A Colorado tour is packed with outdoor activities, nature and good times. But before you start getting really excited about your trip, it's important to ensure you've packed all the essentials so you can have a great time. The most important thing to consider is that Colorado is all about the outdoors – we’re talking rivers, lakes, mountains, valleys and national parks – so you can leave your fancy gear at home. However, you might like to bring one or two smart casual outfits to wear to dinner in the evening or hit up some bars to relax after a big hike. We’ve put together this essential packing list for Colorado so you can spend less time stressing about what to bring, and more time getting excited.
1. Sturdy, comfortable footwear
If you’re going on a Colorado tour, there’s a big chance you’ll be spending most of your time hiking mountains, checking out waterfalls, swimming in gorgeous lakes. That’s why good footwear is at the top of this list. You’ll need a decent pair of hiking boots and/or sneakers that protect your ankles and are comfy to wear all day. They'll also need to have good grip on the sole to prevent you from slipping. If you’re visiting in spring, summer or fall, you might also want to bring a pair of sandals that you can wear in the water to protect your feet when you're doing activities like rafting.
In terms of what clothing to bring, you can't go wrong with quick-drying activewear. We’re talking hiking pants, shorts, leggings, waterproof ski pants and a jacket (if you’re doing snow sports in winter or spring) and a lightweight waterproof jacket. Long pants and sleeves may be a good option if you're hiking in the mountains and want to protect your skin from little cuts from bushes or rocks. It'll also protect your skin from the sun.
3. Layers (lots of them)
Colorado is the kinda place where you roll with the seasons, and it's not uncommon to experience four in one day. The landscapes are diverse – from vast plains to rugged mountains to desert canyons – and the weather can change quickly, particularly at higher elevations. It might seem silly to pack a warm fleece and a jacket in the summer or t-shirts in winter, but it’s best to be prepared. Even on hot summer days when daytime highs climb into the mid-90s, you’d be surprised at how much cooler it gets when the sun goes down.
4. Laundry bag
If there’s anything we wish we’d known on our first adventures, one of them would be to bring an extra bag for dirty clothes. The sniff test usually does the job, but let’s be honest, there’s always the risk of getting a big ol’ whiff of stale, post-hike sweat. Save your nostrils and keep your clean clothes fresh by bringing a laundry bag. A small bag made with breathable fabric should do the job.
A trusted daypack will be your best friend on a hike, bicycle ride or meandering around Denver’s lively downtown streets. They're perfect for carrying around your essentials like sunscreen, a water bottle, a camera and snacks. A small to medium-sized bag will do just fine – anything bigger might be uncomfortable or annoying to carry. You might also want to consider a waterproof bag if you’re visiting in the wetter months.
6. Sun protective gear
Did you know Colorado has an average of 300 days of sunshine a year? That means one thing: sun protective gear is essential. You’ll need a pair of polarised sunnies, high SPF sunscreen and a wide beamed sun hat (ideally one that protects your face, head and neck). You don’t want to be that person who’s squinting or cupping your hands above your head to block the sun in all your travel photos. With so much sunshine a year, sun-protective gear is essential for all seasons.
7. Smart casual outfits
If you love hitting up a nice restaurant in the evening or rewarding your active efforts with a couple of drinks at a brewery, you might want to swap the activewear for a couple of smart casual outfits. In Colorado, smart casual usually means a pair of jeans and a shirt, so you can leave your fancy-schmancy clothes at home.
Colorado is brimming with stunning scenery and we guarantee you’ll want to stop to take a photo every five minutes. Although most smartphones take some pretty impressive photos nowadays, but we recommend bringing a camera if you want to capture your most special moments. If you're an avid photographer, this goes without saying.
9. Reusable water bottle
Exploring Colorado is thirsty work. Don’t forget to bring a medium-sized reusable water bottle that you can fill up throughout the day to stay hydrated. It's super important to keep hydrated to avoid getting sick, especially in the summer months when it's hot.
10. Quick-dry towel
As much as we love a big, fluffy towel, a regular towel is too heavy to take with you on a Colorado tour. A thin, quick-dry towel makes it easy to pat yourself down after a swim or shower and carry it around with you on the road.
11. Thick socks
A pair of thick hiking socks could save your feet from painful blisters and keep them dry after long (and sweaty) days of hiking. They’re designed specifically for hiking and are well worth the extra few dollars than regular socks.
These items aren’t essential, but you might like to bring them to get the most out of your trip.
There’s heaps of wildlife in Colorado’s national parks including bighorn sheep, elk, moose and bison. If you'd like to get a closer look at these animals, bring a pair of binoculars so you can watch them going about their day in their natural habitat.
2. Packing cubes
Packing cubes make living out of a rucksack way easier. Instead of folding or rolling your clothes and placing them neatly in your bag – only to ruin your arrangement an hour later when you’re looking for that one sock that just so happens to be right at the bottom – packing cubes keep everything neat and organised.
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