Ask A Denver Guide: Packing List For Your Next Campout

April 27, 2013 7:00 AM


REI(credit: REI)

Colorado has some of the most beautiful places to camp and a good packing list is key to making sure campers make the most out of their trip. With hot days, cold nights and afternoon rainstorms, the Colorado camping season is as unpredictable as it is fun. According to Courtney Coe with REI, there are five essentials that campers should never be without.

Courtney Coe
with REI’s Public Relations


Colorado camping can pretty much ensure hot days and cold nights. Campers need to be prepared for any type of weather by packing layers of clothing for the entire family. When packing the clothes and the bedding, campers find that layering is the best way to go. Be sure the sleeping bag is rated to the weather and climate. A sleeping pad or cot are both good ideas to stay warm through the night. Also keep in mind that much of Colorado camping is done in the mountains where the afternoon rain showers are almost a given. It is important to prepare for that almost certain rain by bringing rain jackets and a large tarp to place under the tent to prevent leaking. Stay insulated, stay dry and stay warm. According to Courtney Coe, items to pack include “air mattress, sleeping pad or a cot, an air pump, a tent repair kit, extra stakes, a hammer and don’t forget the pillow.”

Sun/Bug Protection 

Campers in Colorado face spending time outdoors at least a mile closer to the sun than most. Not only can a sunburn be painful, it can damage skin for years to come. REI advises to pack sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm and, for optimized protection, lightweight, skin-shielding clothing. “Sunglasses are indispensable. UVB rays, the rays that can burn the skin, have been linked to the development of cataracts,” says Coe. Forgo the fashion and go for the wraparound lenses to keep light from entering the corners of the eyes. No one likes those unwanted guests during the camping trip. Mosquitoes, flies and bees always seem to find their way in to the fun. Help the family have a better time by being prepared with sunscreen that includes bug protection, or at least safe bug repellant.

Related: Best Colorado State Parks Near Denver


The sun goes down quickly in the Colorado mountains, and it is important to have one’s own source of light such as headlamps and flashlights. Courtney Coe describes headlamps as “ideal because they are easy to use and are hands-free. As a bonus, headlamps also offer a strobe mode for emergency rescues.” They actually have a strobe mode in case of emergency. However, the next best things are flashlights and lanterns. Be sure to pack enough propane and extra batteries.

First-Aid Supplies

No matter where one camps, a first-aid kit is a must. “Pre-assembled first-aid kits take the guesswork out of building one’s own kit, although many people like to personalize these kits to suit their needs. Any kit should include treatments for blisters, adhesive bandages of various sizes, several gauze pads, adhesive tape, disinfecting ointment, over-the-counter pain medication, pen and paper,” according to REI’s 10 essentials list. A few items to add to that kit are tweezers, allergy medications as well as personal medications. The length of the trip and the number of people involved will impact the contents of the kit. It’s also a good idea to carry some sort of compact guide to dealing with medical emergencies.


Colorado has some of the most amazing campsites and trails to explore. Unfortunately in this age of electronics, people forget to study the route ahead of time and rely on GPS and cellphones to get them there. According to Coe, “campers need to know where they are going before they get there. GPS devices, maps and compasses are important to pack, but these tools won’t do a camper any good if he does not know how to use them.” There is never a replacement for a map and a compass as these tools will never let a camper down. Especially for the day hikes away from camp, people need to be prepared and follow the trails to avoid getting lost. Many campsites have campground hosts who are usually more than happy to provide directions and suggestions, and when camping in a park, the visitor centers usually have handy easy-to-follow maps.

Related: Top Campgrounds in the Denver Area

Colleen Bement is a freelance writer covering all things Denver. Her work can be found on