If you are planning to take a trip to the Rocky Mountains, you will definitely appreciate having this Colorado packing list!
Colorado is a special place different from many other places in the world. If you are traveling from a coastal state or a state with little to no mountains, Colorado will definitely surprise you!
Living here for over a year now, we have explored much of the state, and have properly acclimated ourselves, and gotten all of the proper gear.
If you are planning to visit Colorado, check out these guides:
As locals, we know all the things you need, and all the things you don’t!
This list will give you a good idea of what to prepare for, what to pack, and everything you’ll need for a successful trip to the Rocky Mountain state!
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Don’t forget your FREE Insider’s guide to Colorado to help you prepare for your trip!
I decided to put this one first on the list because it truly is so important. If you are planning to go to Colorado in the wintertime (even early or late winter), you will NEED tire chains.
If you are bringing your own car, make sure you have these with you. If you are renting a car, ask if they have chains you can rent, or bring your own.
Snow up in the mountains is NO. JOKE. You can believe us when we say that since we grew up in Buffalo, NY, which is known for extreme snow.
When driving into the mountains, you will often see signs informing you of “chaining stations” where you can pull off on the side of the road to chain up your tires.
Please do not ignore this. You might think you are a good driver in the snow (which trust us, we are too…) but when you are in the mountains, it is WAY different.
Even if there is no chance for snow the day you decide to drive up there, NEVER forget your chains. Weather in the mountains is very unpredictable and can start white-out snowing at literally any minute.
Take it from us. We’ve been you, thinking ‘Were from Buffalo, we don’t need chains’
Yes. You do. Get the chains.
Another Colorado packing list item you should never overlook is sunscreen. Because of Colorado’s high altitude, the sun is HOT HOT HOT.
The sun is literally closer to your skin by 5-10 thousand feet (depending on where you are in Colorado), so it makes sense it will have more of an effect on your skin.
This means, even if you don’t normally burn, you probably will up here. Take care of your skin, and get some good sunscreen, or risk being burnt and red for the rest of your trip!
Even in the wintertime, the sun is especially warm, and yes, you will get burned in the winter as well.
Colorado has over 300 days of sun (I personally feel like it is more than this, especially where we live in the state), which means it is sunny out pretty much every single day. Even when it is cloudy or rainy, it never lasts the whole day.
I use Olay Whips with SPF 25 for my face and have yet to get a bad burn here (and I burn VERY easily)
The upside to all this though is with the sun being stronger and closer, winter days feel much warmer than they actually are!
3. Hiking Boots
Another must-have item on your Colorado packing list is a good pair of hiking boots. If you are coming to the Rocky Mountain state, chances are you will be doing at least a little bit of hiking.
Even if you aren’t planning on hiking a 14er (That’s slang here for hiking a mountain that is 14,000 feet), you will want some good footwear.
You can hike in just a pair of sneakers or tennis shoes, but you will regret it almost instantly. The Rocky Mountains are legit, you guys. Little Nike shoes just aren’t going to cut it.
You’ll find yourself slipping and sliding down hills on the trail which can be really dangerous. Plus, many trails are rocky which really hurts if you accidentally kick a rock without proper footwear.
If you don’t have hiking shoes, you can always check out a Big 5 Sporting Goods store once you get here. You can get some pretty decent hiking boots and gear here for pretty cheap- I got a pair of hiking boots here once for about $20!
I also have a pair of Columbia hiking boots similar to these ones, which were a bit more expensive, but have proven sturdy and relentless against all the hiking we have done thus far! I wouldn’t recommend these for winter hiking though, as they have mesh on the top which would easily let snow and water in.
4. What to Wear in Colorado
Another important item to mention on our Colorado packing list is clothing. No matter what season you are traveling here in, always bring layers!
Summertime in Colorado is HOT. On the front range, you’re talking 90 as an average most days. You can find some relief in the mountains during these warm days, but it can still get very warm up there!
Wintertime is surprisingly fairly mild here in Colorado, especially for the front range. Where we live (Longmont), we do get snow, but nowhere even close to the amount of snow we got back in Buffalo. The mountains, however, can get a LOT of snow.
If you plan to go hiking, always bring layers, even in the summertime. Once you get up to really high altitudes, especially towards the end of the day, the temperature can start dropping dramatically.
Whenever we go out practically anywhere up in the mountains, I always fill up our to-go bag or our back seat with tons of different clothing options, because you just never know what is going to happen!
There is a saying here in Colorado, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes“, and if that doesn’t sum it up, I don’t know what will!
Like I mentioned earlier, Colorado gets at least 300 days of sun. Even if your forecast is looking a bit cloudy/rainy/snowy, I honestly wouldn’t be too concerned.
You WILL experience mostly sunny days here, even if there is a chance of precipitation (which doesn’t seem to happen often, especially in the summertime).
Because of this, you will need a good pair of sunglasses. Trust me, the sun here is brighter than you’ve ever seen, and you won’t want to be caught up in the mountains without them!
Another Colorado packing list item worth mentioning is oxygen. When you visit Colorado, you will likely see oxygen supplements in stores, especially gift shops.
This is kind of a gimmick and a tourist scam, but it can actually be really helpful for some travelers!
Many travelers don’t believe they will be affected by the high altitude change and go right into hiking on the first or second day they arrive. Or, you might fly right into one of the mountain towns, and go right from sea level to 8-10 thousand feet. Ouch!
These supplements can be helpful, though it is better if you follow these guidelines which can help you better adjust to the elevation changes.
Once you get here, most people will start to feel some altitude sickness symptoms within a day or two. We definitely did! You might be short of breath, dizzy, and just not feeling great.
Of course, always talk with your doctor if you have concerns. However, in a pinch, these oxygen supplements could help!
If you are traveling in the wintertime, you will definitely want to add these ice traction cleats to your Colorado packing list.
These are kind of similar to the concept of chaining up your tires on your car. In the wintertime, trails often get iced over and can get very difficult to walk on.
These ice cleats snap onto your regular hiking boots so you can have a better grip when hiking in the snow!
You don’t necessarily need these for all winter hiking, though you will be extremely happy that you decided to bring them when the trail is iced over!
You won’t want to get all the way here and get to a trail only to realize you don’t have the proper footwear!
Many Coloradans have these, and it is no surprise why!
Another item you should add to your Colorado packing list is binoculars! When you are in the mountains, there is so much to see!
You might catch a glimpse of a moose or other wildlife off in the distance, and wish you had binoculars to see him better. These foldable binoculars are perfect to put in your day bag or hiking bag!
Even if you are not in the mountains, you can never get enough of the Mountain View. Having binoculars will allow you to see details you couldn’t otherwise see on your own!
9. Cash & Your ID
I’m sure you can already imagine where this one is going. As you know, recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado. If you are coming here (especially from states where it is not legal), you will likely be inclined to have a little fun!
In Colorado, you MUST use cash to purchase marijuana. Dispensaries always have ATMs in case you forget to take cash out, but then you need to pay the ATM fee.
Same yourself the time and money by just bringing some extra cash, if you wish to partake!
Keep in mind, smoking/ingesting marijuana is pretty low key here in Colorado. It is similar to the culture around going out for a beer, so try not to be too nervous your first time visiting!
When you are in Colorado, you will likely get thirsty more often than you are used to – especially if you partake in the activity listed above!
Because the sun is so hot and the air is so dry, you will need to ensure you are staying hydrated. This will also help with your altitude sickness symptoms!
PS. Beers hit harder here, so make sure you are drinking extra water to balance it out!
As I mentioned frequently throughout this post, the sun is extra hot here in Colorado. Because of this, you will want to have a hat or some kind of heat covering!
Whenever we go hiking, I always wear a hat, because it helps protect my face and scalp from burning as much. Plus, it helps block the sun so you can see a little bit better!
Get yourself a cute baseball cap to complete your hiking outfit!
Another item you should add to your Colorado packing list is a pair of hiking socks! Especially if your hiking boots are new, you will want some good socks to help break them in!
Hiking socks will help keep your feet comfortable, as they are breathable and keep your feet from getting sweaty!
They also help protect your feet and ankles from cuts and scrapes that you might encounter during your hike!
Even if you don’t wear hiking socks specifically, opt to wear socks that are thicker and longer- Fashion is out when hiking, guys. Comfort is key- wear long socks!
I hope this list helped you put together your Colorado packing list! I guarantee you will love Colorado and all it has to offer! Don’t forget to sign up to receive your FREE Colorado insider’s guide! You will get tips for the best places to see wildlife, best views, and things to do!