Editor's Notes: This year I was invited by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association to experience a Fall trip to Colorado. This is the first in a series of stories from my trip.
This post includes affiliate links. If an item is purchased after clicking a link, we'll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support is appreciated!
It fits my first trip to Colorado was in September; Fall is my favorite season.
In addition to being born in September (Libra here), I grew up in the northeast U.S. where the changing leaves signaled the end of sunny summers and start of chilly white winters.
The question of what to pack for a Fall trip to Colorado was on my mind for weeks before leaving home (Austin, TX).
I kept an eye on the weather, but due to varying elevations and environments, temperatures were going to be much colder near the wilderness yurt versus Denver, especially at night.
My one-week itinerary took me on a self-driving clockwise loop of northern Colorado.
- Two nights in Denver (5,280ft / 1,564m)
- Two nights in Steamboat Springs (6,732ft / 2,052m)
- One night in a yurt (8,800ft / 2,682m)
- Two nights in Fort Collins (5,000ft / 1,525m)
Plus, I was flying straight from Denver to New York City for a summit on study abroad, so I had to think about what to wear there too.
Packing List for a Fall Trip to Colorado
Backpack and Luggage
It's been a few years since I last wrote about my approach to packing. Allow me to indulge in some quick background.
I wasn't a fan of trucking that thing around European mass transit systems later that year, so in 2013, I compromised by using a backpack again, only a smaller one.
I bought an earlier version of The North Face Router daypack, and it worked well for me on many trips, from five weeks in Central America in 2014 to five months in Eastern Europe in 2015.
Unfortunately, I'm in the midst of a longer more complicated back episode (herniated disc with nerve compression), so for my Colorado trip, I relied on carry-on size wheeled luggage, in addition to my daypack.
The wheeled bag is by The Traveler's Club, part of the luggage set my parents gave me over a decade ago. It's not sexy, but it works fine, and the dimensions meet today's carry-on requirements.
The key to being a minimalist while traveling is becoming comfortable with having fewer clothing options and wearing the same things multiple days before washing.
Learning to layer is also essential for colder seasons like Fall and Winter.
For example, I used a daypack the size of the one for this Fall Colorado trip on my 11-day winter trip to Japan and managed just fine.
- 1 pair jeans
- 1 pair Pick-Pocket Proof® Convertible Travel Pants by Clothing Arts
- 1 pair board shorts by Prana (for hot springs)
- 5 short sleeve shirts (including my favorite black organic t-shirt by Prana)
- 1 long sleeve base layer by North Face
- 1 light long sleeve sweater
- 7 pair ExOfficio boxers (you can get by with 2 if you hand wash nightly)
- 6 pair of socks including 3 pair SmartWool socks
- 1 belt
- The Cubed Travel Jacket™ by Clothing Arts
- 1 fleece
- 1 baseball cap
- 1 cotton beanie (a $1 souvenir I bought 9 years ago in Darjeeling, India)
- 1 yak wool scarf (bought in Nepal for my Annapurna trek)
- 1 pair polarized sunglasses by Oakley
- 1 pair of black Pumas
- 1 pair of running sneakers
- 1 pair of Havaianas flip-flops
- 15″ MacBook Pro (Retina)
- iPhone 6S
- Mophie Juice Pack Air (doubles iPhone battery life)
- Canon G7X camera and soft carrying case
- 2 external hard drives (one terabyte) and soft carrying case
- Apple Airpods (much more convenient to carry than noise-canceling headphones)
- Petzel Zipka Classic LED headlamp
- Fitbit Charge 2
- Chargers for laptop, phone, and camera
- Toiletries including toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen, etc.
- 1 tiny microfiber towel
- Wallet, including driver's license and multiple debit/check cards
- Business cards
Evening temperatures in State Forest State Park where the yurt was located were dipping into the 20s (F), so I knew I needed a sleeping bag.
Luckily, I was able to borrow a demo bag and inflatable sleeping mat from Big Agnes in Steamboat Springs.
I bought some used gloves ahead of the night in the yurt just to be safe but didn't need them.
As I had to hike 1.1 miles into the yurt from where I parked, I only brought the essentials for a night in my daypack and left the luggage in the car. More on that experience in a future post!
Naturally, women will pack a few extra clothing and personal items men don't need.
Overall, my packing list served me well.
I ended up having a few items I didn't wear including the rain jacket and scarf. However, I would take them again since the weather in the mountains can be unpredictable.
Editor's Note: This year I was invited by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association to experience Steamboat Springs, plus several other destinations in Colorado including Fort Collins, Denver, and a national park. This is the first in a series of stories from my trip.
I received the organic t-shirt by Prana in 2015 and The Cubed Travel Jacket™ by Clothing Arts in 2016 at no cost.