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Hiking Checklist: What You Need to Bring on a Hike in Colorado

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The Essential List: What to Pack for a Day Hike in Colorado

Colorado is the perfect place for a hiking adventure, but it can be tricky to decide what to bring along when venturing out in the mountains. You’ll need more than just sneakers, a light jacket and a bottle of water! To take full advantage of all that Colorado slot bonus 100 has to offer—hikes with stunning mountain views, trekking to cooling waterfall, and bagging 14ers–you must ensure you’re prepared. Knowing what to bring on a hike can be super confusing, especially as a beginner hiker. Colorado weather is fickle. When I first moved here, I didn’t realize how important water, snacks and layers were to a successful hike. I’d finish a hike with a rip roaring headache, completely preventable with proper hydration and essential hiking gear. Don’t be caught unprepared on the trails! Read our guide and find out what to pack for a day hike in Colorado for the perfect outdoor experience. Did you know 90% of Search and Rescue incidents are a result of day hiking gone awry? Simple mistakes and lack of essential hiking gear can create catastrophic mistakes. Don’t be a statistic! A little bit of reading along with planning prevents a whole lot of uncomfortable moments.

This post covers:

  • Best hiking daypacks
  • What to bring on a hike in Colorado
  • Free printable hiking checklist
  • Essential hiking gear tips
  • What to wear hiking *Colorado Capsule Wardrobe checklist

Best Hiking Daypack

You need a place to stash hiking essential gear beyond the plastic water bottle you’ve carried in the past. Daypacks are the smallest and sweetest of the backpack family. Ranging in capacity from 13L to 36L, try on a few of these favorites to stash your essential hiking gear. In our early years of hiking, we’d grab the kids school packs for weekend hiking. While our 20 year old backs were fine with thin straps and shoulder heavy weight, our ongoing chiropractor bills say otherwise. Daypacks keep your hands free for balance along rocky trails and give you extra space to carry those sweet snacks! As a beginner hiker, knowing how to properly fit your backpack for hiking is important. Straps can be your friend or enemy depending how you use them. A hiking day pack should be comfortable on your back without pulling on your shoulders. The sweet spot for most hiking daypacks is 21-35 liters. Many local outdoor outfitter stores custom fit backpacks on you. If you prefer online shopping, we love using Osprey’s Packfinder tool. With a few clicks, find out what daypack works for your body and hiking needs. Osprey makes some of the world’s best daypacks and overnight backpacks. Their customer service and lifetime warranty is stellar. PRO TIP! Knowing what to keep in a hiking daypack eliminates a lot of on trail worry. Keep a simple checklist with items you always need on a hike – first aid kit, electrolytes, flashlight, emergency blanket and protein bar. If you use any of these items during your hike, replenish them as soon as you get home.

Backpack Essentials

  • Hip belt
  • Room for hydration pack
  • Robust and comfortable
  • Long lasting
Once you’ve decided on a day pack for your Colorado Springs hikes, add in essential hiking gear keeping in mind a few things. What supplies for hiking do you need? Think through how often you’ll need to access that hiking gear during the day. What to take on a hike “just in case” vs hiking gear essentials? For us, chapstick and gummies stay in hip pockets, cell phones on the sides and trekking poles looped on the outside of the daypack. Extra supplies for hiking such as layers, snacks and water should be placed in bottom of your daypack. WEIGHT When packing for a day hike, put your heaviest hiking gear essentials at the bottom of the pack. Your shoulders will thank you. SAFETY Packing for a day hike in Colorado should always include pepper spray or bear spray. Keep these self defense tools within easy reach – side pockets work well. LOCAL TIP! Assemble your items, load your daypack and keep it filled. Periodically do a backpack check, restocking items that you’ve used over the past few weeks. If you are a beginner hiker, a basic backpack works fine. Head to local consignment stores for high quality used hiking gear. Or consider renting hiking gear, trying out a few different styles before committing money towards gear you might not like. Knowing where to buy affordable used hiking gear for beginners keeps hiking as a low budget sport!

What to Bring on a Hike

Colorado hiking trails are a blast to explore if you are prepared. As avid hikers with over 40 years of combined hiking experience under our belts, we have a few things we never leave home without. We put them all in a simple hiking checklist. Download this free list, print off a copy and keep it next to your daypack. We guarantee knowing what to wear hiking and what to bring on a hike is easy peesy with a hiking checklist.


A helpful hiking gear list for beginners should include comfortable clothing, right fitting boots, a backpack, map/or map app, a first aid kit and basic supplies like snacks and water. If you want to explore the great outdoors, it’s important to have the best hiking gear for beginners and experts with you. Jump down to see the breakdown of each of these categories. Some essential gear can be easily borrowed or purchased used. Other pieces, like hiking underwear, is best purchased new. ESSENTIAL HIKING GEAR CATEGORIES
  • Clothing/Footwear
  • Additional gear for rain/snow
  • Health/Hygiene
  • Misc Gear
  • Hydration/Food
  • Navigation/Safety
Hiking gear essentials for a day hike in Colorado

Essential Hiking Gear for a Fantastic Day Hike

The list of best gear for hiking is relatively short. However, many Colorado hikes begin at high altitude which can bring a few surprises. Abrupt weather changes, wild animal encounters, steep elevations and altitude symptoms can surprise even the most experienced hiker. We break down each of the essential hiking gear items on our hiking checklist. Rule of thumb: For short hikes within city limits, water, snacks and layers will suffice. Knowing what to bring on longer hikes could limit unexpected surprises and potential search and rescue situations.


Get a compression sack for bulky but necessary hike apparel. Compressing clothing layers and hiking gear saves space with easy accessibility. Precious hiking time is wasted trying to find that one thing buried deep in your backpack.


Every hiking outfit for fall should include a warm hat and gloves. Colorado hiking, no matter the season, is a mixed bag of weather. A few summers ago, while hiking Buckskin Pass near Aspen, we were caught in a torrential downpour in the middle of August, taking the 80-degree day to the 40s in an hour. Boy we were grateful for that extra shirt during the 4 mile trek back to the car! LOCAL TIP! Experts say cotton can kill. It keeps you sweaty in hot temperatures and chilled when things turn wet and cold. Wool blends are perfect for Colorado hiking days, keeping you warm when wet. We are big fans of Smartwool, socks, gloves, base layers, you name it!


A hat or warm beanie is important for that quick windstorm on all but the hottest hiking in Colorado. Add a pair of cheap gloves for added warmth. Or get a pair of Smartwool gloves that will last you for years. Made from wool, they’ll keep you warm even when wet! And we all know a hat makes cute hiking outfits stand out. LOCAL TIP! Many big box stores (think Walmart and Target) carry inexpensive gloves. They tend to disappear around March so buy a few pairs and store them in your car and backpack for year round access.


It is easy to forget this hike apparel item. On a Rocky Mountain National Park snowshoe hike to Mills Lake, a short path across a small stream looked easily passable. Nope! After sinking hip deep into some pretty chilly water, my feet were COLD! Luckily I’d put a pair of wool socks in my pack that morning. A quick change helped warm up my toes for the long 5 miles back to our car. Put socks in a small ziplock bag to ensure they stay dry. When you switch out socks, you’ll have a place to stash your stinky smelly ones, keeping your day pack relatively stink free!


Knowing what to bring a hike can save a life! Supplies for hiking should always include some sort of a first aid kit! DIY your medical kit like we do or buy a pre assembled kit. We love the Kavu zipped pixie pouch. Load up the pouch with these hiking gear essentials and head out on a Colorado Springs hike.
  • Band aids
  • Blister kit or Moleskin
  • Dental floss *In a pinch, it holds together broken gear and shoes
  • Tylenol and/or Ibuprofen
  • 2-3 tampons *Great for a bloody nose
  • 2 sanitary pads *Use as large bandages
  • 2-3 Alcohol wipes
  • KT Tape *Keeps moleskin/bandages in place
  • GU gel *Fast sugar
INSIDER TIP! We are both are Wilderness First Responder certified. This is a valuable resource for learning ways to help you and others on the trail when a crisis is happening and help is far away. The NOLS two-day course is offered at various locations including your local REI. Dress rehearsing crisis situations trains your brain for potential trail mishaps.

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