What to Wear Hiking in Colorado (Everything You Need!)

The clothes you wear while hiking in Colorado are just as important as the route you take. Colorado is known for its cold temperatures and intense terrain that affect the overall experience. Because of that, many people aren’t sure what to wear hiking in Colorado.

Wear a comfortable base layer made of moisture-wicking material and long cargo pants while hiking in Colorado. Thermal socks will keep your feet warm and prevent heat loss, while hiking boots will protect your feet from rough terrain. It’s also necessary to wear a light jacket or coat while hiking in Colorado throughout most of the year.

A backpack or fanny pack can provide extra storage for water, snacks, medication, and accessories. Follow along as we explore what to wear hiking in Colorado so you’re prepared.

What Should You Wear Hiking in Colorado?

Footwear

Hiking Boots

Hiking boots are the best footwear when hiking in Colorado. They are typically made of leather, suede, polyester, or nylon. The durable materials provide much more stability than traditional athletic shoes.

Lined hiking boots are the best option if you plan to go hiking on a particularly cold day. Fleece lining offers the best warmth and comfort.

Running Shoes

Running shoes may be all that you need if the forecast doesn’t entail overly cold weather. This is a great option if you plan to hike an even trail on a dry day. However, you should wear hiking boots instead of running shoes if you expect to encounter rough terrain or moisture

Sneakers

Sneakers aren’t ideal for hiking in Colorado unless you plan to hike a calm trail. However, they are fine if you are going to stick to dry trails without too many rocks. Avoid wearing sneakers if you expect to cross creeks while hiking as they will likely suffer damage. That said, sneakers are perfect for hiking on neutral trails in dry conditions.

Layers

Base

The base layer is the most important of your hiking outfit in Colorado. Ideally, you should wear a thin layer that is made of moisture-wicking material. No matter how cold it is outside, you will likely work up a sweat while hiking in Colorado.

Moisture-wicking clothes ensure that the sweat won’t drip down your body and make you uncomfortable throughout your hike. A long-sleeved thermal shirt can also serve as the perfect base layer while hiking. However, you should avoid wearing a base layer that is too thick as this can restrict your movement.

It may be tempting to wear a base layer made of cotton, but that would be a mistake. Cotton stays wet from sweat and the elements for hours in some cases, and it will only weigh you down.

Socks

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The socks you wear are just as important as your base layer. Wool socks provide the most warmth while hiking in Colorado. However, they don’t naturally absorb moisture quite as well as socks made of synthetic material.

Nylon and polyester socks are the best when it comes to moisture absorption. They may not be quite as comfortable as wool socks, but they will help to prevent chafing, blisters, and rashes. Avoid short socks if you wear hiking boots as they can chafe your ankles, and they won’t provide as much warmth.

Cargo Pants

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Not only do cargo pants provide warmth while hiking, but they are also quite practical. They come with many pockets which you can use to store snacks and accessories like knives that come in handy on the trails. Make sure they are long enough to reach your boots or tuck into them to keep ticks off your skin.

Insulation

Hiking in Colorado typically involves traversing cold trails. Because of that, you need as much insulation as possible. The insulating layer serves as a buffer between your base layer and jacket or coat.

A hoodie, sweater, or pullover can provide plenty of insulation without restricting your movement. Avoid wearing too bulky of an insulating layer, however, or you may sweat a lot. That’s the last thing you want and you’ll be left with a wet undershirt that lowers your body temperature.

Jacket

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A heavy coat may not be necessary while hiking in Colorado during spring or summer. However, it helps to at least bring a light jacket with you in case you get cold. Pack a thin enough jacket that will fit over your base and insulation layer without restricting your movement.

Depending on the weather, you can even skip the insulation layer and simply wear a jacket over an undershirt. Bring a water-resistant jacket or windbreaker if it’s projected to rain during your hike.

Coat

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While a jacket may be enough to wear hiking in Colorado during spring and summer, it’s not enough in fall and summer. Wool may not be the best for moisture-wicking, but it’s the perfect material for a hiking coat. You don’t have to worry about it getting wet unless it rains.

Otherwise, sweat won’t seep through your base layer. Blended coats made of both wool and acrylic also provide plenty of warmth. If you overheat, you can simply take your coat off, tie it around your waist, and put it back on when you cool off. 

January is the coldest month in Colorado, so you should never go hiking without a coat that month.

Neck Gaiter

A neck gaiter is an optional layer that can help quite a bit while hiking in Colorado. Not only do they protect your face and neck from the cold weather, but they also protect your skin. Neck gaiters are also convenient because you can tuck them into your base layer or jacket without adding bulk to your outfit.

You can always simply take your neck gaiter off if you get too hot while hiking.

Hat

It’s necessary to wear a hat while hiking in Colorado. Beanies are the best option because they cover your ears which can easily become cold while hiking. The only downside to wearing a beanie is that it won’t protect your face from the sun.

In that case, you may want to wear a thin beanie underneath a sun hat. This will stop your ears from getting cold, and the sun hat will protect your face and neck from sunlight.

Accessories

Backpack

Backpacks are essential for long hikes in Colorado. You can pack several water bottles, sunscreen, bug spray, and first aid items with plenty of room left over. Backpacks also give you the option to pack extra layers of clothes in case it gets too cold while hiking.

Snacks are essential while hiking if you plan to hike a trail that is over 2 hours long. If you plan on camping after your hike, you must also pack tools to help you build a fire.

Fanny Pack

A backpack may be too bulky for you if you don’t want to carry around extra weight while hiking. In that case, you could instead opt for a fanny pack to keep essentials in. You may not be able to fit as many items in a fanny pack, but you can easily tuck away sunglasses, lip balm, and water in one.

Some seasoned hikers even bring a fanny pack and backpack while hiking in Colorado. You can never go wrong with extra storage space while hiking as long as you don’t pack heavy items.

Watch

Watches may seem like hiking accessories, but they’re an essential part of reaching your destination safely. Most people bring their phones with them while hiking, but you must have a backup method of checking the time if your phone dies. Analog watches are the most reliable because they don’t die quickly.

Smartwatches are also quite useful, but they won’t help if the battery dies or if it glitches. Because of that, it’s best to wear an analog watch while hiking.

Bug Spray

You may not expect to encounter too many bugs while hiking in Colorado, but there are plenty you will come across. Aphids, mosquitoes, grasshoppers, and ticks are active year-round in Colorado. However, you should be the most concerned about ticks because they carry diseases.

Bug spray can help protect you from bites that can be comfortable and even transmit disease. While bug spray can help a lot, you must also cover as much of your skin as possible with clothing to avoid bites.

Sunscreen

Whether it’s hot or cold outside, you cannot escape the sun while hiking in Colorado. Even if the sky is overcast, you will still be vulnerable to ultraviolet radiation. Pack some SPF 30 sunscreen or stronger and reapply it every 2 hours or as needed if you feel sunburnt.

First Aid Kit

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You may assume that a first aid kit is overkill while hiking, but you’ll be glad you brought one with you. It’s all too easy to get scratched or twist your ankle, so you must bring gauze, bandages, and disinfectant wipes. Many seasoned hikers also bring splints with them to help stabilize their fingers and toes from injuries.   

Remember to bring over-the-counter pain medicine like Tylenol and Motrin with you while hiking. It also helps to include rehydration packets that include B vitamins and magnesium. This can help fight dehydration while hiking.

How Much Water Should You Bring on a Hike?

You should bring at least 1 liter of water per 2 hours of hiking. Whether you drink this much water or not, it’s important to bring as much water as possible. Ideally, you should bring more water than you expect to drink so you can avoid dehydration.

It also helps to bring drinks that contain electrolytes, such as Powerade and Gatorade. You lose electrolytes as you sweat, and you must replenish them while hiking.

What is the Best Time of Year for Hiking in Colorado?

The best time to go hiking in Colorado is from June to October. July is the warmest month of the year in Colorado, but you will experience comfortable temperatures from June until early fall. Most of the iconic hiking trails and mountain passes are open during this time as well because of the lack of snow.

So, What Should I Wear Hiking in Colorado?

Wear a thermal or moisture-wicking base layer, thick socks, hiking boots, and a light jacket while hiking in Colorado. However, you should always wear a coat while hiking in Colorado between September and February. Bring a backpack or fanny pack to hold essentials like water, snacks, bug spray, sunscreen, and medication while hiking.

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