The following packing list for a camping trip to the Rocky Mountains was submitted by Jenny. See all packing list posts here. This post also contains affiliate links, denoted by an asterisk.
One of my favorite ways to unwind is to take a weekend trip to the mountains. I’m a third of the way through visiting all the national parks in the United States and hope to eventually see them all. Needless to say, when my friends decided to go for a weekend camping trip to the Rocky Mountains towards the end of summer, I was excited to check another one off my list.
Located in Colorado, the Rocky Mountain National Park is lovely - filled with an abundance of wildlife, majestic mountain ranges, lush valleys, gorgeous lakes, and more.
If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly connected to your computer or phone for work and school. I love that once I get to a park, there is no service. I get to completely immerse myself into my surroundings and explore the area with long hikes. Being outside provides an incredible perspective on how amazing and beautiful nature is and how small we are in comparison.
The Trip Details
Each morning we woke up early, made breakfast at our campsite, stopped at the various visitor centers before heading out on the trails for a hike. Bear Lake Trailhead is nice moderate 3.6 mile round trip hike that provides outstanding views of three lakes (Nymph, Dream and Emerald Lake). Another nice day hike we took was Ouzel Falls Trail (5.4 miles). The trail runs parallel to a stream, and there are lovely waterfalls along the way. We typically give ourselves extra time on the trail to stop for pictures, snacks and a break for lunch.
After our hikes, we headed back to our campground to hang out, cook dinner and watch the sunset. In the evenings, we would build a fire and gaze at the Milky Way. The stars are always magnificent from the parks.
For our trip, we planned to go car camping instead backpacking so everything was packed in a small suitcase and duffle. Here is a list of items I brought with me for a two night camping trip.
- Tent – I have the NEMO Dagger 2P tent*. It is ultralight, roomy and incredibly easy to setup.
- Sleeping pad – Therm-a-Rest pads are great warmth-to-weight ratio. They pack small and are light and comfy.
- Sleeping bag – I made a horrible mistake by packing a summer bag with me. The temperature dipped into the low 30s, and my bag was not rated for such chilly nights.
- Daypack – I brought a Camelbak Octane 18x* (small 18L pack that has a 100 fl oz reservoir) to carry water and small snacks for the hikes.
- Cookware – Even though we were car camping and could have easily cooked over a fire at the campsite, I opted to bring a Jetboil cooking system and fuel.
- Camp food/snacks
- Headlamp and batteries
- First aid kit
- Toilet paper
During the trip, I experienced a pretty wide temperature range. Having layers offered the ability to shed them when it was hot during the hikes or add them during cold nights at the campsite.
- Packable down jacket – My favorite is my Patagonia Nano Puff*. This jacket is light and easy to pack.
- Long Sleeve Tops – I like to bring athletic shirts that wick away sweat for long hikes.
- Hiking pants
- Hiking shoes – I’m a fan of Keen hiking boots - just make sure you break your shoes in before a trip.
- Sandals – Slide-on sandals are great to have because you can still wear socks, but they give your feet a break from your boots while you relax at the campsite.
- Undergarments and socks
- Baseball cap or hat to protect your face from the sun
- Shampoo/conditioner/soap – Helpful if your campsite has a shower.
- Deodorant, wipes and other hygiene supplies
- Sunscreen and lip balm
- Camera – I never leave home without a camera!
- Memory cards, extra batteries, external chargers
- Phone – I use it as my backup camera and store maps for hiking.
- Music – I usually have a playlist that I create for my trips. I listen to it on the drive to the destination or during nights in the tent.
- Book – When I’m visiting a new location, I like to find a book about the destination. Definitely check out Lonely Planet Colorado* and Rediscovering National Parks in the Spirit of John Muir*.
- Bug spray – Mosquitoes and ticks are found in the park. I mostly wear long sleeve tops and pants for these trips so I’m not bothered by them, but it’s good to have just in case.
Tips for visiting the Rocky Mountain National Park
- National parks typically involve some kind of long drive to reach the park. Factor in driving time!
- Summer is the busiest season to visit the Rocky Mountain National Park. If you go during that time, plan ahead as campsites can book up quickly (especially those within the park). Five campgrounds are located inside the park, visit recreation.gov to check availability and book your site. I would recommend Moraine Park Campground or Glacier Basin Campground. If you plan to hike Longs Peak, you should check out Longs Peak Campground.
- Rocky Mountain National Park has more than 300 miles of hiking trails – some of which include high elevations. If you are coming from a place of lower elevation, you may want to give yourself time to get acclimated. Also, remember to stay hydrated hiking in high altitudes, and start your hikes early to avoid potential afternoon storms.
- Animal watching is one of the top activities. Big horn sheep, elk, moose, and deer are some common wildlife found at the park. If you’re ever driving through the park and there’s a sudden backup, it’s most likely a wildlife sighting. Take your time and enjoy the scenery while you wait.
Finally, the National Park Service turns 100 in 2016! The parks are celebrating in a variety of ways so it’s an incredible time to get outside and visit one.
You may also enjoy these posts about hiking and camping:
- Trekking Must-Haves
- Camping and Hiking Disasters
- How to Pack & Prepare for Hiking Trips
- Camping and Outdoors Hacks
About the author: Jenny is a management consultant, graduate student and avid traveler. She’s constantly on the go and always dreaming of her next destination.
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Brittany Thiessen says
Thanks so much for sharing this! I am actually planning a road trip to the Rocky Mountains right now when I found this post. I find it very helpful to see what other people packed!