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Pack With Me: Light & Easy Packing List For Colorado Summer

Somewhere, in the midst of packing for my summer Colorado trip, I gave up.

My giving up wasn’t a tired “I’ll finish it tomorrow” kind of giving up nor a light “I’m sure this is good enough” kind of giving up.

It was a full throttled, Instagrammable dresses flying, I have no idea what I’m doing, kind of giving up.

Calm, Anshula. Calm.

I was not calm.

I would like to say Colorado helped me reach my zen. The meditative mountain state delicately lifted me into a forest of tranquility.

I overpacked for this trip.

I also underpacked.

But somehow, when I was there, it didn’t matter. A quick stop to a convenience store to pick up a few knick-knacks wasn’t an issue.

Would I pack differently on my next trip there? Probably.

But Colorado had such a powerful positive vibe that I didn’t feel bad.

In fact, after I returned from a road trip criss-crossing the state, I felt enlightened.

So if you are planning a trip to Colorado, don’t stress. Sit back. Enjoy your time. And without further ado, here is the perfect light and easy packing list for Colorado summers.

Feel free to add on anything you want or remove anything from this list to adapt your travel needs.

Disclosure: Heads up, this post contains some affiliate links, which means I may get a commission if you make a purchase. Don’t feel pressured to buy anything. I still love that you’re here, reading my content (side note: I’d probably suggest getting a coffee or tea first though because my blog posts tend to be long). To find out more, you can read our full affiliate disclosure right here.

Colorado Summer Packing List Essentials

Hiking Backpack

Here’s the one item I really needed and blissfully forgot to pack: a good hiking backpack. I realized this the morning I hit Crater Lake trail (near Maroon Bells) when I saw everyone else and their bulging hiking backpacks (which immediately indicated to all the effortlessly dressed, geared-up hikers that I was a complete newbie to the Colorado summer hiking scene).

The hiking backpack I used was an old college backpack and it did not deliver in any way, shape, or form. But luckily, I’ve learned from my mistake. And since packing for my summer Colorado trip, I’ve tested a few day hiking bags.

My current favorite is this crossbody backpack (it looks really weird but the design actually contributes to the weight distribution). It’s not expensive (in fact, it was only a few dollars more than my back-in-University backpack). The material is nice and durable. The straps are a little long. I have a fairly small frame (5′ 3.75”) so I had to adjust them to the tightest level and they fit pretty well after that.

When I first ordered it, the backpack smelled like it arrived straight out of a factory so I set it on the patio for a day and let it air out. Odor gone.

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It fits the essentials – water bottle, camera gear, extra clothes – which is what makes it so good for day hiking. I think for longer multi-day hikes, it’s definitely not roomy enough.

P.S. If you’re looking for a multi-day hiking backpack, I’d highly recommend going into an REI store and asking the staff (they are incredibly knowledgable and will help you find the perfect one suited for you).

Reusable Water Bottle

My partner gifted me a reusable water bottle from KOR last year and I instantly became obsessed with it. It’s a clear bottle (so I knew exactly how much water I was drinking). It also has a filter (which was the most important part for me).

The KOR bottle isn’t for everybody though. For one thing, if the filter fidgets out of place, it sounds loud, like a stomach rumbling. And it’s plastic. It’s BPA-free plastic (which means it’s non-toxic) but it’s plastic nonetheless.

I’m actually looking to swap mine out right now with a different water bottle. Several of my friends recommended HydroFlask and I just invested in one. It’s a little pricier than what I’m comfortable with paying but it’s also stainless steel so it keeps drinks cold (which was a problem with my KOR bottle. It didn’t insulate so if I left it in the car for an hour, the water would taste tepid when I came back) and is dishwasher-safe.

P.S. I really love my Life Straw but I don’t think it’s necessary for a day hike. I packed it anyway, in the case of a multi-day hike. But that plan never commenced with the whole I-didn’t-have-the-right-backpack, this-isn’t-going-to-work-out situation.

Sunscreen

So sunscreen was the last thing I expected to pack for Colorado summers. I expected the mountains to be cool and shaded. But according to AMC Outdoor Magazine, “UV exposure increases by roughly 10% every 1,000 feet of elevation.” So if you’re planning on hiking the Rockies or even driving up Pikes Peak, sunscreen is absolutely necessary.

You will need a minimum of SPF 30 sunscreen (no less). There isn’t a big difference between SPF 30 and SPF 50. I use an SPF 50 sunscreen not because of the level but because this is the only good brand I found on Amazon thus far that doesn’t test on animals, is reef-safe (so I could use it elsewhere as well), and budget-friendly. It just so happens it’s SPF 50.

Walking/Hiking Shoes

You’ll want to get shoes that work for both hiking and walking. When I initially visited Colorado in the summer, I packed a regular pair of sneakers that I bought for $15 and flip-flopped (pun intended. I’m sorry you had to read that) between sandals and walking shoes.

I don’t recommend this at all. I hated lugging around several pairs of shoes everywhere. Now I wear these sneaker boots from Missguided, which double up as hiking shoes and walking shoes. They aren’t available in half-sizes which is slightly bothersome because I’m in between a six and a seven. I have to fit into them by opting for thick socks.

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Toiletries

The one thing I did pack correctly was toiletries! A blessing after years of trying to get it just right.

I have three tiny toiletry bags (I prefer the clear ones. This is the set I have. It’s transparent, TSA-approved, and pink, which makes it easily identifiable.

Hotels usually provide most toiletries so I don’t pack much. Here’s what I include:

  • a toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • a comb
  • a mini first-aid kit (this goes in a separate bag)
  • contact lenses
  • curly hair necessities

TLDR; Colorado Summer Packing List Essentials

– Hiking Backpack

– Reusable Water Bottle

– Sunscreen (SPF 30)

– Walking/Hiking Shoes

– Socks

– Toiletries

Packing All The Outfits

Ohhh...goodness, this shot of the Maroon Bells (cliched blogger standing in front of mountains) is one of the bucket list things to do in Aspen

Sweatershirts

So before packing for Colorado summers, I discovered a clothing item (on Reddit, of course) that I knew would be perfect – a sweatershirt. To be honest, a sweatershirt sounds weird enough to be up there with the likes of plastic jeans, shoulderless winter jackets, and skinners (socks and shoes rolled into one. I don’t even know why this exists).

But I promise sweatershirts are really practical for Colorado summers because they don’t make you feel too hot or too cold. Sometimes, the temperature in Colorado jumps around (depends on elevation). And if you’re going on a Colorado road trip (as I did), you don’t want to be switching in and out of clothes all the time.

So I picked up this sweatershirt from H & M (in two colors) and it did the trick for the most part (the Continental Divide along Independence Pass was still freezing though. I needed a heavy-duty jacket for that). I simply wore mine with a pair of thick jeans.

Athletic Gear

Athletic gear is a must to pack for any Colorado summer trip. You’ll want to go all-in for this.

The reason I’m shout-it-from-the-rooftops recommending athletic gear is because I chose to wear an outfit that looked cute in photos but was not practical at all. Now, when I’m hiking, I just wear a sports bra, some leggings, and a long athletic top and it feels so good.

Trying to walk around in a dress that falls past your ankles and has long draping sleeves just won’t work in Colorado (at least if you want to see the sights or are planning long hikes). Take it from a girl who spent way too much time growing her Instagram this way. It’s just not worth it.

Summer Dress

I wear a lot of summer dresses and this is one of my favorites (you can actually see a bit of the red dress I linked in the photo above. I’m not sure why I kept the raincoat on. It wasn’t raining. At all).

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But I love this dress. It’s great for walking around a city. The way the shoulder sleeves are cut make it breathe easily. And I love how flowy the skirt is (I wish it was cinched a little lower but that’s just personal preference).

Jackets

You’ll still find snow in Colorado in the summertime. It snows at the top of Pikes Peak! Bits of Independence pass were also snaked with snow. Parts of the Rockies had zig-zags of white.

It’s a really pretty and unique sight. The snow is set between lush greenscapes and blooming flowers. And that juxtaposition is one of my favorite reasons to visit Colorado in the summer.

But as a result, you’ll also need:

TLDR; Colorado Summer Outfit Essentials

– Sweatershirt

– Jeans

– Sports Bra

– Leggings

– Athletic Top

– Summer Dresses

– Heavy-Duty Jacket

– Raincoat

-Gloves

-Headwrap

Miscellaneous Items To Add To Your Packing List For Colorado Summers

Hiking Survival Kit

Since I was day hiking, I didn’t worry too much about making sure my hiking survival kit was thorough. I just packed the following:

  • a compass
  • a flashlight
  • a physical map (you can pack one beforehand or pick one up at any park visitor center when you arrive)

Hat

As much I like (and prefer) visors, I have to go with a baseball cap(because my hair gets so hot when I’m walking.

Wide brim hats protect you from the sun.

Side note: Pack a pair of sunglasses as well.

Chapstick

High altitudes make my lips try really quickly. This is the brand of chapstick I usually use, but you can bring whatever chapstick you have on hand.

Electronics

As a travel blogger, I carry way too many electronics. You definitely do not need this much gear while packing for your Colorado summer trip. But here are some ideas of electronics you might need:

  • laptop
  • laptop charger
  • phone
  • phone charger
  • flash drive
  • micro-SD converter
  • GoPro
  • headphones
  • DSLR camera
  • drone (a lot of areas in Colorado don’t allow drone flying so you’ll need to look into which areas do. If the drone is above 250 grams, you’re subject to additional restrictions and fees, which is why I use the DJI Mavic Mini which clocks in at 249 grams. This is a cheap mini drone perfect for beginners).

TLDR; Colorado Summer Outfit Essentials

– Compass

– Flashlight

– Hat

– Sunglasses

– Chapstick

– Electronics

And that was actually everything I packed for this trip. I usually see “pack with me” videos on YouTube and find them really helpful so I wanted to adapt the idea into a blog post. The result: a hopefully light and easy packing list for Colorado summers that you can use.

Did you enjoy this packing list for Colorado summer? Am I missing anything essential in the packing list? Would you pack differently? Let me know in the comments below! As always, I love hearing from you.

13 Comments

  • Avatar
    Shreya Saha
    May 15, 2018 at 1:25 PM

    That’s a super detail list for packing stuff for summers in Colorado. Thanks for the share. You nicely mentioned the clothes also that you packed along with other essentials. Good content!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Swati Sinha
    May 15, 2018 at 3:19 PM

    That is an exhaustive list of everything you need for Colorado summer. I liked the humor and the conversational tone of the post. Good work

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Cat Uy
    May 15, 2018 at 4:23 PM

    very detailed stuff for summer season. I really appreciate how you put them all and share with us. good read.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Karie
    May 15, 2018 at 7:31 PM

    Aah yes a packing list is super important.I always have one for all trips to ensure I don’t miss out on anything. Your list is super helpful down to minute details. If I ever visit Colorado in summer would definitely keep this in mind.Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    sam
    May 16, 2018 at 1:51 AM

    Whenever I travel, I always subscribe to capsule wardrobe philosophy where I use basic pieces and colors and mix-and-match. I don’t mind wearing the same clothes twice because I do not like to sacrifice the comfort of packing light! Great tips you shared here. Perfect for the season.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Hetal Kamdar
    May 16, 2018 at 8:05 AM

    That’s an excellent packing list, Jogging pants, leggings and some basic tees are a must in my packing list wherever I travel. However, your idea of packing boots did not convince me until I read that it came to use while you were at the freezing pass. The accessory list is amazing and Chapsticks are something that never goes out of stock.
    Well, I can not survive without my Shades in summer so a pair of those is a must for me. Thanks for sharing your list with us.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    LaiAriel Samangka
    May 16, 2018 at 1:30 PM

    Truly, this is such a perfect light and easy packing list for Colorado summers. I love that you have written this in a concise, but very detailed and useful. I personally have struggled when packing, just like you I feel like I underpack and overpack, but when I get to my destination it didn’t matter at all. I have not been to Colorado, and this is really a big help. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Sophie
    May 16, 2018 at 7:09 PM

    This is a really good packing list for a hike. I usually try and take as little with me as possible but I never seem to be very good at it! Jogging pants are definitely a must!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    sumit walia
    May 17, 2018 at 8:36 AM

    loved the way you opened up the post , could relate to few items in the packing list . i have my own list too as i do few treks into the mountains and to have a list is so important

    Reply
    • Avatar
      anshula.varma
      June 15, 2018 at 4:05 PM

      Yes, it is so important to have a consistent list! It makes the packing process so much easier! xx – Anshula

      Reply
  • Avatar
    neha
    May 18, 2018 at 3:21 AM

    A very useful packing list for summer not just in Colorado. But it will work for summer trips to a lot of other places. I love the way you have included only the most essentials here. I know so many people who struggle to pack light. I will pass your blog link on to them

    Reply
    • Avatar
      anshula.varma
      June 15, 2018 at 4:04 PM

      Thank you so much, Neha! That is very thoughtful of you! Hoping you are having a warm and summery day! xx – Anshula

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Sylvester
    July 19, 2018 at 5:39 AM

    It’s remarkable to pay a visit this web site and reading the views
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    Reply

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