want to be prepared for some of the many fun outdoor activities, whatever the season.
From breathable clothing with SPF, hats to shield your face, sunglasses to protect your eyes to lip balm and sunscreen to protect your skin, come prepared for the sun.
Colorado’s tap water is some of the best in the United States, particularly when in the mountains. Bring a refillable water bottle and be sure to stay hydrated to stave off altitude sickness when heading up to the high altitudes of the Rocky Mountains.
What to Pack for Colorado All Year Round
Here’s a comprehensive list of items you’ll want for your Colorado vacation no matter the time of year:
- Lip Balm with a high SPF.
- Sunscreen with a high SPF. I like to have both a spray and stick, but you may prefer a lotion.
- Hat to shade your face from the sun or keep your ears warm depending on the time of year.
- Polarized sunglasses that will stay on for outdoor activities. I like Maui Jims, though Smith may make the best for sports.
- Environmentally friendly refillable water bottle. A lightweight Nalgene bottle is great for rafting and hiking, whereas an EcoVessel will keep your water cold and a Yeti will keep your coffee hot. A Camelbak is ideal for both hiking and mountain biking and any activity where you may want your hands free. A LifeStraw water bottle may be in order if you will be in the backcountry and don’t want to haul your water.
- Saline nose spray to ward off bloody noses in the dry climate.
- Advil, Tylenol or Ibuprofen. For the kids, I like to bring Tylenol Dissolve Packs.
- A charger for your phone. A portable charger is also great to have as a back up both for cold days and when hiking or camping.
- Camera to capture the beautiful Colorado landscapes. The new iPhones and Androids actually take incredible photos and are easier to have ready for that candid moment. So, it is possible that you could rely on your phone camera if it is a good one.
- Casual clothing. From Denver to Vail, you will find that stylish jeans and a sweater are perfectly acceptable for a nice dinner out. Shoes should be practical. Several brands, such as Sorel and Bjorn offer stylish yet practical options.
- Underwear, bras, socks.
- Makeup, medications and other daily toiletries. If you forget deodorant, try Tom’s. It’s a local Colorado favorite.
Read More: Check out our packing list for babies if you’ll be bringing an infant along on your Colorado family vacation.
Colorado in the Winter
If you are visiting Colorado in the winter, there’s a good chance you are coming to ski. If so, you also need to check out our ski packing list for families.
Either way, you will surely be participating in some outdoor snow activities and will want to stay warm. From wool socks to hand warmers we have excellent tips to stay warm without having to overpack.
Packing List for Colorado in the Winter
- Wool socks like Smartwool are great not just for skiing, but really any snow activity.
- Quick dry base layers. Krimson Klover makes warm and fun women’s styles. REI offers great base layer options for kids.
- Fleece jacket from Northface or Patagonia.
- Sweaters. Stylish Kuhl sweaters come in a variety of weights and degrees of warmth that we love. SheBuysTravel Tip: Have everyone wear the heaviest, bulkiest sweaters and hiking boots on the plane to save space in your luggage.
- Warm, waterproof ski jacket. Skea jackets are fashionable enough for around town while also keeping you snug on the mountain.
- Gloves or mittens. Mittens will keep your fingers warmer and allow better space for hand warmers such as hot pockets.
- Baclava or neck gaitor to block the wind and keep your neck and ears warm on cold days outdoors.
- Warm, water-resistant boots with good traction. Sorels are our winter boot of choice. But, of course, Uggs may be the most popular.
- Swimsuit. Yes, even in winter you will want a swimsuit for soaking in mountainside hot springs, hot tubs or even taking laps in a heated outdoor pool while the snowflakes float down from the sky.
Colorado in the Summer
In the summer, layers and a compact raincoat are key. Evenings can be cold. The mountains on occasion see a light dusting of snow into June. And, afternoon thunderstorms provide a welcome, typically brief, watering of the wildflowers.
Did you know that summer is the best time to road trip in Colorado? It is the best way to see the wildflowers and take in mountain views.
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SheBuysTravel Tip: Be sure to check out our tips on how to get kids hiking before hitting the trail.
Packing List for Colorado in the Summer
- Moisture wicking tank tops and t-shirts. But make sure you have on sunscreen.
- Long sleeve t-shirts. A lightweight long sleeve t-shirt made of a wicking material can protect you from the sun while still keeping you cool.
- Rain jacket. bring one that rolls up to a small size and take it everywhere with you.
- Hiking boots. Even if you won’t be going on strenuous hikes, a pair of sturdy hiking shoes is a great idea as you likely will walk on uneven terrain. You will need some sort of closed toe shoe for riding alpine coasters, horseback riding and other fun activities.
- Quick dry hiking pants. These are comfortable and ideal not just for hiking, but also just about any summer outdoor activity. You’ll also want a pair of shorts and jeans.
- A comfortable sundress for mom and daughters. Marmot makes some great ones, as do many of the other outdoor brands.
- Flip flops or sandals. Yes, get yourself a pair of Tevas or something similar for both relaxing at the pool or playing in the river.
- Daypack. You will want something to carry your water bottle, snacks and extra layers. A compact Marmot day pack can even double as a carry on.
- Swimsuit. Many of the popular outdoor brands like Northface and Patagonia make swimsuits that will hold up for just about any water sport, whether in the river, lake or pool.
- Headlamp for camping or other nighttime activities. And don’t forget extra batteries for those headlamps.
- Insect repellent. Colorado has relatively few bugs and mosquitos compared to more humid climates. But if you are near bodies of water, or fly fishing, you may encounter some. Best to be prepared to ward them off.
- Sleeping bag, if your plans include camping.
Did we miss anything you love to bring to Colorado with you? It certainly is the place where style meets comfort as performance rules.
Still wondering what you need to know before visiting the Centennial state? We’ve got you covered with these 12 things to know before visiting Colorado.