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Essential Packing Tips for an Aspen Summer Vacation

Posted: 3 Jun 2015

If you're planning to vacation in Aspen, Colorado this summer, you may wonder what to pack. Aspen is generally blessed with dry air and temperate weather during the summer, which feels like sweet relief to those used to the heat and humidity of Florida or Texas.

Summer vacation typically evokes images of sun, beaches, and glistening water, which means light packing and ample hot-weather gear. But summer planning for a trip to the Roaring Fork Valley involves preparing for multiple scenarios. Summer activities in Aspen cover a wide range of altitudes and locales. Plus, the temperature and weather can swing wildly -- not just over the span of a week's vacation, but in a single afternoon!

You'll likely go to sleep and wake up with chilly mountain air, but you'll strip off layers until the sun's got you thirsty for a swim. You might take a sunny afternoon stroll on one of the local hiking trails, then find yourself running for cover when a sudden thunderstorm blows in (and then out just as quickly).

In fact, even typical seasonal weather isn't predictable in Aspen. Just last month in May, Aspen Mountain was open over Memorial Day weekend for>skiing! No matter what you think (or what the weather forecasts say), you'll want to be prepared for anything and everything.

If you have limited space (or just don't want to carry multiple bags), don't worry! Items you'll need for sport-specific adventures can be purchased (or rented) in town. That said, use our lists as starting points for your Aspen summer vacation planning.

Aspen Activewear

If you're struggling with what to wear in Aspen, think about how summer days in Aspen are best enjoyed: outside! Pack clothes that can take you seamlessly from the hiking trails to the Ajax Tavern patio or other alfresco hot spots. We also recommend bringing a lightweight waterproof rain jacket. Aspen locals don't leave home without this layer, even if the forecast is clear.

We suggest:

  • Layerable clothing -- Aspen temperature varies widely from morning to night.
  • Lightweight, waterproof jacket
  • Warmer, packable jacket
  • Bathing suit (Our rivers and lakes offer many ways to get wet, from kayaking and rafting to stand-up paddleboarding. Most of our condos also include a complex pool, and all our guests receive complimentary passes to one of Aspen's best pools at the Aspen Recreation Center.)

What to pack for an Aspen summer vacation

Sightseeing Tools

When you've taken a trip to Aspen, you'll want to be prepared to capture the majestic surrounding beauty. Aspen is a true mountain paradise, full of excitement and photo opportunities.

We suggest:

  • Camera (zoom lens recommended)
  • Binoculars (you'll want to view wildlife from afar)
  • Your photogenic smile (If you need some pointers on the best selfie spots, our Concierge can share her tips!)

Navigation/Communication Tools

While exploring trails here in the Rocky Mountains, you'll want to make sure you've got the right maps - either in your pocket and/or downloaded before you go. Cell phone reception isn't guaranteed, even in certain parts of town, so make sure you set a time and place for meetups before you lose service.>

We suggest:

  • Smartphone
  • Transit app for real-time local transportation schedules
  • Hiking and/or mountain biking trail guidebooks
  • Hiking and/or mountain biking trail apps
  • Flashlight (just in case)
  • Compass or GPS that doesn't rely on cell phone data

Eye/Skin Protection

Logging over 300 days of Colorado sunshine every year, the thinner air at Aspen's high elevation (or above, if you're hiking) means the sun's rays will have a bigger (and faster) impact than you may realize. Be sure to shield your eyes and your skin. Even if you're not hiking in a high alpine area and just strolling around town, the rays at 7,900 feet are intense, so these accessories are a must.

We suggest:

  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm

Foot Protection

Whether you're aiming to summit a fourteener or just hoping to catch a cool breeze on a nature walk atop Aspen Mountain, you will need sturdy footwear. When choosing which footwear to pack, we recommend shoes you've already worn and know are comfortable. Don't let t your vacation be ruined by foot pain -- or worse, blisters.

We suggest:

  • Hiking boots (or lightweight trail shoes)
  • Synthetic or wool socks
  • Cushioned athletic shoes
  • Comfortable sandals
  • Shoes that can get wet and will dry quickly

Packing list for an Aspen summer vacation

Weather Protection

We weren't kidding when we said that thunderstorms can be sudden. Aspen's weather can change very quickly, so dress in layers -- and always carry a packable poncho or rain jacket -- during the day and at night.

We suggest:

  • A lightweight waterproof jacket for daytime adventures
  • A sweater or jacket for a night out - the temperature drops when the sun goes down
  • A hydration pack and/or water bottle to combat the altitude, dry air, and powerful sun
  • A waterproof bag to protect your belongings

"Night Out" Attire

For a night out, locals heed the "Aspen Casual" dress code, which means a dressed-down version of fashion in the big city. Jeans are acceptable in nearly every social scenario, and attempting high-heels (especially stilettos) on Aspen's cobblestoned walking malls might be a mistake. While jeans are often -- even expected -- at Aspen events, you might want to spend a little extra time primping to make your experience more memorable. In Aspen's anything-goes spirit, you'll be accepted no matter what fashion statement you choose to make. Don't forget to bring something warm to wear for once the sun goes down.

We suggest:

  • Jeans
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Breathable, waterproof outer layer (in case the weather changes)

We can't wait to see you in Aspen! Start planning your trip by browsing our vacation rentals. If you need tips on where to stay, contact our Aspen-based reservations team who can offer condo recommendations.

What to wear on an Aspen summer vacation